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)
Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre
Tel 01726 69897 - Overseas +44 1726 69897
Open 1st March - 31st October, 10am - 5pm (later in high season)
- The parish Church of Charlestown is St Paul's; it has its own churchyard in which there are many headstones. There are also burials at the Campdowns Cemetery which is a few hundred yards further along the road east of the parish on Beach Road. This cemetery serves a larger area than just the parish. Those records are now held by the Cornwall County Council.
- The Council are able to undertake a manual search for a burial, and they are also able to make a cross-reference to the grave records and tell you whom else is in that grave.
- The Cornwall Family History Society have published Monumental Inscriptions on-line for the Parish Church - 736 entries.
Census information for this parish (1841 - 1901) is held in the Cornwall Record Office. The Cornwall Family History Society offers a census search service for its members.
Specific census information for this parish is available as follows:
- 1841. In the 1841 Census, Charlestown was enumerated as part of St Austell.
- 1851. The 1851 Census of Charlestown (HO107/1907), Enumeration Districts 1g, 1h, 1k, and 1l, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
- 1861. The 1861 Census of Charlestown (RG9/1547) is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1871. The 1871 Census of Charlestown is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1881. The 1881 Census of Charlestown is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1891. The 1891 Census of Charlestown (RG12/1822) is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- Anglican. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SX0351 and was dedicated to St Paul in 1846 when the Charlestown Ecclesiastical District was formed.
By the 1840s the population of the village of Charleston had grown to approx. 3000. In recognition of this and the inflated size of the parish of St Austell, the Diocese of Exeter formed the parish of Charlestown in 1846. In 1848 the land to build the parish church was given to the parish by George Augustus Crowder, Managing Director of the Charlestown Estates. The foundation stone was laid in 1849. Through funding difficulties, brought on by the slump in mining in the area, slowed completion.
The church of St. Paul is a cruciform building of stone, in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, transept and north porch. The nave and aisles are divided by arcades carried on granite piers, alternately round and octagonal. there are memorial windows to the Rev. C.S. Woolcock first incumbent of the church, and others: the church affords 450 sittings. The register dates from the year 1846. The New Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter on Friday, May 30th, 1851; services began there on 1st June 1851.
- Non-Conformist. In 1799 a Methodist Chapel was started though the present chapel, alas closed in 1998, was built in 1828.
- The Cornwall Record Office holdings: Baptisms 1847 - 1944, Marriages 1851 - 1973, Burials 1851 - 1974.
- Baptisms 1847 to 1911 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- The OPC has put on-line baptisms at Charlestown as follows:
- 1847 to 1851 - recorded before St. Paul's church was built. The curate, C.S. Woolcock, reported that these services was conducted "in a room especially licensed for divine worship".
- 1851 to 1855 - at St Paul's.
- 1856 to 1859 - at St Paul's.
- 1860 to 1864 - at St Paul's.
- 1865 to 1869 - at St Paul's.
- 1870 to 1874 - at St Paul's.
- Marriages 1851 to 1900 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- Marriages in Charlestown (1848-1901) are available on-line, courtesy of the OPC. These are searchable only by date as follows:
- Burials. For burials before 1850, see St Austell Holy Trinity burial records.
- Burials 1851 to 1900 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- Burials in Charlestown (1850-1897) are available on-line, courtesy of the OPC. These are searchable by name or date as follows:
The parish of Charlestown has been in the Registration District of St Austell continuously from its creation in 1847. There were sub-districts at Fowey, Grampound, Mevagissey and St Austell, but these have now been abolished. Parishes within the district are: Creed, Fowey, Gorran, Grampound, Mevagissey, Roche, St. Austell, St. Blazey, St. Dennis, St. Ewe, St. Mewan, St. Michael Carhays, St. Sampson, St. Stephen in Brannel, Tywardreath.
The Superintendant Registrar can be contacted at: 12 Carlyon Road, St Austell, PL25 4LD. Tel: 01726 68974. Fax: 01726 68974.
- The OPC has provided some pictures of Charlestown.
- Ask for a calculation of the distance from Charlestown to another place.
OPC Assistance. The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme operates a service to help family historians; the OPC page for this parish is available on-line, from where the OPC can be contacted by email.
You can see the administrative areas in which Charlestown has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.
- Map of the St Austell Registration district in which the parish lies.
You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SX038518 (Lat/Lon: 50.333135, -4.758109), Charlestown which are provided by:
- Google Maps
- StreetMap (Current Ordnance Survey maps)
- Bing (was Multimap)
- OldMaps (Old Ordnance Survey maps.)
- Old Maps Online (Other old maps.)
- National Library of Scotland (Old Ordnance Survey maps)
- Vision of Britain (Click "Historical units & statistics" for administrative areas.)
- English Jurisdictions in 1851 (Unfortunately the LDS have removed the facility to enable us to specify a starting location, you will need to search yourself on their map.)
- Magic (Geographic information) (Click + on map if it doesn't show)
- GeoHack (Links to on-line maps and location specific services.)
Charlestown parish became part of the St Austell Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief on its creation.
Charlestown parish was created in 1847 from part of St. Austell parish. The parish later became part of St Austell Urban District Council.