Charlestown, Cornwall Genealogy

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Charlestown Parish, occupying a very large section of the coastline for St. Austell Bay, originated from the tiny hamlet of West Polmear, population 7. In 1769, Charles Rashleigh, a successful lawyer and mining adventurer, saw the need for a port to handle china clay shipments from St. Austell's upper quarter. He bought the land, and hired men to carve out a port by hand from where the tiny fishing hamlet once stood. In time, his project became a model Georgian "new town", and took the name of its founder. Mount Charles was also named for him.

The town flourished along with the china clay trade. In 1847, it became the hub of a new parish, carved from St. Austell parish St Austell, Cornwall. It encompasses land from Porthpean to Par. The parish church, St. Paul's (Church of England), was established in 1846 but built in 1851; it was completed in 1971, with the fibreglass spire being lowered by helicopter.

As transport ships grew ever larger, the use of the port slowly declined until today, when it is used by "coastal vessels" occasionally, but the village is open for tourists as well as movie crews at all times. It is the part-time home of 3 sailing "tall ships".

Par harbour, just east of Charlestown, was built by J. T. Austen (Treffry) commencing in 1820, and continues today as the main port for shipping china clay.

Other churches in the parish include St. Levan, a C. of E. chapel which was built at Porthpean by the Sawle family to serve their nearby manor of Penrice. Although tiny, the church today acts as a community centre for the village.

Pentewan's All Saints Church of England church, built in 1821 by Sir Charles Hawkin, remains active.

Tregrehan Mills Primitive Methodist church built in 1830, is still active, Bethel Methodist, and the London Apprentice chapel are still open, too.

Chapels which have closed include Polgooth Methodist, Penwithick Methodist, Mount Charles Victoria Road Wesleyan Methodist, and Carclaze Methodist.

Church registers have been transcribed, and are available for free on the St. Austell Genealogical and Historical Website,, as well as on the OPC Free Database website ( ). LDS has filmed these registers, which are available through their Family History Centres; please see their Library section. Cornwall Record Office sells micro-fiche of them for a small sum. CFHS has included transcriptions of the registers in their data at Find My Past, for a fee.

There were also Baptist chapels, and a Society of Friends circuit included this area.

Campdown cemetery serves the parish, and is still open.


"CORNWALL and It's People", A.K. Hamilton-Jenkin, David & Charles, London, 1945 & 1988

"ST. AUSTELL: Church, Town, and Parish", A.L. Rowse, H.E. Warne, LTD, 1960

"ST. AUSTELL, A Cornish Parish" Canon Joseph Hammond,L.L.B., Skeffington & Son, London, 1897

"A CORNISH CHILDHOOD" A.L. ROWSE, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc/Crown Publishers Inc, New York. 1942 & 1979

"HISTORIC CORNWALL - St. Austell" , Kate Newell, Historic Environmental Service, Cornwall County Council, 2004, at [If this address does not work, go to, and click on Cornwall and Scilly Urban Survey, then "towns"; you can then enter "St. Austell" to see the reports and download a map of the area circa 1907]

"The Archaeology of the St. Austell China Clay Area" P. Herring and J. Smith, Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council, 1991


St. Austell Genealogy and History {

Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (

   Cornwall Online Parish Clerks database (

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