Situated on the outskirts of St Austell on the South Coast of Cornwall is Charlestown Harbour, an unspoiled example of a Georgian harbour. Used recently as a key location for the filming of the BBC’s remake of the 1970’s hit series Poldark and also used for Dr Who, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and many other films and television programmes.
Constructed between 1791 and 1801 by Charles Rashleigh, entrepreneur and member of the local landowning family, and built in response to the growth of the local mining industry. Originally built to export copper and import coal, it was soon being used for the export of China Clay. It is from its creator that the the port gets its name.
Charlestown was originally known as West Polmear with a population of nine. Initially it had just a small fishing fleet that used the beach as a harbour. The project began with the construction of the pier to provide shelter for the fishing fleet. Then came the creation of a basin, cut out of the bedrock to allow the sailing ships in.
Upon completion, Charlestown was a model Georgian “new town”. By the 19th Century various associated businesses were established in sheds and warehouses around the harbour. These included pilchard curing, shipbuilding, brick making and lime burning. The population of the town exploded to close to 3,000.
The harbour is the home port for a famous collection of old ships which are employed in film projects all over the world. We spent an hour or so exploring the historic harbour at Charlestown. The highlight was the opportunity to go onboard a tall ship. The boys loved this. Below deck was very cramped. It made you realise how tough it must have been at sea for any length of time!
There is also a ‘What Am I?’ kids trail which engaged the boys as they dashed around following the clues to collect several rubbings.
After exploring the harbour and getting some lunch at one of a number of cafes and restaurants we moved on to the Shipwreck, Rescue and Heritage Centre. You can buy a joint ticket for both sights which saves you a little money. Located in one of the old China Clay buildings, the centre contains a number of exhibits relating to Charlestown’s maritime past. More general shipwreck salvage from Cornwall’s coast can also be found. The centre offers a good ‘I Spy Trail’ which made the museum more interesting for the boys.
A visit to Charlestown is highly recommended. We spent a pleasant day at the town exploring the historic harbour and the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
HANDY TIPS FOR A DAY OUT AT CHARLESTOWN
- Charlestown is child friendly although the Historic Harbour is cobblestones which may be hard going with a buggy.
- Collect the various kids trails at the entrances to both the Historic Harbour and the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
- Charlestown is dog friendly.
- There are several cafe’s and restaurants serving drinks, snacks and meals.
- Parking is paid although you can park along the road into Charlestown for free.