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«Tim Martindale Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology of Goldsmiths, University of London, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, ...»

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Figure 18: The development of the St Ives Lugger (Smylie 2009). 34 Note that in 1814 there are three-masts similar to the French 'Chasse-Marée' style but by 1870 the third mast had been dropped to clear the deck for fishing.

Figure 19: The Royal Albert Bridge, 1936. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 20: Contemporary photograph illustrating railings which used to mark the harbour wall and beach front before the road was constructed. 35 Compare with Langley’s ‘Between the Tides’ (Fig.21) depicting the same location just before the road was built.

Figure 21: Exhibition poster (Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance) featuring Walter Langley's Between the Tides, 1901.

Figure 22: Newlyn foreshore before the harbour road was built, late C.19th. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 23: Fishing boats beached at Newlyn, c.1900. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 24: Unloading catches from luggers to the beach at Newlyn, late C.19th.

Collection of Royal Cornwall Museum.

Figure 25: Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach, 1885, Stanhope Forbes. Oil paint on canvas.

Collection of Plymouth City Art Gallery.

Figure 26: Newlyn with St Peter's Anglican Church in the foreground, c.1880.

Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 27: Mending Nets, Newlyn, circa 1890, John Branwell (1849 - 1929).

Photograph: Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance / The Branwell Collection36.

The photograph is clearly posed but documents an important aspect of women's labour in the fishing industry.

Figure 28: Never Morning Wore to Evening that Some Heart Did Break, 1894. Walter Langley. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

Figure 29: A Hopeless Dawn, 1888, Frank Bramley. Oil paint on Canvas. Collection of Tate.

Figure 30: Among the Missing – Scene in a Cornish Fishing Village, 1884, Walter Langley 1852-1922. Watercolour, 103 x 70 cm. Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance.

Figure 31: But men must work and women must weep, 1883, Walter Langley.

Watercolour. Collection of Birmingham.

City Art Gallery.

Figure 32: Burying victims of cholera in Paul Parish, C.19th. Collection of William Stevenson.

Figure 33: Changing times. Sail ships moored alongside a steam ship in Fowey harbour, 1890s. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 34: Two Newlyn artists posing on a small local fishing boat, c.1900. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 35: Stanhope Forbes posing with painting Off to the Fishing Grounds, late C.19th. Collection of the Cornish Studies Library.

Figure 36: Fishermen at leisure on deck, Newlyn, late C.19th. Collection of William Stevenson.

Figure 37: A fishing crew posing at Newlyn, early C. 20th. Collection of William Stevenson.



Because human beings are, to quote Nietzsche “unfinished animals”, they have to socially construct the “real world”. The limitations of human biology require social construction in which social institutions become crucial for providing a habitual background to deliberative social action (Turner 2000: 493).

Survival on the archipelago of Britain and Ireland has long depended on boats – for trade-routes, war, and fishing – from the coastal sea routes of the Mesolithic (Bowen 1972) to the Atlantic and Pacific networks of the colonial empire. Today most cargo imported and exported to and from the UK continues to be transported by ship. UK ports handled 562 million tonnes (Mt) of freight traffic in 2008 (almost half of the world tonnage of 1165 Mt) and the UK shipping turnover was nearly £14,000 million (DfT 2009a). A significant proportion of the population live near one of the many ports and major waterways in the UK. However maritime industries have become concentrated in a few large ports 37, and with processes such as containerisation of cargo, the character of ports has changed, making, as Taussig has noted (2000), maritime activity more separate and less visible to the everyday lived experience of most people. This has led Taussig to analyse the beach, once an informal working environment 38, as a modern ‘fantasy’ (ibid). As a consequence of these broad changes in maritime economy, smaller and more traditional ports struggle to negotiate between being consigned as relics of the past (with potential benefits from tourism) and as maintaining with thriving modern industries.

Changes in the relative economic importance and character of individual ports have been a long and ongoing process. For example between the medieval and early modern periods in Cornwall, there was a shift in the significance of harbours from those at the head of river estuaries such as Penryn and St Erth to those at the river For example, ‘The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s busiest port and one of the largest in Europe, handling over 3.4 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) a year. Over 40% of Britain’s containerised trade passes through the port’ (http://www.portoffelixstowe.co.uk/. Accessed 18/10/12).

Whilst beaches now have a global image as places of leisure, they remain sites for often hidden forms of informal labour, for example migrant cockle-picking in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, which received attention following the tragic drowning of twenty-three workers in February 2004.

mouth such as Falmouth and Hayle. In most cases this was a result of a combination of processes of environmental change (rivers silting up) and technological and political-economic change (the world-expansion of a merchant economy and the development of large ocean-going sailing vessels). Once a hub of industry and trade, Hayle harbour has since declined and become largely redundant, recently being brought by ING Bank for redevelopment. Similarly, in the twentieth century fishermen gravitated away from small tidal harbours towards the larger ports such as Newlyn, where bigger offshore boats could operate and catches be landed at any time. As one of my informants put it, ‘There’s more Porthleven and St Ives and Padstow men and Newquay men in Newlyn than there’s Newlyn men!’ Since the 1990s and the contraction of the UK fishing fleet, some of these fishermen have returned to their home ports to take up inshore fishing again.

This waxing and waning of ports is obviously connected to changes in other sectors of the economy. At the same time, harbours and the boats they support, carry deep symbolic associations of separateness from society and of self-sufficiency.

Harbours appear as distinct entities with their own ways of life – their protective piers and lighthouses extending into the sea (Fig.38), encompassing the fleet sheltering within their embrace, and in fishing villages a central focus for a tight arrangement of houses clustered around them. This physical structure easily suggests a picture of solidarity and common purpose. Similarly as the technological means to survival at sea, boats are also deeply symbolic devices. The basic design of boats from prehistoric times – a skin or curved wooden planks upon a skeleton-like ribbed structure also evokes an association of protection that mirrors and extends the limits of the organic body. Just as whale-bones have been known to be used for dwellings 39, so have up-turned boats and the design of ceilings in many simple, rural chapels and churches (especially in Cornwall) bear a strong resemblance to wooden boat hulls. More expansively, ‘coasts are deeply ambivalent landscapes’ as sites of invasion and defence. As Boissevain and Selwyn reflect (2004): ‘those who protect them, coastguards (along with lifeboat crews), occupy symbolically highly charged spaces between danger seaward and safety landward’ (p.31). Boissevain and Selwyn Examples of whale-bone dwellings include those of the arctic Thule (Savelle and Habu 2004) and the house found on San Nicolas Island in California where Juana Maria an indigenous woman lived alone for sixteen years after the Mexican government removed the other inhabitants (Morgan 1979).

note that there is an etymological continuity between ‘coast’ and the Old French coste (meaning ‘rib’ 40) later côte (‘coast’, ‘shore’). It is significant that a rib ‘protects the internal organs’, and the coast (especially in Britain) has become symbolic as ‘a shield for the heart and soul of a nation itself’ (ibid). At the same time the ambivalence derives from the fact that coasts are also sites of informal economic and social activity that may subvert the state (such as smuggling) and the fact that port lives are often distinctive, cosmopolitan and have their own rules and codes, also leads to associations with lawlessness, deviance, alterity, licentiousness and violence.

Unique patterns of boatbuilding developed around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, such as the several hundred variations of traditional working vessels catalogued by (Greenhill and Mannering 1997) along with a diverse range of skills in the different sectors of maritime industry. Marshall (1987: 8) documents examples of ‘lost skills’ in the ‘coastal tradition’ of fishing:- ‘the building of a Stroma yole, the pickling of a herring, the sailing of an English coble, the weaving of a withy pot, the making of a coracle’. These distinctive technological traditions responding to particular local environmental conditions as well as industrial opportunities feed into the symbolic association of harbours and fishing with ‘self-sufficiency’.

Conventionally, fishing is seen as a radically different kind of production from forms of production revolving around land, such as farming – where territory and rights can be more easily distributed (and an environment which can be controlled). The former, revolving around the sea which is seen as a ‘common-property resource’, cannot be easily subdivided and enclosed and neither is it an environment in which the factors of production (such as inputs and outputs) can easily be measured and predicted. However, fishing is about much more than the isolated man pitting himself against the sea; there are all sorts of structures – physical structures and ownership structures – that mediate the relationship of fisher and the marine environment.

The Online Etymological Dictionary explains thus: coast (n.) ‘"margin of the land," early 14c.;

earlier "rib as a part of the body" (early 12c.), from O.Fr. coste "rib, side, flank; slope, incline;" later "coast, shore" (12c., Mod.Fr. côte), from L. costa "a rib," perhaps related to a root word for "bone" (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=coast. Accessed 02/08/12).

The fact that ports are marginal to mainstream culture, concerns and experiences, might have obscured, as well as facilitated, the persistence of distinct forms of management and economic structure from port to port. Harbours embody particular historical and social formations such as capital structure, from the large shipping port to the smallest and remotest of fishing harbours. Arriving at St Keverne harbour on the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall, the visitor is met with a sign saying that the harbour is entirely self-sufficient and is managed by its boat-owners. This projects an image of egalitarian, community rights but the reality underneath such a statement can be one of many forms of organisation which may or may not be equitable, despite the claim to self-sufficiency. Nigel Legge, a fisherman at Cadgwith Cove on the Lizard, pointed out an important contrast he felt distinguished coves from harbours. At Cadgwith, the boats are launched to sea directly from the beach – there is no man-made harbour as such. The fishermen depend on each other for help launching and beaching their boats. In Nigel’s view this means that they have to get along and not allow spats and arguments to develop into feuds. In harbours on the other hand,...people tend to come and go and disappear and all that sort of thing, you know? The harbour's different. There’s nothing wrong with the people, I think. It’s like a car park; you can just come and go as you please.

Figures 43 and 44 show how little fishing at Cadgwith has changed in over a hundred years. The boats are now motorised but apart from this the basic composition and size of the fishery has remained relatively consistent. The facilities for the fishermen are used in common and recently they received EU grants for a new tractor and ice facilities. However, although providing a picturesque and romantic setting for tourists, the residential side of Cadgwith cove has changed dramatically. The thatched roof cottages are now so sought after in the property market that they are mostly holiday lets and none of the fishermen live in the cove itself. Whilst at Newlyn, there are many fishermen using the port who also live in the village. Despite this contrast, Nigel Legge, whose grandmother lived in one of the Cadgwith cottages when they were more like ‘slums’ and ‘full of rats’, could still say ‘the fishing community’ at Cadgwith had changed little.

Even from the earliest days, the development of fishing harbours has reflected the interests of the wealthy and powerful. Newlyn today, as a contemporary example, is a ‘Trust Port’, which means, in theory, that there are no share-holders or owners, but that it is managed for the benefit of stakeholders who are all the users of the port and all those having an interest in the operation of the port (DfT 2009b). In practice some residents and users of the port feel there has been abuse of power in the harbour over the last twenty odd years and that the family fishing firm W.S Stevenson and Sons have unfairly influenced the Harbour Commission and monopolised the operation of the port for their own interests.

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