In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Bardsey Island like this:
BARDSEY ISLE, an extra-parochial island in Pwll- heli district, Carnarvon. It lies at the NW extremity of Cardigan bay, 2½ miles S by W of Braich-y-Pwll headland, and 15 SW of Pwllheli. The sound between it and Braich-y-Pwll has from 15 to 25 fathoms water; but is swept by so strong a current in spring-tides as to be called Bardsey race. The island is nearly 2 miles long; measures ¾ of a mile at the north end; contracts into a narrow headland on the south, and comprises 430 acres. ...
Pop., 8l. Houses, 14. It belongs to Lord Newborough; and yields a rental of £122. Part of it, on the north-east, is a high rugged hill, with precipitous sea-face; but the rest is chiefly low fertile plain. A lighthouse, built in 1821, and 108 feet high, stands on the southern headland, and shows a fixed light, visible at the distance of 5 miles. The islanders are employed variously in farming and fishing; and conduct a brisk coast trade in lobsters, oysters, and white fish, with Liverpool. A small well-sheltered harbour, on the south-east side, admits vessels of from 30 to 40 tons. The island is called Ynys-Enlli by the Welsh, signifying "the island of the current," in allusion to the tidal stream in the sound; but was called Bards-Y, or Bards' Island, by the Saxons, whence its present name Bardsey, and Insula Sanctorum, or the island of the saints, by the monks, in allusion to its early ecclesiastical history. A monastery was founded on it, prior to 516, by Cadfan; and became the retreat and the deathplace of Dubritius, archbishop of Caerleon, who died in 612, and also the asylum of numerous refugees from the massacre of the monks at Bangor-Is-y-Coed. The bards allege that 20, 000 saints were buried here; and Fuller, in his "Worthies," remarks that "it would be more facile to find graves in Bardsey for so many saints, than saints for so many graves." The monastery was reconstituted an abbey for canons in the 13th century; but is now represented by only a fragment of its church-tower.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Bardsey Island has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of Gwynedd. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Bardsey Island and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Bardsey Island, in Gwynedd and Caernarvonshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 28th January 2015
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