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Discover Newquay - Huer's Hut

Updated on December 12, 2016
Huer's Hut, Newquay, Cornwall.
Huer's Hut, Newquay, Cornwall. | Source

The Huer's Hut, Newquay

For many, this is a fascinating building, perched temptingly on the headland of Newquay Bay, just beneath the Atlantic Hotel.

Dating back to the 14th century in part, this Grade II listed building is part of the fishing history of Newquay. From here, the local Huer (the name gave us the phrase 'hue and cry') would look out to sea, searching for shoals of pilchards. The local economy was based on pilchard fishing and as soon as the Huer saw a shoal, he'd call out to the local townsfolk to set sail to catch them. When swimming in a shoal, pilchards show up as a purple colour in the sea, so with the Huer's Hut sitting directly above the sea, he had a good vantage point.

Being high up, not only could the Huer shout to the fishermen, but from up on this high spot each Huer could wave their arms about to direct the boats from their fish cellars to the shoals of fish. 

Discover Newquay: The Huer's Hut was used to spot Pilchards
Discover Newquay: The Huer's Hut was used to spot Pilchards | Source

Once he spotted a shoal, the Huer would call out on his megaphone a cry of "Hubber Hubber", or "Heva Heva"; the townsfolk would then rush to their jobs. Some would turn out in their boats to fish the pilchards, some would rush to the fish cellars to prepare the job of cleaning them once landed. The fish cellars today are positioned between the harbour and the Huer's Hut, so the whole town's income and industry was based around the industry of fishing for pilchards .

Back then, fishing was the main industry, so there were many fish cellars and each fish cellar had its own Huer. While we imagine the Huer to be just one man, the reality is there were dozens of them - all fighting for the business and income that the pilchards brought them. Catching the fish was fiercly competitive, with the boatsmen and fishermen scrambling and racing out to see to be the first out to se, the first to catch the fish, the first to land them.

It is difficult to describe to people of modern days just how important the fishing industry was to the people of Newquay, but there are ancient anecdotes that churches would even empty on a Sunday if the Huer cried out - and, indeed, in 1833 it's said that even a funeral was abandoned by all the mourners as the call went out to set sail to sea and land fish, leaving just the pastor, sexton and the deceased remaining.

Discover Newquay: Padstow Pilot Gig Rowing team in the gig Teazer.
Discover Newquay: Padstow Pilot Gig Rowing team in the gig Teazer. | Source

Gig Rowing in Newquay

Today, if you're around Newquay Harbour, you'll often see gig boats setting out to row around the Bay. These wooden boats, with six oarsmen and women, plus a cox, are the type of boats that would have been used to land the fish in days gone by and today the gig boats operating out of Newquay Harbour are the original ones from the 1800s. The oldest gig boat, called The Newquay, painted in red and white, dates back all the way back to 1812. Indeed, this gig boat is not just the oldest in Newquay, but is considered to be the oldest traditional rowing boat still in use in world.

The very first Gig Rowing Regatta was held in 1815, when hundreds of people descended on Newquay town and the harbour area for a whole day of music, food and fun - an outing that would have been spectacular and a major event in their lives. There were many races held that day, with yacht races, ladies' events, veterans' races, but the most fiercly competitive was the big race between the local boatsmen from Newquay and Padstow on the north coast and boatsmen from Fowey and Charlestown on the south coast of Cornwall.

Gig rowing still plays an important part in the everyday life of Newquay, with an active Gig Rowing Club, with its recently extended and improved clubhouse, is right on the Harbour, overlooking Newquay Bay. Newquay Gig Rowing Club are often the hosts of the County Gig Rowing Championships, held at the beginning of September every year.

For many years, the gig races were started by firing an old cannon that had been salvaged from a Spanish galleon that had been sunk in Newquay Bay during the Spanish armada, however, in the 1920s some visiting young men decided to uproot the cannon and throw it over the edge and into the sea, where it was destroyed - so hooliganism isn't an entirely new phenomenon.

The Huer's Hut, Newquay, a Grade II Listed Building
The Huer's Hut, Newquay, a Grade II Listed Building | Source

The Huer's Hut Close Up

The Huer's Hut is quite an oddity because, despite its historical importance, its vulnerability to the elements and p assers by and its age, you can walk right up to it and have a good look around. It is repainted regularly, retaining its bright white appearance.

The building itself  has a large opening facing the sea, with a fireplace inside.  The building is mostly round, with a diameter of about 10' internally.  It has thick solid walls and a couple of small windows on the sides.  A good description of it would be that it's rather like a large round bus shelter, because it was a shelter for the Huers while they were up on the headland in all weathers, waiting for and looking for the pilchards.

Unfortunately, it has been the victim of some vandalism over the years, with drunks and tramps occasionally making it their home for the night, so the entrance is now blocked with thick wrought iron gates, but you can still easily see inside.

To one side of the Huers Hut are some steps which you can walk up and stand on the roof.  It's an odd sensation when you do this because they are very narrow and not even and you get a slight feeling of leaning out and that you will fall off, so if you do decide to climb the steps just be mindful of your footing and the fact this is an old building you are climbing on.

At the base of the Huer's Hut is a plaque which gives the casual visitor an overview of the history.

The Huer's Hut, Newquay. A side window, looking through the Huers Hut and out the other side.
The Huer's Hut, Newquay. A side window, looking through the Huers Hut and out the other side. | Source
Discover Newquay: Huer's Hut Plaque - Newquay Discovery Trail map disc 4. Huer's Hut, Newquay
Discover Newquay: Huer's Hut Plaque - Newquay Discovery Trail map disc 4. Huer's Hut, Newquay | Source

Newquay Discovery Trail: The Huer's Hut

There is a paper-based Discovery Trail that was first published by the Tourist Board in 2003 and has been relaunched in 2009.  By picking up a copy of the Newquay Discovery Trail may from the tourist office and many local shops, you can follow a walk across the town, spotting round discs set in the ground along the way.

Each of these Discovery Trail discs gives you brief wording for that point on the Trail.

One of these discs is set in the ground at the Huer's Hut. It is Discovery Trail Disc 4 and contains the words: Shrimping, Spanish Armada, Wrestling, Volyer, Hubba Hubba, Pilchards, Leg of Mutton, Seine Boats, Pilchards.

Each of these words represents something about the history of the spot.

Newquay Holy Wells

Away from the town, if you want to do a little exploring, there are a number of holy wells that you can visit and explore.

Directions to the Huers Hut

A markerHuers Hut -
King Edward Crescent, Newquay, Cornwall TR7 1, UK
get directions

The Huer's Hut is just 100 yards north of the marker.


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    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      This explains a lot. I never knew why authors on HubPages are called 'Hubbers.'

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 7 years ago from medina, Ohio

      Dear Earner, Your life seems so interesting I wish I could Just pick up and live your adventure as you discover, learn and teach us your well written pieces! I mean it! Sincerely, Ellen Karmna

    • earner profile image

      Dedicated Content Curator 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi probyte2u

      I love the Huer's Hut. It's a great walk up there, you can take a footpath from the Harbour, then stand at (or on) the Huer's Hut and just enjoy the view.

      You can't help but think about the history of the Huer's Hut and the town when you're there. It's quirky.

    • probyte2u profile image

      Eidul Ameen Bin Sahul Hamid 8 years ago from Part Buntar, Malaysia

      Hi Earner.

      Good article and interesting facts about Huer's Hut.

      Interesting to know that the huer's call is so important for the people there that they can even leave the deceased chasing after the pilchards :)

    • earner profile image

      Dedicated Content Curator 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you Ellen

      I love the Huer's Hut, it's an enchanting and enigmatic building and you can stand on the headland alone and it just takes you back to those days long ago when the Huer was standing there looking for pilchards ... I've even looked for some myself, of course there are no pilchard shoals now. It's mostly crabs that are fished from those seas.

      As a small side anecdote, the present insignia of the town includes two pilchard heads, as a nod to those days long gone by.

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 8 years ago from medina, Ohio

      I very much enjoyed reading and learning from this well written piece. Thank you, Ellen Karman

    • knell63 profile image

      knell63 8 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Hi Earner,

      I went to see it when I was four, that was forty two years ago and aparently called it the Hoo Hoo hut, also spent my honeymoon there. Fond memories of Newquay over a long time. Great hub, brougth back happy times.