Charlestown is a wonderful, unspoiled example of a late Georgian working port, developed by local landowner Charles Rashleigh (after whom it was named) and built between 1790 and 1810 for the export of copper and china clay. It is located about a mile outside the town of St Austell. It was built to service 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.
Charlestown is a very popular location for film and television locations in addition to Poldark: the Jonny Depp film Alice in Wonderland and the TV series Hornblower, Mansfield Park and many others.
In 1994 Square Sail purchased the harbour and beaches, generating interest and breathing new life into the port.
Charlestown Harbour is actually two harbours – inner and outer. The inner harbour has constant water levels fed by the original 18th century seven mile system of man-made waterways which ends in two large reservoir ponds situated to the north of the village. From the ponds a system of sluice gates feed the water into the inner harbour when required. The inner and outer harbours are separated by an unusual lock gate system – instead of double gates opening in or out (as most traditional lock gates do), the harbour has one lock gate which descends horizontally to a pit below the harbour floor level to allow ships in or out of the inner harbour.
The outer harbour is tidal and protected on the west side by a granite mole and opens directly into the sea.
The Shipwreck, Rescue and Heritage Centre is located in one of the old China Clay buildings and contains exhibits from Charlestown’s maritime past together with shipwreck salvage from along the Cornish coast.