Even in the days of Queen Elizabeth I Padstow was a thriving fishing village with a roaring trade in boat building too. These days the still thriving fishing industry here supplies the many fabulous seafood restaurants that have sprung up in recent years and have become a major attraction for the town. When viewed on a map it is easy to understand why a settlement was originally built here. It is the only estuary that offers shelter between Hayle in the west of the country and Devon. The village that was built in this pretty valley offered shelter and access to the sea allowing it to develop into the town that it is today still with very strong links to the sea.
The village expanded rapidly during both the 16th and the 17th centuries in response to the building of a bridge at Wadebridge which limited the access that boats had to the areas upstream. It was in the mid 1500’s that the construction of the harbour became a serious undertaking and the first stone pier was built. It took more than just the fishing and boat building industry to make this town successful, the port also took on a major role in regards to the mining and quarrying industries that took place in the area as slate and copper ore were regularly shipped through Padstow Port. Trade and industry reached its peak here in the 19th century with at one time six major ship building yards being in production.
The Mermaid’s Curse
There is a large sandbank at the mouth of the estuary which local legends say is the result of a mermaid’s curse. Known locally as the ‘Doom Bar’ there have been more than six hundred recorded shipwrecks over the course of the last two hundred years with the sand bar as the cause. The legend states that the mermaid used to watch over all of the vessels that journeyed to and from the port until on one fateful day a foreign sailor saw her and fired a shot at her. In her anger she placed a curse upon the port and exclaimed that the port would decline and be ruined from then on. Strangely enough a great and monstrous storm arrived and as a result many of the ships that were anchored in the port were destroyed and the sandbank was created.
Onwards and Upwards
It was the birth of the railways that saw Padstow take on a new lease of life, with the birth of the tourist industry bringing many people to the coast for their holidays. There is still a thriving fishing industry in the town however all of the other industries from the past are long gone, and tourism now makes up a large proportion of the town’s economy. Pleasure craft now fill the harbour alongside the fishing boats and the town is filled with opportunities for visitors to indulge in cream teas, some incredible seaside fish and chips and the most delicious Cornish clotted cream ice cream.