In 1689 Falmouth was permitted to run the Royal Mail Packet Service when Britain entered war with France and found the overland mail routes blocked. The ships, mainly privately owned, landed at Greenbank, Flushing or Custom House Quay, were lightly-armed and relied on speed and agility to keep them out of trouble. The captains were allowed to carry bullion, private goods and passengers in addition to the Mail and served routes to Iberia, Halifax, West Indies, Eastern seaboard of South America, Gibraltar, Corfu and Malta. This service ran for over 150 years till 1850 when new, faster, and more reliable ships took over.
In the 19th century, villages all around the coast had relied on a 300 year old industry that was established to capture the migrating shoals of pilchards. Pilchards are the slightly larger Sardines but same species of fish. Special boats were used to catch the fish and carried either seine or drift nets. The lookouts were called huers and when a shoal was spotted the huers would cry ‘hevva’ through trumpets to alert the fishermen to the catch. The pilchards were processed in factories worked by women and children where the fish were washed, cleaned, salted, cured and then pressed to extract the oil. The fish were packed into barrels and then exported, mainly to Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean Countries. The Catholic countries could not eat meat on Fridays so the Pilchards were a welcome commodity. Today, pilchards are being caught again in Cornwall by its fishing fleet and in good numbers from the port of Newlyn. Since the fish have been re-branded as ‘Cornish Sardines’ they have been much in demand and have benefited from the over fishing of larger predator fish.
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