Prime Cellars is one of three buildings, known as fish cellars, built along the stretch of the river between Penleath Point and Wiseman’s Stone. During the 17th and 18th centuries, thousands of pilchards were caught in the estuary for export to theMediterranean. Fish cellars were built, away from the town and other settlements, to process and store the fish. The sites were chosen for their ease of accessibility by water. The fish were stacked in the cellars and either pressed into barrels using huge oak beams, smoked or pickled in brine. Another of these cellars was at Brazen Island, and parts of the pits used to collect the fish oil still remain.
With the decline of the fishing industry the three cellars became a boat yard, boathouse, and, in Prime cellars case, an ale house. In 1907 the famous Fowey author Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (Q) bought land there and rowed across from Fowey almost every day to tend the land he called ‘the farm’. Picnics with family and friends were held there in the orchard and the house was nicknamed Priam Cellars. This was a family joke as Priam was King of Troy and Q was famous for his Troy Town novels based on Fowey.
By 1947 the property was almost derelict; however it was maintained as a dwelling although even as late as 2000 it still had a mud floor. A few years ago the present owners lovingly restored the building, painstakingly preserving every detail. As there is no vehicular access, everything for the restoration had to be brought in by boat. It is now used for holiday lets and functions connected with the yachting community.
Research Angie Crown
Sources: Catherine Parkes, Fowey Estuary Historic Audit, (Cornwall Archeological Unit.Cornwall County Council, 2000); F. Brittain, Arthur Quiller Couch, (Cambridge, 1947)