The people of the Hayle community welcomed us as Cousins during our twelve months stay among them. I was invited to preach in other churches beyond our own Methodist Church and the Mayor of that time still corresponds with us.
Hayle has a colourful history. The old industrial town boarders the tidal estuary of the Hayle River that feeds into St Ives Bay. Once a major port on the rough north coast of Cornwall.
Many of the missionary Saints from Ireland landed at Hayle and were followed by pilgrims who, escaping the rough waters of Lands End trekked across land to St Michael’s Mount, then across the Channel to Brittany. Then there was the story of John Wesley almost drowning at Hayle when in his hurry to get to St Ives, and against the advice of a sea captain, he ordered his coach to cross the Estuary at half tide.
In its heyday Hayle was a major Port on the rough north coast employing up to 2,500 workers. In the 1700’s, hundreds of mules carted ore from the mine sites along narrow tracks to Hayle. Copperhouse on the eastern side of Hayle (where, according to an old Will one of my relatives lived), was named after its smelting works processing copper and tin. John “Merchant” Curnow was a wealthy trader who built the first Quay in the harbour in times when copper ore was exported and timber and coal were imported. Hayle was built around industrial infrastructure and an early rail terminus with a viaduct crossing the town and harbour.
Later Copperhouse became an established Foundry, (the Cornish Copper Company) while at the other end of town Harvey’s Foundry was established. Great rivalry between the Foundries divided the town not only in terms of the production of large scale machinery but also in terms of who controlled the water in the harbour. Harvey’s Foundry extended into ship building and became well known around the world. In fact the 6 inch cylinder engine installed at Hughes Pump House Kadina was made in Hayle in 1863 like many others.
Today the industrial heart of Hayle has gone. When it comes to development, Hayle with its industrial history and working class terrace houses has found it difficult to compete alongside its more popular tourist cousins of Penzance and St Ives. All that remains is Foundry Square, the shell of the old Foundry buildings and a derelict harbour used by fishermen that at low tide we sometimes found embarrassing to show our international guests. Thankfully now it appears the tide may be turning for the better.
It’s not the harbour but the advertised “three miles of golden sands” that stretches up the coast to Gwithian that attracts the crowds from “up country”. The Hayle Towans (Sand –dunes) provide a unique feature in the old country that draws people from miles around.
Now with a range of exciting projects that will drive regeneration Hayle is about to find a new future. Wave Hub is a £20 million ground breaking renewal energy project that will harness wave power. Hayle Harbour Master Plan will also provide 870 new homes and cost £175 million. New streetscaping and re modeling at Copperhouse will cost £50,000. The refurbishing of Harvey’s Foundry Offices is about to take place costing £4.6 million. These projects alone will provide work for 2,300 people and it appears the town is on course to re claim something of its former glory.
E A Curnow