Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing

Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing

A small Museum located right on the harbourside of the beautiful fishing village of Polperro. The Museum contains a fascinating insight into the history of fishing and smuggling from the late 18th Century to date. It houses a remarkable photographic record dating from around 1860.

The collection is complemented by a wonderful collection of ships models. Family history is also well catered for with records available for viewing. The collection is housed in what was the old pilchard factory until the early 20th century.

The current Polperro Museum was set up in 1994 with some items from the previous museum, plus many donated items from the local community. It has grown steadily in size with many loaned items from H. M. Customs and Excise and the Royal Armouries.

Many items have also been loaned by Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro. The Museum contains a magnificent collection of ship models, mostly made by a local model maker. It is situated right on the harbour side overlooking the inner harbour with beautiful views up the valley and out to sea.

Polperro has depended on fishing for generations. In the 19th century, when pilchards were landed in large quantities, the fish were processed and packed in three factories near the harbour. The Heritage Museum now occupies one formerly owned by the Teglio family from Italy.

The fishing industry employed many men at sea and many more, with women and children, ashore in salting, pressing, cleaning and washing the fish. The pilchards were salted and cured before the oil was pressed from them using large screw presses and they were packed in barrels (pictured right).

Large gaff-rigged boats known as Polperro gaffers were used for fishing. A model of the Lady Beatrice, one of the fastest gaffers owned by James Curtis can be seen in the Museum. Seine or drift nets were used to catch the pilchards. At one time there were some 40 drifters working out of Polperro harbour.

Open daily between 10am and 6pm from March until October.


Tel: 01503 272423

Admission charges:

Adults: £1.75

Children: 50p