Charlestown, Cornwall Genealogy

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Charlestown Parish, occupying a very large section of the St. Austell Bay coastline, and the town of Charlestown, 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. It encompasses land from Porthpean to Par (which was formed into its own parish circa 1845). 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, use of the port slowly declined until today, when it is used only occasionally by "coastal vessels", 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" which occasionally sail out into the bay.

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.

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

There were Baptist chapels, a Society of Friends, and other non-conformist chapel circuits which included this area.

Church registers have been transcribed, and are available online 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. The original register images are also available online. (see below)  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.

Please remember that records previous to 1850 are found under St. Austell parish.

Campdown cemetery serves the parish, and is still open.  Contact the town council for information on obtaining information regarding specific burials.  CFHS has gathered Memorial information for this cemetery; please contact them via their website for details.

Online Parish registers

Images of parish registers are available online in historic records (formerly Record Search).   Images refer to Cornwall County Record Office reference: P31.  One can access these original parish register images by using, and clicking on "Browse our collection", then select "Europe".  From the ensuing list, select "United Kingdom", then Cornwall - Charlestown is under the 'C' section.

C. of E., Wesleyan, and other non-conformist church registers have been transcribed and are available online for free on the St. Austell Genealogical and Historical Website, as well as on the OPC Free Database.  Cornwall Family History Society has transcribed these records as well, and has made this material available via the Find My Past website, for a fee.

Please remember that records previous to 1850 are included under the St. Austell parish, many of which extend backward to 1632 currently. 


Civil Registration

Births, marriages and deaths were kept by the government from July 1837 to the present day. Most events were reported, although there was no penalty for not reporting the events until 1874.  As burials could not take place until a certificate was obtained, these are quite well covered.  All marriages - conducted by the Registrar, any authorized chapel or church, or recognized alternative - are included.  Some birth dates were mis-represented by parents, who failed to register the event within 6 weeks, but in the main data is correct.

To view an index of these records visit FreeBMD - see link below. It gives enough detail that a certificate may be ordered from the Cornwall Record Office.  PLEASE be sure to search alternative spellings!!  As many people handled these registrations, creative spelling variations were common.

BMD records on the St. Austell Genealogical and Historical Website, referred to below, extend to 1900.  Many of the Charlestown baptisms also give birth dates, as that was the vicar's preference.

Census records

Census records from 1841 through 1891 are available at FreeCENS, a Rootsweb database which can be found under FreeBMD on Rootsweb's main index page. 

Poor Law Unions

Charlestown was part of the St Austell Poor Law Union.  There are no records of individuals in this Workhouse, per the Cornwall Record Office; all that exist deal with supplies, vendors, etc. which are of no interest to genealogists.  St. Austell Workhouse census data is included on the St. Austell Historical and Genealogical website - under Genealogy - as is an explanation of the Poor Laws (under Life in the Parish).  

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Cornwall Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

The St. Austell Historical and Genealogical website also has information regarding wills.

Maps and Gazetteers

There are two maps of this parish, including the first Ordnance Survey map of 1810, on the St. Austell and Genealogical website, as well as many photographs taken by various persons.  The Tithes Map index of 1841 is also available; it lists all land owners, lessees, and occupiers of land within the parish at that time.  There is also a List of Voters from 1854 onward on the same site.

There are many other maps and gazetteers showing English places. Valuable web sites are:

  • 1851 Jurisdiction Maps
  • Vision of Britain


"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 {

-  contains free BMD transcriptions from 1632 to 1900; Lists of Voters; Tithe Map of 1841 index; Manorial records; List of Vicars, chapels, and churches; indexes of Directories, 1797 to 1856; newspaper references; photographs, both old and new, and various other relevant data.

Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (

   Cornwall Online Parish Clerks database (

Rootsweb - FreeBMD (

Rootsweb - FreeCens (