Newquay, on Cornwall’s north coast, is well renowned for being both the surf and party centre of the county. The fantastic surfing, exciting nightlife, and family-friendly attractions give people the chance to build lifelong memories they’ll cherish forever.
But Newquay isn’t all about surfing and partying! Apart from the beautiful beaches, there are a lot of interesting facts that most people wouldn’t know.
1. Newquay Harbour
1600 years ago, Newquay was a fortified cliff village that later developed into a modest port town before becoming the up-and-coming top vacation destination we know today. Here, in the Iron Age, iron ore was originally smelted to make tools and weapons. This area also exported tin and China clay.
No one knows what Newquay’s original village was called. It was never featured in the doomsday book, but by the 1400s Newquay was known as Towan Blystra. This former fishing community was renowned for its pilchard catch. The huer, who was perched in the Huer’s Hut on the headland, saw the shoals of fish and called to the people to direct them to the pilchards of the shoreline, giving rise to the idiom “hue and cry”.
The town’s second existence as a fishing port began when a New Quay was constructed in 1439. Which is how Newquay, received its new name. Many citizens of the town were employed for pilchard fishing in the 18th century, and the Huer’s Hut atop Towan Head still bears witness to this tradition.
Tramlines that once transported tin and China clay directly to the ships were one of several alterations to the harbour. Many of Newquay’s caves, including the Tea Caverns in front of The Headland Hotel, were utilised for smuggling in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a supplement to the meagre wages from fishing and farming. Furthermore, wreckers would congregate near the coast to gather cargo that had been lost in shipwrecks.
2. The Barrowfields
The Barrowfields near Trevelgue is an archaeological site with intriguing prehistoric burial mounds. There were once up to fifteen, indicating extensive human habitation. Only a few of them remain now. Archaeologists have excavated burned cooking utensils and a crudely crafted pottery burial urn containing the remains of a Bronze Age chief, whose grave dates back an amazing 3500 years!
Between 1819 and 1821, three barrows were demolished, producing many cremation urns. One barrow alone had at least five arrowheads, an inhumation in a cist, additional cists with burnt bone, and other internal stone-built structures.
3. Trenance Cottages
There is nothing exactly like this open to the public elsewhere in Cornwall, a modest collection of Grade II listed houses situated in the gorgeous Trenance Gardens (Trenance means “farm in the valley”). These cottages, which date from the 18th century, are one of the few structures still standing that existed before the passenger train in 1876, making them a true historical treasure.
By the 1400s, the Arundells of Trerice, who also resided at Trerice Manor, a National Trust property outside of Newquay that is worth a visit, owned Trenance Cottages. Come visit the cottages and learn about their fascinating history! Previous tenants of the cottages have included evacuees and the coxswain of the Newquay lifeboat.
The Trenance Cottage restoration was finished this year and has undoubtedly become even more of a tranquil “wow” spot for Newquay, whose community wants to continue promoting and engaging with its fine heritage. The restoration was lovingly carried out by local volunteers, funded through charity events, and supported by contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, SITA, Cornwall Council, Newquay Council, Co-operative Society, and the Pilgrim Trust.
4. Huer’s House (The Huers Hut)
The Huer’s Hut stands for the history and legacy of the town’s fishing industry as it overlooks the lovely beaches of Newquay from Towan Head. Though it has been present since the middle of the 19th century, the history of this structure stretches back to the 14th century.
When he saw shoals of fish, generally pilchards, the “Huer,” for whom this shelter was created, would sound his horn, and cry out, “HEVA HEVA” (“Here they are”). The fisherman in Newquay Harbour would then know when to deploy their boats and the Huer would lead them to the fish.
Many people think that Newquay (or Towan Blystra at the time) owes its existence to the Huer and his hut because the town was founded on the fishing industry.
5. Smugglers and Wreckers Newquay Sea Caves
Cornwall is rich in lore and history including pirates, smugglers, and shipwrecks. Ships would set sail from Cornwall during the height of the trading business in the 18th century with local products such as pilchards, stone, tin, copper, timber, coal, and mail. From Falmouth, the Royal Mail Packet ships sailed throughout the globe delivering packages, mails, and merchandise. The crew frequently went on extended absences of months or even years!
Ships from faraway lands also came to Cornwall carrying goods that were then sold or disseminated throughout the rest of the kingdom. Smugglers started bringing in illegal items including tea, silks, tobacco, and brandy at lower prices when taxes increased, and the cost of the goods made them unaffordable for the local population to purchase. The trading quickly became routine because they were largely peaceful protestors who demanded more equitable rates; some officials even turned a blind eye to a bribe!
But soon, things started to go gloomy. Wreckers, a dangerous race, started planning how to assault trade ships off the shore to take their cargo. They would lure the ships into perilous coastal areas by using fake lighthouse-like beacons. The ships would be destroyed on the cliffs because of the abrasive rocks and shallow sea.
The wreckers would then charge the ship and seize its cargo. It’s not strange that over time, spooky tales about ghastly sailors and malicious pirates have emerged.
Around Cornwall, especially Porthleven, Carbis Bay, and, nearby, Holywell Bay, you can still locate shipwreck remnants.
Newquay is truly a spectacular place with so many hidden gems. Its history dates to the Bronze and Iron age and amazing site to see for all.
People have flocked to the seaside since the 18th century. To this day, it remains dear to British hearts. The extensive coastline and peaceful atmosphere, coupled with the opportunities for activities that’ll set your heart racing, make it perfect for couples, families, grandparents… well, everyone!
Its claim to fame is backed up by the pervading history that’s felt all around Cornwall and, whether you’re a history buff or not, it’s undoubtably impressive.