by Ben Johnson
Fans of BBC’s ‘Poldark’ will be familiar with the starring role that the stunning Cornish locations play in the TV series.
Keen-eyed viewers will have spotted one very special location, the atmospheric late Georgian port of Charlestown, near St Austell.
As you enter the village you are transported back in time. The sight of the small fleet of square riggers at anchor in the Grade II listed harbour adds to the atmosphere of times gone by. It is quite clear why this unique little port has played a part in many TV series and movies, including ‘Hornblower’, ‘Mansfield Park’ and ‘The Onedin Line’, amongst others.
Originally the small fishing village of West Polmear, the port was constructed between 1791 and 1801 by Charles Rashleigh to export copper from local mines. Rashleigh was also responsible for the planning of the village that sprang up around the harbour. The village remains relatively unspoilt to this day and is full of attractive Georgian buildings and cosy fisherman’s cottages.
Until the outbreak of the Great War, the port prospered, mostly from the export of china clay, Cornwall’s ‘white gold’. Unfortunately the design of the harbour meant that only small ships could enter it. Modern ships proved too big to use it and the last commercial shipment of china clay left the port in 2000.
Today it is home to a small fleet of tall ships and is a popular tourist destination and film location. Visitors can stay overnight at either the inn or the hotel and there are several cafes and gift shops. Located in one of the old china clay buildings, the Shipwreck, Rescue and Heritage Centre is well worth a visit, with its scenes from village life and unusual artefacts from over 150 shipwrecks.
Charlestown is situated approx. 2 miles from St Austell and is signposted from the A390.