Mevagissey, Cornwall, England

W G Hoskins describes the manner in which an early fishing village may have developed. Fishing was an occupation before the dawn of farming but only on a small scale for most of the Middle Ages. Mediaeval fisherman were also feudal peasants and bound to a coastal manor. In some places the fishermen simply migrated to the coastal huts of a seasonal settlement. Few fishing villages are as old as their inland neighbours.

Mevagissey appears to have developed as a planned village by about 1400. It was created around a triangular green facing the cliff girt inlet chosen as a harbour. The fishing industry probably began after the Black Death which was an economic disaster. Only Polperro and Port Isaac may have existed as villages prior to this.

The harbour filled the same role as the market green in inland villages. Fisherman's homes were beside the quay or around courtyards. The ground floors were open and existed as fish cellars where the catch was salted and packd in tubs.


The pilchard shoals came into Cornish waters after the harvest and this enabled the farmers to switch to fishing.
Overfishing, centralization and bulk handling have caused the demise of fishing as a village industry.

Notes from Villages of England p 180.

ALSO see Landmarks p126
Chimneys p 162