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mid-nineteenth century fishing vessel
History of Fishing - Trawler image

In the Middle Ages, Brixham was the largest fishing port in the South-West, and at one time it was the greatest in England. Known as the "Mother of Deep-Sea Fisheries", its boats sailed all round the coast and helped to establish the fishing industries of Hull, Grimsby and Lowerstoft. In the 1890s there were about 300 trawling vessels here, each owned by one man who was often the skipper of his own boat.

There is still a big fishing fleet, and you can see them coming in and out of the harbour, followed by flocks of seagulls. The fish market is open to the public on two special days in the summer, when the finer points of catching and cooking fish will be explained to you. The modern boats are diesel-driven, but several of the old sailing trawlers have been preserved and are being brought back to life.

It is not uncommon to see them under sail in Torbay, and you may be able to take a trip yourself. There was once an important boat building industry here, as well as all the associated trades such as rope walks, anchorsmiths, iron founders, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, sawyers, chandlers, coopers, riggers, sail lofts and so on. Walk around the narrow streets behind the Tourist Office and see something of the area long ago, or visit Brixham Heritage Museum to look at the tools used in building the ships, models and pictures of them and a reconstruction of a fisherman's cottage living room.
Mid-ninteenth century fishing vessel. The hull form is still copied today for its outstanding seaworthiness and handling characteristics.