Treffry Tunnel, Newquay Harbour

Often overlooked by passers by is a vital piece of Newquay’s history – the Treffry Tunnel. This tunnel, built by Joseph Treffry, provided the vital link between the pack-horses delivering minerals along the tram way and Newquay Harbour, where the minerals would be shipped to South Wales for smelting.

Today the Treffry Tunnel is used to house Newquay Rowing Club’s Pilot Gigs

The Treffry Tunnel started in 1844 when an 96′ long tunnel was cut into the cliff, 17′ wide and 14′ high[1]; the Treffrey Tunnel was finished and opened in 1849. The cost was approximately £300.  There was a double line in the tunnel which was reported at a later date to have cost 40/- per yard.  This latter figure yields a different figure of closer to £1300.

Treffry Tunnel Newquay Harbour

Treffry Tunnel Newquay Harbour entrance

The tunnel emerged at the top in what is now Sainsbury’s supermarket car park. At the top there were big drums, with cables wound round them and winding engines, called whims, that would wind the wagons down to the Harbour itself. This area is now called The Whim.  Although the incline was originally used by the horses, it was too steep for them really, so the steam-powered engine was fitted.  The incline in the tunnel is about 1-in-4.5.

The Whim area was redeveloped in the 1960s, with a demolition of the buildings occurring in 1964-65.  It was used as a car park, then Somerfields, now Sainsburys.

Treffry Tunnel Newquay Harbour

Treffry Tunnel Newquay Harbour

The top entrance of the tunnel was uncovered in 1987, at which time the Council ensured it was protected from being built over by businesses either side of it at any time in the future.

There’s been talk in recent years about opening up the tunnel again, which would need a lot of investment.  The proposal put forward is that an open tunnel, with escalator, would enable visitors to travel more easily between the town and the harbour.

As it stands today, it’s possible for the casual visitor to walk straight past the harbour, wondering where to go and what to do, with no idea the harbour’s just round the corner.

Around the Rest of Newquay Harbour:

The stone pier, in the middle of the harbour, used to be connected by rails on a wooden framework, to the main harbour, enabling the wagons to get right alongside the ships.  It was built in 1872.

Iron ore, china clay, china stone and processed fish were shipped from Newquay Harbour.  Ore was transported in wagons as far as the top of the cliff and then tipped down chutes, making large piles at the base of the cliff, you can see how the harbour walls were built to accommodate this, the chutes are to the right of the tunnel entrance. The ore was then shovelled into wagons and then moved along the tracks to the waiting ships.

Just 100 years ago Newquay Harbour was a filthy, noisy, industrial area – now it’s a tranquil and beautiful corner of Newquay.

[1] Source: Railway Record 1852, Volume 9, p290


remwbay cornish hamper
Image © tunnel, R~P~M; wall/tunnel, google

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