Cask banks


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
The cask banks are situated to the north of the inner basin at Charlestown harbour. NGRs centred: SX0388051757, SX0386651727, SX0385251706.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
The cask banks are situated to the north of the inner basin at Charlestown harbour. NGRs centred: SX0388051757, SX0386651727, SX0385251706.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Austell Bay
National Grid Reference:


Three cask banks; the north built around 1850 and the middle and southern around 1908.

Reasons for Designation

The cask banks at Charlestown are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest * for their practical but well-built construction, including the triangular indents to allow easier unloading and loading from wagons; * as a visual reminder of the china-clay industry in Charlestown.

Historic interest * as part of the integrated china-clay process from extraction to export; * for their relationship to the industrial development of Charlestown.

Group value * for their visual and functional connection to the Grade II* listed harbour.


The village of Charlestown was developed from two farms, Higher and Lower Polmear, between 1792 and 1823 under the direction of Charles Rashleigh of Menabilly. The deep-water harbour, conceived by John Smeaton in 1792, was the export-focus of the principal industries in the area: copper mining, china-clay and stone extraction and pilchard fishing. Copper and clay were heavy products with no end use in the county, so they were exported by sea to South Wales and the Staffordshire Potteries respectively, and pilchards exported to Catholic Mediterranean countries. Coal was needed for the china-clay drying process and so this was imported to the harbour. The harbour included a breakwater and outer harbour and an inner wet dock, and at the same time a seven-mile leat was constructed to bring in water from the Luxulyan Valley to fill the wet dock and scour the harbour. After Rashleigh’s death in 1823, Charlestown was taken over by the Crowder family in 1825. Much of the Charlestown’s infrastructure as it survives today was completed after this date, including the northern extension of the inner basin in 1871 and two china clay dries at the north and south ends of the settlement in 1906-1908.

China clay was dried where it was quarried inland to the north of St Austell. Its export from Charlestown for the ceramics industry occurred as early as 1780, and a record from 1824 noted that it was packed in small barrels and carried to the harbour on carts. In the later C19 the inland quarries ranged from small pits such as at Carluddon to large expanses such as at Wheal Martyn, but each had its own range of settling tanks and drying pans for the clay slurry. Once dried, the clay was broken into blocks for export. Charlestown was not included in the expanded railway network, and so remained the principal location for shipping dried china-clay destined for the ceramic industry. The clays required for ceramics needed to be as pure as possible, and at the harbour there was the potential for them to over-handled or become contaminated with coal dust. These dried china-clay blocks were therefore packed into casks at the point of production and brought by horse-drawn wagon to Charlestown. On arrival the casks were loaded onto a low bank to the north-east of the inner basin until they were loaded onto ships. The use of casks instead of shipping in bulk added to the cost, but initially these finer clays were for the higher-end producers such as Wedgewood and Spode, who were, ultimately, willing to pay more.

Two new china clay dries – Carbean and Lovering’s – were opened in Charlestown itself between 1906 and 1908. Lovering’s dry regularly produced up to 450 tonnes of clay a week, much of which was shipped as loose ‘bulk’ blocks for industries such as paper making, and was generally a lower grade. That which was not immediately loaded onto ships via the tunnel and chute system from Lovering’s dry, was held in a new store (or cellar) to the north of the inner basin on the southern part of the cask bank, along with product from the inland dries. Dried clay in casks continued to be brought from the inland quarries to the harbour for the ceramic industry, but the construction of the store reduced the amount of space for casks on the bank. Therefore, and probably as an act of appeasement for the inland producer-driers, new cask banks were constructed in an open area to the west of the store.

These cask banks are shown in historic photos from the first decades of the C20 (including the 1913 Clay Workers’ Strike), but are first shown on an Ordnance Survey map in the 1930s; this shows three roughly-triangular areas to the north of the inner basin, and the triangular tip of the 1850s bank to the north of the clay store. The ‘new’ casks banks were built to make it as easy as possible to load and unload from the wagons, with triangular indents for the wagon to back-into for this purpose and also to avoid blocking the road for other traffic.

The western bank was removed in the late-C20 to provide a small roundabout (the stones from the bank’s walls were apparently used in its construction).


Three cask banks; the north built around 1850 and the middle and southern around 1908.

The cask banks comprise raised roughly-triangular areas with retaining stone walls approximately 800mm high. They are located to the north of the inner harbour with the southern bank directly to its north; the central bank acting as a focal green space; and the north bank is located directly to the north of a former 1908 clay store (now the Shipwreck Treasure Museum). The walls to the northern cask bank are constructed of a mix of slate stone and granite rubble and are capped with concrete; the east wall has probably been altered. The central cask bank walls are granite rubble with concrete capping, and at the south and north corner of the raised bank are areas of cobblestones. On its south side is an indented equilateral triangle roughly 2.5m deep. The southern cask bank has granite rubble walls with stone and concrete capping, but the north side is level with the road and has a granite-block kerb. There are areas of cobblestones at the east and west corners. The bank also has two triangular-shaped indents on the south side, roughly 2m to 2.5m deep. The cobbled areas on the banks are later-C20 and used for the display of historic objects such as anchors.


Books and journals
Stengelhofen, J, 'Report of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Truro' in Archaeological Journal, (1973), 276-280
Cornish Memory: Circular photograph of seven people in Charlestown during 1913 strike - barrels and wagons of clay in background , accessed 15/09/2020 from
Morrab Library Photographic Archive: Loading China Clay from Carts & Chute to Ship , accessed 15/09/2020 from
Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Charlestown: historical and archaeological assessment, 1998
Historic England, Charlestown: Cornish Ports and Harbours, 2016
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1907) (1:2500)
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1930s) (1:2500)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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