If you walk along the path by the side of the cottage containing the Kingsley Museum, just a few yards down from the New Inn, you’ll come to the pretty little Fisherman’s Cottage, a very special North Devon attraction.
Clovelly’s fishing heritage
For centuries, the main occupation at Clovelly was fishing. The village boats sailed out into the waters of Bideford Bay to harvest the vast shoals of herring and mackerel, and returned to unload their catch on the beach into baskets or ‘mawns’. These were carried up the steep cobbles by the village donkeys. By 1840 Clovelly was classed as an important North Devon fishing port with 60 to 70 boats engaged in the herring fishery. A Devon guidebook of 1859 stated that in favourable weather ‘a Clovelly boat has captured 9,000 herrings at a haul’. Today, fishing continues, but on a limited, sustainable basis. The famous Clovelly crabs and lobsters remain a prize catch and the herring still visit in autumn. Both can be tried at the annual festivals. See events…
How fishermen’s families lived
Inside the cottage you can see how a Clovelly fisherman and his family lived in the 1930s. The parlour is decorated with domestic treasures of the period, including simple cottage furniture, colourful pictures and religious engravings, and china and ornaments. The tiny kitchen is plain but full of period charm. Upstairs there are two bedrooms, one small and the other still smaller, a sail loft, and an attic complete with straw mattresses.
The cottage is packed with fascinating information and old photographs that give a vivid picture of Clovelly’s fishing heritage. Like all the early cottages in the village, it is built in cob and stone. A wall in the downstairs room has been left unplastered to show how it was made, with a bottom layer of stones from the beach, and then a layer of cob (earth mixed with a little straw).
Wells once supplied Clovelly’s water, and older residents still remember how pure it was. In the front room of the cottage there is a typical village well. Residents would watch the level carefully, as sometimes, in heavy rain, it could overflow and cause a flood.
This fascinating cottage is well worth a visit and will offer you valuable insights into Clovelly’s rich fishing past.