LARGE pieces of ground about Penzance are laid out in market gardens, in which potatoes and brocoli are especially cultivated. Early potatoes were sent out from this neighbourhood in great quantities as far back as 1820. Soon after that time I recollect the carts from Penzance (twenty or thirty on a market-day), coming to Falmouth. Besides the potatoes consumed in the town, large quantities were taken abroad by the Falmouth packets. In 1828 some brought to Falmouth found their way to London by the steamers from Dublin, which used to touch at that port; still the greater part of the market produce was disposed of in the county. A new business was added about 1838, and it began in this way; Mr. [Sharrock] Dupen, the steward of the Herald and afterwards of the Cornwall steamer, which went from Hayle to Bristol, took up to the latter port some early brocoli, and they sold so well that he continued his adventure season after season. Of course this did not escape observation, and others tried the experiment, and so far succeeded that they carried their trade to London, and far into the midland districts of England. The trade in brocoli and potatoes gradually increased as facilities for sending them away became more fully developed, and now above 2,000 tons of brocoli are disposed of yearly. In 1838 new potatoes were I believe first sent direct from Penzance to London; at this time the best potatoes were to be had in July and August at four-pence to six-pence the gallon, and the later kinds mostly consumed at home ranged from four shillings and six-pence to eight shillings the Cornish bushel of twenty-four gallons; the latter was considered an enormous price. Now in the early potatoe season buyers are here from Leeds, Manchester, Hull, Wolverhampton, London, etc., and the quantity sold is very large. I have known one dealer to send away in a few weeks more than £3,000 worth. Besides potatoes and brocoli large quantities of fruit are sent at times from this district to the midland counties, and even as far as Glasgow. Forty years ago fine strawberries were sold in Penzance at two-pence and three-pence a quart. The cultivation of this fruit largely fell off, but lately gardeners in the higher part of Gulval and Ludgvan have again been turning their attention to it, and from Tremenheere many baskets have been sent to London. Onions and asparagus are also often sent away from this neighbourhood. At Penzance an exhibition of flowers, fruits, and vegetables is held every year in connection with the Western Cottagers’ Gardening Society; this society was instituted in 1836, and its first exhibition was held in the Assembly Room, at the Union Hotel.
Excepting that they still make mackerel and pilchards the great object of their fishing, everything is changed in the Mount’s Bay fishing since 1825. The boats then were good buoyant vessels and very seaworthy, but they were much smaller than those now used, and afforded but little shelter for the men. The produce of their fishing was mostly consumed near home, and it was only when larger quantities were taken that they went to Plymouth and Bristol; the prices therefore were usually very moderate. The mackerel fishing began in March or April. In the winter the boats were hauled up on the beach between Lariggan and Newlyn; instead of a seawall there was then a sloping beach from the road down. I remember in 1831 standing and watching men playing bat and ball on a flat space outside the wall, and I have also seen them winnowing corn near the same spot. In May, 1826, some boats first went from here to Ireland for the herring fishery; one of the Kelynacks, a name well known in Newlyn, was the person to propose this expedition. In 1847 they began to fish for herring off the coast of Yorkshire. Sometime before 1838, fast-sailing smacks came here to carry mackerel to Bristol market; Peacock, of Bristol, was then the great fish buyer. When the steam-boats ran from Hayle to Bristol, that means was adopted to bring fish with certainty early to the market, and on steam-boat days the price would probably be from twenty shillings upwards for 120, whereas on other days it was not half as much. The line of rail direct from Penzance to London and all the great manufacturing towns has given further facilities for sending away fish. Buyers come here every season, and ordinarily purchase many thousands of pounds worth of mackerel. This increased demand has not benefited the Penzance consumer, who now pays nearly double what he did. It is much easier to sell in a large quantity to the London buyer than to hawk them about from door to door, indeed the supply of fish in the town is not equal to what it was half a century ago. With the termination of the mackerel fishing the buyers depart for other places. The pilchard fishing which comes on in July, and continues until November or December, is very little altered since 1825; the whole quantity taken is either consumed near at hand or salted and prepared for exportation to Italy. The prices however paid for the fish for exportation are higher than they used to be. In the last year or so the small pilchards, formerly of hardly any value, have been preserved in oil and sold as Cornish sardines; this has been done at Newlyn and also at Mevagissey. At times during the pilchard fishery large quantities of hakes are taken, these are mostly sent to distant markets; a hake which used to be bought for four-pence, at present costs at least a shilling. Hakes which were formerly salted and dried, and sold during the winter months, are now rarely seen; twenty-five years ago many hundreds were sometimes brought to Penzance on a single market-day. The fishing-boats are much larger than they were, and are made for fast sailing; during the mackerel season they often fish at thirty leagues from Penzance, some way west of Scilly. The boats then meet at those Islands, and two steam-boats are constantly running between them and Penzance with the fish; thus the fish taken ninety miles at sea, is often in London in less than twenty-four hours. The boats being larger there is more accommodation for the men, and they have good berths in which they can rest when tired. In 1825, and for years after, all the nets were made of Bridport twine, and the fishermen’s wives used to make or “breed” them; now a large quantity of cotton netting is used, and the making of nets at home is quite gone out. For fully forty years after I came to the town there was no trawl boat belonging to the place, but a good deal of fish was then taken and is now caught by the hook and line.