History & Geography


Porthmear, Charlestown’s original name translates from the old Cornish Language as Porth-meur, meaning ‘Little Cove’.


There are two large leat ponds, that were built to supply the harbour with water in the Victorian era. They are connected to 7 miles of leats, running from Luxylan Valley to Charlestown. The leats remain fully functioning and are managed on a daily basis by the Harbour Master and his team.


Between 1790 and 1874 a total of 28 vessels were built and launched from Charlestown. The largest as ‘Pride of the Channel’ weighing in at 175 tonnes.


It is claimed that in olden times, the Inner Harbour was so busy that you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other across the decks of the ships.


The Harbour gates were first erected in 1799. They have been replaced twice since then, in 1890 and 1971. They are operated by the Harbour Master whenever a visiting vessel comes in or goes out of the Harbour. The gates are operated only at or near high tide and are a remarkable piece of engineering.


The name of Charlestown’s tall ship, Kajsamoor, comes from Norse mythology and means ‘Mother of the Wind Troll’.


In 1940 the first World War Two bomb that dropped in Cornwall was dropped on Charlestown.


The Shipwreck Museum first opened its doors in 1976 as ‘The Shipwreck and Visitors Centre’.


The last commercial shipment of china clay left the port in 2000.