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Hayle, Cornwall, England
I was born at Carnell Green, Hayle, Cornwall.
Hayle (Cornish: Heyl) is a small town, civil parish and cargo port in the Penwith district of Cornwall, UK. The parish was created in 1888 from part of the now defunct Phillack parish, with which it was later combined in 1935, and incorporated part of St Erth in 1937. The modern parish shares boundaries with St Ives to the west, St Erth to the south, Gwinear and Gwithian in the east, and is bounded to the north by the Celtic Sea. The town, whose name derives from the Cornish heyl, meaning estuary, is situated at the southern end of St Ives bay on the estuary of the Hayle River, approximately 6 miles south-east of the town of St Ives by road.
Although there is a long history of settlement in the Hayle Estuary area dating from the Bronze Age, the modern town of Hayle was built predominantly during the 18th century industrial revolution. Evidence of Iron Age settlement exists at the fort on the hill above Carnsew Pool where the Plantation now stands. It is thought that Hayle, was an important centre for the neolithic tin industry, trading not only Irish and Breton people, but also the Phoenicians of the eastern Mediterranean. Evidence of this comes from finds of imported pottery including Romano/Grecian Amphora - containers for wine and oil.
Although the Romans never fully conquered Cornwall they did, perhaps, have a presence in the Hayle Estuary, and it is thought that the rectangular churchyard at St. Uny's Church, Lelant on the western shore of the estuary is built within the outline of a Roman fort.
In those times the estuary looked a lot different from that of today. It appears that estuary was deeper and it was possible for boats to go up the River Hayle as far as where St. Erth Bridge is now situated. Also, the tide used to flow in and out of what is now Foundry Square in the town, and at Gwithian reached inland some considerable distance toward Connor Downs.
The departure of the Romans opened the doors for an influx of Christian missionaries, most of whom seem to have had Irish origins and after whom many Cornish towns take their present name.
A number of inscribed stones from this period have been found in the area. Two early stones have been found at Phillack, one bearing a 'Constantine' form of a Chi-Rho cross which may date to the 5th Century. The most noteworthy inscribed stone is one uncovered during the construction of a road in the grounds of Carnsew, and is now set into a bank at The Plantation, a public park.
The stone was discovered in December 1843 by workmen, lying in a horizontal position at the depth of four feet. When the stone was moved it broke into three parts. A Mr Harvey had it fixed into the wall of his path on Carnsew cliff, within a few feet of the spot where it was discovered, and added the a more recent replica which lies next to it, where it has remained since. The stone bears an inscription in Latin, but is now unreadable. The version that appears on the replica is translated as "Here Cenui fell asleep who was born in 500. Here in his tomb he lies, he lived 33 years." However, in her discussion of this inscription Elisabeth Okasha passes over this transcription in silence, and mentions only three early drawings of this inscription and the results of more recent inspections, then tentatively offers her translation: "Here in peace has rested Cunatdo [or Cunaide]. Here he lies in the tomb. He lived for 33 years."
The lives of Saint Samson and Saint Petroc report that both saints arrived in Cornwall at the Hayle Estuary, indicating that it was an established port at least by the sixth century. While physical and documentary evidence indicates that the port continued to be of importance through the Middle Ages, it was the industrial revolution that saw the town and port of Hayle grow to resemble the town as seen today.
The Domesday survey in 1086 shows that the town of Hayle was still to establish itself. The manor of Conardition is recorded as including the Hayle Estuary with the manor centred on Conerton, close to the present day village of Gwithian at its centre. It is from Conerton that the name of the present day settlement of Connor Downs is derived. A number of scattered farmsteads are recorded but no substantial settlement. By the 13th century Conerton was owned by the Arundel family until it was sold to the Cornish Copper Company in the early 1800s.
The first documentary evidence of any settlements around the Hayle Estuary is in 1130 when Phillack Church and surrounding building were recorded as "Egloshayle", meaning the church (eglos) on the estuary (heyl), with the church being dedicated originally to St. Felec (as appears in a 10th century Vatican codex), from where it is believed the name Phillack was derived. At some point in the 17th century, Felec (a male) was mistaken for Saint Felicitas of Rome (a female).
The first recorded mention of Hayle proper is in 1265 but it would seem even then the settlement was little more than a few dwellings and scattered farms.
Hayle was initially a coal importing and ore exporting port but Hayle was initially dwarfed by nearby Angarrack, where a tin smelter was built in 1704 and mills and stamps converted/constructed to process the ore. Hayle's role was simply to serve as a convenient point to land coal from South Wales, which was then taken to Angarrack by mule. In 1710 a copper and tin smelter was built at Mellanear Farm on the Mellanear stream which prospered for many years
Perhaps the first major development at Hayle was the construction of the first modern quay by John "Merchant" Curnow, in the 1740s, to service the growing mining industry. In 1758 the Cornish Copper Company (CCCo) moved from Camborne and set up a copper smelter at Ventonleague (Copperhouse Creek) and this proved very successful, so much so that a canal was built to bring vessels right up to the works and additional land was purchased on both sides of the creek for industrial use and providing housing for the workers.
The smelting process generated large amounts of waste. The copper slag was cast into large heavy dark bricks or "Scoria Blocks" which were to prove a very useful building material which were used and re-used in the town and can be seen in many buildings. The blocks were sold at 9d (about 3p) for 20 and given free to employees of the CCCo to build their own houses. Sea Lane or Black Road (and Black Bridge) as it is now known was built using these and waste used to fill in the upper reaches of Copperhouse Creek creating Wilson's Pool and dividing it from Copperhouse Pool. Copperhouse Pool was subsequently modified to serve as a tidal reservoir both to allow ships to travel up as far as the dock, (where the Co-op supermarket now stands), and to flush or sluice the channel to keep it clear of sand and silt.
In 1779 John Harvey, a blacksmith from nearby Carnhell Green, established a small foundry and engineering works in the area, now known as Foundry, to supply the local mining industry. The business flourished and by 1800 employed more than 50 people. It went from strength to strength through both professional and family partnerships with a series of great engineers and entrepreneurs, including Richard Trevithick, William West and Arthur Woolf, giving the firm a level of expertise unmatched in Cornwall. The firm of Harvey & Co is probably best remembered for producing beam engines, considered as some of the finest ever built, which not only served in Cornish mines but were exported worldwide. It also produced a range of products ranging from hand tools to ocean going ships, including the SS Cornubia and the world's first steam-powered rock boring machine.
As Harvey's and the Cornish Copper Company continued to thrive, the rivalry between the two grew into open hostility. Disputes regularly erupted over access to the sea as The Cornish Copper Company controlled the dock and the tidal sluice which they had built at Copperhouse. Harveys acted to break the Cornish Copper Company's monopoly by constructing their own harbour by deepening Penpol Creek and building a dock. They even constructed their own tidal reservoir and sluice by creating Carnsew Pool. Harvey's operated a "Company Store policy" forcing workers to buy their provisions from Harvey's Emporium and prohibiting the development of any independent shops. When this policy was finally brought to an end a number of shops quickly established. These so called "Garden Shops" were built in the front gardens of existing buildings, and are still evident in modern Hayle.
Prior to 1825 anyone wanting to go from Hayle to St Ives or Penzance either had to cross the sands of Hayle Estuary, or had to make a significant detour crossing the River Hayle at the ancient St Erth Bridge. Guides took travellers across the sands, but even with guides it was sometimes a perilous journey and the shifting sand and racing tide claimed several lives. Recognising this major obstacle to trade a turnpike trust was formed, with Henry Harvey a trustee, to build the causeway which now takes the road below the plantation west to the Old Quay House. Costing £5000 in 1825, the investors charged a toll to use the causeway to recover their costs.
As Hayle’s prosperity grew the foundry and smelter owners invested in the nearby mining industry. There was relativity little mining in and around Hayle itself, with Wheal Alfred and Wheal Prosper (near Gwithian), being the only mine of any note, the nearest significant mines being around Helston. As Hayle's involvement in the mining industry around Helston grew it eventually reached the point in 1833 that it replaced Helston as the local coinage (Stannary) town, although this was short-lived as the Stannary system was abolished in 1838.
1837 saw the opening of the Hayle-Redruth Railway. Designed from the outset to carry both goods and passengers the Hayle Railway's terminus was in Foundry Square under the present viaduct. Steam was introduced onto the Hayle Section in 1843 but the construction of the railway meant that only light engines could be used, whilst the incline at Angarrack also remained a problem. In 1852 a new railway was opened spanning the Valley at Angarrack with an impressive viaduct and passing through Hayle on a new wooden supports over Foundry Square which were later replaced with the current stone pillars. The Harbour Branch line was closed in 1982 and the station buildings and signal box were demolished at the same time.
The original station in Foundry Square remained until after the Second World War when it was demolished. The area was later converted into the RNLI "Isis" garden to commemorate the first Hayle Lifeboat, of which the town was very proud.
Harvey's of Hayle reached their peak in the early/mid 1800s, but along with the other foundries and engineering works in Hayle began a long and slow decline. Harvey's acquired the Cornish Copper Company in 1875 but the downturn continued. The engineering works and Foundry were closed in 1903 though the company continued to trade as general and builders merchant, eventually merging with UBM to become Harvey-UBM in 1969.
In 1888 the National Explosive works were established on Upton Towans (giving it the alternative name "Dynamite Towans"). Originally built to supply the local mining industry it soon grew to supply the military, and during the First World War employed over 1500 people. The remote location on the Towans proved a wise move as there were a number of accidents resulting in explosions.
October 20, 1860
July 30, 1864