Polperro has a wealth of little hidden gems to uncover when you wander around this sleepy seaside village. One of these treasures has to be the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing, a small-but-mighty enclave detailing the area’s rich seafaring history.
The fishing element of this museum speaks for itself. This is, was and probably always will be a fishing village, so the wealth of photos and documents within the museum’s walls pertaining to this long-storied industry is no surprise. The smuggling element, however, is a surprise because there are simply so many exhibits on show from the 18th century and beyond that fire the imagination of all who enter.
The museum, which is open between April and October from 10.30am to 4pm every day, sits on the harbourside in a building that was once a pilchard factory up until the early 1900s. It basically chronicles Polperro’s history over the past few centuries and houses a fascinating collection of photographic fishing and smuggling records dating from as early as the 1860s, as well as a fair few models of the ships that would once frequent this corner of Cornwall. Local family history records are also available to view.
Plenty of details about Polperro’s smuggling history is recounted in the museum, including the village’s own notorious vessel, the Lottery. And there are also knitted jumpers called ‘knitfrocks’ – each boasting a family design so that identifying a body at sea would be made easier – on display. It’s worth putting a couple of hours aside to browse through the exhibits here before you smuggle yourself out of the building and, well, just go fishing.