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Cromwell's Castle, Tresco overlooking Bryher - - 885110.jpg
Bryher seen from Tresco
Bryher is located in Isles of Scilly
Location within Isles of Scilly
Population84 (2011)
OS grid referenceSV876361
Civil parish
  • Bryher
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtTR23
Dialling code01720
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireIsles of Scilly
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
49°57′14″N 6°21′22″W / 49.954°N 6.356°W / 49.954; -6.356Coordinates: 49°57′14″N 6°21′22″W / 49.954°N 6.356°W / 49.954; -6.356

Bryher (Cornish: Breyer, place of hills) is one of the smaller of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly.


The name of the island is recorded as Brayer in 1336 and Brear in 1500.


The island is a procession of prominent hills all joined to one another by low-lying necks and sandy bars. It would only need sea levels to rise by a few metres for the southern part of Bryher to transform itself into a group of five or six separate islands. As all these hills – Gweal, Timmy's, Watch, Heathy and Samson – are too exposed and windswept to be cultivated and Bryher's ninety residents have to make their lives in a relatively narrow zone between hill and shore.[1] The island has a length of 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), a maximum width of 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) and an area of 134 hectares (330 acres), including Shipman Head, which rises to 42 metres (138 ft) at the northern end of the island.[2] Bryher lies to the west of Tresco, and is separated from that island by the Tresco Channel, once the main anchorage for the islands and now an area where sandflats are exposed at low tide. Off the southern end of Bryher is the uninhabited island of Samson. It is possible to walk between the three islands at the lowest spring tides.

The settlement at the Pool / Hell Bay Hotel is the westernmost in England. Without the tidal island of Gugh included, St Agnes is marginally smaller than Bryher in either population or area; however if Gugh is included with St Agnes, which is the common interpretation, then Bryher is (again, marginally) the smallest of the populated isles of Scilly in area and population.

Ruby Red Devon cattle used for conservation grazing; on Rushy Bay Green, Bryher.

The centre of Bryher is mainly low-lying with arable fields, pasture and housing and is where most of the population of 84 live. On the west side is the brackish Great Pool overlooked by the Hell Bay Hotel and in the south are sandy beaches, a common feature on the island, Rushy Bay being an example. The island lies within the Isles of Scilly Heritage Coast, is part of the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and untenanted land is leased by the Duchy of Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust which is using ponies and red ruby cattle[3] to graze the overgrown areas as part of the Waves of Heath project.

Hell Bay[edit]

Hell Bay, Bryher.

The infamous Hell Bay is on the north-west coast of Bryher, immediately to the south of Shipman Head. This Atlantic-facing cove became a notorious place for shipwrecks in the 18th and 19th centuries, although most ships wrecked on Scilly were wrecked before they could reach Hell Bay.

Civil parish and ward[edit]

The isles of Scilly comprising the civil parish and ward of Bryher shown in red.

Bryher is one of the five civil parishes of the Isles of Scilly, which are also wards. The civil parish and ward include several uninhabited islands and rocks, including the Norrard Rocks, Gweal, Zantman's Rock and the Crim Rocks (the westernmost place of England).[4] Bryher returns one councillor to the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the same as the other "off-island" wards. The civil parish is not functional however, and there is no council or meeting.


  • 1841: 121
  • 1851: 34 Families
  • 1861: 115
  • 1871: 104
  • 1881: 103
  • 1891: 91
  • 1901: 97
  • 1911: 113
  • 1921: 101
  • 1931: 64
  • 1951: 117
  • 1961: 66
  • 1971: 57
  • 1981: 66
  • 1991: 80
  • 2001: 92
  • 2009: 83
  • 2011: 84

All Saints' Church[edit]

All Saints’ Church (Church of England) is in the centre of the island, close to the east coast, opposite New Grimsby on Tresco. A church was originally built on the site in about 1742, but it was completely rebuilt in 1821-22. The church was renovated in 1860-61, when the tower and porch were added, and the east (chancel) end was further altered in 1897-98. The roof was replaced and raised in 1930. The nave has four modern stained-glass windows by Oriel Hicks (Phoenix Stained Glass).[5]

Bryher Baptist Church[edit]

Former Bryher Baptist Church
Notice board from the former Byher Baptist Church

The Baptists arrived in Scilly in the early nineteenth century. The Baptist Itinerant Aid Society established Scilly as their first missionary station, with chapels on all the inhabited islands including Bryher. Augustus Smith, ‘Lord Proprietor’ of the Isles of Scilly, fell out with the Baptists and in 1843 ‘caused notice to be served at all the chapels’, so they were closed. However, a new Baptist chapel was built on Bryher in 1874. It continued to be used for nearly a century, before being converted into a private house in 1972.[6]

Bryher’s Quays[edit]

Bryher has two quays: Church Quay, used as the high-water quay, and Bar Quay, used as the low-water quay. The quays are used by Scilly’s inter-island boats, for both passengers and freight.

Church Quay, as its name suggests, is located close to All Saints' Church, on a small promontory called ‘The Island’, at the north end of Green Bay. There has been a quay on this site since at least the nineteenth century. The quay is shown on the OS Six-inch map published in 1889.[7]

Bar Quay, or Anneka’s Quay, located to the north of Church Quay, was originally built in 1990 by volunteers, for the television programme Challenge Anneka. It is known to many islanders as 'Anna Quay'.

The Duchy of Cornwall is responsible for both quays on Bryher.

Quay renovation, 2006-2008[edit]

The quays on Bryher (together with quays on St Agnes and St Martins) benefited from a £3.5m Duchy of Cornwall renovation project in 2006-2008 to improve operational safety and reduce maintenance.[8]

For all off-island quays, except Anneka’s Quay, a common solution was provided: a new quay wall was built from prefabricated concrete block units, which were anchored to the bedrock using post tensioned bars and connected to the existing structure using precast deck planks.

Anneka’s Quay was originally a timber deck structure support on sand filled caissons. The quay was lengthened by approximately 12m by adding two additional concrete filled caissons; the timber deck was replaced by a concrete slab.[9]

On 2 October 2007, BBC News reported that before the renovation project, it had been 50 years since any major work was done on the off-islands quays.[10]


Tresco & Bryher Base in Tresco

Five Islands Academy (previously Five Islands School) has its Tresco and Bryher Base, a primary campus in Tresco.[11] Primary pupils commute daily to Tresco.[12] Secondary pupils board at the St Mary's main campus,[11] staying there on weekdays and coming back and forth to their home islands on weekends.[12]

Students at the sixth-form college level reside and board elsewhere,[13] in mainland Great Britain. Previously the Learning and Skills Council paid for costs of accommodation for sixth-formers.[14]

Natural history[edit]

There are three Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on Bryher. The Shipman Head and Shipman Down SSSI was first designated in 1971 and covers over 40 ha of the northern part of the island. Waved maritime heath grows over shallow podzolic soils which are underlain by Hercynian granite. Rare plants include the Red Data Book (RDB) Orange Bird's-foot (Ornithopus pinnatus) and the nationally scarce Hairy Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus subbiflorus). Lichens include (Lobaria pulmonaria) and (Teleoschistes flavicans).[15]

On the west side of the island is Great Pool which is part of the Pool of Bryher and Popplestone Bank SSSI. It is separated from the sea by a storm beach and small dune system, and is the only natural brackish lagoon on Scilly with plants such as Saltmarsh Rush (Juncus gerardii) and Beaked Tasselweed (Ruppia maritima).[16]

Covering 12 hectares (30 acres) of the southern part of the island is the Rushy Bay and Heathy Hill SSSI which has a number of nationally rare plants. An Isles of Scilly speciality is the Dwarf Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana) which grows nowhere else in Great Britain. It is locally abundant on Bryher and thousands can be found in May in short turf and bare sand.[2] Unfortunately a storm in 2008 reduced the numbers of plants seen; there are also small colonies on Tresco and Teän. Orange Bird's-foot, Small Adder's-tongue (Ophioglossum azoricum) and Autumn's Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) grow on Heathy Hill.[17]

Breeding birds[edit]

Shipman head has seven species of breeding seabirds:

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) breed on Shipman Down.[15]

Visiting the island[edit]

Varied accommodation is available on the island. There are guesthouses and self-catering cottages scattered across the island. The campsite is located close to the north end of the island overlooking both coasts. The Hell Bay Hotel is located close to the coast on the west side.

Two quays are used (depending on tides) by boats which take tourists between Bryher and other islands, including St Mary's and Tresco. On some low tides it is possible to walk between Bryher and Tresco and even Samson, the uninhabited island to the south. There is also safe anchorage for small yachts in the channel and Green Bay.

Local activities include boating, walking and watching wildlife.

Culture and Media[edit]

Use in film and television[edit]

In 1989, the island was used for some of the scenes in the BBC's television adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

When the Whales Came was made on location in 1989 and starred Helen Mirren, Helen Pearce, Paul Scofield and David Suchet.

In fiction[edit]

Great Par, Bryher

Bryher features in various books: The Wreck of the Zanzibar, The Sleeping Sword, Why the Whales Came and Listen to the Moon, all by Michael Morpurgo, Hell Bay by Sam Llewellyn, and The Old Success by Martha Grimes

"Bryher" as a name[edit]

In recent years Bryher has been become a popular girl's name.

Annie Winifred Ellerman, daughter of the UK's wealthiest man Sir John Ellerman, took the name Bryher as her nom de plume in the early 20th century.

See also the popular Cornish singing group Bryher's Boys.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reid, Neil (2016). Isles of Scilly Guidebook. Friendly Guides. ISBN 978-1-904645-34-4.
  2. ^ a b Parslow, Rosemary (2007). The Isles of Scilly. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-220150-6.
  3. ^ A little grazing goes a long way[permanent dead link], Western Morning News 1 April 2009, retrieved 15 February 2016
  4. ^ Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map
  5. ^ Historic England. "Church of All Saints (1141234)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  6. ^ Johns, Charlie (2019). Isles of Scilly Historic Environment Research Framework: Resource Assessment and Research agenda 2019 (PDF). Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall Council. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Cornwall LXXXII.NW & SW (includes: Bryher; Tresco.)". Map Images. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  8. ^ Infrastructure Plan: Part of the strategic plan for the Isles of Scilly (PDF) (Final ed.). Council for the Isles of Scilly. May 2014. p. 5. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Off Island Quay Renovations, Isles of Scilly". Cullen Grummitt & Roe. Cullen Grummitt & Roe Group. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Digger starts work at island quay". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Contact Us". Five Islands Academy. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Home to School Travel". Isles of Scilly Council. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Schools & Colleges". Isles of Scilly Council. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Education". Council of the Isles of Scilly. 14 October 2002. Archived from the original on 14 October 2002. Retrieved 8 December 2018. There is no post-16 provision on the Islands, students leaving the Isles of Scilly (VC) Federated School attend at colleges/schools with 6th forms on the mainland.[...]
  15. ^ a b "Shipman Head and Shipman Down" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  16. ^ "Pool of Bryher and Popplestone Bank" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Rushy Bay and Heathy Hill" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011.

External links[edit]