Port of Hayle.  HES.
 

 


Hayle
 
[location map] [historic landscapes] [GIS mapping]


Located on the north Cornish coast within the beautiful natural setting of the Hayle Estuary, the area has been a focus for settlement and maritime trade since prehistory. From at least the mid 18th century it developed into one of the County's main industrial ports, serving surrounding mines and becoming home to the Cornish Copper Company and two of Cornwall's three largest iron foundries. Internationally renowned for the scale of their work and the breadth of their engineering expertise, these rival companies (Copperhouse Foundry and Harvey's Foundry) were largely responsible for the expansion of Hayle during the 19th century, when the twin settlements of Copperhouse and Foundry developed side by side. Despite both having ceased operation by 1903, Hayle continued to be a thriving port until the Second World War, when it served as a base for building ships and guns and producing bromide for aviation fuel. Though experiencing decline in the post war years it was active until the 1960s, but commercial shipping ceased in 1977, and the harbour now only supports a small fishing fleet. Some small-scale industrial activities continue, but the town is no longer an important industrial centre.

Hayle was home to two of the three largest early 19th century mine engine foundries in the world (Harvey's 1779-1903 and Copperhouse 1820-1869) - Harvey's helped produce the largest steam engines ever built anywhere. It was the workplace and meeting place of some of the most famous steam engine engineers: Richard Trevithick, Arthur Woolf. It was also the port of departure for more mine engines to the world's orefields than anywhere else and was synonymous with innovation, quality and reliability. Hayle was the only industrial port to cater equally for the export of non-ferrous minerals as well as engineering products. Most other significant mineral ports outside Cornwall have developed beyond their original function and are no longer so clearly defined as Hayle. The port was part of a unique vertical company network whereby very often the same families and individuals owned the mines, the mineral railways, the ports and the South Wales Copper smelters and in some cases the ships and coalfields as well and the town displays the commercial and, consequently, legal struggle between two great rival concerns - Harvey's at Penpol and Carnsew and first the copper company and then the Copperhouse foundry at Copperhouse. The morphology and character of the town today is the result of this often bitter rivalry. Finally, the range of other industries is unusual in such a relatively small town - large scale milling, baking, brewing, ropemaking, chemical manufacture, explosives (one of the 3 largest explosives works in Britain before the First World War).

Despite the demolition of much of Copperhouse Foundry and key elements of Harvey's, as an historic industrial town and port, Hayle is still largely intact. Much of its harbour infrastructure survives, together with key industrial and public buildings, and a good range of workers' housing, villas and early shop fronts. Hayle is a settlement of unique character and great historical significance, contained within a landscape of equal merit.

The historical significance of Hayle has been assessed as part of the Cornwall Industrial Settlements Initiative.

 
 

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