St Ives fishermen’s beginning of the season
Richard Robinson takes us around the harbour to talk to st ives st ives fishermen getting their boat ready for the season.
From medieval times fishing was important for St Ives fishermen; it was the most important fishing port on the north coast. The pier was built by John Smeaton in 1767-70 but has been lengthened at a later date. The octagonal lookout with a cupola belongs to Smeaton’s design.
In the decade 1747–1756 the total number of pilchards dispatched from the four principal Cornish ports of Falmouth, Fowey, Penzance and by St Ives fishermen averaged 30,000 hogsheads annually (making a total of 900 million fish). Much greater catches were achieved in 1790 and 1796. In 1847 the exports of pilchards from Cornwall amounted to 40,883 hogsheads or 122 million fish while the greatest number ever taken in one seine was 5,600 hogsheads at St Ives in 1868.
Kenneth Hamilton Jenkin describes how the St Ives fishermen strictly observed Sunday as a day of rest. St Ives was a very busy fishing port and seining was the usual method of fishing. Seining was carried out by a set of three boats of different sizes, the largest two carrying seine nets of different sizes. The total number of crew was 17 or 18. However this came to an end in 1924. The bulk of the catch was exported to Italy: for example in 1830 6,400 hogsheads were sent to Mediterranean ports. From 1829 to 1838 the yearly average for this trade was 9,000 hogsheads.