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Cornish: Tewyn Plustry
Newquay harbour town.jpg
Newquay Harbour
Grid reference: SW815615
Location: 50°24’43"N, 5°4’33"W
Population: 19,562  (2001)
Post town: Newquay
Postcode: TR7
Dialling code: 01637
Local Government
Council: Cornwall
St Austell and Newquay

Newquay is a town on the north Atlantic coast of Cornwall. It is a seaside resort and fishing port in Cornwall. It is stands some 20 miles west of Bodmin and 12 miles north of Truro.

The town is bounded to the west by the River Gannel and its associated salt marsh, and to the east by the Porth Valley. Newquay was until the nineteenth century a minor village but it has been expanding inland since it was founded and continues to grow. It is now a popular for beach holidays and the top surfing location in Britain. Newquay Cornwall International Airport brings holiday-makers from across Britain and abroad.

In 2001 the census recorded a permanent population of 19,562.[1]



Nearby have been found pre-historic burial mounds and an embankment on the area now known as The Barrowfields, with charred cooking pots and a coarse pottery burial urn containing remains perhaps of a Bronze Age chieftain, who was buried here up to 3,500 years ago.[2] Evidence too remains of a Bronze Age village at Trethellan Farm overlooking the River Gannel.[3]

The first signs of settlement in the Newquay area consist of a late Iron Age hill fort which exploited the nearby abundant resources (including deposits of iron) and the superior natural defences provided by Trevelgue Head. It is claimed that occupation of the site was continuous from the 3rd century BC to the 5th or 6th century AD when a Dark Age house was later built on the head).[4]

Mediaeval period

The curve of the headland around what is now Newquay Harbour provides natural protection from bad weather and a small fishing village grew up in the area. No such village is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 though a local house (now a bar known as "Treninnick Tavern") is included.[5] By the 15th century, the village was called "Towan Blystra"—-"Towan" means sand hill/dune in Cornish-—but the anchorage was exposed to winds from the north east and in 1439 the local burgesses applied to Edmund Lacey, Bishop of Exeter for leave and funds to build a "New quay", from which the town derives its current name.

Modern period

The first 1801 census recorded some 1,300 inhabitants in the settlement, then a village under the Parish of St Columb Minor). The construction of the current harbour started in 1832.[6] Newquay parish was created in 1882.[7]

The Atlantic Hotel on headland

A mansion called the Tower was built for the Molesworth family in 1835: it included a castellated tower and a private chapel as they were Roman Catholics. The Tower later became the golf club house.[8] After the arrival of passenger trains in 1876, the former fishing village started to grow. Several major hotels were built around the turn of the 19th century, including the Victoria in East Street, the Atlantic and the Headland. The three churches were also built soon after 1901 (see below).

Growth of the town eastwards soon reached the area around the railway station: Station Road became Cliff Road around 1930, and the houses beyond, along Narrowcliff, were also converted into hotels. Narrowcliff was first known as Narrowcliff Promenade, and then Narrowcliff Road. On some pre-war maps it is spelt Narrowcliffe.

At the time of the First World War the last house at the edge of the town was a little further along present-day Narrowcliff, and in more recent times this building became the Garth Hotel. Post-war development saw new houses and streets built in the Chester Road area, accompanied by ribbon development along the country lane which led to St Columb Minor, some 2 miles away. This thoroughfare was modernised and named Henver Road, also some time in the 1930s. Development continued in this direction until the Second World War, by which time much of Henver Road had houses on both sides, with considerably infilling also taking place between there and the sea.

It was not until the early 1950s that the last houses were built along Henver Road itself: after that, there was a virtually continuous building line on both sides of the main road from the other side of St Columb Minor right into the town centre. The Doublestiles estate to the north of Henver Road was also built in the early 1950s, as the name of Coronation Way indicates, and further development continued beyond, becoming the Lewarne Estate and extending the built up area to the edges of Porth.

Other areas also developed in the period between the wars were Pentire (known for a time as West Newquay) and the Trenance Valley. Other streets dating from the 1920s included St Thomas Road, which provided the approach to the town's new cottage hospital at its far end, to be followed by others in the same area near the station, such as Pargolla Road.

Up to the early 20th century, the small fishing port was famous for pilchards and there is a "Huer's Hut" above the harbour from which a lookout would cry "Hevva!" to call out the fishing fleet when pilchard shoals were spotted. The town's present insignia is two pilchards. The pilchards have long gone from the sea, but a small number of boats still catch the local edible crabs and lobsters.

More recent development has been on a larger scale: until the late 1960s a passenger arriving by train would not have seen a building by the line (with the exception of Trencreek village) until the Trenance Viaduct was reached. Today, the urban area starts a good mile and a half inland from the viaduct. Other growth areas have been on the fringes of St Columb Minor and also towards the Gannel. More development beyond Treninnick, south of the Trenance Valley. has taken the urban area out as far as Lane, where more building is proposed. Places like Trencreek, Porth and St Columb Minor have long since become suburbs of Newquay and it is still growing. The development plan for Newquay Cornwall International Airport includes substantial additions around the airport, including a proposed business park as well as industry related to aviation.

Town trail

Newquay Discovery Trail is made up of 14 Cornish slate discs, each 39 inches in diameter, sunk into the ground at strategic points around the town. Each of discs a series of 'conundrum' words carved by sculptor Peter Martin. People following the trail can pick up a free guide and learn about the town's past. The trail starts in the centre of town at the Killacourt.[9]

Parish church

St Michael's, a large Anglican church in the Cornish style designed by Sir Ninian Comper, was built in 1911. There is a fine rood screen, giving a clue as to the style of churchmanship which has prevailed here. The church was destroyed by an arson attack on 29 June 1993 but has since been reopened (rededicated in 1996).

Most of Newquay was in earlier times part of the parish of St Columb Minor. A chapel of ease already existed before 1911 but the growth in population meant that it was no longer adequate.[10] Arthur Mee in his Cornwall (King's England) describes the perpetual light maintained in the church as a memorial to the men of Newquay who died in the first World War. The stained glass windows and rood screen are also described: the main themes are St Michael, the three other archangels, and Jesus Christ and St Mary the Virgin.[11]


Tolcarne Beach

Newquay has been a major tourist destination for more than a century, principally on account of its coastline and nine long and accessible sandy beaches. These include Fistral, which could claim to the best-known surfing beach in the British Isles. Around 22,000 people live in Newquay, but the population can increase to 100,000 or more in the summer because Newquay has a large stock of holiday accommodation.

Established in sections throughout the 20th century, Trenance Leisure Gardens are sited in a wooded, formerly marshy valley on the quieter edge of Newquay, stretching down to the Gannel Estuary. From the Edwardian era it provided recreation for tourists with walks, tennis courts and a bowling green, all still popular today. In the gardens, which are spanned by the arches of the stone railway viaduct, visitors have long been able to enjoy a stroll through the beautiful Trenance Gardens with their mature trees and heritage cottages, leading to the Boating lake. This was dug during the depression of the 1930s as a work creation scheme. In the late 1960s, further enterprises were established by the council, including mini-golf, a swimming pool, the "Little Western" miniature railway and Newquay Zoo, which opened in 1969.

Newquay is also known for the "Run to the Sun" event, which always takes place during the public holiday on the last weekend in May at Trevelgue Holiday Park. Visitors come to the town in Volkswagen camper vans, Beetles and custom cars.

The South West Coast Path runs through the town.


Fistral Beach ready for the 2010 Boardmasters Festival

The resort widely regarded as the surf capital of the United Kingdom.[12] Newquay is firmly established as the centre of the surf industry in Britain [13] with many surf stores, board manufacturers and hire shops in the town.

At the centre of Newquay's surfing status is Fistral Beach which has a reputation as one of the best beach breaks in Cornwall. Fistral is capable of producing powerful, hollow waves and holding a good sized swell. It even has the bonus of being sheltered enough and sufficiently north-facing in places that it can get away with a south westerly wind.

Fistral Beach has been host to international surfing competitions for around 20 years now, most recently the Rip Curl Boardmasters Tournament which now has a new sponsor and is called the Relentless Boardmasters Festival. After 3 years at the Boardmasters Tournament Relentless took the title sponsorship in 2009 and again in 2010. The tournament takes place at Fistral beach, with the music festival taking place at Watergate Bay.

Newquay is also home to the reef known as the Cribbar. Breaking at up to 20 feet, the Cribbar was until recently rarely surfed as it requires no wind and huge swell to break. It was first surfed in 1967 by Jack Lydgate, Bob Head and Rod Sumpter.[14] The recent explosion in interest in surfing large waves has seen it surfed more frequently by South African born Chris Bertish who during a succession of huge clean swells in 2004 surfed the biggest wave ever seen there.[15]

Towan, Great Western and Tolcarne beaches nearer the town and nearby Crantock and Watergate Bay also provide high quality breaks. Towan Beach is the location for the proposed Newquay Surfing Reef, a controversial project which has caused a fierce local debate [16]

The surf gear brand Fat Willy's was founded in Newquay.

First World War

Among many schools evacuated to Cornwall (notably Benenden girls school), 240 boys and 20 masters of Gresham's School were evacuated to the town from Holt in Norfolk, during the Second World War, between June 1940 and March 1944.[17]


  1. "Table KS01 work= Census 2001". ONS. 
  2. "The Barrowfields". 
  3. Cornwall County Council. "Archaeological finds at Scarcewater". 
  4. Interim account of 1939 excavation by C. K. Croft Andrew (1949)
  5. Part of the manor of Coswarth and consisted of one virgate (value 15d) with 5 sheep; Thorn (1979) entry 4.22
  6. "A Short History of Newquay Harbour". Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  7. "Newquay article in Genuki". Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  8. Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall''; 2nd ed. Penguin Books; p. 126
  9. "Newquay Discovery Trial". 
  10. St Michael's appears on W. Jago's ecclesiastical map of Cornwall, 1877, in Cornish Church Guide
  11. Mee, A. (1937) Cornwall. London: Hodder and Stoughton; pp. 156-57
  12. Newquay Town Council Cornwall webpage
  13. The Surfing Tribe - a History of Surfing in Britain by Roger Mansfield (chapter 3) ISBN 0952364654
  14. "Surfing The Cribbar Newquay, Cornwall". Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  15. Cornwall Beaches - Fistral Beach
  17. Benson, S. G. G. & Evans, Martin Crossley (2002) I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School. London: James & James ISBN 0-907383-92-0

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Newquay)