NEWLYN PIER & HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS

History

Strategically located near to the end of the Cornish peninsula, Newlyn has maintained its heritage as an industrial harbour from the fifteenth century, as recorded by the Bishop of Exeter in 1435 to the present day.

Pilchards were traditionally fished by seine nets with a “Watcher” standing on the surrounding cliffs watching for shoals of fish.  Undeterred when the pilchards left, the fishermen built a fleet of sailing ships known as Luggers to pursue the pilchards which trailed nets which became known as “drifting” and which is still practiced today.

This led to the arrival of the fish merchants and the opening up of the Italian market.

With the arrival of the railway to Plymouth, Newlyn fishermen diversified into mackerel, building bigger boats known as “Mackerel Drivers” and began exporting fish to other parts if the country.  As a result Newlyn became very prosperous and at one of the London Trade Fairs in the 1890’s was regarded as having “one the finest mackerel driver fleets in the world.”

From the rebuilding of the “Old Harbour”, through to the construction of the South Pier in 1887 and the North Pier in 1888, Newlyn became one of the safest manmade harbours in the south west which can be accessed at any tide.

As Newlyn prospered other goods were exported from the harbour such as coal to Portugal.  In the early part of the nineteenth century the Newlyn School of Art was formed which also helped to raise the profile of the local community.  Following the First World War, Newlyn again prospered and saw an expansion of the fishing fleet, the variety of fish landed and the arrival of Belgium trawlers which also landed at Newlyn.  Unfortunately, the invasion of Abyssinia by Mussolini in 1937 resulted in a trade embargo to Italy with devastating consequences for the pilchard merchants.

During the Second World War, ironically it was a fleet of Belgium trawlers taking refuge in England that put Newlyn back on its feet, and following the war it was this new fleet of larger boats which saw the rebirth of the fishing industry.  The mackerel fleet also saw a revival in the 1970’s with greater exports both to the domestic and continental markets.

In 1980, The Mary Williams Pier was opened by The Queen which allowed vessels to use the quay at all states of the tide, a new fish market was built in 1988, together with new small boat pontoons in 2005.  Investment in this unique port has continued so as to provide the necessary facilities to support the local fishing community and beyond.

The “Old Harbour” is still used to this day and provides a unique historical reminder of the harbour’s early days, in contrast to its adjoining modern harbour facilities.  Today, Newlyn is still regarded as one of the premier ports in the south west in terms of the size of the vessels using the port and the value and quantity of fish landed.