Quay Road, Charlestown, St. Austell, PL25 3NJ
Tel: (01726) 69897
Unspoilt 18th century working port
Charlestown's Centre commemorates achievement and heartbreak in a unique 18th century setting barely touched by time.
The achievement belongs to one man, Charles Rashleigh, whose vision created a thriving port out of an obscure fishing village. His reasons are, literally, a part of the Centre, which is built over the tunnels of an old China Clay "Dry". Down these - as you can see today - stevedores pushed wagons full of Cornwall's "white gold" to waiting ships. The activity and facilities generated other trade - in pilchards, stone, tin, copper ore, timber and coal - and with it, a large commercial infrastructure.
Full-scale tableaux in the Heritage section, show a cooper, blacksmith and others at work, drawn to Charlestown by the magnet of trade. In the Audio Visual Theatre you can see the saga unfold, from the optimism of the 1791 blueprint for the design of the new port, through a century of growth to recession and decline at its end.
The Shipwreck section flips the coin of enterprise to show the forces it cannot control. Round Britain's coasts are over 250,000 wrecks, many with stories of courage and cowardice, greed or sacrifice to tell. The Centre shows a rich sample, in photography and wreckage or salvaged cargo: here, a 400-year old cannon; there, priceless Nanking porcelain: the artefacts recovered from the tragic sinking of HMS 'Ramillies' in 1760, and - in a unique display - the history of underwater exploration, from the original wooden diving barrels to the latest 'bell".
Fittingly, the Centre's latest addition emphasises the saving of life at sea. While remaining fully operational, the Lifeboat 'Aurelia' is on display for all to see how the RNLI volunteers face the elements.
Richer Larn established the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre in 1976. The centre grew out of his own collection of sea artefacts after he left the Navy. The business was sold to John Kneale in 1990. The centre was put up for sale again in 2016 on the retirement of the owner. It was purchased by Sir Tim Smit.
Signed from the Mount Charles roundabout on the A390 Truro to St. Austell road.
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