Burgh Island

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Burgh Island is a small tidal island off the coast of South Devon in England near to the small seaside village of Bigbury-on-Sea. There are several buildings on the island, the largest being the Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel. The other buildings are three private houses, and a public house, the Pilchard Inn, run by the hotel.



The early history of the island is unclear, however it is mentioned in early records and on maps as St Michael's Island. Later the name changed to Borough Island, eventually being corrupted to Burgh. As late as 1947 an Ordnance Survey map [1] refers to the island as Borough Island. In 1908 a postcard produced by Stengel & Co Ltd of London [2] referred to it as Burr Island. A map published in 1765 shows "Borough or Bur Isle".[3]

It is believed a monastery was established on the island, most of the remains of which may lie beneath the current hotel. The ancient Pilchard Inn may have started life as the guest lodgings for the monastery.[citation needed]

A small, perhaps transient, population of fishermen occupied the island following the dissolution of the monastery, specialising in pilchard fishing[citation needed]. There are the remains of a chapel a-top the island, which was later became a "huers hut" — a place where fishermen would make a "hue and cry" call to inform other fishermen of shoals of pilchards.[4] During this period smuggling, wrecking and piracy were common, benefiting from a natural barrier for half the day.[citation needed]

Fears of German landing forces using the island as a beachhead during World War II resulted in the area's fortification with anti-tank defences as well as two pill boxes, positioned on either side of the causeway. An observation post was also established on the summit to monitor the coastline.[citation needed]

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