The Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing, to give its full title, is located on the harbour and can be found as you walk up The Warren which is on the East side (Looe side) of the harbour.
Explore the rich history of Polperro when it was the centre of Smuggling in the 18th Century and a commercial fishing harbour supporting a large fleet of boats in the 19th Century. There are photographs and memorabilia which bring to life the story of Polperro and offer a glimpse into its past.
Pilchards were caught in huge numbers by Polperro Gaffers, large gaff-rigged boats of which there were once 40 operating out of the harbour. The fish once caught were processed in the village and this provided work for many women and children. There were 3 factories by the harbour involved in this and here the pilchards were salted and then cured. The oil was pressed from them and they would then be packed into barrels, examples of which can be seen in the museum. The Teglio family from Italy were one of the owners of the pilchard factories and The Three Pilchards pub derived its name from this activity.
Smuggling was prevelant throughout the 18th Century and many boats brought goods across from Guernsey including brandy which ended up in the local pubs. Smuggling became a huge 'industry' in Polperro in the latter half of the 18th Century and involved hundreds of individuals with the Revenue being far outnumbered in its efforts to police the coastline.
Polperro was also famous for Polperro Knitfrocks, or jumpers as we would now incorrectly describe them. The ladies of the village would spend many an hour knitting these garments as they waited for the men to come back from their fishing trips. The village walls would be strewn with them while the click-clack of the knitting needles could be heard around every corner. The designs of the knitfricks were quite distinctive and can be seen in some of the paintings on display in the museum. The craft is still carried on today by a small number of the village ladies as a social pastime.
The Museum is open from Easter to October and a small admission charge applies the proceeds of which go to maintaining the harbour.