It was for centuries an important mining town but it was a discovery in the mid 18th century that really put the town on the map.
William Cookworthy, a chemist from Devon, discovered massive deposits of kaolin (a form of decomposed granite), or china clay in the area. The mineral is used in not only the production of porcelain but a whole host of industries including paper, pharmecuticals and textiles. The extraction of china clay became the mainstay of local industry and accelerated the growth of the town from the eighteenth century onwards. One estimate puts the value of the industry at the time at around £15 billion in today's money.
Perhaps the towns biggest draw these days is it's proximity to the mighty Eden Project, only 2 miles away. Eden is now, without doubt, the most popular single tourist attraction in Cornwall. Interestingly enough the biomes were built in an old china clay pit. There has been much written about the environmental and righteous motives of the Eden Project, however there is plenty of evidence to the contrary along with the fact that it has certainly increased traffic in the area!
Although the town itself has little to offer the visitor, it does provide an ideal centre for some of the loveliest beaches in Cornwall. In fact the coast here is sometimes referred to as the Cornish Riviera.
St Austell’s port is the lovely harbour of Charlestown, where you will frequently see old sailing ships. The port has been used as a film location for numerous films and television series, such as Poldark, and there is a small museum open during the season.
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