If you have ever seen a mackerel or a pilchard swim through the water, sunlit in the cold clear waters of Cornwall, from a quay or by the side of a deep pool, you will recognise the inspiration for our Quayside Collection.
This collection celebrates the importance of fishing to Cornish communities.
What does Fishing mean to Cornwall?
Cornish fishing probably can be dated back to the Middle Ages. Certainly, by Tudor times it was nationally important and employed nearly two thousand fisherfolk in Cornwall alone.
The fish were caught in one of two ways, either by seine fishing or drifting.
Seine fishing uses a large net that hangs in the water, by means of weights on the bottom edge and floats on the top. A seine net looks like a fence and is used to encircle a shoal of fish, with the boat circling the catch.
Drift Netting uses a seine net attached to the boat in the water. This method catches the fish as they become entangled in the net, as the boat moves along.
Pilchards were the main catch during much of the 18th and 19th centuries with the fishing season running from July or August to late autumn.
Lookouts or Huers
The fishermen at sea were helped by “Huers”. These lookouts, usually on the top of the cliffs helped to locate shoals of fish. The huer would shout the Cornish ‘Hevva! Hevva! (Here they are!) when they saw the sea bubbling with fish.
They helped to lead the boats to the location of the pilchard shoals so that the fishing boats could cast their nets as efficiently as possible. Huer’s huts can still to be found near some Cornish fishing ports.
It’s thought that the Hevva Cake, a traditional Cornish cake was made by the Pilchard Huers when they returned home from work, in readiness for the crews return. The cakes are about 1/2" thick, with a criss-cross pattern scored across the top, to represent the fishing nets. You can find a recipe in another of our blogs here.
Lovely with a cup of tea!
Pilchards were drawn to the Cornish coast to feed in late summer. The fish were landed from small boats, salted and pressed. The oil was collected as a by-product and used for heating and lighting.
They were processed mainly by women and children and stored and preserved in “Pilchard Palaces”. The work was hard and unrelenting during the pilchard season.
You can still see the remains of these Pilchard Sheds on the shorelines around Cornish villages, including on the Minnahu Breaks just to the north of Kingsand in South East Cornwall.
It’s hard to imagine now that this was the scene of a busy pilchard industry. Like much of Cornwall, the coastline is still defined by the traditional industries of fishing and mining.
Cornwall’s traditional over-dependence on tin mining and fishing are referenced in the words of the song “Cornish Lads” by Roger Bryant.
The reality is of course that both fishing and mining will always be important to Cornwall, either through renewed commercial activity or in drawing in visitors who wish to understand and experience these traditions for themselves.
Our opportunity is to continue to celebrate this tradition through our Quayside Collection, providing practical items for use in the home which reflect the importance of the pilchard and the mackerel shoals to Cornish life.
Other products available in the Quayside Collection include Tea Towels, Aga Pads, Greetings Cards, Napkins and Placements. For more information and to view our Quayside Collection click here.
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