St Austell History

The first detailed record of the town's existence comes from an account of a visit to the county by the then reigning King Henry the VIII, who despite mentioning it as being a town, described St Austell as at the time being little more than a small village surrounding a central church, whose only other notable feature was a small granite bridge (clearly far older than the other buildings) spanning the river (later to be known locally as "the White River" due to the drainage of micaceous waste water from the local clay industry). The bridge is still extant, and is believed to be either the oldest or one of the oldest standing structures in the town.

Not long after William Cookworthy discovered china clay in Tregonning, the same mineral was found in greater quantity in the hills north of St Austell town. Clay mining soon took over from tin and copper mining as the principal industry in the area, and this eventually became an enormous contributor 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 price of tin and other metals forced many mines to close down or convert to clay mining. The success and high profitability of the clay industry attracted many of the families who had been put out of work by the depression in the local metalliferous mining industry, which increased the population of the town considerably. This increase in population meant that more shops and businesses offering various products and services to the now more numerous locals were taking 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.