Hugh Town

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Hugh Town
Hugh Town - - 473796.jpg
View from Buzza Hill, across the isthmus town, towards The Garrison
Hugh Town is located in Isles of Scilly
Hugh Town
Hugh Town
Hugh Town shown within Isles of Scilly
Population 1,097 
OS grid reference SV903105
Civil parish
  • St Mary's
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TR21
Dialling code 01720
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Isles of Scilly
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
List of places
49°54′53″N 6°18′58″W / 49.9146°N 6.316°W / 49.9146; -6.316Coordinates: 49°54′53″N 6°18′58″W / 49.9146°N 6.316°W / 49.9146; -6.316

Hugh Town (Cornish: Tre Huw) is the largest settlement on the Isles of Scilly and its administrative centre. The town is situated on the island of St Mary's,[1] the largest and most populous island in the archipelago, and is located on a narrow isthmus which joins the peninsula known as the Garrison (historically the Hugh) with the rest of the island.

The population recorded by the 2011 census was 1,097[2] (up from 1,068 in 2001). Unlike the rest of the Isles of Scilly, the freehold title to land in the town is not held by the Duchy of Cornwall — in 1949 it had been sold to the inhabitants. The harbour however continues to be owned and run by the Duchy.[3]

Hugh Town becomes particularly busy during the May Day bank holiday weekend (ie the first weekend in May) when the World Pilot Gig Championships are held. The competing teams base themselves in the several bays of St Mary's Pool (the large natural bay to the north of Hugh Town) and the numerous races finish at the end of the harbour quay.

Amenities and landmarks[edit]

Hugh Street is the main shopping area on the islands and business is quite reliant on tourism. There are several pubs, restaurants and hotels, as well as two banks and a post office. A notable building is the Star Castle, which overlooks the town from The Garrison and is now a hotel. Similarly, Tregarthen's Hotel is a Hugh Town landmark. It was originally the home of Captain Tregarthen who introduced the first sloop in 1849, 'Ariadne', that serviced the Hugh Town from Penzance.[4] Being on an isthmus, there are two beaches, the northern one (Town Beach) being along the bay which forms the island's main harbour; the southern beach and bay is named Porthcressa.

A Photocrom picture of Hugh Town, circa 1900. This was the view from The Garrison, with Buzza Hill prominent on the other end of the town.

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is based at the Town Hall, located at The Parade, a small park situated at the centre of the isthmus (and originally a parade ground). The Duchy of Cornwall, which owns almost all the freehold land in the Isles of Scilly, as well as being the port authority, has its Isles of Scilly offices at Hugh House, located within the Garrison walls.[5]

The Church of England's St Mary's Church, the islands' Roman Catholic Church and their largest Methodist Church are all located on or near Church Street. The Isles of Scilly Museum is also located on Church Street.[6] The town has a public library and a police station. On the eastern outskirts of the town (heading towards Peninnis Head) are the NHS community hospital and local health centre, as well as other important public amenities such as the island's power station, the island's refuse depot and the town's fire station. The island's primary and secondary schools (both part of the federated Five Islands School) are situated to the southeast of the town, at Carn Gwaval, on the road to Old Town.

The island's airport is located approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of the centre of Hugh Town.


View of the town from the quay, with Town Beach running between the harbour and the rear of buildings
The Scillonian III berthed at the (former Rat Island) end of the quay

The principal harbour of the Isles of Scilly (known as St Mary's Harbour) is located on the northern edge of the town, naturally formed by the bay at Town Beach (itself part of a larger bay named St Mary's Pool) and improved by the construction of a quay on its western side, which acts also as a breakwater. The quay is the terminal of the ferry to Penzance, currently the Scillonian III,[7] and the cargo vessel Gry Maritha; both vessels have St Mary's as their port of registry. The Duchy of Cornwall is the owner and the harbour authority (the St Mary’s Harbour and Pilotage Authority).[3]

The original quay was built in 1593 and an extension (or offshoot) began in 1836 to Rat Island under a contract of £4,000 to William Martin of Penzance. Martin resigned in November 1837 and Augustus Smith organised the completion. The enlargement of the harbour produced an increase in harbour dues as larger and deeper-draughted boats were now able to dock for loading, unloading, repairs or victualling. In 1889 Augustus Smith's successor T A Dorrien-Smith extended the pier a further 250 feet eastwards, at his own expense, so that the West Cornwall Steam Ship Company ships could dock. Despite Parliamentary opposition a Pier and Harbour Provisional Order Bill passed in June 1890 gave him revenue from the harbour dues.[8]

The quay is currently (as of 2015) being extended further, with new passenger and freight facilities being constructed too. The extension to the quay will allow for vessels of a greater draft (up to 3.9m). A small amount of land reclamation will take place by Rat Island too, enlarging the space around the buildings there.[9][10]

Lifeboat station[edit]

On the eastern end of Town Beach (on the rocky outcrop known as Carn Thomas) is the St Mary's Lifeboat Station, first operated in 1837 and run by the RNLI.

Local geography[edit]


  1. ^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 203 Land's End ISBN 978-0-319-23148-7
  2. ^ Combination of populations of the four output areas covering the settlement.
  3. ^ a b St Mary's Harbour official website
  4. ^ Uren, J G (1907). Scilly and the Scillonians. UK. Rare Books Club. ISBN 978-1152596214
  5. ^ Duchy of Cornwall Isles of Scilly
  6. ^ Isles of Scilly Museum
  7. ^ [1] Cornwall Council website; Ferry Services page; retrieved April 2010
  8. ^ Vyvyan, Clara C (1960). The Scilly Isles. London: Robert Hale. 
  9. ^ Cornwall Council St Mary’s and Penzance Harbours Scheme Update August 2014
  10. ^ Scilly Today Update on the St Mary's Quay extension... (14 February 2015)

External links[edit]

Media related to Hugh Town at Wikimedia Commons