Huer’s Hut, Newquay

Parts of this strange building are thought to date back to the 14th century. It was from here that the Huer would call to the fishermen below, announcing the approach of a shoal of Pilchard or Herring.

Huers Hut by Keith Riley

Huers Hut by Keith Riley

On seeing the distinctive ripple on the surface of the sea, known locally as ‘the shirming’ and the reddish purple hue just beneath the surface, he would shout down a megaphone-like trumpet “Hubba, Hubba,” or “Heva, Heva,” and this cry would spread throughout the locality, causing much excitement. Everyone would rush to the quay and to their boats, urged on all the while and guided by their Huer. There was much competition, as each Fish Cellar was responsible for its own Huer, together with its ‘Seine Boat’ and two smaller boats the ‘Volyer’ and ‘Lurker’ with their attendant crews, and dozens of men, women and children in their employ.

Such was the importance of the sighting of a shoal of pilchard that all work would stop, as everyone made their way to the harbour or cove nearest to their fish cellar. It is even said that when the cry went up on Sundays the churches would empty. At one funeral, in 1833, only the pastor, the sexton and the deceased were left when the Huer’s cry was heard.

You have heard how the early inhabitants of Newquay enjoyed a good game of skittles, they also enjoyed hurling and the ancient sport of Cornish Wrestling but by far the most eagerly awaited event in their calendar was the annual Gig Rowing Regatta, which was started from the Huer’s Hut. The first regatta took place in 1815; the whole town was transformed. Trees were planted in the streets and arches were made and decorated with flags and flowers; brass bands were hired from St. Columb, St. Dennis and Truro.

Towan Head by Keith Riley

Towan Head by Keith Riley

Hundreds of people flocked to the town from all parts of the county. Booths were erected on the beacon between the entrance road and the Huer’s Hut, the committee booth taking pride of place in the centre. There were stalls selling fruit, sweets and toys; everything, it’s said, from gingerbread men to a monkey on a stick.

Before the veterans’ and the ladies’ gig races were held, there was a yacht race, but the most eagerly awaited was the competition between the Newquay Hobblers and those from Padstow, Fowey and Charlestown. After the racing on the water came those on the shore; donkey and hurdle racing were much enjoyed but perhaps the most fun, and most eagerly fought for, was climbing the greasy pole for the Leg of mutton, securely fastened to the top.

For many years, the boom of a cannon was used to start the regatta. This cannon, salvaged from a Spanish galleon sunk in the bay during the Spanish Armada, was positioned just below the Huer’s hut. Sadly, in the 1920’s a group of young men, visiting the town, took it upon themselves to throw this precious object down onto the rocks below, where it was destroyed.