Towan Head Newquay

Launch of the old lifeboat in Newquay
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Launch of the old lifeboat in Newquay

The first lifeboat house on Fore Street was impractical, particularly when the tide was out, as the rescue craft had to be dragged over the sand and into deep water before a rescue could made; so, in 1895, a new slip was built. This slip, one of the steepest in England, having a gradient of 1 in 2 1/4, enters the Atlantic Ocean in what is locally known as the Gazzel (meaning Armpit). The Lifeboat House (now an artist’s studio) was built in 1899. Imagine hurtling down this slope into a raging sea below. After the rescue the boat could not be dragged back up the slip, so would return to Towan Beach where it was mounted on a trailer and pulled by a team of horses back to the lifeboat house. The first lifeboat to be in service here was the Willy Rogers. The most famous, however, was the James Stevens. In addition to her many successful rescues, she was launched three times for royalty.

The new sewerage pumping station, built to improve the cleanliness of Newquay bathing beaches, now recognised as some of the best in Europe, was the site of the towns oldest fish cellar, the Spy. After its commercial life ended in 1832, it became home to a lady called Kitty Phil.
On the Fistral side of the headland, the large well rounded boulders were part of an ambitious scheme intended to protect shipping in these perilous waters. Joseph Treffry, the brains behind the 1848 project, cut a channel through the narrowest part of the headland so ships could sail from Newquay Bay into the deep water of Fistral Bay, where the breakwater of the second harbour would protect them. This channel became known as Spy Hole or Kitty’s Hole. After Treffry’s death. the trustees of his estate called a halt to the project because of escalating costs and the channel was filled in and is now part of the car park.

Old image showing the launch of the lifeboat Newquay
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Old image showing the launch of the lifeboat Newquay

On the top of the headland you will see an unusual eight sided building, this was the coastguard lookout station. Newquay’s seafaring heritage has not always been wholly legal and there is much evidence that smuggling was not uncommon. From here the preventative Men, employed by the port of Padstow, could keep a watchful eye for smugglers, sometimes known as Freetraders, engaged in their illegal pursuits.

If you look back towards the Huer’s Hut you will observe that there are many hiding places in the rocks where smugglers could hide their ill-gotten gains. One such hiding place was called the Tea Caverns, because local smugglers knew that china tea, a much prized commodity would reap rich rewards. Brandy, wine, silk in fact any other valuable booty was worth the risk of harsh punishment. These and many other such caverns dotted along the coast are the result of mining excavations. We shall discover that Newquay has an extremely long history of mining dating as far back as 3000 years BC.