Looking across Charlestown from the
Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
Shipwreck and Heritage Centre
Quay Road Charlestown
Tel: +44 (0)1726 698 97
Charlestown's Centre commemorates achievement and
heartbreak in a unique 18th century setting barely touched by time.
The achievement belongs to one man, Charles Rashleigh,
whose vision created a thriving port out of an obscure fishing village.
His reasons are, literally, a part of the Centre, which is built
over the tunnels of an old China Clay "Dry". Down these - as you
can see today - stevedores pushed wagons full of Cornwall's "white
gold" to waiting ships.
The activity and facilities generated other trade
- in pilchards, stone, tin, copper ore, timber and coal - and with
it, a large commercial infrastructure.
Full-scale tableaux in the ' Heritage section show a cooper, blacksmith
and others at work, drawn to Charlestown by the magnet of trade.
In the Audio Visual Theatre you can see the saga unfold, from the
optimism of the 1791 blueprint, through a century of growth to recession
and decline at its end.
The Shipwreck section flips the coin of enterprise
to show the forces it cannot control. Round Britain's coasts are
over 250,000 wrecks, many with stories of courage and cowardice,
greed or sacrifice to tell. The Centre shows a rich sample, in photography
and wreckage or salvaged cargo: here, a 400-year old cannon; there,
priceless Nanking porcelain: the artefacts recovered from the tragic
sinking of HMS Ramillies in 1763, and - in a unique display - the
history of underwater exploration, from the original wooden diving
barrels to the latest 'bell".
Fittingly, the Centre's latest addition emphasises
the saving of life at sea. While remaining fully operational, the
Lifeboat "Aurelia" is on display for all to see how the RNLI volunteers
face the elements.