History


 

 

 

     

St Peter's Church, Mevagissey

  Mevagissey began life as two distinct settlements: the first known as Lamorrick or Lavorrick, was a small religious community in the area around what is now St.Peter’s Church which would have been established perhaps a thousand years ago; then later a fishing hamlet called Porthilly began to cluster around the northern side of the cove  (the Cliff Street/Church Street area).

The name Mevagissey, which united the two settlements  (the name coming from the two saints Meva  and Issey to whom the church was once dedicated ) , was not in common use until the end of the 15th century.

Land communications in Cornwall were largely non-existent until the 15th century, and Mevagissey’s fortunes have always been firmly tied to the sea and fishing in particular. At times in its history it has been one of the top fishing harbours in the South West, such boom years being reflected in spates of house building and improvements to the harbour and village.

 

   
     
     

 

The fishing industry used to involve nearly the entire community; fish-curing whether it was salting the pilchards [ the main fish caught] in cellars and pressing them into barrels, or smoking them, pickling them in brine or canning them in oil; employed hundreds; then there were the Coopers, Boatbuilders, Net makers, Ropemakers, Sailmakers, Blacksmiths, Net barkers and Fish merchants , and of course the fishermen themselves.

 

The power of the pilchards was such that whole villages were entirely dependent upon its annual re-appearance in their local waters, and some ceased to exist when the shoals began to disappear from the Cornish Coast towards the end of the 19th Century.

   

Mevagissey inner harbour circa 1900

     
     
  Mevagissey suffered particularly in the 20th Century, but after a post 2nd World War depression, following failure of both pilchard and herring fisheries and a slack period into the sixties, fishing started to pick up again.

The mackerel boom that lasted into the mid nineties, saw many working boats back in the Harbour, and a much greater variety of  fish landed. Huge catches of Pollack were landed in the winter months caught off the wrecks. Monkfish, Turbot, Sole, Plaice, Brill, Cod ,Whiting, Cuttlefish, Squid, being some of the other high value species landed to merchants and local markets at different times of the year.

The 21st Century has seen resurgence in the Pilchard fishery, and this is now marketed as the Cornish Sardine. Great investment has been made in Mevagissey by some of the fishermen into the purchasing of “Ring Nets” and fitting their boats out to work the new nets to enable them to catch the Sardines.

The inner harbour today

   
     

The Harbour also seems to be unique in that it is attracting youngsters into the industry, which hopefully will keep the fishing industry alive.

 Over the years a great deal of projects have been carried out within the Harbour to modernise and support an ever changing Fishing Industry. New Ice Plants, Cold Stores, Bait Store, Craneage, fork Lift and Storage Lofts have been supplied/ built to try and accommodate every need. All of this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for grant aid from various sources. Mevagissey remains a very busy Fishing Harbour, which adds to its charm.

 
 

 

 

 

This Site is written and maintained by Andrew Crawshaw: Crawshaws@aol.com