A medieval quay was first established in 1430 to give some protection to the seine fishing boats. By the 1770s the trade had grown so much and the quay had fallen into disrepair that it was felt necessary to provide greater protection for the fishing fleet and the village. In 1774 an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the building of the East and West Quays. Plans were drawn up by Mr Ploby of Stonehpouse, Plymouth and construction began using local granite stone. The total cost was £4,235 with the money raised mainly by the issue of redeemable bonds. During the mid 1800s it was considered that an outer harbour should be constructed and to this end the 1865 Harbour Act was passed. However, it was not until 1886 that construction started. This took 2 years and the cost estimated at between £20,000 and £30,000.
In 1891 the harbour was struck by a great blizzard. The storm destroyed most of the newly completed piers and at least 9 ships were lost. Rebuilding of the outer harbour started soon after with a new design by Sir John Coode and largely financed by Mr Williams of Caerhays. The works were completed in 1897 which also included a lifeboat house and slip which enabled a lifeboat to be launched at all states of the tide.