Lundy’s spectacularly-rugged West Side is less than 10 minutes walk from the Village - taking the route via the Old Light the 300 yards encompasses roughly 3,000 years of history.
From the Marisco Tavern, a relative newcomer having been built as the Island Store by the Lundy Granite Company in the 1860’s, the track going past the helicopter pad also passes, on the left, one of the Island’s major standing stones. The nine identified standing stones around the South End are thought to date from the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age – circa BC 2,500. Studies of the stones alignments indicate that these probably functioned as quite an accurate solar calendar.
The building of a lighthouse on Lundy was first proposed in 1786 and in 1819 Trinity House completed what is now known as the Old Light. This was Britain’s highest lighthouse but unfortunately it was often shrouded in thick mists and was replaced in 1897 by the lower-elevated North and South Lights.
Next to the Old Light is the Beacon Hill cemetery, which sits atop the remains of an Iron Age settlement. At the centre of the cemetery is a cist-like grave thought to be that of an early Christian saint whilst against the west wall are four inscribed grave markers dating from 5th to 7th centuries AD. There are also many Medieval remains and more recent memorials from the Heaven and Harman families.
Just north of the Old Light are a couple more standing stones which are aligned with the midsummer solstice sunrises and sunsets whilst the twin row of white-painted stones heading north-east are the markers for the Lundy airfield.
Heading towards Quarter Wall a steep path leads down to The Battery, built in 1863 as a fog signal station when it became apparent that the Old Light’s elevation was too high for it to be seen during heavy mists. The buildings are now derelict but the location, overlooking the Atlantic, is a favourite spot for visitors and residents alike.
The main features of an East Side walk are the buildings and workings of the former Lundy Granite Company overlooking the Bristol Channel across to the North Devon Coastline.
The company was formed in 1863 after its directors agreed with William Hudson Heaven to lease the Island for the sum of £500 per annum, plus royalties for the granite quarried. As part of the agreement the Heaven family retained use of their family home and its surrounding land in the south-east corner.
Once up and running the operation employed about 300 staff who were housed in the now dismantled row of cottages just after Quarter Wall. The quarries themselves can be seen on the lower East Side path which follows the tramway used to carry the cut granite to be loaded onto ships at Quarry Beach. The ruined buildings on the upper path were the administration block and managers accommodations and the former hospital. What is now the Marisco Tavern was the company store with its “Refreshment Room”.
For day-trippers the best place to commence this walk is to ascend the path to the left just after Millcombe House, which takes you past the hut, known as the Ugly, on Hangman’s Hill and then follow the Upper Path until the ruins pictured. Descending to the lower path at Quarry Pool brings you past the former timekeeper’s hut, dedicated to the memory of the former agent Felix Gade, before arriving at the quarry works.
Of particular poignancy is the site known as VC Quarry. This was a favourite spot for John Pennington Harman, the eldest son of another former Lundy owner, Martin Coles Harman. John Pennington was killed in action during the Siege of Kohima (from 5th to 18th April 1944) on the India/Burma border and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his selfless acts of heroism during the battle. His father commisioned the memorial which was unveiled on 20th June 1949, on the 5th anniversary of the award.
The buildings and monuments on Lundy considered of national importance are incredibly diverse, ranging from the remains of Bronze Age settlements, early Christian grave markers, a Medieval castle, a Georgian lighthouse, the Victorian Church of St Helen and much, much more.
For first-time visitors arriving by boat the journey of historical discovery begins as soon they as they start up the Beach Road. In true Lundy fashion the whitewashed block of granite, engraved with “T : H Landing Place 1819”, carries with it no explanation. But for the inquisitive a little research reveals that this is the marker of Trinity House from when the first lighthouse was built.
Researching forward leads to why the Old Light was abandoned, the building of the Fog Signal Battery on the West Side, the construction of the two “new” lighthouses and the reason why the road to the North End is bordered on one side by equidistant granite blocks.
Every discovery leads to another and for those interested in the buildings and monuments it’s best to consider one aspect of the Island at a time.