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About Padstow Harbour

  • The Port Today
  • Key Objectives
  • Padstow History
  • Trust Port
  • Harbour Commissioners
  • Wadebridge History
  • Rock History

Padstow, Latitude 50 33' N Longitude 4 56' W (Admiralty Charts 1168/SC 5603.5) is a small commercial port which is situated 1.5 miles from the sea within the estuary of the River Camel. The seaward limits of the port are bounded by a line joining Stepper Point, Gulland Rock, Newland, and Pentire Point.
The harbour is capable of handling cargo vessels up to 2000 gross tons but only accommodates bulk cargoes such as sand, roadstone etc. Pilotage is compulsory for all cargo vessels over 30 metres and those vessels over 20 metres with a draft in excess of 3.5 metres. The pilot boards three cables east of Stepper Point, or in adverse weather as near to the fairway buoy off Trebetherick Point as possible.
During 2009, the harbour handled around 120,000 tonnes of sand dredged from the estuary and used mainly for agricultural purposes.
Padstow has a thriving fleet of fishing vessels, with regular landings of fish, crab and lobsters. There is also a growing shellfish farming industry within the estuary producing mussels, cockles, oysters and scallops.
The fishing vessels and leisure craft (we had approximately 3500 visiting yacht nights last year) are now the main users of the harbour. The inner harbour is serviced by a tidal gate, which is open approximately two hours either side of high water. A minimum of three metres of water is maintained in the inner harbour at all times.
The town of Padstow with its population of approximately 3800 has built up around the harbour.

Our Key Objectives:

  • Maintain existing facilities in good order
  • Identify opportunities / needs for new facilities.
  • Manage the estuary for the benefit of its many users, whilst taking care to conserve its natural beauty.
  • To maintain a high level of service to all the port’s users whilst still balancing the many and varied demands for the benefit of the majority.
  • To respond adequately and on a timely basis to changes in operational requirements.
  • To respond adequately and on a timely basis to changes in  legislation.

Padstow Harbour Commissioners were founded by an Act of Parliament under Queen Victoria in 1844.   They replaced the earlier Padstow Harbour Association, a board of men who ran the port.
The port far predates the Commissioners.   Padstow grew up within a creek on the Western bank of the River Camel, the head of the creek being near to where the Parish church now stands.   As the port grew, the town was built on raised reclaimed land often without footings until the present day.   The Inner Quays and Strand were built in 1538, at which time the port was the Inner Basin, now defined by the gate with a Quay where the Red Brick Building now stands, a pier on the southern side, and peripheral shipyards.
The railway arrived in 1899, and reclaimed a stretch of land at the southern end of the harbour, built using one of Padstow’s shipbuilding yard walls as a retaining wall. With the ability to transport fish quickly to London’s Billingsgate Fish Market via the railway, more trawlers started using the port and the demand for shelter was such that  the present-day dock was built in 1910.  In 1932 the New Pier was built to protect vessels within the Inner Basin, as trawlers moored the wires that the trawlers were mooring with were parting due to the "run" generated by the ground sea, normally when the wind was from the south west.   Padstow has always had one major problem - on the equinoctial spring tides, it floods.   In 1988 this problem was addressed and over the period of two years, the present day flood-defence scheme was built - sheet piling and extending the pier in the Inner Basin, building a tidal gate and raising the walls on Langford’s Quay. The result is that since the gate was put in the town has not flooded.   The by-product of this scheme is that the Inner Harbour is now kept wet, providing Marina conditions for visiting craft, whereas prior to this the harbour would dry on every ebb tide. 
Padstow has long been a busy port and part of the port of Padstow was the port of Wadebridge.   Wadebridge was a thriving port for many years, the railway being there 50 years before it came along the present Camel Trail to Padstow.   Padstow and the estuary, like everything else, is continually evolving and emerging, and with the help of the Harbour Commissioners and the hard work of the staff, we hope it will improve year on year.

Padstow is a Trust Port

  • Padstow Harbour Commissioners were established by an act of Parliament in 1844.
  • Up until the 1987 Harbour Revision Act, there were 27 commissioners and various sub committees.
  • There are 9 Commissioners elected - 3 each from the 3 parishes surrounding estuary.
  • Following ‘Modernising Trust Ports’ the Harbour Master must sit on the board.
  • DfT favour appointing Commissioners – Padstow still elect.
  • Allowed to serve for 3 years, max of 3 terms, cannot be related to any employees of PHC and must not be over 70 years of age.
  • Quote from the Trust Port Review:
    “A trust port can be compared to an heirloom. It is a valuable asset presently safeguarded by the existing board. They have a duty to hand it on in the same or better condition to succeeding generations. Boards have an obligation to transact port business in the interest of the whole community of stakeholders openly , accountably and with commercial prudence”
  • Monthly Commissioners meetings are open to the public and the press.
  • Although there is an opportunity to take items ‘in committee’ the commissioners generally try to be transparent and open in their deliberations.
  • Commissioners are elected from the parishes within the harbour limits – any eligible resident in these parishes can stand for election if they want to ‘have a say’.
  • Minutes of the commissioners meetings are widely circulated and available for all to see.
  • Stakeholders who feel that they have been unfairly treated still have recourse to the law and the commissioners have had to defend their decisions on several occasions.
  • An annual report including financial statements is published and circulated – anyone can obtain a copy on request.
  • Complaints can be made to the Secretary of State. Ultimately, DfT could repeal PHC’s revision order, pass a new order and appoint their own commissioners, effectively taking back control of the port.
Mr W Chown Local Fisherman Elected 2008 to serve until 2011
Mr M England Padstow Lifeboat Mechanic Re-elected 2009 to serve until 2012
Mr M McCarthy Local Shopkeeper Re-elected 2010 to serve until 2013
Mr J Hewitt Rock Marine Services Re-elected 2008 to serve until 2011
Mr W Jago Builder Re-elected 2009 to serve until 2012
Mr M Hewitt Retired Marine Engineer Re-elected 2010 to serve until 2013
Mr D Martin Company Accountant Re-elected 2008 to serve until 2011
Mr S Summers Builder Elected 2009 to serve until 2012
Mr W Frisby Local Shopkeeper Re-elected 2010 to serve until 2013
Lord of the Manor Appointee    
Capt RM Atkinson Master Mariner Appointed 2008 to serve until 2011


A short history of Wadebridge is being prepared and will be added at a later date.


A short history of Rock is being prepared and will be added at a later date.




Padstow Harbour Commissioners, The Harbour Office, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8AQ,
tel: +44 (0)1841 532239, fax: +44 (0)1841 533346, email:
VHF Radio Channel 12

Page updated: 14.04.10