Along the bustling Wharf Road in St Ives, sit three unassuming wooden buildings facing the harbour. Visitors stroll past admiring the view of the harbour, and sit alongside eating their lunch, unaware they’re close to such an important piece of the town’s history and a treasure trove of nautical heritage.
Rose, Shore and Shamrock are three fishermen’s lodges situated on the harbour front and boast, arguably, the best views in town. St Ives was once the third busiest port in Britain, and in September 1907 a record 13 million pilchards were landed here in just one week! Fishermen’s lodges like the ones on Wharf Road, sprang up around the town and were a bolthole for the men waiting out storms and changing tides. The lodges provided a refuge for the men of the town to chat about the day and keep an eye on their boats. There was also a strong Methodist population in the area, so while many fishermen could be found biding their time in the pub, the lodges provided a space for the non-drinking community.
While these lodges no longer play as such an important role in the fishing industry, they are now home to the St Ives Jumbo Association, a charity dedicated to preserving these iconic local vessels.
The St Ives Jumbo
The St Ives Jumbo, despite its large name, is actually a small lugger. Designed in the late 1880s by William Painter, its aim was to allow fishermen to keep fishing inshore if the weather didn’t allow for a deep sea trek. The Jumbo was also favoured by ‘retired’ fishermen who were able to keep a hand in on their beloved profession. It’s rumoured that “The Jumbo”, was the nickname given to the boats by local fishermen, naming it affectionately after the largest animal in Britain at the time, Jumbo the elephant at London Zoo.
By the 1920s these small luggers had fallen out of fashion and were seldom spotted in St Ives harbour. But, in 2007, boat builder Johnny Nance, and his family, rebuilt the St Ives Jumbo using William Paynter’s original sketches (lines) and archive photographs of the boat. Shortly after, the St Ives Jumbo Association was formed, and thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and fundraising there are now two Jumbos bobbing around in St Ives Harbour, the Celeste and the William Paynter.
The Jumbos have distinctive rust coloured, canvas sails which are handmade in the south west, and have been the inspiration for some of our best-selling prints. The classic, red-sailed Jumbo featured on our Lottie Dress last summer and you might have noticed a white version of the print earlier this year.
Back in the water for summer, the Jumbos make regular appearances on Cornwall’s sailing calendar, including June’s Looe Lugger Regatta, July’s Sea, Salts & Sail Festival and the Newlyn Fish Festival in August.
Next time you’re in St Ives see if you can spot the Jumbos. And if you’re near the harbour early one morning, you might still hear the local fishermen meeting at the lodges to discuss the very Cornish weather!