Scilly Islands, Cornwall

Historical Description

Scilly Islands, a group of islands belonging to the county of Cornwall, and lying about 30 miles W of Land's End. Five of them-St Mary, St Martin, Trescoe, Bryher, and St Agnes -are inhabited; ten more-Sampson, St Helen, Annette, Team, Great Ganniley, Arthur, Ganniornic, Northwithial, Gweal, and Little Ganniley-have areas of from 80 to 5 acres; and about thirty-five more are rocks or skerries considerable enough to be called islets. The name Scilly is a corruption either of the Cornish word Silya, signifying " conger," or of the ancient British word Sulleh, signifying " rocks consecrated to the sun." The islands were known to the Greeks as Cassiterides, signifying " tin islands;" they were made by the Romans a place of occasional banishment; they became annexed, in the early part of the 10th century, to the English crown; they were given by Athelstan to some monks who settled on Trescoe, and were transferred by Henry I. to Tavistock Abbey; they passed before the time of Elizabeth, in some unrecorded manner, to a number of different proprietors; they were bought up for the Crown in the time of Elizabeth, and annexed to the Duchy of Cornwall; they were held under the duchy, from at least the time of James I. till 1830, by the family of Godolphin; they became a retreat of Prince Charles in 164:5-46, after the defeat of the Royal cause in the west; they were fortified in 1649 by Sir John Grenville, in the cause of Charles II., but were taken in 1651 by Blake and Ayscue; and they are now held in lease from the Duchy of Cornwall by Mr Augustus Smith.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient County Cornwall

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Scilly Islands from the following:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.