Charlestown is one of the most picturesque of Cornwall’s many harbours. Now well known as a set for film and television productions, perhaps most famously in the BBC’s Poldark, it was once a fishing village and a busy port from which ships sailed with their cargo to destinations across the globe.
But don’t ask me about the history of this fascinating place – ask a true native! Lyndon ‘Sid’ Allen was born in Charlestown and he has recently begun taking visitors on history walking tours. He invited me to tag along . . .
Sid, (everyone started calling him that after his teenage punk phase, he dressed like Sid Vicious apparently) is a former boatbuilder and fisherman who is truly passionate about the village he grew up in. And it is little wonder seeing as his family have lived and worked in Charlestown for countless generations, since its very beginnings he says.
He knows every twist and turn of the village’s history because he has been gathering its stories for more than 40 years, stories passed down to him by his relations and elders of the village no longer with us, as well as information he has gleaned from his vast collection of books, papers and old photographs.
“A great deal of this detailed, painstaking research he’s now been able to store electronically, but the people who know him well, know that most of it is stored in his head. His memory for events, dates, the names of people and their jobs and where they lived, the names of ships and their crews and cargoes is quite extraordinary.”Malcolm Neill, Foreword to Sid’s Book, Charlestown Tide & Time
As Sid guides you around the quiet lanes and harbour side, pointing out house after house and relaying some interesting episode, you realise that there is not a building or event that has happened here that he is not familiar with – sometimes because he has lived it himself or perhaps knew someone else who did.
Sid has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Charlestown’s history and a drive to preserve and disseminate it. From the Rashleigh family and the earliest days of the port to the china clay industry, from war time bombings to the various film stars this place has attracted, Sid has an anecdote to share.
He has a wonderful way of bringing the past alive, which is a gift, and in just an hour I learnt more about Charlestown than I ever have before on the many occasions that I have visited over the past 30 years or so. I will never look at the harbour in the same way again!
Taking a Tour
If you are visiting Charlestown and have an hour or so to spare I highly recommend you take the opportunity to join one of Sid’s tours. The pace is relaxed and friendly, there is a lot to take in! It is an easy walk which would suit all ages but especially those interested in local history or wanting to get more out of their time in Charlestown.
At just £10 per person I think its a bargain! Tours run Monday to Friday at 10.30 am ,12.00 pm, 1.30pm and finally 4pm. Please book early to avoid disappointment.
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AUTHOR’S NOTE – I was not paid for this review, I did receive a free tour but all opinions are my own.