Hayle Harbour Authority Operations Ltd. (HHAOL) is the Statutory Harbour Authority for Hayle Harbour pursuant to the Hayle Harbour Act 1989.

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Hayle (Cornish: Heyl, meaning estuary) is a small town, civil parish and cargo port in west Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.
It is situated at the mouth of the Hayle River (which discharges into St. Ives Bay) and is approximately seven miles (11 km) northeast of Penzance.

About Hayle

In the nineteenth century, the Port of Hayle was one of the most important mining ports in the world. Vast quantities of copper ore was shipped out to smelters in South Wales. Vast quantities of coal was brought back and then transported inland to power the mines. The process of 'copper out' and 'coal in' clearly required a sophisticated infrastructure. Some of the remains of this infrastructure can still be seen at Hayle Harbour and Quays. The Port of Hayle is part of the UNESCO Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

Hayle parish was created in 1888 from part of the now defunct Phillack parish, with which it was later combined in 1935, and incorporated part of St Erth in 1937. The modern parish shares boundaries with St Ives to the west, St Erth to the south, Gwinear and Gwithian in the east, and is bounded to the north by the Celtic Sea. Hayle's advantages as a commercial harbour have been its geography and geology.

Situated on the southern side of St Ives Bay, where the peninsula is narrow enough to move cargoes easily overland to the channel ports, it allowed traders to avoid the Western Approaches.

The estuary is formed by two tidal lakes, the Est Loe, fed by the Angarrack River, and Lelant Water to the south west fed by the Hayle River which funnel seaward through narrow Carnsew Channel over the potentially dangerous shoals of the Harbour Bar. At low water Copperhouse Pool dries out to a small river bed, while Carnsew has substantial tidal movement but retains water at all states of the tide. The tides can be very strong, and the unexpected surges, created by a heavy ground swell, build up on the Bar during bad weather are a navigational problem well known to even the earliest sailors. Once ships gained the inner estuary, however, they had a very safe anchorage.

Tin streaming began at least 4,000 years ago, and later mining activities from the 14th century to the 19th century deposited large quantities of silt in both pools. Urgent measures had to be taken when the foundries opened in the 18th century and trade began to increase to allow larger vessels to enter the port.

In 1768 a series of gates and tidal pools were built to control the silting by sluicing it out on the ebb tide. This was followed in 1791 by a deep water channel linking Copperhouse Dock to the harbour. Sixty vessels a month entered the port by 1832. This raised &pound1000 in port dues paid to St Ives but by 1862 after persistent lobbying Hayle was made a Statutory Port with its own Customs House Hayle has a rich historic heritage with many features recorded. Many of these relate to the industrial development of Hayle associated with mining, smelting foundries and the harbour.

The international significance of the historic heritage is recognised through the inclusion of the Port of Hayle in the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

Hayle Estuary supports a number of habitats and species of local and national importance. In particular it is renowned for its bird populations with more than 18,000 birds recorded in cold winters. Because of this, much of the estuary is notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). A significant area was bought by the RSPB in 1992 and is now an important bird reserve. The Estuary is surrounded by dynamic beaches and sand dunes, which are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Biodiversity Action Plan habitats.

On the estuary itself, there are over 15 recreational user groups whilst the harbour supports up to 140 boats (30 commercial) during the year. The use of the estuary by residents and visitors is increasing all the time. Co-operation between the various interest groups is helping to create a workable relationship between conservation, tourism and leisure activities contributing to a viable future for Hayle Harbour.

The majority of the Hayle Estuary is owned and managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve.

Hayle Harbour Authority Ltd. (HHAL) manages the harbour as a public harbour undertaking and is responsible for the tidal waters, harbour premises and the estuary byelaws.

Under the Hayle Harbour Act 1989, HHAL's work is informed by the Hayle Harbour Advisory Committee (HHAC), with members representing statutory and non-statutory interests and user groups.

The history of Hayle

Although there is a long history of settlement in the Hayle Estuary area dating from the Bronze Age, the modern town of Hayle was built predominantly during the 18th century industrial revolution. Evidence of Iron Age settlement exists at the fort on the hill above Carnsew Pool where the Plantation now stands. It is thought that Hayle, was an important centre for the neolithic tin industry, trading not only Irish and Breton people, but also the Phoenicians of the eastern Mediterranean. Evidence of this comes from finds of imported pottery including Romano/Grecian Amphorae - containers for wine and oil.

The Romans never fully conquered Cornwall but they did, perhaps, have a presence in the Hayle Estuary, and it is thought that the rectangular churchyard at St. Uny's Church, Lelant on the western shore of the estuary is built within the outline of a Roman fort. In those times the estuary looked a lot different from that of today. It appears that estuary was deeper and it was possible for boats to go up the River Hayle as far as where St. Erth Bridge is now situated; the tide used to flow in and out of what is now Foundry Square in the town, and at Gwithian reached inland some considerable distance toward Connor Downs. The departure of the Romans was followed by an influx of Christian missionaries, most of whom are said to have had Irish origins and after whom many Cornish towns take their present name.

Medieval Period

The Domesday survey, in 1086, shows that the town of Hayle was not yet in existence. The manor of Connerton ("Conarditone") is recorded as including the Hayle Estuary with the manor centred on Conerton, close to the present day village of Gwithian. This was held by the King and was the headmanor of the hundred of Penwith. It is from Conerton that the name of the present day settlement of Connor Downs is derived. A number of scattered farmsteads are recorded but no substantial settlement. By the 13th century, Conerton was owned by the Arundel family until it was purchased by the Cornish Copper Company in the early 19th century.

The first documentary evidence of any settlements around the Hayle Estuary is in 1130 when Phillack Church and surrounding dwellings were recorded as "Egloshayle", meaning the church (eglos) on the estuary (heyl), with the church being dedicated originally to St Felec (as appears in a 10th-century Vatican codex), from where it is believed the name Phillack was derived. At some point in the 17th century, Felec (a male) was mistaken for Saint Felicitas of Rome (a female).

The first recorded mention of Hayle proper is in 1265, but it would seem even then the settlement was little more than a few dwellings and scattered farms.

The Industrial Revolution

Hayle was initially a coal importing and ore exporting port but Hayle was initially dwarfed by nearby Angarrack, where a tin smelter was built in 1704 and mills and stamps converted/constructed to process the ore. Hayle's role was simply to serve as a convenient point to land coal from South Wales, which was then taken to Angarrack by mule. In 1710 a copper and tin smelter was built at Mellanear Farm on the Mellanear stream which prospered for many years.

Perhaps the first major development at Hayle was the construction of the first modern quay by John "Merchant" Curnow, in the 1740s, to service the growing mining industry. In 1758, the Cornish Copper Company (CCCo) moved from Camborne and set up a copper smelter at Ventonleague (Copperhouse Creek) and this proved very successful, so much so that a canal was built to bring vessels right up to the works and additional land was purchased on both sides of the creek for industrial use and providing housing for the workers.

The smelting process generated large amounts of waste. The copper slag was cast into large heavy dark bricks or "Scoria Blocks" which were to prove a very useful building material which were used and re-used in the town and can be seen in many buildings. The blocks were sold at 9d (about 3p) for 20 and given free to employees of the CCCo to build their own houses. Sea Lane or Black Road (and Black Bridge) as it is now known was built using these and waste used to fill in the upper reaches of Copperhouse Creek creating Wilson's Pool and dividing it from Copperhouse Pool. Copperhouse Pool was subsequently modified to serve as a tidal reservoir both to allow ships to travel up as far as the dock, (where the Co-op supermarket now stands), and to flush or sluice the channel to keep it clear of sand and silt.

In 1779 John Harvey, a blacksmith from nearby Carnhell Green, established a small foundry and engineering works in the area, now known as Foundry, to supply the local mining industry. The business flourished and by 1800 employed more than 50 people. It went from strength to strength through both professional and family partnerships with a series of great engineers and entrepreneurs, including Richard Trevithick, William West and Arthur Woolf, giving the firm a level of expertise unmatched in Cornwall. The firm of Harvey & Co is probably best remembered for producing beam engines, considered as some of the finest ever built, which not only served in Cornish mines but were exported worldwide. It also produced a range of products ranging from hand tools to ocean going ships, including the SS Cornubia and the world's first steam-powered rock boring machine.

As Harvey's and the Cornish Copper Company continued to thrive, the rivalry between the two grew into open hostility. Disputes regularly erupted over access to the sea as The Cornish Copper Company controlled the dock and the tidal sluice, which they had built at Copperhouse. Harveys acted to break the Cornish Copper Company's monopoly by constructing their own harbour by deepening Penpol Creek and building a dock. They even constructed their own tidal reservoir and sluice by creating Carnsew Pool. Harvey's operated a "Company Store policy" forcing workers to buy their provisions from Harvey's Emporium and prohibiting the development of any independent shops. When this policy was finally brought to an end a number of shops quickly established. These so-called "Garden Shops" were built in the front gardens of existing buildings, and are still evident in modern Hayle.

Prior to 1825 anyone wanting to go from Hayle to St. Ives or Penzance had to cross the sands of Hayle Estuary or make a significant detour crossing the River Hayle at the ancient St Erth Bridge. Guides took travellers across the sands, but, even with guides, it was sometimes a perilous journey and the shifting sand and racing tide claimed several lives. Because of this major obstacle to trade, a turnpike trust was formed, with Henry Harvey a trustee, to build the causeway, which now takes the road below the plantation west to the Old Quay House. Costing &pound5000 in 1825, the investors charged a toll to use the causeway to recover their costs.

As Hayle's prosperity grew the foundry and smelter owners invested in the nearby mining industry. There was relativity little mining in and around Hayle itself, with Wheal Alfred and Wheal Prosper (near Gwithian), being the only mine of any note, the nearest significant mines being around Helston. As Hayle's involvement in the mining industry around Helston grew it eventually reached the point in 1833 that it replaced Helston as the local coinage (Stannary) town, although this was short-lived as the Stannary system was abolished in 1838.

1837 saw the opening of the Hayle-Redruth Railway (see photo right). Designed from the outset to carry both goods and passengers the Hayle Railway's terminus was in Foundry Square under the present viaduct. Steam was introduced onto the Hayle Section in 1843 but the construction of the railway meant that only light engines could be used, whilst the incline at Angarrack also remained a problem. In 1852 a new railway was opened spanning the valley on the impressive Angarrack viaduct and passing through Hayle on a new wooden supports over Foundry Square, which were later replaced with the current stone pillars. The Harbour Branch line was closed in 1982 and the station buildings and signal box were demolished at the same time. The original station in Foundry Square remained until after the Second World War when it was demolished.


During the nineteenth century, shipbuilding became one of Hayle's most important industries, with Harvey and Co. dominating the scene. They built both barques and brigantines, paddle wheel and screw steamers. At first, in the years following 1834, they produced wooden sailing vessels for their own use, with frames built of local oak and planking from pine, imported from Norway and Canada. Later they began to build composite ships with iron frames and wooden planking. Harvey's first outside commission came in 1846 with the building of steam-driven iron tugs for the Rhine. From the early 1860s to the late 1880s, Harveys produced a large number of moderately sized iron ships and then, until shipbuilding ceased in 1893, the great steel ships, such as the "S.S. Ramleh". Harvey's of Hayle reached their peak in the early/mid-19th century but, along with the other foundries and engineering works in Hayle, began a long and slow decline. Harvey's acquired the Cornish Copper Company in 1875 but the downturn continued. The engineering works and Foundry were closed in 1903 though the company continued to trade as general and builders merchant, eventually merging with UBM to become Harvey-UBM in 1969.

The Cornish Copper Company also produced a few complete ships as well as supplying engines for existing vessels. The "Riviere", the ''Penair" and the "Margaret" were three iron schooners built by the company the last two in 1861 and 1866 respectively. In the 1860s there was another shipbuilding yard in Hayle owned by John Pool, but only three sailing ships can be identified as having originated from there. After the closure of Harvey's yard and foundry, various attempts were made to resuscitate the shipbuilding industry. During the First World War, Admiralty representatives visited Hayle to review the possibility of once again building ships on Harvey's premises. In the 1920s, machinery for barge and ship construction was installed but it was not until the Second World War that shipbuilding recommenced at Hayle with the building of D-day landing craft and defence vessels.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Hayle in 1866 (see photo right). A boathouse was built for it in 1897, but after it was closed in 1920, it was moved to a site near the power station where it was used as a store for about 60 years before being demolished. The first lifeboat was replaced in November 1887; the third and final boat, the Admiral Rodd arrived in 1906. A memorial to Hayle's volunteer lifeboat crews has been placed in the Isis Gardens beneath the viaduct on the site of the town's first railway station. In 1888, the National Explosive works were established on Upton Towans (giving it the alternative name "Dynamite Towans"). Originally built to supply the local mining industry, it soon grew to supply the military and, during theFirst World War, employed over 1500 people. The remote location on the Towans proved a wise move as there were a number of accidents resulting in explosions.


Many vessels plying the coastal trade, seeking shelter in a storm, or negotiating their way into Hayle harbour, have been stranded or wrecked on the notorious sandbank known as the "Hayle Bar". Schooners and brigantines, colliers and steam coasters have all been casualties.

Some ships to founder have been Hayle-owned vessels, like the brigantine-rigged collier "Bessie", veteran of the Bristol packet service, which struck at Lelant on her maiden voyage in 1866 and again in 1878. Others came from further afield, like the steamer "Drumhendry" of Glasgow, driven onto the sands under Black Cliff with ten tons of dynamite aboard. The crew of the lifeboat "Isis" made several successful rescues; in 1857, for example, bringing back the crew of the brig. "Glynn" wrecked off Lelant.

Even when regular sluicing was in operation, ships needed a fairly shallow draught and careful steering to be sure of safe entry to the harbour. Harvey's coaster "Hayle", (the third of that name), launched in 1693, had many scrapes before grounding off Black Cliff in 1913 and being nearly wrecked in a gale. Another coaster, the "Marena", known as the "steam submarine because of the concrete in her hull, hit the bar about once a year during the 1930s, while plying in and out of Hayle with coal for the Power Station.

The famous "Bessie" (see photo right) finally met her end in what was certainly the most devastating event in the history of St. Ives Bay wrecks: the notorious "Cintra Gale" of 1893. The "Cintra" was a Liverpool collier, one of the casualties of that fateful November 17th. The gale began the day before as a high ESE wind, veering round to WNW, to North and NNE in the course of the next thirty six hours. The "Cintra", seeking shelter in Carbis Bay was driven ashore with the loss of five crew. Another collier, the "Vulture", met a similar fate, and the "Rosedale", a screw steamer from London hit Porthminster Beach broadside. The "Bessie" and another gig, the "Boy Philip" began to break up off Gwithian. The "Bessie", sold by Harveys to James Richards of Penarth, four years previously, ended up gutted on the sands, minus both her funnel and main mast. The worst casualty of the gale, however, was the "Hampshire" of Glasgow, which sank with the loss of fifteen men, ten miles north of Godrevy.

Because of the ferocity of the storm, the St Ives and Hayle lifeboats were both helpless to assist. The next morning the beaches were strewn with wreckage and the remains of the colliers still lie buried in the sands of Carbis Bay.

The 20th century

Explosive manufacture ceased in 1920, although parts of the site were used as an explosives store until the 1960s. The area is now a nature reserve over which people are encouraged to roam.

1910 saw the opening of Hayle Power Station on Harvey's Towans (see photo right). It was coal-fired and the coal was supplied by ship from South Wales until the station was closed in 1977. At the same time Hayle Harbour was also closed to commercial shipping, although a locally important fishing fleet, specialising mainly in shellfish remained.

Until the early 20th century Hayle had two very distinct areas of settlement around the competing foundries but slowly buildings began to appear between the two communities. St Elwyn's Church, the Passmore Edwards Institute and a new Drill Hall all appeared within a few years of each other, and housing followed. The Passmore Edwards Institute was just one of a series of institutes and libraries built throughout Cornwall by its eponymous benefactor, who had made a fortune in the publishing business. The town council used it for offices for many years but moved to the Community Centre in April 2008.

In the years between the World Wars a number of small works were established on North Quay, including a glass works, a small oil depot and an ICI plant for producing bromine, a fuel additive for high-octane aviation fuel. This additive increased the power of aircraft such as Hurricanes, Spitfires, Lancasters and Mosquitoes. All are now closed and most of the buildings have been demolished. The metalworking business of J & F Pool, founded in 1862, survived in Copperhouse producing perforated and fabricated metal (see photo right). The engineering tradition continues with the more recent small specialist firms of Bassett Engineering and Rigibore which specialise in tooling and precision engineering products from the Guildford Road Industrial Estate. Rigibore provides tooling to a global market and offers revolutionary products for hole boring. Bassett Engineering offer a wide range of engineering services to the Ministry of Defence.

Hayle today

Hayle's position by the sea and its 3 miles of golden sandy beaches allowed it to develop as a holiday destination. Indeed, Hayle still has much holiday accommodation. The sand dunes or Towans are the favoured location for a number of holiday villages and caravan and camping sites. The Gwithian beach near Godrevy is not only picturesque but it is also a favoured area for water-related sports including surfing, windsurfing and body boarding.

Hayle Harbour development and regeneration

When Harvey & Co was bought by United Builders Merchants in 1969 it heralded a period of dramatic decline for Hayle harbour. In a period of 15 years, the port was closed to commercial traffic, the Harbour railway line was axed and the power station was mothballed.

The final blow came in 1983, when the harbour was auctioned off in 10 lots for redevelopment and was purchased by Tekoa who proceeded to clear the site. The Tekoa plans were presented but never agreed and by the time the scheme collapsed many of the items of historical interest were gone.

In 1994, Peter DeSavery's company Aldersgate presented plans but the scheme never came forward. Rosshill and Carruthers promoted plans in 1998 but once again they failed to materialise.

In 2004, ING Real Estate, an international property development company, became the owners of Hayle Harbour and started to purchase land within the immediate vicinity of their planned project area.

In April 2008, ING submitted an outline planning application to the planning department of Penwith District Council. As of November 2009, the granting of outline planning permission depended on the Section 106 Agreement being agreed.

In June 2010, ING committed to a legally binding agreement to pay for a large number of high cost items that have been put forward by the Environment Agency, Natural England, The Highways Agency and a number of other statutory bodies to bring significant improvement to Hayle and its surrounding areas.

In December 2010, ING submitted an application for a mixed-use redevelopment of South Quay and Foundry Yard. The application was approved by the Strategic Planning Committee in October 2011 and formally consented in June 2012.

The Financial commitments includes over &pound12 million of benefits payable by ING that relate to North Quay, South Quay and the Harbour.

In 2013, with the collaboration of Cornwall Council, North Quay including a new fish landing stage, new access roads, a new bridge and a promenade was developed, with further development planned. The harbour wall in East Quay was repaired and the regeneration of South Quay began in October.

Outside of the harbour area, Hayle has been the site of a number of successful regeneration schemes; including the on-going Harveys Foundry project which has seen the development of business and residential units in the hope of attracting employment to the Hayle area; the Marine Renewables Business Park, and projects being progressed through the Hayle Area Plan Partnership.

Historic Sluice Gates Uncovered

In 2012, Historic sluice gates, which were used by Harveys, were found buried at Hayle Harbour by construction workers employed by Carilion working on North Quay. The gates, which were used at the Copperhouses Pool sluice, were found 4ft below ground behind the Hayle Harbour Office. The gates were used to keep the channels clear of sand and silt. They were removed and buried when the National Rivers Authority replaced the Copperhouses Pool Sluice Gates with a new flood protection system in 1981.

Hayle Harbour's sluices were officially opened in 1834 (see photo right) and were a masterpiece of Victorian engineering inspired by the Dutch canal architects. The sluices from Copperhouse and Carnsew ran effectively until 1971 when the decline in port trade led to them being closed for the last time.

World Heritage

The townscape of Hayle and its historic harbour were part of the initial submission of the Cornwall and West Devon historic mining landscape World Heritage bid. On 13 July 2006, it was announced that the bid had been successful and that the historic mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon would be added to World Heritage list.

Notable buildings

A famous landmark is Godrevy Lighthouse, situated at the eastern end of Hayle Towans, said to have inspired Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse. The church of St Elwyn was built in 1886-88 to the design of J. D. Sedding. According to Pevsner it is "loud outside ... and dull inside". Trevassack Manor is a house of the 17th to 18th century; there is a datestone of 1700. Bodriggy House is of granite, ca. 1710.

References: Wikipedia. Thanks to John Daniel, John Browne and the people of Hayle for supplying some of the images.

Harbour Master
Peter Haddock CMIOSH
Tel: 01736 754043
Mob: 07580 992366
Fax: 01736 756632
Email: HM

Assistant Harbour Master
Lauren Bambury
Tel: 01736 754043
Mob: 07500 993867
Fax: 01736 756632
Email: AHM

Designated Person
Rob Atkinson
Tel: 01841 532239
Email: DP

Hayle Harbour Authority Operations Ltd
The Old Customs House
North Quay
TR27 4BL
Tel: 01736 754043
Fax: 01736 756632

HHAOL Emergency Call 24 Hour Mobile 07500 993867 or call 999

Hayle Harbour Authority Operations Limited (HHAOL) is the Statutory Harbour Authority for Hayle Harbour pursuant to the Hayle Harbour Act 1989.
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