Discovering Cornwall

The early development of Newquay to c1900 is one of a series of short videos sharing information about aspects of Cornish heritage and places of interest throughout Cornwall. This is an extension of an ongoing project on behalf of Newquay Museum entitled Discovering Newquay, with those videos included within this larger project.

The Early Development of Newquay to c1900

Originally produced for the virtual Lowender Peran Celtic Festival in 2020 this video gives a brief overview of the development of Newquay during the 19th century. It utilises a photograph taken in 1864 pointing out the original buildings and their locations.

The Early Development of Newquay to c1900

Old Cornwall or Kernow Goth in Kernewek formed with the aim to ‘gather the fragments so nothing be lost’. Today that could be seen as preserving knowledge of Cornwall’s historic, cultural and environmental heritage. Along with the preservation comes importantly the sharing of that knowledge.

Here in this short video, we look at aspects of Newquay’s development through some early images of what was a small fishing hamlet through to about 1900.

Thomas Martyns map of 1748 is the first map to place Newquay on a map alongside Towan, the larger settlement around what is now the Central pub.

Cornwall’s famous 18th century antiquarian Dr William Borlase visited Towan and New Key in 1755 and from his description we learn something of these two separate settlements.

In 1832 the London based entrepreneur Richard Lomax bought the Manor of Towan Blystra that included the small harbour at what was becoming known as New Key as named by Thomas Martyn.

The plans included an overview of the hamlets of New Key and Towan and the track that connected both settlements. It also shows the few buildings that include the Inn, now the Central, cottages along what would become Bank Street and commercial buildings related to the fishing industry such as cellars.

The harbour developed from a very small pier first mentioned in 1439/1440 and subsequently a number of other times including by Richard Carew in his 1602 ‘Survey of Cornwall’. In Dr Borlase’s writing he provides a brief description of it, enabling us to position it within the existing harbour and what it was capable of relating to shipping.

The later plans of c.1832 setting out new development of the harbour by Richard Lomax shows within its confines the old pier, Slip Cove that ships would have also used to shelter and the old Point Cellar just to the south of Slip Cove.

The 1839 tithe map shows the land and buildings within the manor of Towan Blystra and the village of Newquay. The lower part of what would be come Fore Street has properties constructed mainly the coastguard cottages with their long gardens and the comparably massive Rose Cellar. The few larger properties exist beyond this point include the Fort, Red Lion Inn and the historic Quay House where Dr Borlase stayed in 1755 overlooking the large Active Cellar.

This panoramic view believed to have been taken in 1864 from Prospect House in East Street is towards the rear of Fore Street providing an overview of buildings at that time.

Beyond the field is Beach Road from left to right Beach Cottage & Primrose Cottage semi-detached residences where a night club now stands. Then Primrose House, later the Chy an Mor and the Chy Bar. Opposite and closer is the Malt or Bark House.

To the rear of these is Fore Street with various cottages in time replaced by shops including the Sailors Arms. The run of fairly new cottages were owned by the Admiralty and occupied by the coastguard. These were built in 1825 and are where the car park in Fore Street and West End Bowling Club now is. The large house called Eothen, built by Padstow shipbuilder and salvager John Tredwen built about 1830, now a public garden.

Back on the far side of Fore Street is a small house known as Shirley Cottage. This house is still there but now a retail gift shop, has been so modernised and changed it would hardly be recognisable as one of the oldest buildings in Newquay.

Carrying along the panoramic view we come to a large low building. This was located at the top of Harbour Hill and was called Rose Cellar one of the 11 cellars in Newquay used for processing pilchards. Knocked down about 1886 it was replaced by a terrace of tall town houses. Opposite this would have been the top of the tunnel carrying railway lines down to the harbour.

Adjacent to Rose Cellar is the large mansion known as the Fort. This was completed in 1830 and occupied by a number of wealthy and influential families until converted into a public house in the 1960’s

In the background are the residential areas of Deer Park and what would be renamed Sydney Road with its Bible Christian chapel. These are amongst the oldest residential properties in this part of Newquay and although the chapel is sadly gone many of the cottages remain.

More houses along Fore Street have yet to be built, but at the end is the property originally the Shipwright Arms, later known as Cliff Cottage. In the background is the bottom of Beacon Road and this has seen a number of retail outlets occupying this site including grocers, post office and recently a café.

To the right of these is the Red Lion Inn completed in 1835. The Red Lion was built by an entrepreneurial woman named Mrs Thomas, who obviously saw potential for Newquay’s future. The next house is the Battery later becoming the Polvillion Hotel, then rebuilt as flats. On the far right is the grain store overlooking the harbour, later converted becoming residential and then the Harbour Hotel.

At the base of the cliff it looks as if construction of the existing road leading down to the harbour is underway. The tunnel that carried the railway line is clearly visible.

What is also apparent is the effect of coastal erosion. The cave on Towan Beach has eroded away so much in the past 156 years since this photograph was taken that it has now created a stack

This brief video provides an overview of Newquay’s early buildings through historic maps and photographs and we hope that it has been informative. Thank you.