Fishing capital of the West
The fishing port of Newlyn lies in the western corner of Mount's Bay adjacent to Penzance on the B3315 road which carries on nine miles to Land's End. The bustling harbour-side and the narrow back streets and cobbled courtyards of Newlyn offer the visitor a refreshing glimpse of a genuine Cornish community. Newlyn's many attractions include an art gallery and an award winning fisheries museum, as well as several pubs of character, cafes, restaurants and a good range of shops. The population as of the 2011 census was 4,432.
The Port of Newlyn
Before the rise of Newlyn as an important settlement, the landing rights and most property within the Newlyn area were owned by the Manor of Alverton. Newlyn's history has been strongly linked to its role as a major fishing port. But fishing has been the mainstay of Newlyn for hundreds of years. Today, the port's fish market handles £20 million worth of fish annually. Near the market is the Newlyn Iceworks built in 1903. The new South Pier was opened in 1866 so that boats could now moor up here instead of in the bay or on ropes in the central harbour area. An even longer North Pier was completed in 1894, enabling every boat to tie up alongside the quay for safety. For much of that time the harbour also served the nearby Penlee Quarry, from where rock was taken to Newlyn's South Quay and loaded onto vessels. The quarry once employed 200 men, but is now closed. In 1980 an extensive new development the Mary Williams Pier, was opened by her Majesty the Queen. In 1988, Princess Diana opened a new market building. Newlyn holds a special place in the international art world. During the final decades of the 19th century, young English painters, such as Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley, John Miller and Norman Garstin settled in Newlyn. In the village's picturesque streets they found a home-grown equivalent to the villages of Normandy and Brittany where they had been influenced by a vividly realistic form of painting. Famous Newlyn School paintings include Forbes's Fish Sale On Newlyn Beach and The Health of The Bride, and Bramley's powerful and still significant A Hopeless Dawn depicting the despair of those who have lost loved ones at sea. The more famous works are in major collections, but 'Newlyn School' paintings can be seen at Penzance Museum and Art Gallery. Today, Newlyn faces potentially ruinous restrictions to its fishing industry and for many fishermen the future seems bleak. But Newlyn still has a vigorous and diversified fleet and a resilient fishing community. For the visitor, Newlyn exemplifies Cornwall at its most authentic.
The Spanish Raid of 1595 destroyed Penzance, Mousehole and Paul as well as Newlyn.
In 1620 the 'Mayflower' stopped off at Newlyn old quay to take on water. A plaque on the quay reads:-
In memory of Bill Best-Harris, historian who through rigorous research found that the 'Mayflower' docked in Newlyn Harbour on the 16th August 1620 for fresh water as the water supplied in Plymouth was contaminated. Therefore Newlyn was the last port of call in UK for the 'Mayflower'.
Newlyn, along with nearby Mousehole and Paul, was the last stronghold of the Cornish language, presumably due to the strength of its fishing fleet.
Mineral extraction at Penlee Quarry, just outside the town dates back to the early 19th-century when copper, zinc and rare minerals were mined. Stone quarrying was started by James Runnalls of Penzance, at a quarry near the Old Battery in 1879. The Penlee Quarry railway was a 2 foot narrow gauge industrial railway serving the Penlee Quarry at Newlyn which started in 1900. It was Cornwall's most westerly railway and one of the last operating narrow gauge industrial railways in the UK. The quarry finally ceased production in 1990 and the site is planned for re-development.
In 1755, the Lisbon earthquake caused a tsunami to strike the Cornish coast over 600 miles away. The sea rose ten feet in ten minutes at Newlyn, and ebbed at the same rate. Their was a great loss of life and property along the coasts of Cornwall.
In the 1880's a number of artists flocked to the town and formed an artists' colony. The painters of Newlyn came to be known as the Newlyn Society of Artists at the Newlyn Art Gallery.
Before the 1890's, Newlyn (like Mousehole) had strong connections with the nearby parish of Paul. It was common for villagers to climb the relatively steep one mile route from "Newlyn Cliff" to Paul via the area which is now known as Gwavas to worship at Paul church.
For some 250 years, Cornish fishermen had observed the religious command not to work on Sundays; the spread of Methodism had strengthened this attitude; and everyone observed the strict preachings of the local minister. Only rarely did someone who had had a bad week's fishing give way to temptation if a large shoal of pilchards was sighted on a Sunday. The east coast men did not accept this local custom, and bought fish ashore on Monday mornings, so it made a good price because there was no competition from the Cornishmen. this was cause of dispute for many years, and culminated in riots in Newlyn and Penzance in 1896. Although people were injured and various Newlyn men appeared in court, no heavy sentences were imposed. Eventually calm was restored and in time the problem was forgotten.
In 1854 a 36 foot fishing boat called 'Mystery', sails from Newlyn, 12,000 miles to Australia arriving in Melbourne on the 14th March 1855, with seven men leaving the collapsing tin industry behind. Five of them later returned to Cornwall.
Late in the 19th century the fishing industry in Cornwall was becoming unreliable as a source of income: bad weather and seasonal fluctuations brought enforced periods of inactivity. It was decided that an alternative means of employment could be gained by training the unemployed fishermen to produce items in copper. After some early experiments, the Class specialised in repoussé copper work and produced a wide range of domestic and decorative items. The school remained active for about thirty years after its establishment in 1890. A permanent collection, representing much of the work of the original Newlyn School, is on view at the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance. Newlyn Copper is now highly valued by collectors.
In 2008 The 'Spirit of Mystery', a 37 foot lugger crewed by Pete Goss left Newlyn at 18:00, bound for Cape Town, just as 'Mystery' did in 1854. She arrived in Melbourne on the 9th March 2009.
During World War II, Newlyn was a base for the Air Sea Rescue craft covering the Western Approaches. The harbour was bombed during the war, hitting the collier 'Greenhithe', which was beached in the harbour at the time and supplied coal to the fishing boats.
Between 1970 and 1983, Troika Pottery, an art pottery studio, was based in Newlyn.
In September 2011, a contemporary Newlyn School of Art was formed with Arts Council funding which offers short courses taught by some of the most well known artists working in Cornwall.
On the 25th February 2019 a major fire destroyed the Fisherman's Arms pub in Newlyn. Four people had to be taken to hospital and their dog also died in the blaze.
On the 22nd October 2019 it was confirmed that the Roche-based fishing business 'Ocean Fish' has taken a controlling interest in Cornwall's best known trawler fleet 'W Stevenson & Sons' at Newlyn.
The Rosebud Memorial Garden
The Newlyn fishing boat, the 'Rosebud', symbolised the spirit of Newlyn people of the 1930's who fought to save the heart of their community from being swept away by an official proposal to demolish large numbers of traditional cottages. Local opposition to the plan was vigorous and well-organised and reached a climax in 1937 when the 'Rosebud', with a crew of Newlyn fishermen, sailed all the way to Westminster Pier to lobby Parliament. The national publicity that was generated and the ill wind of the Second World War saved some parts of old Newlyn from demolition. There is a Rosebud Memorial Garden above the St. Peter's Hill car park.
The Ordnance Survey Mark
Everywhere in Britain starts from the end of Newlyn's South Pier. Even Ben Nevis and Snowdon, our highest mountains, are measured from the Newlyn Tidal Observatory, the insignificant little building next to the harbour. In 1915, Newlyn was selected as the Ordnance Survey datum point, the mean sea level from which all heights throughout Britain are calculated. Wherever you are, Newlyn has the measure of you.
The Penlee lifeboat station
Located just along the coast towards Mousehole, the lifeboat has a heroic and tragic history.
Brenda Wootton (1928–1994) who was a poet and folk singer and was seen as an ambassador for Cornish tradition and culture in all the Celtic nations and as far as Australia and Canada, was born in the village. She began her musical career as a young schoolgirl, singing in village halls throughout the remote communities of west Cornwall. Wootton became active on the folk scene in the early 1960's, helping to keep the Cornish folk song tradition alive for many years.
Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947) spent most of his life here and died here.
Robert Hichens (1882–1940) was a British sailor who was part of the deck crew on board the RMS 'Titanic' when she sank on her maiden voyage on 15th April 1912.
William Lovett (1800–1877) was a British activist and leader of the Chartist political movement. He was one of the leading London-based artisan radicals of his generation.
Jack Thomas Nowell (1993-) is an English rugby union player for Premiership side Exeter Chiefs who was born in Newlyn.
Fish Festival - end August.
Newlyn Arts Festival - September.
Duke Street Cafe
Mackerel Sky Cafe
The Star Inn
The Red Lion Inn
Fishermans Arms Inn
The Swordfish Inn
The Dolphin Inn
Mousehole Penzance St. Buryan The Coastal Footpath Trereife House & Gardens
Julia Mills Gallery Newlyn Art Gallery Newlyn Society of Artists The Pilchard Works