Hayle Town Trail

This walk combines the two main commercial centres of Hayle – Copperhouse and the Foundry joined by a walk along Copperhouse Pool by way of the King George V Memorial Walk. A walk that combines an insight into the rich heritage of Hayle with an opportunity to enjoy the flora and birdlife at Copperhouse Pool.

Foundry building, Hayle
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Foundry building, Hayle

Foundry Square and its buildings marked the central hub of the famous engineering firm Harvey and Co that once employed nearly a thousand workers, making Cornish Beam Engines for  mines all over the world.

All around you are buildings related to the firm – Lloyds Bank was once the Foundry Market House where workers who were paid in tokens, used these to buy their food and goods here and in the Emporium nearby. Opposite is Harvey’s Office and Counting House containing a steel- lined strong room built to protect the company’s takings. Specially designed cast iron columns hold up the floor of this heavyweight room! This building, easily recognised by its clock tower, is now the Foundry Trust Office.

Hayle Viaduct
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Hayle Viaduct

Standing majestically across this square is the Viaduct, originally built in wood and masonry piers in 1852 and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The present viaduct was rebuilt in 1883-6 in granite and is 841 feet long, 34 feet high and has 37 spans. The site of the original railway station (built before the viaduct), is now a lovely public garden named after Isis, Hayle’s first lifeboat.

Unusual tiling on a building that was once a butcher' class=
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Unusual tiling on a building that was once a butcher’s shop , Hayle.

Proceed under the viaduct following the grassy area beside Penpol Creek, where numerous boats are moored.  On the opposite side is Penpol Terrace, a solid Victorian Terrace with shop fronts built in the front gardens. Harvey and Co were eventually forced by law to allow trading to take place outside of their Emporium, the lack of available space meaning that shop fronts were built directly in front of the existing houses.

One shop front stands out from the rest – Carnsew Gallery; originally a butcher’s shop with a wonderful tiled mosaic depicting a bull’s head.

The bend in the road is ‘Pickle Jar’ Corner. Here it was possible at low tide to cross to the Lelant Saltings by five different track ways. Each was marked by granite or wooden posts to avoid the quick sands, thus granting travellers safe passage across the Estuary.

“Pickle Jar” Corner derives its name from the local practice of putting a wooden plank on  empty earthenware pickling jars and using them as seats during Carnival and Feast Day parades.
The Royal Standard Inn marked the boundary between Harvey and Co and the other main landowner of the town; the Cornish Copper Company.

By the turn of the century this company had a workforce of over 1400, not only involved in copper smelting and export but also in the import of coal, timber, limestone, iron and other goods into Hayle.

The Royal Standard  is a very early Inn and was once called ‘Passage House’, named after a tunnel that was built under the South Quay in 1818 by Harvey & Co. Before the building of Hayle Causeway and the A30 turnpike road, travellers to St Ives and Penzance would have to ford the sands to Lelant and the Inn would serve their creature comforts while they awaited the right tidal conditions to cross.

Cornish Copper Company Boundary stone at Lethlean Bridge Hayle
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Cornish Copper Company Boundary stone at Lethlean Bridge Hayle

There was much rivalry between the two companies in boundary disputes, the use of the quays and the River Hayle’s exit to the sea and also fierce competition over trade. One night this degenerated into a battle, resulting in many injuries.

The military at Marazion were sent to break up the fighting and, whilst they dealt with the employees, the two directors of the foundries spent many hours arranging a peace treaty!

This rivalry led to the development of two almost separate communities with their own facilities at each end of the town which can still be seen today in the layout of the town.

If you were a Copperhouse boy woe betide you if you dared to fall in love with a Harvey girl! As you explore, keep a look out for granite posts with ‘H’ on one side and ‘CCC’ on the other, erected to show the boundaries of land ownership between the foundries.   The posts with just H on them were installed at a later date when the Harvey foundry bought some of Copperhouse’s land after its foundry closed.

Continue around this corner and turn left towards the town Swimming Pool, crossing over the Swing Bridge. A Drawbridge was originally built in 1837, replaced in 1880 by the Swing Bridge, one of only 3 cantilever bridges built by GWR to carry the road and the Wharves Branch line linking the Hayle railway to the main line.

The bridge used to be raised and rotated to allow the passage of seagoing vessels along the canal as far as Copperhouse.

Copperhouse Pool is a haven for wildlife in the centre of Hayle
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Copperhouse Pool is a haven for wildlife in the centre of Hayle

The Customs House on your left was built in 1862 and is now used as offices for the Hayle Harbour Company.

It has the date 1862 carved into the lintel over the front door, and incised into the doorstep are the points of the compass used to calibrate the compasses of ships due to sail from port.

To your right is Copperhouse Pool. Our walk now follows this Pool along the King George V Memorial walk. This beautiful walk was purchased from the GWR and Harvey and Co to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. In 1952, as a gift to the people of Hayle from the Harvey family, a fine collection of specimen trees was planted beside the walk: these, along with beautiful flower borders, can now be fully appreciated in their maturity.

Copperhouse Pool is a RSPB Nature reserve as it plays host to a wide variety of wading and sea birds and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its rich industrial past. The pool, which was originally created as a canal to bring ships up to the smelting works, was later modified as a tidal reservoir to flush out silt and keep the canal navigable to ocean going vessels.

Nowadays the pool is a tranquil environment teeming with fish and wildlife and it is hard to imagine how different it must have once been.

Kingfisher, Hayle
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Kingfisher, Hayle photo by David Flum RSPB

This is the most westerly estuary in Britain and the milder climate attracts many birds in the winter months. Large flocks of Widgeon, Teal and Shelduck spend most of the winter feeding on the mudflats with the resident Swans. Small numbers of Goldeneye, Little Grebe and Coot also arrive from late October onwards.

Up to 3,000 Golden Plover and several hundred Lapwings spend the hours of low water resting on the Pool, together with Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers.

Flocks of Curlew come down from the moors to hunt along the tide-line, with tiny Sandlings and Turnstones for company. Snipe visit in very cold winters. Peregrines and Kestrels scour the estuary mud for weak birds and pigeons. Occasionally the bright flash of a Kingfisher can be spotted near the Swimming Pool or the Stepping Stones in front of the Copperhouse Dock.

Along the scoria wall flanking the north side of Copperhouse Pool is an abundance of wildflowers. Kidney vetch, Lucerne, Glasswort, Pale Flax and rarities such as Iivy Broomrape, Balm-leaved Figwort and Rosy Garlic can be found there, with many more colourful species, blooming around the Pool throughout the year.

Riviere Cottages, Hayle
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Riviere Cottages, Hayle

Towards the end of the Pool on your left is a pretty row of cottages, and these along with the nearby Lethlean Bridge create a picturesque backdrop used by many artists including Stanhope Forbes.

Take a right onto Black Road, built from the slag left over from copper smelting. This slag was also recycled to produce ‘scoria’ blocks for building. Anyone working for the Cornish Copper Company received these bricks free of charge for building their homes and you can see that there are many houses on this side of Hayle built in scoria block.

One example is the Black Bridge as you walk along Black Road. This bridge has odd sized arches. One arch had already been completed when Parson Hocking of Phillack complained that it was too low, citing an ancient law that entitled him right of passage to row under the bridge.

The second arch was built large enough to let his rowing boat pass!
A short detour onto the footpath opposite you before turning right onto Black Road, leads you to an attractive Granite clapper bridge. This bridge carried the Hayle railway single track over the creek and is said to be the oldest surviving railway bridge in Cornwall.

Our walk now returns to the main shopping street of Hayle. Carry on down Copper Terrace into Fore Street, a fine example of a 19th century main street with many original shop fronts. The Market House was latterly the offices of J. & F. Pool. Built in 1839, it is now a shopping arcade with flats above.

St Georges Hall, Hayle
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St Georges Hall, Hayle

A little further on, look out for an unusual terracotta and tile covered building called St Georges Hall. This was Hayle Cinema, dating from 1900 and one of the earliest to be built in Cornwall.

Continue past a long row of 19th Century terraced housing to The Cornish Arms. There is a Milestone in its car park, which dates from the mid 19th century, marking the coaching route to Penzance and Land’s End.

Opposite the Cornish Arms is a car park and at its western end you will find Hayle Library with an excellent local reference section.

As you continue along Commercial Road opposite the War Memorial stands Passmore Edwards Institute building. This imposing granite building was the last to be designed by Silvanus Travail as a centre for adult education for John Passmore Edwards, the Cornish Newspaper Editor and philanthropist, in 1893. Built in 1893 on land given to the town by the Harvey Family, the Institute was used for over 30 years by the Town Council and is now used by many local organisations.

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St Elwyn’s Church overlooks Copperhouse Pool in Hayle

At the point where Hayle Terrace merges with Penpol Terrace, the most prominent building in this area is St. Elwyn’s Church. This was one of the last buildings to be created by John B. Sedding, the designer of the Brompton Oratory. It was completed in 1888. The Church is open daily and has some very fine stained glass windows. The Church Hall just below the church precinct, dates from 1905.

Hayle Wharves trackbed, part of the town walk, Hayle
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Hayle Wharves trackbed, part of the town walk, Hayle

A short walk along, turn left, up the track-bed of the Hayle Wharves Railway Branch Line  which connected Hayle to the Main Line, and under The Quay Overbridge – a granite and iron structure dating from 1852.

This whole area has been landscaped by the Kerrier Groundwork Trust as an urban Nature Trail. A nature survey carried out here showed sightings of the Common Lizard, Slow worm, badger, hedgehog and fox.

Butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Small Copper and wild flowers including Purple and Yellow Toadflax, Rose-Bay Willow Herb and Bird’s-Foot Trefoil were found. At the top of this incline is Hayle Railway Station, now unmanned but formerly a busy station having engine sheds, a signal box and stables for the horses that worked on the Wharves Branch Line.

Turn right at the top of the incline and then left into the lane which runs under the railway bridge. Walk down Station Hill into Foundry Square to return to the start of the walk. Before finishing your walk take a look at the grand building on your left – Pratt’s Market which was once Foundry Chapel, built in 1845 – a large Wesleyan centre with an attached schoolroom for Foundry workers and their children. Inside you can now find shops providing a variety of local produce and services.

Town Trail
Towans Trail
Millponds Trail