… A fishing legacy inspires us at The Captain’s House Falmouth


The fishing industry in Cornwall has always been essential to the local economy. For hundreds of years Pilchard fishing (Cornish sardines) was a thriving industry, but like so many other traditional industries, it is now just a memory.

A little village called Cadgwith, on the Lizard Peninsula, played a significant role in Cornwall’s pilchard fishing industry. It first began there in the Middle Ages as a collection of fishing cellars in this sheltered southeast-facing cove and valley. Later, the village was inhabited, and fishing became the main occupation and Pilchards were fished there until the 1950s. Large boats with seine nets of different sizes, to enclose huge shoals of pilchards, where coordinated with lookouts from Huer’s huts on the headlands; cries of ‘Hevva’ would be heard when a large shoal approached. In 1904, a record 1.8 million pilchards were landed here in a day.

Fishing involved the whole community, with the women working long hours to pack, carry and sell the pilchards. Young boys of about 12 years old ware needed on each boat and other members of the village were on lookout from the cliff tops. The seine method of pilchard fishing proved very labour intensive and this system of using cotton seine nets and three large boats, with 18 crew on each one, was replaced by Drifting which was more efficient as it just involved one sailing boat and net.

Due to over-fishing and climate change pilchards are no longer fished from anywhere in Cornwall, and in Cadgwith they now fish for crabs, lobster and mullet instead. It remains a working fishing village to this day. Just 20 miles from The Captain’s House in Falmouth, it is an enchanting village to visit, nestled on the east side of the beautiful Lizard Peninsula.

Our homage to the fishing folk of yesteryear is nestled in our dining room fireplace at The Captain’s House. Here you will find a Pilchard fishing net from Cadgwith tossed out around a sailing boat made of driftwood. If you get close to it you can still smell a bygone world.


Pilchard fishing net from Cadgwith - a memento to a bygone world of fishing.
Pilchard fishing net from Cadgwith – a memento to a bygone world of fishing.



We bought our Cadgwith pilchard fishing net from the Bosun’s Locker in Falmouth