Prominently overlooking Newquay bay on Towan Head is the newly restored Huers Hut; a symbol of Newquay’s large scale commercial fishing past. This small building was manned by the ‘Huers’ who were employed by the competing ‘Fish Cellars’ companies.
Whilst the current building dates back to the mid 19th Century there had been a shelter for a Huer since at least the 14th century. The Huer would watch out to sea all day, and even on moon lit nights, looking out for the giant shoals of glinting pilchards or other fish passing by – the distinctive ripple and colour of the pilchard shoals were called Shirming locally.
Once a shoal was spotted the Huer would use a giant megaphone-like trumpet to announce their prescence, shouting out ‘Hubba, Hubba’ or ‘Heva, Heva’. On hearing the this distinctive cry fisherman would drop whatever they were doing and man the main type of fishing boat, called a ‘Seine’, along with the smaller Volyer’s and Lurkar’s and launch them at the pilchard shoals. The Seine boats would be guided to where the fish were by the Huer from his high vantage point using two branches or gorse bushes covered in cloth acting as an early form of semaphore.
The different types of boat would work together using long nets to catch the fish and then land their catch back at the harbour. The catch would be landed at the harbour and either processed or transported by tram to the railway line.
Even before the fishing there were indications that some kind of small dwelling had always been where the Huer’s hut is. There is speculation that it may have been either a hermitage, religious retreat for contemplation or an early shipping beacon akin to lighthouse or maybe a combination of all three.