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Coordinates: 50°19′38″N 4°38′00″W / 50.3273°N 4.6333°W / 50.3273; -4.6333
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Polruan viewed across the river from Fowey
Polruan is located in Cornwall
Location within Cornwall
OS grid referenceSX126508
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townFOWEY
Postcode districtPL23
Dialling code01726
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°19′38″N 4°38′00″W / 50.3273°N 4.6333°W / 50.3273; -4.6333

Polruan (Cornish: Porthruwan)[1] is a coastal village in the parish of Lanteglos-by-Fowey in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is bounded on three sides by water: to the north by Pont Creek, to the west by the River Fowey and to the south by the English Channel and neighbours village Bodinnick to the north, connected by a 4-mile walk along the hill tops.[2] Polruan is very steep and well protected from the prevailing winds and Polruan Pool is a haven for small boats.

The population of Polruan was 534 in the 2021 census.[3]


Polruan has never been a centre for fishing, although it is often mistakenly called a fishing village. In the 1851 census there were just four men giving their occupations as fishermen, the majority were linked to shipbuilding or were mariners.[4] In the medieval period Polruan produced some very large ships, employed in the wine trade with Bordeaux. In 1343 five Polruan ships were in the King's service. A century later the Edward of Polruan was accused of piracy and its size can be shown by the number of men it carried, 200 men 'armed and arrayed for war.'[5]

St Ruan was the first to occupy the top of Polruan Hill the point where St Saviour's ruin still stands today. The ruin of St Saviour's church on the hill above Polruan dates to the 8th century. It was a landmark for shipping, and also, in times of war, a vantage point for observing the approach of enemy shipping to the strategically important Fowey harbour. The name Polruan derives from the Cornish for harbour of a man called Ruveun.[6]

Polruan from Fowey

Polruan also has a blockhouse fortification built in the 14th century that guards the entrance to the river Fowey, one of a pair—its partner being situated on the Fowey side of the river. The Polruan blockhouse is well preserved due to the efforts of various enthusiastic councillors and conservationists on the Polruan side of the river, in contrast to the blockhouse in Fowey.[citation needed] Between the two blockhouses was strung a defensive chain to prevent enemy ships entering the harbour, the chain being lowered for friendly vessels. This was primarily used during the wars with the Dutch.

The Harbour Commissioners Yard at Brazen Island was a shipbuilding yard in 19th century, one of several in Polruan building schooners, barquentines and ketches. Polruan was the major shipbuilding site in the harbour and the owners and the families of the mariners resided in the village.[7] As wooden shipbuilding declined in late 19th century, Brazen Island became a sardine processing factory which also supplied electricity for the village. The gun battery at Peak Point held an anti-shipping gun of which the mounting pin can still be seen. The battery gave the name of Battery Park. The wall at Peak Field was used for rifle practice. Motor torpedo boats were repaired at Pont Creek during World War II. The overhanging trees hid the boats from surveillance aircraft. The remains of cradles for boat repair and some hull parts can still be seen preserved in the mud on the foreshore. Some boat-building still takes place in Polruan: Toms's Yard builds and repairs boats and has reputation for handling trawlers and also for hand building in wood.[citation needed]

A cross known as Polruan or St Saviour's Cross stands at the top of Fore Street. The latter name comes from the former chapel of St Saviour nearby.[8]


The main school serving the village is Polruan Primary Academy which is a mixed school of non-denominational religion. The primary school (which only has 50 pupils at most) was formerly the village girls' school, the boys' school being destroyed in World War 2 after a German bomber shed its unused payload. The site of the boys' school is now where the carpark is at the top of St Saviours Hill.[9]

The nearest secondary school, Fowey River Academy, is located in Fowey.


Polruan can be accessed in a number of ways. By car using the linking one road in and one road out,[10] which is the usual way. There is a taxi service operating in the village which transports residents in and out of the village.[11] The local bus service operates on different times during season, the service is run via Looe, Polperro, Lansallos and Greenbank.[12]

Other transport includes the Polruan ferry, which crosses the river to and from Fowey every 15 minutes and operates every day of the year. There is also a passenger ferry to Mevagissey. Cars can be ferried to Fowey from Bodinnick which is 4 miles away. When the car ferry from Bodinnick is not running, Fowey and points westwards are reached by car via a car journey via Lostwithiel.


The history of the Troy class of boat has been set down by Marcus Lewis.[13] Lewis also builds boats and has a small history of the Fowey River class of boat.[14]

Maritime links[edit]

Boats at Polruan

The long legacy of shipbuilding continues today with Toms yard. Until recently the Fowey Harbour Pilots traditionally came from Polruan. Pilotage for commercial shipping was carried out from open boats with the Pilots boarding the ships via a pilot ladder. The Fowey Pilots Association describes the work of the pilots.[15]

Polruan is one of a now increasing number of Cornish places to use lookouts to help marine craft in distress. Many lookout towers were demolished in the 1980s to save costs. Now, thanks to the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), a voluntary charity, many of the surviving old coastguard lookouts and towers are being re-staffed by qualified volunteers. The Old Coastguard Lookout at Polruan was among the first to be re-commissioned in this way. (The current HM Coastguard headquarters for cliff rescue, including the equipment store, is on St Saviour's Hill adjacent to the NCI Station, above the main village carpark. Exercises of the HM Coastguard continue.[16]) The current Polruan NCI Station overlooks the Fowey estuary and also St Austell Bay beyond the village.[16] It was constructed in the nineteenth century.[16]


Calvin Dean, the actor from the film Tormented grew up in Polruan.[17][18] Daphne du Maurier once stayed in the village and based her first novel, The Loving Spirit on the Slade family of shipbuilders and mariners.[19][16] Peter Skellern, the singer was resident in the village. Actor Patrick Malahide, who amongst other roles, played Inspector Chisholm in the popular television series Minder is also another Polruan resident. The well known illustrator Mabel Lucie Attwell also lived in the village - see;[20] as did the absurdist English playwright N. F. Simpson.[21]

Raynor Winn the author of the Sunday Times best seller The Salt Path used to reside in Polruan, which also features heavily as the mid and end point of her 630 mile walk. The author of The Stories of Benjamin series Tom Barrie Simmons also currently lives in Polruan.

Film and television[edit]

The film Stolen Hours featuring Susan Hayward was filmed around Polruan. The latter part of the film follows an actress who comes to Polruan to live out the remainder of her life, following a brain tumour, with her surgeon husband. The 1963 film displays older shots of the village including use of the village shop, "Headland House", and the clip of the children's sports day which is filmed where Greenbank is now built. A local, Mrs Baker, was included in the filming of the egg and spoon race and calls... "Let's get shoes off!"[citation needed]

An episode of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries was also partly filmed in Polruan.


  1. ^ Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) Archived 15 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine : List of place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel Archived 15 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Cornish Language Partnership.
  2. ^ Berry, Oliver; Dixon, Belinda (15 February 2008). Devon, Cornwall & Southwest England. Lonely Planet. p. 269. ISBN 978-1-74104-873-5. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  3. ^ "City population: Polruan".
  4. ^ 1851 Census
  5. ^ Helen Doe, A Maritime History of Fowey Harbour, Truran, 2010
  6. ^ Mills, A. D. (1996). The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names. Parragon Book Service Ltd and Magpie Books. p. 261. ISBN 0-7525-1851-8.
  7. ^ C. H. Ward-Jackson, Ships and Shipbuilders of a Westcountry Seaport: Fowey 1786-1939 (Truro: Twelveheads Press, 1986
  8. ^ Langdon, A. G. (2005) Stone Crosses in East Cornwall; 2nd ed. Federation of Old Cornwall Societies; p. 43
  9. ^ "Polruan Primary School, Cornwall". Axcis. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  10. ^ Information Britain (1998). "Polruan Information". Crawbar. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  11. ^ "Taxi Service from Polruan to Polperro, Looe, Liskeard and beyond!". Polruan Taxis. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  12. ^ "Bus Service – Looe – Polperro – Polruan". Polruan.org. Archived from the original on 27 August 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Fowey Photos". Foweyphotos.com. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  14. ^ Lewis, Marcus. "Troy class". Woodenboatbuilder.co.uk. Lewis (Fowey). Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  15. ^ "Fowey pilots". Foweypilots.com. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  16. ^ a b c d Beardsall, Jonny (7 April 2007). "For those in peril". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  17. ^ Garrad, Carrie (12 June 2009). "Calvin's film role wreaking revenge on school's bullies". liskeard-today.co.uk. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  18. ^ "Young local actor gets set for stardom as he stars in new Brit horror flick "Tormented"". thisiscornwall.co.uk. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  19. ^ Helen Doe, Jane Slade of Polruan (Truro: Truran, 2002).
  20. ^ "Their Story".
  21. ^ From 2005 until his death in 2011, living (according to his death certificate) in Townsend, Polruan

External links[edit]