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The Lost Port of Pentewan

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2005

Pentewan Village - Ship Inn

Harbour looking towards gates.

Inner Harbour

Railway weighbridge.

Dock gates.

Railway ship loading structure

The Port of Pentewan near St Austell was developed by Sir Charles Hawkins for shipping china clay and ores from the nearby clay works and mines. The port was opened in 1826.

The Port of Pentewan was linked to St. Austell by the narrow gauge freight only Pentewan Railway which opened in 1829.

At first the line was operated by horses, steam locomotion was introduced in 1872. By 1885 the port was the fourth largest in terms of china clay shipped.

Unfortunately Pentewan lost its battle with silt which had always been a serious problem. Much of this material was brought down by the nearby White River from the china clay district upstream.

The railway closed at the end of WWI though road transport continued to bring clay to the port until 1929 when the last china clay carrying ship sailed.

However, part of the railway in the area of the harbour was rebuilt and reopened to serve a sand extraction and block making works. Sand and block shipments ended in 1940. Though the railway continued to serve sand and block works until it closed in the 1960s.

Though the last ship to call at Pentewan sailed in 1940 after which the harbour entrance channel steadily silted up, water remains in the dock itself. The attractive village retains  a typical small Cornish sea port feel.

Had the entrance channel not silted and the port closed it is probable that it would have become a haven for small craft. However, the harbour and narrow gauge railway remains make it a "must visit" location for both the maritime and railway enthusiast.

The photographs on this page were taken on the afternoon of February 16, 2005.

Pier, silted approach channel left.

Silted approach channel

Dock gate windlass

Engine shed - now used by local gig rowing club

Dock Gates

Railway track work

Dock gate windlass


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