Polperro: Smuggling, privateering and fishing

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Polperro from the SeaWhen you walk around Polperro and wander amongst the jumble of quaint white washed cottages that huddle around the harbour edge, explore the narrow lanes and climb the stepped passages that lead higher up the hill. When you see the storm gate closed at the harbour entrance and a storm beating the waves at the harbour wall on a windswept October evening and you hear tales of smuggling and privateering. Of boats landing cargo in the roughest of weather in small coves along the coast. It is easy to imagine a close knit community battling against nature and against authority. Nestled in this narrow valley away from prying eyes and but for the most violent of conditions a safe haven from the ravages of the sea. Clinging to a precarious living.

Robert Marks gravestone

Talland Church across Talland bayLook around the churchyard at Talland and find the gravestones of many lost at sea. Some of these are local men and women, and some travellers from afar wrecked along this deceptively benign coast. Find the gravestone of Robert Mark, shot at sea in 1802. And when you hear of the Lottery, a Polperro boat challenged by “revenue men” off Cawsands in 1798. that led to the death of a customs boat crew member and, once hunted down, the execution of Tom Potter, a Polperro man.

On your walk down from the car park you pass, or call in, at the Crumplehorn Inn, once the home of Zephaniah Job, known as the Smugglers Banker, until his death in 1820. From here he ran the pilchard trade in Polperro as well as other legitimate business's. Acting as accountant to the Privateers that operated legally out of Polperro in the late 18th and early 19th centuries against the French ships in the channel and was also involved in the smuggling trade and financed the defence of smugglers caught in the act.

Sitting in your holiday let cottage looking across the harbour and watching a fishing boat slipping out of the harbour, on a calm day. You do find yourself watching for it's return. When it is gone for a couple of days you begin to appreciate the fact that this is a real place. That it's not just a wonderful holiday destination, full of rich Cornish heritage, but also a place where people still cling to a way of life that isn't all about tourism. Where the sea, that is a shining blue pleasure can also be a foul and powerful adversary.

Putting to Sea from Polperro

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