Open Studios 2015

The Pilchard Project

The Pilchard Project came about from researching the origins of Huers, their huts, the cellars and stores, and the history behind this amazingly lucrative Cornish industry until early 20th Century.

The fish merchants employed the Huers to search the sea for the arrival of the pilchards, this was announced by the shouting Hevva, Hevva through a trumpet from vantage points on the cliffs. They then guided the seine with a form of semaphore made from gorse dipped in white wash or covered in calico.

Some amazing facts about this extraordinary industry, which still exists today but is a shadow of its former glory:

The shoals of pilchards were so vast that when they arrived at Lands End,
the land split the shoal, half going North and half South.

They arrived usually at the end of July – Corn up in shock, Fish into Rock

The sea turned a dark red/purple, this was the first sign of their arrival

St Ives had over 45 different fish merchants

Salted pilchards were exported to Italy and as far as the Caribbean

St. Ives employed one third of its population in the pilchard industry

Pilchards were a source of food, light (fish oil) and money, hence the phrase
Meat, Money & Light – All in One Night!