Lihou is a small tidal island that is part of the Channel Islands. It lies off the west coast of Guernsey and is the most westerly point in the Channel Islands.
The island was bought by the States of Guernsey in January 1995.
Lihou is not always an island, and is connected to Guernsey at low tide by an ancient stone causeway between the island and L'Eree headland.
The causeway to the island uncovers before and after low tide and so keep an eye on the rising tide. Access times are announced daily on local radio. Lihou is part of the Parish of St. Peter's. The tenancy for the house on Lihou Island in Guernsey has been granted to the Lihou Charitable Trust.
Situated on the island are the remains of the 12th century Priory of St Mary's and a watch tower used in past centuries by the Guernsey Militia. The island is now owned by Guernsey and is restricted only by the tides.
|Like many other Channel Islands, Lihou's name contains the Norman language suffix "-hou" of Old Norse origin. On the island are the ruins of the priory of Saint Mary which is believed to have been established by Benedictine monks in the 12th century. The monks of the priory were by no means generally popular with the local people, who suspected them of devil worship. This animosity may be due to the monks' insistence on rights of wreck. Until 1415 it was under the control of Mont Saint Michel and thereafter under Eton College until the Reformation when it was closed and fell into disrepair. The house on Lihou was used for target practice by heavy artillery during the German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II. It has now been rebuilt as accommodation for school groups, and is used as an educational resource.|
Vraic (seaweed) was harvested and dried on frames set up on the beach. A 1927 factory building produced iodine from seaweed. All traces of the industry disappeared during the German Occupation
There is a legend to in Folklore to this island, read below.
The Wicked Prior of LihouOn Lihou there are still the stone remains of what was once a very active priory run by a clergyman, known as a prior, before the Reformation.The priory continued for some years after this but it’s unclear when it fell into disuse but popular legend suggests one of Guernsey’s governors levelled the structure to stop it being used as a fortification by any invading forces.
The Chapel of the Priory was dedicated to the blessed Virgin who was known as Notre Dame de la Rocque (Our Lady of the Rock).Witches used to gather on the Guernsey shore and shake their claws at the priory and mutter "fall from up their Mary of Lihou".On the origins of the Chapel it was said that a rock near Jerbourg had been weathered by the waves so that if you looked from a certain angle it looked like an old man in the habit and a cowl of a monk.Fisherman, who it’s said are a superstitious lot, will always tip their hats when they passed the rock.It is supposed to resemble an old arch druid who held out against the rising tide of Christianity. He was so upset when the other druids renounce their pagan gods that he went to live by himself in a cave at Jerbourg.He loved gazing out to sea and had a great affinity with ships and those who sailed them. One day during a violent storm he noticed a ship in distress and prayed to his heathen gods to save the vessel, but the storm raged on and it seemed the ship must be lost.In desperation he prayed to the Christian God vowing that if his prayer was answered he’d convert and build a Chapel to the Blessed Virgin.The storm abated and the druid did as he had vowed and built the Chapel on Lihou Island and dedicated it to the Virgin Mother.
At the time of this legend the Chapel and Priory were places of worship and many monks lived there and at this particular time the proverb ‘the nearer the church, the further from God’ could be used about the Priory.The Prior was an evil man and rumour said he was in league with the devil. He seemed far more interested in lé grand Albaërt, the largest of the Black Books, than he was in the Bible.He didn’t seem to be afraid of God’s Law and took no notice of the warnings from the Prior of San Michel du Val, who was responsible for appointing the Prior of Lihou.He even ignored instructions from the Abbot in Normandy.This went on for some time with the Prior obsessed by magic even though he knew his religion banned the Black Books
Legend is full of stories that those who dabble in the Dark Arts are often confounded as good always wins out – and so it was with the Prior.The Prior had an ally in the Priest in charge of the tiny Chapel of St Appoline in St Saviours who was also more interested in Black Magic than in saintly pursuits.Both had ignored the order by the Church to throw away their books.Lihou is reached from Guernsey via a causeway but only at low tide, some say the monks themselves built the causeway.One day the Prior set off to meet his fellow Priest and he took with him a young servant who carried lé grand Albaërt as it was very heavy.The monks had taught the servant to read but the Prior warned him against opening the book or reading the contents.The meeting between the Prior and the Priest was very satisfactory for both parties. The Prior had wanted to check on an incantation to the devil.Pleased with the help from his friend he started his way back to Lihou knowing that as it was a Spring Tide he would have two or three hours before the causeway was covered.The servant went more slowly than the Prior and when he reached the causeway the Prior was already halfway across.
Seizing his chance to satisfy his curiosity about the book his master guarded so carefully and that he knew would be locked away as soon as they returned to the Priory.So the servant sat down on a rock put his feet up on some driftwood, opened the book and began to read.At this time the Prior had got to the midway point of the causeway and noticed that the tide was rising alarmingly fast and would quickly cut him off from land.He felt that unknown forces must be at work and then a thought struck him and he didn’t dare turn round as he knew what he would see.But he did turn and there was his servant sitting there absorbed in the book and reading aloud one of the spells.The Prior realised it was the incantation to instruct the tide to rise unnaturally so in great fear he shouted at his servant to hurry as he knew that once the spell ended the tide would return to normal.The young servant was so absorbed in what he was reading that he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore the shouts.In desperation the Prior called out: "If you can’t read quicker forwards then read backwards". This would reverse the spell’s effects, but the servant kept on reading as before.By the time the servant had finished reading the spell the waves had covered the Wicked Prior and once again someone who meddled was destroyed by their own Black Arts.