Busy yet quaint fishing port


Padstow Town Council


A Brief History       Churches       Padstow Lifeboat

The site of Padstow, about seven miles west of Wadebridge and on the western end of the A389, was well chosen by it's forefathers. Settled into a narrow gulley on the West side of the River Camel estuary it is well sheltered from the prevailing South West winds and the air is balmy. Then lower down the hill, the huddle of buildings gets closer and closer until they crowd together round the harbour. A heavenly jumble of houses, quays, boat slips, cafes and restaurants, gift and craft shops, a wine merchant, bookshops, holiday flats, grocers, gown shops, newsagents, accountants, estate agents, a chemist, home-made fudge shop and even a book maker. Not much of this was planned, it has happened through the years. No architect could have schemed the Padstow of today. it is the result of years of adaptation and change. of getting the best out of local natural materials and then ingeniously adapting these buildings to fit the current needs of a friendly little harbour town. Despite the modern applications everything looks right because everything is right. and woe betide the city slicker who tries to re-develop Padstow. The population of the town was 2,993 at the 2011 census.

It is true that time and tide wait for no man but it is also true that here in Padstow they do seem to wait that little bit longer. Everything moves slower. The traffic, because it cannot do any other, and the people, because their lives are governed so much more by the tides, the seasons of the year and the farming calendar. It will become obvious to our visitors that we Padstonians have discovered that rushing about simply does not do anyone any good. Some of us here would like the whole world to slow down to our pace but we know that this cannot be. Instead of this, we invite our visitors to share with us the slowing down - if only for a couple of weeks, and you will find that you are drawn towards it as if by an invisible magnet. Folk always have time to stand and stare into the harbour scene and Padstow is no exception. There are seats all around and it is a favourite place for locals and visitors alike. The long seat beside the shelter on the corner of North Quay is called the Long Lugger and this is the traditional meeting place for Padstonians. Here the old boys of the town hold court, swap yarns and generally watch the world go by.

Padstow Harbour

Try to set aside some of your holiday to share our heritage. Visit our dear little museum which is not a huge tomb of a place, but a small room set aside to house some our modest historic treasures. Come to church, sit quietly awhile and reflect upon the history of Padstow. Somehow the church in a small seafaring town reflects life's chequered pattern so much more. Spare a moment of thought for the wives and mothers of yesteryear who prayed for the safe return of their absent menfolk. Of the joy that would be released at the end of a long voyage safely concluded. Of the deep numb grief of women folk who waited day after day! week after week, for a long overdue ship. You will be warmly welcomed at services here. The Methodist Chapel in the middle of the town and the modern Catholic church hold out equally welcoming arms.

Many interesting books and pamphlets are available in our bookshops. Read about Padstow's famous sons; her ship builders and sailors, her engineers and miners and you will be in excellent company. They all knew and loved Padstow well and their lives are part of the tapestry of happiness and tragedy which is the history of our dear little town. They would be pleased to know that you are here to enjoy the town as they, we are sure, enjoyed the town those long years ago.

The 1st of May sees Padstow celebrate the Obby Oss, decorated with the first greenery of the year, bluebells, cowslips, forget-me-nots, the catkins of hazel and sycamore twigs heavy with the first leaves of Spring, and the procession - teaser and the dancers, singers and the unique 'May Song', and musicians playing a hypnotic tune. Accordions, drums, triangles. The followers dressed in white with red or blue sashes coming before the Oss, all to celebrate the coming of Spring.

Celebrations begin early morning on May Day with the stable doors opening to let the Oss appear onto the narrow streets. Firstly around the harbour crowded with thousands of onlookers, then up the narrow lanes goes the procession of the Obby Oss Clan even into gardens and houses. Festivities go on all day and into the evening. There is even a Children's Wee Oss The Padstow Obby Oss is one of the oldest surviving customs in the Country, not just in Cornwall and is believed to be a ancient fertility rite marking the coming of Summer.

The town has achieved new fame through Rick Stein's fabulous Seafood Restaurant, Rick Stein, is now an internationally renowned chef, and his passion for seafood is legendary. Padstow offers a daily superb choice of fresh seafood, with still a local thriving fishing industry. The Stein 'empire' includes not just his renowned seafood restaurant, but also the Georgian seafront hotel, St. Petrocs, a Rick Stein fish and chip shop, a cookery school, a gift shop, Rick Stein's cafe, a patisserie, and a deli on the South Quay.

The Doom Bar is a sandbar at the mouth of the estuary of the River Camel, where it meets the Sea. A Cornish folklore legend relates that a mermaid created the bar as a dying curse on the harbour after she was shot by a local man. The Doom Bar has accounted for more than six hundred shipwrecks since records began early in the nineteenth century.

The Padstow to Rock ferry crosses the tidal River Camel between Padstow and Rock. The ferry carries pedestrians and cyclists only (not vehicles) to the beach on the north side of the estuary. There has been a ferry at Black Rock Passage since 1337, the right originally belonging to the Duchy manor of Penmayne. Today the ferry operates on demand, every day in the summer and Monday to Saturday in the winter. The service being operated by Padstow Harbour Commissioners.

Fishing, boat building and coastal trades have been carried out over the years, and the harbour area is still a busy working place.

The town's Visitor Centre is at Red Brick Building, North Quay, PL28 8AF, Tel: (01841) 533449.

A Brief History

Padstow has a long and ancient history dating back to well before the birth of Christ, for around 2500 BC people travelling from Brittany to Ireland used the Fowey/Camel valleys on their journeys. During recent years this ancient path, known as The Saints' Way, has been re-opened, making it possible for walkers to trace the footsteps of those early travellers. It is believed that this track continued to be used during Roman times, as some evidence of Roman settlement has been found in the area.

Shortly after 2000BC the Beaker folk settled around the coast of Cornwall, and remains of their ancient burial chambers can still be seen at Harlyn Bay. Much later, during the 1st century BC, Venitii settlers arrived from Brittany, building forts on the coastal headlands. and it is likely that Padstow was a centre of population at that time. However it was with the arrival of St. Petroc around 600AD that Padstow really began to develop. He spent 30 years in Padstow, during which time he founded a monastery here, and remains of old Celtic crosses are still to be found in the area. The monastery and church were destroyed by the Danes in 981AD and the monastery was transferred to Bodmin, when Padstow came under the control of the Priory of Bodmin. A second church was built to replace the one destroyed by the Danes, of which only the base of the tower now remains, and the present church was built in 1425. In medieval times, Padstow was granted the right of Sanctuary by King Athelstan, which enabled criminals to remain safe from arrest. and this continued until the time of the Reformation. At that time trading continued with Brittany and Ireland and a Guild of St. Petroc was set up by traders in Padstow. Their headquarters was thought possibly to have been in Abbey House, which can be seen over-looking the harbour on North Quay, and which is now a private residence.

During the Reformation the church's control of Padstow ceased when the ownership of the land was transferred to the Prideaux family. Prideaux Place, built on the site of the former Barton of the Monks of Bodmin, was completed in 1592 and has one of the oldest deer parks in the country. This house is still occupied by descendants of the Prideaux family, and is open to the public on some afternoons. Sir Walter Raleigh lived in Padstow when he was Warden of Cornwall, and his Court House on Riverside was the central office for the collection of dues and taxes. Although his Courthouse and cottage still remain, they are now private residences and are not open to the public.

Padstow's importance as a port developed from earliest times and in 1565 Sir John Hawkins took shelter here while returning from the West Indies, as did Sir Martin Frobisher while returning from his search for the North West Passage to China in 1577. At that time Padstow was well used as a fishing port, and during the 17th century, when mining in Cornwall was expanding, shipments of copper ore were made to Bristol and slates were exported, many of them from the Camel quarry. By the 19th century a number of ship-building yards had been established, and the Padstow Museum houses a collection of tools from that time. At that time the fishing industry was at its height, when pilchards were landed and cured here, and cured fish of many types, as well as wheat, barley, oats, cheese and minerals were being exported. A considerable variety of goods was also imported from Ireland, France, Wales, Scandinavia and Russia. The first lifeboat was stationed at Padstow prior to 1827 when improvements began to be made to the port in an effort to make it safer. By 1899 the railway arrived, (now part of the Camel Trail cycle track), which helped the port and also marked the beginning of the tourist industry. Sadly this century has seen a decline in the fishing industry, which was further affected when the railway closed in 1967, but over recent years this seems to be recovering and there are also signs of a small return to commercial shipping. Padstow has retained some of its ancient traditions, the most notable being its May Day Festival to mark the coming of summer, which originated in an ancient fertility rite. At Christmas the traditional Padstow carols are sung in the streets of the town. These are unique to Padstow and date back at least to the 18th century.


Padstow Parish Church

Nestling in among the trees at the top of the old town, lies the ancient church of St. Petroc, built in 1425. Here you can find peace and quiet, either just sitting in the delightful churchyard. which must be one of the best kept in Cornwall or walking round the Church itself, which is open daily.

Within the church, which is surprisingly large when you get inside, you will find items of interest in the architecture and the furnishings.

The "wagon" roof, in the south aisle is a work of art and worth a mention; being part of the original structure: ponder on the age of those ancient oak timbers which must be over a thousand years old. The font and the pulpit deserve a bit of time for study, as do one or two items in the sanctuary: a very old brass, dated 1425, a beautiful carved bench end, to the right of the altar and a stone carving of St. Petroc, again to the right of the high altar, set in the wall.

Within the Parish of Padstow, there is also the church of St. Saviour at Trevone Bay. A small modern church, built on traditional lines from local stone, much of which was quarried in the parish. This too, is open daily for visitors.

Catholic church of St. Saviour and St. Petroc, Place hill

St. Saviour is a particularly appropriate dedication for the church at the top of the hill as it is also the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome the namesake of the Canons Regular who came from Bodmin and have served Padstow Catholics for so many years. St. Saviour is the title, too, of a long defunct pre- Reformation chapel which was nearby. The patronage of St. Petroc is obviously apt. The saint founded a monastic church in Padstow in the late 6th century. It is in the formal document inaugurated by King Alfred the Great in 890AD that we find mentioned the name of Petroc's Stowe - meaning the Church or Monastery of St. Petroc. Eventually in 1913 a timber chapel was built in High Street for the sum of £150. This little wooden building served both people and visitors for over fifty years. In 1962 John Prideaux-Brune gave a plot of land, just outside the gates of Prideaux Place close to the site of the ancient Celtic monastery. On this site the present church was built. The new church was solemnly opened and blessed by the Rt. Rev. Cyril Restieaux on June 1st 1975. One link between the old and the new is the Picture of St. Petroc, painted by Eleanore Hunter, a frequent visitor to Padstow and given to the old church in 1914.

The Methodist Church

St. John's Padstow is a modern, comfortable and compact building situated on the corner of Barry's Lane and Church Lane. The old Chapel which stood on this site was unsafe and had to be demolished but the Hall was kept and redesigned. This, together with new building work, resulted in the present premises and car park. It remains the largest of the Methodist Churches in the area and seeks to provide a ministry serving both Town and visitors and to work closely with the nearby Parish church of St. Petroc. Trevone Methodist Church is a delightful village chapel standing on a grassy bank in the middle of the village of Trevone which it seeks to serve. Visitors are made very welcome and enjoy worshipping with the community and sharing in the social events which occur during their holiday. St. Merryn Methodist Church is sited next to the village school. A larger building than most village chapels it stands beside a much older former chapel currently being used by local artists as a studio. Both buildings are recognised as having architectural merit.

St. Ervan Methodist Church

This church, serves the two villages of Rumford and Penrose and services are held in both places. The Rumford Chapel is a most attractive building and has been refurbished without loss of character. The stained glass and general high quality of work are unusual in a village chapel.

Penrose Chapel

This is also well looked after and has changed very little since it was first built. It therefore retains a unique atmosphere all its own.

Trenance Methodist Church

A very typical Methodist Chapel and stands in a prominent position as you enter the village from the south. The Chapel has been refurbished internally and has additional useful premises at the side.

St. Issey Parish Church

This Grade 1 church has been completely restored over the past few years and is well worth a visit. The church was rebuilt in 1870 but contains much of the earlier building, including the 14th century north arcade and vestry window, the 15th century west doorway, containing cataclews details, and the 16th century south arcade and doorway. The font is late Norman. Possibly the most interesting contents of the church are carved from cataclews stone from Cataclews Quarry in St. Merryn. They are the reredos behind the High Altar, the pieta in the Lady Chapel and the holy water stoup by the south west door. The local workshop which produced these around 1400 is often considered to have reached the highest level which Cornish art has ever attained. St. Ervan Church The 13th century parish church of St. Ervan. dedicated to St. Hermes, is a cruciform structure which - it is stated in The Cornish Church Guide "if it had been more judiciously restored, would offer a specimen of what most of our churches were like prior to the 15th century enlargements". The church was derelict by the late 19th century and the ruined tower, pulled down in 1883, was not rebuilt until 1955 in memory of its rector, Prebendary W.R. Johnson. The carved slate tombstones, which have been brought into the church, reward inspection - notably William Pomeroy's, showing the dedicatee in Elizabethan breeches and ruff. The church stands in a valley near to a farm and the former Victorian rectory where the young John Betjeman was first inspired with his love of church history.

Little Petherick Parish Church

This Grade I listed church contains a wealth of interest. It is basically a 14th century church which was restored with rebuilding in 1750 and 1848. The fine rood screen which is a blaze of colour dominates the church. The 16th century painting of Mary Magdalen of Coello is found in the north west corner. The granite font is an excellent one with a find carved cover. There are some good bench ends with emblems including those of the Passion. The list of the rectors is carved in Delabole slate. At the back of the church is a charming little organ loft. The figure of St. Petroc in the sanctuary was carved by a Belgian refugee during the First World War. The atmosphere of this little church reflects the beauty of its furnishing. Many of its treasures were given by Athelstan Riley, who wrote the hymn Ye Watchers and ye Holy Ones.

St. Merryn Church and Parish

It was probably about 600AD when a missionary priest first came to St. Merryn from Padstow. The first resident vicar, John de Withiel, was installed on the 2nd July 1259. The St. Merryn known in Cornwall, was a young girl taken into a monastery by her father when her mother died. He dressed her as a boy. and so she remained into adult life, becoming a saintly monk without revealing her sex. In 1422 the Dean and chapter of Exeter ordered that the chancel should be lengthened by six feet. with three windows depicting biblical stories in coloured glass. The impressive wagon roof dates from his rebuilding of 1422: three grotesquely carved roof bosses, and the carved oak wall plate along part of the top of the south wall are original 15th century work. The beautifully carved Cataclews stone font originally graced the now ruined chapel at Constantine. The carvings on the font represent the twelve apostles. Each one is different and they all have their scrolls, although some have lost their symbols. The organ comes from an Exeter church bombed during the Second World War, and was given to St. Merryn in 1944 by Mr. Leslie Hawken, churchwarden from 1942 - 1984. The six bells, recast from the original five by John Rudhall of Gloucester in 1796 are used every Sunday, and St. Merryn welcomes visiting ringers from time to time.

Padstow Lifeboat

Padstow had a lifeboat before 1827 and the RNLI took over full control of the Station in 1856 when the boathouse was situated at Hawker's Cove, inside the estuary of the River Camel. As the river mouth silted up, it became necessary in 1967 to relocate the Station onto the open sea at Mother Ivey's Bay at Trevose Head five miles from Padstow. For this reason a van is kept in Padstow to carry the crew to the boathouse and woe betide the visitor who allows his car to obstruct access. The lifeboat is in the water within 15 minutes of the maroons going off in Padstow.

During its long history, boats from the Padstow Station have saved over 620 lives but not without great sacrifice. In 1867, five of the crew of thirteen were drowned when going to the rescue of the schooner "Georgiana". There is a plaque in the town church in memory of these five brave men. In 1900, the Padstow steam lifeboat capsized on service and eight of the crew were lost.

In the early days of rowing lifeboats in Padstow, if the sea was too rough to row around Stepper Point, the lifeboat was hauled overland on a carriage pulled by a team of eight horses to Harlyn Bay and relaunched from the beach. In 1984, Padstow was given a new lifeboat, named James Burrough in memory of the great grandfather of her donor, and as a tribute to the men of the lifeboat service. This Tyne Class Lifeboat is slipway launched with double the speed of earlier slipway lifeboats. She has an all steel hull, a shallow draught, a long keel and extended bilge keels to protect the props, essential for slipway launching and working in shoal waters. The watertight aluminium wheelhouse makes the boat inherently self-righting which she does in five seconds.

After nearly 180 years as a lifeboat station, work has begun to build a new boathouse and slipway for the next generation of lifeboat, the Tamar class. Launching for the last 20 years has been Padstow's present Tyne class lifeboat.


The Camel Trail runs through beautiful countryside for over seventeen miles in total, The Trail goes from Padstow to Wadebridge and from Wadebridge to Pooley's Bridge. The whole of the Trail is level as it used to be part of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway, so it makes an ideal cycle trail. There is also refreshments along the way and a Public House at Bodmin. Bike hire is in plentiful supply in Wadebridge with three shops in Eddystone Road, at the start of the Wadebridge to Padstow stretch of the Trail. The Trail is also popular for bird watchers, with a purpose built bird hide half way between Wadebridge and Padstow. The trail is used by an estimated 400,000 users each year generating an income of approximately £3 million a year.

The South West Coast Path runs on both sides of the River Camel estuary and crosses from Padstow to Rock via the Black Tor ferry. The path gives walking access to the coast with Stepper Point and Trevose Head within an easy day's walk of Padstow.

The Saints' Way long-distance footpath runs for thirty miles from Padstow to Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall.

Notable Residents

Donald Ryley Rawe (1930-2018), Cornish publisher, dramatist, novelist, and poet, was born in Padstow. He became a member of Gorseth Kernow in 1970, under the Bardic name of Scryfer Lanwednoc ('Writer of Padstow').

Rick Stein (1947-), Restaurateur and celebrity chef, owns several restaurants and businesses in the town.

Enys Tregarthen (1851-1923), Author and folklorist.

Paul Ainsworth (1979-), Michelin starred chef, runs several businesses in Padstow.

Dr. Humphrey Prideaux, (1648-1724) Dean of Norwich, was born in Padstow.

Art Galleries

Padstow Gallery

Quay Art Gallery

The Drang Gallery

The Picture House Gallery

Whistlefish Gallery

Karensa Art


Obby Oss is celebrated on the 1st of May each year.

The Padstow Steam Rally is held in July.

The Christmas Festival is in early December.

Mummers Day is on Boxing Day.


Cafes in Padstow


Pubs in Padstow

Cornish Lifeboat Stations       Camel Creek Adventure Park       Old MacDonald's Farm       Trevibban Mill       Cornwall's Ferrys

Trenouth Farm Rare Breeds Centre       Mellingey Mill       Obby Oss Day       Trevose Head Lighthouse       The National Lobster Hatchery

Cornwall Karting       Padstow Museum       The Camel Trail       The Saints' Way       Prideaux Place       Harlyn Bay

Padstow Visitor Centre       St. Merryn       The Camel Estuary       Rock       Polzeath       Trevone       Trevose Head       Wadebridge

The Coastal Footpath