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The History of Newlyn Harbour

The History of Newlyn Harbour


The story of Newlyn Harbour dates back over 500 years, to 1435 when it was first recorded as an industrial port. Fishing became an increasingly lucrative industry for the fishermen at Newlyn thanks to improved rail access to the South West during the 19th Century. To help improve accessibility and safety, the South and North Piers were built in the mid-1880’s, which in turn helped to boost Newlyn’s fortunes as commodities such as coal could now be exported from Cornwall’s shores.

It was around this time that a number of artists moved to Newlyn, forming a creative colony that became known as the Newlyn School. Many of their works were inspired by the day to day life of the harbour, the comings and goings of the fleet and the anxious wait of families who watched for the boats to return safely home.


Waiting for the Boats – Walter Langley


During World War II, a number of boats were hit when Newlyn Harbour was bombed, including the collier Greenhithe, however the town escaped serious damage. Forced to take refuge during the war, a fleet of Belgian trawlers helped to support the Cornish fishing industry during these turbulent years.

Up until the 1960s, the main catch at Newlyn was pilchards, however over time these became less popular with consumers. During the 1970s, mackerel helped to improve the fortunes of the harbour, leading to the opening of the Mary Williams Pier by The Queen in 1980.

Ongoing investment included a new Fish Market in 1988 and a small boat pontoon in 2005. Today, Newlyn Harbour is one of the largest fishing ports in the UK, offering up-to-date facilities and services to support the Cornish fishing industry.