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St Austell
High Cross Street, St Austell - geograph.org.uk - 1313370.jpg
High Cross Street
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Population 19,958 (2011)
OS grid reference SX011524
Civil parish
  • St Austell
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ST. AUSTELL
Postcode district PL25
Dialling code 01726
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Cornwall
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • St Austell and Newquay
Website www.staustell.co.uk
List of places
UK
England
Cornwall
50°20′N 4°47′W / 50.34°N 4.79°W / 50.34; -4.79

St Austell ( Cornish: S. Austel) is a town in Cornwall, England, UK, 10 miles (16 km) south of Bodmin and 30 miles (48 km) west of the border with Devon.

St Austell is one of the largest towns in Cornwall; at the 2011 census it had a population of 19,958.

History

One of the earliest references to St Austell is in John Leland's Itinerary, where he says "At S. Austelles is nothing notable but the paroch chirch".

Not long after William Cookworthy discovered china clay at Tregonning hill in west Cornwall, the same mineral was found in greater quantity in Hensbarrow downs north of St Austell. Clay mining soon took over from tin and copper mining as the principal industry in the area, and this eventually contributed enormously to the growth of the town. The clay industry really only came into its own during the mid 19th to early 20th century, at a time when the falling prices of tin and other metals forced many mines to close down or convert to clay mining. The success and high profitability of the industry attracted many families whose breadwinner had been put out of work by the depression in the local metal mining industry, and increased the population of the town considerably. This meant that more shops and businesses took root, providing more jobs and improving trade. This, along with other factors, led to St Austell becoming one of the ten most important commercial centres of Cornwall.

Redevelopment

Work began in 1963 on the pedestrian precinct which included shops, offices and flats: the design was by Alister MacDonald & Partners and the materials reinforced concrete with some stone facing.

The town centre recently underwent a £75 million redevelopment process. The redevelopment attracted heavy opposition from its outset.

In October 2007, the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) and project developers David McLean announced that the new development would be named 'White River Place'. It was also announced that 50% of shop units had been leased to high street stores, with New Look, Peacocks, Bonmarché and Wilkinson opening new stores. This would mean New Look relocating from its current premises in Fore Street and the return of Peacocks to St Austell following the demolition of its old store to make way for the new development. Bonmarche has since closed.

In October 2008, it was announced that the developer David McLean Developments had gone into administration and concern was expressed that this could jeopardise the completion of the project

In December 2008, the new White River Cinema opened its doors for the first time: the cinema is technically advanced and the first purpose-built cinema in Cornwall for over 60 years.

The Torchlight Carnival was revived in November 2009 as a direct result of public demand through a survey conducted with local residents. The Torchlight Procession has become an important event in the town's calendar, heralding in the Winter celebrations and drawing thousands of people from across Cornwall and Devon. The event is run by a small group of non affiliated volunteers.

The St Austell and Clay Country Eco-town is a plan for several new settlements around St Austell on old Imerys sites. It was given outline government approval in July 2009.

In July 2011, the Cornwall Council strategic planning committee voted to approve a £250 million beach resort scheme at Carlyon Bay, St Austell. The development was initially proposed in 2003.

Landmarks

Notable Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail designed a number of St Austell's buildings and houses, including the Thin End and the Moorland Road terrace. Of other notable architects from St Austell include John Goode, who contributed considerably during the 1970s to residential developments in the area.

St Austell Snow 030209 011
Holy Trinity Church, St Austell

Pevsner remarks in his guide to Cornwall that the following buildings are notable:

  • The Parish Church
  • The Old Town Hall, in Italian Renaissance style, 1844
  • Friends Meeting House, 1829, a plain granite structure
  • Masonic Hall, South Street, 1900 and is home to nine Masonic bodies
  • White Hart Hotel: once contained panoramic wallpaper of the Bay of Naples by Dufour (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum)
  • Holy Well at Menacuddle.
  • Three buildings of the 1960s: Penrice School, 1960; Public Library, 1961; former Magistrates' Court, 1966.

Transport

St Austell - GWR 150265+150125 Penzance service
St Austell railway station

St Austell railway station was opened by the Cornwall Railway on 4 May 1859 on the hillside above the town centre. Two branch lines west of the town were later opened to serve the china clay industry; the Newquay and Cornwall Junction Railway which is still partly open, and the short-lived Trenance Valley line. The independent narrow gauge Pentewan Railway ran from West Hill to the coast at Pentewan. The Cornish Main Line in St Austell is quite renowned for its viaducts in the Gover Valley and Trenance areas of the town. The original timber structure was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it was 115 feet (35 m) high, 720 feet (220 m) long on 10 piers; it was replaced by a new stone viaduct in 1899.

There was a siding located west of the viaduct. In the early years trains from St Austell had to push wagons over the tall, curving viaduct to shunt this siding. The Great Western Railway's instructions stated that: "Trucks may be pushed from St Austell to the Siding, but when this is done the speed of the Train between the two places must not exceed 8 miles an hour, and the head Guard must ride on the leading vehicle, unless it be a bonnet end one, in which case he must ride in the first low sided vehicle from it, to keep a good look out, and be prepared to give a signal to the Driver either by Day or Night, as may be required". Train services today operate west to Truro and Penzance, and east to Plymouth and London. There are also CrossCountry services on most days to the North of England and Scotland.

The town's bus station faces the entrance to the railway station to offer an easy interchange between buses and trains. National Express coach services call here, a dedicated link operates to the Eden Project, and local buses operate to villages such as Fowey and Mevagissey. The town can be accessed by the A390 which by-passes the town to the south on its way from Liskeard to Truro, or by the A391 from Bodmin, or by the A3058 from Newquay. In addition there are the B3273 to Mevagissey, the B3274 to Padstow and the A3082 to Fowey.

St Austell bus station

St Austell Bus Station - First 31828 (R908RYO)
St Austell bus station in June 2013

St Austell bus station is the main bus and coach terminus for the town. The bus station is located in the forecourt of the railway station, formerly a railway goods yard.

The bus station was redeveloped again in 2008, the new facility being opened on 3 November. It now comprises seven stands and shares facilities such as a taxi rank and buffet with the adjoining railway station which is operated by Great Western Railway, a sister company to the main local bus operator. Local services are provided by First Kernow. Long-distance coach services are part of the National Express Coaches network.

History

The Great Western Railway started to operate what they called 'road motors' from outside their railway station on 3 August 1908. These first services ran to St Columb Road via St Dennis.

A bus garage was later provided nearby in Eliot Road, next to the railway's new goods yard. The network was progressively extended over the next twenty years, after which time the services were transferred to the Western National Omnibus Company, formed in 1929 to free the railway company from its bus services and avoid complaints about its transport monopoly. Western National has now become part of the FirstGroup and operates as First Kernow.

Religious sites

The church was originally dedicated to St Austol, a Breton saint associated with St Meven, but is now dedicated to the Holy Trinity. By 1150 it had been appropriated to the Priory of Tywardreath by the Cardinhams: this continued until 1535. There was originally a Norman church here, of which some remains may be seen. The present church is of the 15th century and is large because the mediaeval parish was also a large one: the tower is impressive. All four outside walls bear sculptural groups in carved niches: the Twelve Apostles in three groups on the north, east and south; the Holy Trinity above the Annunciation and below that the Risen Christ between two saints on the west. The tower can be dated to between 1478 and 1487 by the arms of Bishop Courtenay, and the walls are faced in Pentewan stone. The tower and other parts of the church have an interior lining of granite On the south side of the church, a formerly separate chantry has been incorporated into the church when it was extended. (The chantry itself was abolished in 1543.) There are holy wells at Menacuddle and Towan. A new organ was placed on the north side of the chancel in 1880 and the first recital was held on 22 April. The organ was built by Messrs Bryceson Brothers and Ellis and cost circa £600. The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, is Grade I listed, and seats 300. There is a Cornish cross in the churchyard which was found buried in the ground on the manor of Treverbyn in 1879.

The parish of St Austell was part of the archdeaconry of Cornwall and Diocese of Exeter until 1876 when the Diocese of Truro was established. A new rural deanery of St Austell was established in 1875. The style of worship of the parish church is in the Evangelical tradition of the Church of England. The two chapels-of-ease are All Saints, Pentewan, and St Levan's, Higher Porthpean. In the 19th century the following parishes were created out of St Austell parish: St Blazey (1845); Charlestown (1846), Treverbyn (1847), and Par (1846 out of St Blazey and Tywardreath).

Quakers

There was formerly a Quaker burial ground at Tregongeeves, just outside the town on the Truro Road. It was covered by about 6 ft (1.8 m) of earth removed from the building of the new road in the 1960s. A high stone wall bounds the remaining acre of land; access can be gained through a wrought iron gate. Approximately forty of the headstones from Tregongeeves were removed and are now located at the Friends meeting house in the High Cross Street in St Austell, just below the high wall which surrounds St Austell railway station. That meeting house is still in use.

Economy

St Austell is the main centre of the china clay industry in Cornwall and employs around 2,200 people as of 2006, with sales of £195 million.

The St Austell Brewery, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2001, supplies cask ale to pubs in Cornwall and other parts of the country. Its flagship beer is St Austell Tribute; a number of other ales are brewed but are less commonly sold outside Cornwall. St Austell Brewery's first public house, The Seven Stars Inn, purchased in 1863, still stands today on East Hill in the town. Tregonissey House, the site of the company's first steam Brewery, built in 1870, can also be seen in Market Hill. A brewery museum and visitor centre is open to the public on the present brewery site in Trevarthian Road.

Tourism

Eden Project geodesic domes panorama
Panoramic view of the geodesic biome domes at the Eden Project

As in much of Cornwall and neighbouring counties, tourism is increasingly important to St Austell's economy. Tourists are drawn to the area by nearby beaches and tourist attraction such as the Eden Project, sited in a former clay pit, and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The China Clay Country Park, in a former china-clay pit 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the town, tells the story of the men, women and children who lived, worked and played in the shadow of the clay tips around St Austell.

St Austell is home to several public houses, numerous high street retailers, and several independent shops, many of which cater for tourists. The town has a small museum which is situated in the Market House. A Brewery Museum and Visitor Centre is situated on the site of the St Austell Brewery in Trevarthian Road.

Newspaper and radio

The town has two weekly newspapers:

  • St Austell Guardian, part of the Cornish Guardian series published by Cornwall and Devon Media Ltd, has a long history in the town and is published on Friday.
  • St Austell Voice, sister paper to the Newquay Voice, had offices close to the town centre in Truro Road, but has since moved to Old Vicarage Place. It is published on Wednesday

Radio St Austell Bay is a local radio station which broadcasts from studios at Tregorrick Park. It launched in January 2008 to cover the area from Trewoon in the west to Tywardreath in the east.

Sport

Speedway

Speedway racing first took place a venue called Rocky Park, under the name "St Austell Gulls". The sport was a hit during various years, between 1949 and 1963 at the Cornish Stadium. The sport returned to the area in the late 1990s, in the Clay Country Moto Parc, located at Old Pound, Nanpean.

The club operated as the St Austell Gulls for four years, until the club changed ownership, and moved up a league to the Premier League, re-formed as the Trelawny JAG Tigers, until site owners Imerys Minerals Ltd ended the lease. Speedway has not been held in Cornwall since. Many attempts have been made to re-introduce the sport, but none have got past planning permission. The two highest profile bids were at Par Moor Motor Museum and St Eval Raceway. The owner of the land for the Par Moor bid confirmed that he would rent the land for speedway but locals objected. The St Eval bid failed after residents expressed fears about noise.

Stock car racing

Stock car racing, promoted by 1950s Kiwi Speedway star Trevor Redmond, ran side by side with speedway on numerous occasions. Numerous championships were run here, including the 1972 BriSCA World Championship for Formula 2 cars, won by Jimmy Murray from Northern Ireland. It closed its doors in 1987.

Greyhound racing

A greyhound racing track was also opened at the Cornish Stadium and traded from 1958 to 1986. The racing was independent (not affiliated to the sports governing body the National Greyhound Racing Club) and was known as a flapping track, which was the nickname given to independent tracks.

Football

St Austell Football Club was formed on 17 September 1890. In 1908 the club won its first trophy: the Cornwall Charity Cup. The club achieved some success in the late 1920s and 1930s, winning the Senior Cup and Charity Cup twice. In May 2009, the team won the Senior Cup with a closely fought 3–2 victory over Saltash United.

Rugby and tennis

Tregorrick Park is the home of St Austell RFC, St Austell Tennis Club and Cornwall Table Tennis Centre. St Austell RFC play in the Tribute Western Counties West league and the club supports two senior teams, a ladies team and 14 youth teams covering most age groups. Founded in 1963 St Austell RFC has played at the Tregorrick Park ground since their move from Cromwell Road in the 1980s to make way for the Asda supermarket.

Tregorrick Park also hosts a gym, sports hall, squash courts, bar, function room and holds local events such as firework displays and schools cross country competitions.

Cricket

Wheal Eliza cricket ground is the home of St Austell Cricket Club, and is also used for Minor Counties matches. The club supports four senior teams, a ladies' team and youth teams. Facilities at Wheal Eliza includes two playing fields with their own changing room facilities enabling the club to hold two competitive matches every match day. The club also has a pavilion, scorebox, artificial and grass nets.

Baseball

In 2017, the St Austell Claycutters baseball club was established to compete in the South West Baseball League. While the team are named and associated with St. Austell, all outdoor training and home games are held on the sports fields at Fowey River Academy in Fowey.

Education

St Austell has three comprehensive schools, Poltair School, formerly the grammar school, and Penrice Academy; together with Brannel School which is situated in the nearby village of St Stephen-in-Brannel. Several of these are joining an academy trust called CELT (Cornwall Education and Learning Trust).

Cornwall College St Austell is a Further & Higher Education institution incorporating the former St Austell Sixth Form Centre and Mid Cornwall College of Further Education. The college is based at John Keay House, which is also home to the college group's headquarters.

There are a number of primary schools within the town.

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