Looking back

Port History

Padstow Harbour Commissioners were founded by an Act of Parliament under Queen Victoria in 1844.   They replaced the earlier Padstow Harbour Association, a board of men who ran the port.

The port far predates the Commissioners.   Padstow grew up within a creek on the Western bank of the River Camel, the head of the creek being near to where the Parish church now stands.   As the port grew, the town was built on raised reclaimed land often without footings until the present day.   The Inner Quays and Strand were built in 1538, at which time the port was the Inner Basin, now defined by the gate with a Quay where the Red Brick Building now stands, a pier on the southern side, and peripheral shipyards.

The railway arrived in 1899, and reclaimed a stretch of land at the southern end of the harbour, built using one of Padstow’s shipbuilding yard walls as a retaining wall. With the ability to transport fish quickly to London’s Billingsgate Fish Market via the railway, more trawlers started using the port and the demand for shelter was such that  the present-day dock was built in 1910.  In 1932 the New Pier was built to protect vessels within the Inner Basin, as trawlers moored, the wires that the trawlers were mooring with were parting due to the “run” generated by the ground sea, normally when the wind was from the south west.

Rock used to be called Black Rock after a high volcanic outcrop of elvan which stood on the edge of the estuary where the main ferry landing place lies. It began to be quarried away in the second half of the nineteenth century and all that is now left is the car park. The ferry still runs as it would have done to carry pilgrims to visit the relics of St Petroc at the  monastery in Padstow, later to be sacked by the Vikings in AD 981. The first written mention of the ferry is in 1297 when it paid rent to the Earl of Cornwall of 12 shillings a year.