The Tiny Port Of Charlestown - a Memory of Charlestown.

I briefly attended Charlestown Infants' school in 1942 as it accepted children a years earlier than Mount Charles Infants (just a mile away) which I lived just a few yards from on Porthpean Road.  I was four years old at the time.
During those war years the quaysides around the inner dock had corrugated iron buildings that were used in the fitting out of inshore mine-sweeper vessels.  These boats were built at nearby Par and had their engines and machinery fitted at Charlestown.  These sheds were removed at the end of the war and once more the harbour looked very much as it had when it was built by Charles Rashleigh in the last decade of the 1700s.  
   Inspite of wartime restrictions, we locals were permitted access to the beaches and the one on the eastern side of the harbour entrance was our destination whenever the weather allowed.  As we grew older mother would be waiting for us there with a snack when we raced down the hill after school.  The beach was very pebbley but with the breakwater to dive off and the wonderful rock pools to play in at low water spring-tides the pain of walking over pebbles was ignored, as only preoccupied, very happy kids can.
  During the late forties and fifties, there were water-polo matches played in the outer harbour during the summer, and evening tides permitting. The Charlestown team played against teams from Fowey, Mevagissey, Falmouth  and others, both home and away. There was also an annual regatta and swimming gala and a memorable event was walking the greasy pole erected out over the harbour wall.
  The harbour was very busy during those years with the export of china clay from the claypits all around the St Austell area.  The dried clay was loaded into small coastal ships (200-300 tons) from where it was transported to the Continent.  It was always exciting to watch a ship that had lain anchored in the bay awaiting high tide, come into the harbour under the guidance of the port pilot Tommy Coates. The entrance was so narrow, and entailed a 90 degree turn towards the lock gates that retained the water in the inner harbour.   Manually operated capstans, mounted at strategic points along the harbour wall, were used to winch the ships into position, so that with the engine "very slow ahead" the ship would creep into the inner basin with only inches to spare on both sides.  At that time the two massive wooden gates were also opened and closed manually with capstans but some years later these were replaced by a hydraulically operated gate that was lowered into a horizontal position to allow ships to pass over.   


A memory shared by Peter Marks on Jun 7th, 2007. Send Peter Marks a message

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