Cornwall Fishing Heritage

Cornish lads are fishermen and Cornish lads are miners too. But when the fish and tin are gone, what are the Cornish boys to do?

Huers Hut, Newquay, a look out for the Pilchard shoals
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Huers Hut, Newquay, a look out for the Pilchard shoals

Cornwall once had a thriving fishing industry and there are many coastal towns and villages that grew as a result of this important trade. As early as 1582 nearly 2000 mariners are recorded for Cornwall. Pilchards were the main catch with many millions caught, processed and exported, mainly to Italy. Pilchards were salted, pressed and packed in wooden casks and their oil was used as a fuel for lighting. Large shoals of pilchard out at sea could be seen from the shore and a look out man positioned at his ‘Huers Hut’ such as the one on Newquay Headland would cry ‘Hewa Hewa!’ through a trumpet to alert the fishermen. The pilchard industry went into steep decline after 1880 due to overfishing.

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Just a few of Simon’s fish illustrations featured on the map.

Newlyn near Penzance is still a busy fishing port. With its old granite built fisherman’s cottages and cobbled back street, Newlyn has been a port since the 14th century and lands the third largest tonnage of fish in England. It is the home port for over 100 boats from inshore hand liners to deep water trawlers. Over 50 varieties of fish and shellfish are landed here – a diverse harvest providing fresh fish to Cornwall’s many seafood restaurants and beyond.