Looe Island (Cornish: Enys Lann-Managh, meaning island of the monk's enclosure), also known as St George's Island, and historically St Michael's Island is a small island a mile from the mainland town of Looe in Cornwall, England.
According to local legend, Joseph of Arimathea landed here with the child Christ. Some scholars, including Glyn Lewis, suggest the island could be as Ictis, the location described by Diodorus Siculus as a centre for the tin trade in pre-Roman Britain.
The waters around the island are a marine nature reserve owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and form part of the Looe Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA). First established in 1995, the Looe VCMA covers nearly 5 km of coastline and aims to protect the coastal and marine wildlife around Looe.
People have been living on Looe Island since the Iron Age. Evidence of early habitation includes pieces of Roman amphora as well as stone boat anchors and Roman coins. In the Dark Ages, the island was used a seat of early Christian settlement. The child Jesus was believed to have visited the Island with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who traded with the Cornish tin traders. Therefore Looe Island became a place of pilgrimage for early Christians and a small thatched roofed chapel was built there during this time.
In the later Medieval period, the island came under the control of Glastonbury Abbey. Lammana Priory was a priory on the mainland directly aligned to a small chapel on the Island consisting of two Benedictine monks until 1289 when the property was sold to a local landowner. The priory was replaced by a chapel served by a secular priest until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 when it became property of the Crown. From the 13th to the 16th centuries the island was known as St Michael's Island. After 1584 it became known as St George's Island.
Through the 17th and 18th centuries the island was a popular haunt for smugglers avoiding the British government's revenue cutters out of Plymouth and Falmouth. The Old Guildhall Museum in Looe hold information and research about the smuggling families of Looe Island and information is also available the more recent publications about the island.
In the 20th century, Looe island was owned (and inhabited) by two sisters, Babs and Evelyn Atkins, who wrote two books: We Bought An Island (1976, ISBN 0-245-52940-3) and its sequel Tales From Our Cornish Island (1986, ISBN 0-245-54265-5). They chronicle the purchase of the island and what it was like to live there. Evelyn died in 1997 at the age of 87; Babs continued to live on the island until her death in 2004, at the age of 86. On her death, the island was bequeathed to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust; it will be preserved as a nature reserve in perpetuity. The adjoining islet, formerly known as Little Island, now renamed Trelawny Island and connected by a small bridge, was bequeathed by Babs back to the Trelawny family, who had owned Looe Island from 1743 to 1921. The full history of the island is explained at length in Island Life: A History of Looe Island, published in 2006, and the role of the island today is briefly described in Looe Island Then and Now published in 2014.
It is about 22.5 acres (9 ha) in area and a mile (1.6 km) in circumference. Its highest point is 47 metres (154 ft) above sea level. The island, like much of south west England, has a mild climate with frost and snow being rare.
The island is owned and managed by a charity, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. This is a non-profit making venture, the landing fees and other income being devoted to conserving the island's natural beauty and providing facilities. The island is open during the summer to day visitors arriving by the Trust's boat. After a short welcome talk visitors are directed to the small visitor centre from where they can pick up a copy of the self-guided trail. Visitors have some two hours on the Island and all trips are subject to tides and weather/sea state. While it is normally accessible only by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's boat, at low spring tides it is possible for the journey to be made by foot across the rocky sea floor.
In 2008, Channel 4's archaeology series Time Team visited the island to carry out an investigation into its early Christian history. They excavated the sites of Christian chapels built on both the island and on the mainland opposite. During their dig they found the remains of a Benedictine chapel that was built in c.1139 by monks from Glastonbury Abbey, a reliquary, graves and the remains of much earlier Romano-British chapels built of wood with dating evidence suggesting use by Christians before the reign of Constantine the Great.
In 1994/95 Andrew Hugill composed Island Symphony, an electro-acoustic piece utilising sampled sounds sourced over the net plus recorded natural sounds from the island itself.
- Clensy, David (2006), Island Life: A History of Looe Island - pp. 15, Lulu.com, ISBN 9781411689176
- Lewis, Glyn. Did Jesus Come to Britain?: An Investigation Into the Traditions That Christ Visited Cornwall and Somerset. p. 24. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- "St George's Island marine nature reserve". Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- "Discovering the Wonders of Looe's Marine Heritage". Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- "Looe VMCA map" (PDF). Caradon District Council. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/2009/looe/index.html Time Team Site report
- Orme, Nicholas (2007) Cornwall and the Cross. Chichester: Phillimore; pp. 30–31, 35, 38
- Weatherhill, Craig, Place Names in Cornwall and Scilly, Wessex Books, 2005
- Looe Island Then And Now Clarke, Carolyn United pc Verlag ISBN 3710310466 p12
- Dawe, Kevin (2004). Island musics. pp. 207–208. Berg Publishers ISBN 978-1-85973-703-3.
- Looe Island Then and Now: Carolyn Clarke 2014 United P. C Publisher ISBN 978-3-7103-1046-1
- The Looe Island Story: an Illustrated History of St George's Island, Mike Dunn, 2006, Polperro Heritage Press, ISBN 978-0-9549137-2-4
- Island Life: A History of Looe Island, David Clensy, 2006 ISBN 978-1-4116-8917-6
- We Bought an Island: Evelyn E Atkins 1976 ISBN 0-340-22688-9
- Tales from our Cornish Island: Evelyn E Atkins 0-340-22688-9
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