Portreath - meaning 'sandy cove' or 'beach' lies approximately 4 miles from Redruth on the rugged north Cornwall coast in the Red River Valley. The valley takes it's name from the colour of the river containing tin and copper from the mines upstream until 1933.
At Portreath there is a lovely large sandy beach with a stream running down to the sea (formerly the Red River). The beach is very popular with families and like many beaches on the north Cornish coast Portreath is also very popular with surfers. At low tide there are rock pools to explore and a fairly large natural swimming pool in the rocks. Gull Rock sits majestically in the sea and a variety of sea birds have made it their home.
Portreath has a very rich and important history spanning more than four centuries, but the name 'Portreath' was first recorded as a place name back in 1485.
- As far back as 1602 there are records which indicate that Tin Streaming took place in the Portreath Valley.
- In 1713 a quay was built at Amy's Point to serve the small-scale mining in the area.
- In 1760 the harbour was laid out to import coal for the Tin & Copper mines around Redruth and Gwennap, also exported ore to the coalfields and copper smelters of South Wales.
- In 1782 the new harbour was defended by two small batteries built on sites to the north and south sides.
- In 1846 the harbour was extended with the laying of a new basin and slipway. The 'Pepperpot' day-mark on the north cliff of the harbour was built which also served as a coastguard lookout.
- In 1803 the Pilchard Palace (fish cellars) to support the active fishing fleet. Part of its remains are now incorporated into the current Waterfront Inn.
- From 1809 to 1819 the horse-drawn Poldice Plateway was built from Portreath to Crofthandy (south of Scorrier).
- In 1827 Portreath was described as Cornwall's most important port, but by 1830 there were signs of a fall in trade.
- In 1832 copper was still being collected from the beach.
- In 1838 the Incline was built to connect the port to the Hayle Railway (a mineral line) and the Camborne mines which revitalised the port trade.
- Fishing and boat building continued to be important secondary activities.
- In the 1860's further extensions to the harbour were made. Shipbuilding became important during this period and part of the pilchard cellars courtyard was demolished or converted for the new slips and ship yard.
- By 1855 Devoran and Hayle became the preferred outlet for the major mining areas, and the Poldice Plateway fell into disrepair. Coal importing then became the primary activity in the harbour.
- By 1841 Portreath had become more urban with increasing respectability - more professional and middle class inhabitants resulting in the building of the church (1841), Portreath Hotel (1856), Methodist Chapel (1858), Basset Arms (1878) and the School (1880).
- In 1878 it was recorded that there was a cholera outbreak in the village, brought in by foreign sailors, which is supposed to have wiped out almost the entire population of Portreath.
- In 1880 the Poldice Plateway was dismantled as the St Day mines failed. The Bain Shipping Company had turned to Steamers with a consequent decline in the traditional shipbuilding trades.
- There was an increase in Tin Streaming which now took place at the beach end of the stream as well as by the school, with the founding of The Portreath Streamworks Company 1887.
- There was somw tourism but the harbour and tin streaming tainted the sea and beach, and Portreath suffered in competition with Porthtowen and Gwithian.
- By the beginning of the 20th century, Portreath had begun to develop as a resort with houses and small chalets appearing along the sea cliffs and slopes.
- The local seine fishery ended when the pilchard shoals deserted the north coast of Cornwall.
- Tin Streaming continued until 1933, when the Red River was diverted to the north of Portreath so as to clean up the beach, leaving only the small stream now running through the village.
- The harbour and railway continued working up until the Second World War, mostly carrying coal, but with continuing decline in industrial and commercial activity - the railway closed during the war.
- The moorland on Nancekuke Common was taken over and made into an airfield during World War 2.
- In 1946, Portreath was essentially a holiday and residential village.
- By the end of the 1960's, the harbour ceased to function commercially and the once extensive quays and yards were developed for housing.
- By the 1990's the airbase also had been closed, with only minimal early warning radar function remaining.
As listed in
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Listed on Cream of Cornwall
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