Mevagissey Heritage Walk About

Mevagissey Heritage Walk About

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Mevagissey Heritage Walk Map

Island Quay/Mevagissey Museum

Island Quay/Mevagissey Museum

Island Quay/Mevagissey Museum
(Heritage Stop 1 of 12)

There has been an unbroken tradition of boat building on the Island Quay since 1745. In that time the two masted Mevagissey sloops and cutters built here were renowned for their speed, making them popular for smuggling and fishing. With a 1000 sq. ft. of sail and a fair wind they could cross the channel to Roscoff in eight hours.

In later years a range of boats were built here by the Lelean family and Henry Roberts. The Frazier family subsequently occupied the site alongside Henry Roberts and later took over the whole property. Today, the tradition still lives on with John Moor and his son working on part of the original site.

Here you will also find the excellent Mevagissey Museum which has free entry and is the number one local attraction on Tripadvisor.

Next door, the Old Watch House which was built on several levels over the rocks is one of Mevagissey's most iconic images. The lower part of the building originally served as the Watch house for the 'preventative officers' as they attempted to curb the smuggling activities of the local fishermen.

In a section of the harbour wall beside the gap known as the Quay Door, opposite the Harbour Office you can see nine holes made specifically for rifles to be used by the Home Guard in the Second World War.

In front of the Old Watch House on the quayside you can see the remains of a Napoleonic cannon now used as a mooring post. This is one of the original cannons which were positioned on Battery Terrace to help repel any assault from Napoleon's forces.

Did you know the museum is free!

The Outer Harbour

The Outer Harbour

The Outer Harbour
(Heritage Stop 2 of 12)

Until the late 1880s, Mevagissey's harbour consisted of just the inner harbour which is tidal. The two outer piers were then built increasing the harbour size from 3 to 10 acres.

Soon after completion, the South pier and parapet was almost completely destroyed in the great storm of 1891. The new outer harbour was finally completed in 1897.

The Lighthouse on the west quay is believed to be the first in the country to be powered by electricity, thanks to the Mevagissey Electricity Company which was established in 1895.

During the Second World War a wire net stretched across the harbour mouth (it was lifted twice a day to let fishing boats go out to sea and to later return home). There was also a machine gun post in the Lifeboat House which is now the Aquarium. A Home Guard detachment was based in the Harbour Office.

The Lifeboat House was built in 1887, prior to this the lifeboat was launched from the beach at nearby Portmellon. The Mevagissey Lifeboat Station was closed in 1937 following the arrival of a new motor lifeboat at Fowey.

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The Inner Harbour

The Inner Harbour

The Inner Harbour
(Heritage Stop 3 of 12)

The present form and shape of the inner harbour dates from the 1770s when an Act of parliament allowed its initial construction. However, the first stone pier was supposedly built around 1550.

Most of the buildings that cluster around the harbour date from when it was initially constructed. The first buildings were mainly stone cottages, warehouses and fish curing and packing cellars.

Up until the 1950s most of the buildings were solely connected with boat building and fishing. It was only later that many of the buildings were converted to shops and restaurants for the benefit of our summer visitors.

For Instance, part of the 'Fat Face' store was where sail maker George Chesterfield made the sails for the 'Cutty Sark' when it was refitted in Falmouth prior to being taken to Greenwich. .

The Sharksfin was once two separate large warehouses. The towering right hand side dates from the 19th Century with the lower left hand side being a 100 years older. The upper floors were used as storerooms which contained all manner of fishing related equipment. Within this building there was also a cooperage where large pilchard barrels called 'hogsheads' were made.

One of the most recent buildings on the harbour is the fishermen's store on the West Jetty which was built in 1986 and includes an ice house to facilitate the landing and storage of each day's catch.

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Polkirt Hill

Polkirt Hill

Polkirt Hill
(Heritage Stop 4 of 12)

Some of Mevagissey's grandest houses were built on this southern side of the harbour, during the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Wealthy shipowners and businessmen lived here well away from the fishermen and workers who tended to populate the other side of the harbour.

Finest of these house is the Georgian Polkirt House, built in the 1730's in pink granite with its west wall decorated with hung slate.

Just down from Polkirt House once stood a wooden bridge. This was built across an opening in the hillside which at one time was the entrance to the Wheal Kendall copper mine. This venture was not particularly successful and the entrance has now been filled with concrete allowing the road to be built above.

Further down the hill towards the centre of the village lies Myrtle court with its 18th Century cottages grouped around a cobbled court yard. This is an unspoilt corner of Mevagissey and is typical of the early architecture of many Cornish fishing villages.

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Fore Street

Fore Street

Fore Street
(Heritage Stop 5 of 12)

The Kings Arms where Polkirt Hill becomes Fore Street, was originally situated on the quay until it was destroyed by fire in 1858.

Wesley Court behind the pub takes its name from the Wesleyan Chapel which stood here until it was demolished in 1970. It could hold up to 800 people.

No. 16 Fore Street now a cafe was once home to Captain James Dunn. Son of an infamous smuggler known as 'The Old Reprobate', Dunn was master of the "Claurena" and himself became one of Mevagissey's most successful smugglers.

Like the buildings on the harbour those lining the narrow alleys and 'Opes' between Fore Street and the harbour were predominately warehouses, fish cellars and net lofts.

At one time in Jetty Street there actually used to be three pubs, The Ring O' Bells, The Crown and Anchor and the Hope Inn. In the late 18th Century Mevagissey boasted ten public houses.

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Market Square/Town Bridge

Market Square/Town Bridge

Market Square/Town Bridge
(Heritage Stop 6 of 12)

The Ship Inn at the heart of Mevagisseyon the corner of Fore Street and Market Square (or Town Bridge as it is locally known) was always the largest and most important Inn in the village.

It was here at Town Bridge that John Wesley first tried to preach at Mevagissey only to be greeted with rotten eggs, old fish and household garbage.

Up until the 1950s the building which is now the cafe 'No. 5' in the Market Square was Hicks' Bakehouse. This family bakery was started in the 19th century by Johnny Hicks and moved to its Town Bridge site in 1920. The bakehouse itself was at the back of the premises and housed two large steam ovens as well as a coke fired water heater.

Bakehouse's such as this were communal at a time when private ovens were few, and people brought their own pasties, dinners, bread and cakes here to be cooked for a small charge. The surplus hot water was also used by all and some villagers even brought their washing there to dry.

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River Street

River Street

River Street
(Heritage Stop 7 of 12)

The corner of Market and River Street is perhaps one of the most changed parts of old Mevagissey.

The area where the 'River Street Cafe' and the shop 'Sitting Pretty' now stand used to be known as 'Town Mills'. Here stood the Teague family's corn mill, with its huge overshot wheel driven by a water leat taken from the main river.

Before the new road Valley Road was constructed between the wars, River Street was no more than a narrow earth lane with a leat flowing on the bank to one side.

Where the small Council car park and the Doctors Surgery now stand was once a hive of industrial activity. For this was once the location of net maker William J. Way's business with its noisy machinery and spacious net lofts..

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Church Square/Chapel Square

Church Square/Chapel Square

Church Square/Chapel Square
(Heritage Stop 8 of 12)

Built in the Gothic style in 1896 using local stone given by Squire Tremayne of Heligan, the Bible Christian Chapel finally closed its doors in the 1990's. Mevagissey was one of the first towns in the country to have its own electric generating station and this building was one of the first to have its lighting powered from this source making it one of the first buildings in the country to have electric power. In recent years, the former chapel has been converted to apartments.

The original Bible Christian Chapel was built on the opposite side of the street in 1826 but this was completely destroyed by fire in 1896.

A little way further down the street is the United Reformed Church which was built in 1882 on the site of a 1776 building which had previously belonged to the 'Mevagissey Independents', who had been one of the oldest established dissenting sects in Britain having been founded back in 1626.

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St. Peters Church

St. Peters Church

St. Peters Church
(Heritage Stop 9 of 12)

The Church of England Parish Church is located in an area of the village known locally as Lamorrick and is thought to be the site of an early Celtic settlement. Mevagissey is believed to get its name from two Celtic saints St Mevan (or Mewan) and St Issey joined by the Cornish word for and 'ag'.

The present church dates largely from the 15th century but retains some traces of Norman work. The medieval tower became ruinous and was pulled down in the 17th Century. The division between the old and the new tower, part of a major Victorian restoration in 1887, can still be seen today.

The churchyard contains a number of interesting headstones, particularly those dating from the early 18th Century many of which were made from sea weathered stone.

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Church Street

Church Street

Church Street
(Heritage Stop 10 of 12)

Until the 1920's when the new road into Mevagissey was built, Church Street was the main access road into the village.

Carts and wagons would negotiate School hill daily taking on an extra horse to be pulled to the top and using a drag shoe as a brake on the way down.

The small car park opposite the Loft Shop marks the former site of Mevagissey's Town Hall. Built by public donation it was demolished by St Austell Borough Council when the cost of repair was deemed to be too expensive..

Chapel Street or the Backlet which runs parallel to Church Street was the site of Henry Roberts Jnr's boat yard and is where Percy Mitchell, the famous Portmellon boatbuilder, served his apprenticeship. Imagine the difficulty in maneuvering a boat from here down to the harbour.

The grand red brick building on Church Street (now home to a hairdressers) once housed Ball's Bank. An independent bank, Mevagissey Bank, was founded by Phillip Ball in 1807. The bank went bankrupt in 1824 inflicting a great deal of hardship upon the people of Mevagissey.

The Ball's family debt to the village was more than repaid by Phillip's son Timothy who subsequently became the local doctor and nursed Mevagissey through the cholera epidemic of 1849 in which 115 villagers died in just five weeks.

You can see an old Mevagissey banknote in the Museum at the end of this walk.

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Cliff Street and the Cliff

Cliff Street and the Cliff

Cliff Street and the Cliff
(Heritage Stop 11 of 12)

The Fountain Inn at the beginning of Cliff Street is generally considered to be the oldest Public House in Mevagissey.

The narrow 'Shilly-ally-opp' alongside the Pub leads to Bank street and then up to Bank Terrace both of which take their names from Balls Bank. Numbers 9-14 Bank Terrace housed the first Methodist Chapel in Mevagissey and were built in the early 19th Century.

The cottages along Cliff Street and the Cliff are mainly Fishermen's cottages dating from late 18th and early 19th Century built after the inner harbour had been constructed.

Number 1 the Cliff, called "The Hoss" dates from the early 18th Century. The name comes from the the ship "The Horse" which was wrecked off Mevagissey, the cottage was constructed using timber from its hull.

Beneath an upstairs window and in front of Number 5 The Cliff you can still see the fixings for a metal roller bar once used to haul fishing nets.

On the seaward side of the street known as The Cliff one or two of the cottages have their entrance doors in their roofs as often the lower part of the house was used as a pilchard cellar.

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The Ropewalk and Battery Terrace

The Ropewalk and Battery Terrace

The Ropewalk and Battery Terrace
(Heritage Stop 12 of 12)

Battery Terrace takes its name from from a battery of six cannons which used to be located here and which was manned by a company of "Sea Fencibles" which was established here in 1803 to protect the harbour during the Napoleonic wars. Some of the cannons can now be found being used as mooring posts on the quayside around the inner harbour.

Above Battery Terrace is an area known locally as the ropewalk. This was where rope, an essential component for all sailing vessels, was made. The Robin's family continued to make rope here until the last war.

We hope you have enjoyed your walk through the streets of Mevagissey and that you will take the opportunity to explore its history further in our Museum

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My Mevagissey Heritage Walk About Notes

Mevagissey Heritage Walk About

Mevagissey Heritage Walk About

Your free Mevagissey heritage trail !

Welcome to Mevagissey ! Please use this free heritage Web App to find out more about the history of Mevagissey.

Don't forget to post comments or photos and of course pop into Mevagissey Museum to learn more about this special Cornish fishing village.

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