Charlestown (Cornish: Porthmeur) is a coastal town situated in the north-west corner of St Austell Bay on the south coast of Cornwall, about two miles from St Austell town centre. The old Cornish name for the area was Polmear, and the village was originally called West Polmear. It had been a fishing village and this activity was conducted from the beach. In 1790 the village contained only 9 persons.
The expansion of the mining industry in the St Austell area made it a necessity to construct a harbour on the coast near by. Construction of the harbour, sponsored by Charles Rashleigh, started in 1791 and was completed in 1798. A pier was begun in 1791 for the security of fishing boats, but this was extended the following year, immediately after which a basin was cut out of solid rock.
Charlestown was the idea and creation of Charles Rashleigh, a member of the renowned local family and the founder of the local china clay industry, for whom it was named. (Nearby Mount Charles was also named for him.) He saw the growth in mining, and decided a port nearby was needed, and set about creating one. The local pub, 'The Rashleigh Arms' is also named after him.
Eventually Charlestown became a model Georgian "new town" that handled much of the ore and clay being sent world-wide, and the parish was created in 1847 from part of St. Austell parish. Charlestown is still in use today - a working port with an active fishery - while also being a tourist site and the location for several movies. The Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Museum helps explain the history of the area. At times, the beautiful brig 'Maria Asumpta', built in Spain in 1858 and rebuilt in 1981, is berthed here and is open to visitors.
Charlestown is now part of St Austell Urban District Council.
Most parish and church description(s) on these pages are from Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall by J Polsue (Truro, 1867 - 1873)