Charlestown Harbour was designed by John Smeaton and built for Charles Rashleigh. Work on the outer harbour started in 1791 and by 1792 the excavation of the inner dock began. Rock was quarried back from the line of the beach and by 1795/96 it is thought that it was ready to receive ships. By 1801 the dock had been extended beyond its original size and lock gates had been fitted.
By 1825 the inner basin had a long water filled channel extending inland on the western side, possibly along the line of an old adit. Exports of china clay, copper ore and pilchard fishing were thriving so further plans to extend the inner basin were made from 1864 with the present form of the harbour dating from 1871. By this time the inner dock was segregated into two sides; dirty and clean or black and white. Coal for the mining industry was imported from South Wales and unloaded on the western side whilst processed blocks of china clay were loaded on the eastern side for export.
There are two principal quaysides walled with granite and with granite paving; concrete surfaces have also been added to the western side. A short pier-like structure divides the harbour into two bays at its inner end.
The distinguishing features of the china clay cellars and chutes which are below you can best be viewed from the opposite side of the harbour. (QR code 8).
On this side you will see evidence of the tramway tunnel which leads from the linhay in former Lovering Clay Dry (now The Nest) and emerges here, just below the road. The tunnel’s entrance has a wide concrete arched feature now protected by decorative iron railings. The line of the tramway was interrupted by the 20th century use of lorries and the construction of the clay chutes
Over recent years access to the tunnels via the Charlestown Shipwreck Treasure Museum is being made possible.
If you have enjoyed your history walk around the village please consider making a small donation to help maintain the trail and the history of Charlestown. Thank you.