Moving on from the old County Town of Launceston, we arrived in St Austell, home of the famous Eden Project which lies just outside the town. Parking up in the centre, we set out to explore…
Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Holy Trinity Church, Fore Street, Market House, The Eden Project, War Memorial, Janet Shearer Mural etc
The main street through St Austell is pedestrianised, allowing you to wander between the many shops without the hustle and bustle of the traffic around you. Overlooking the street, which is called Fore Street, is the striking tower of Holy Trinity Church, a local landmark which dominates the towns skyline.
It’s a pleasant area to kick off our exploration, with the colourful bunting flapping in the wind, and the various multi-coloured shop fronts and buildings giving it a warm feel.
The Church lies at the East end of Fore Street, which you can see at the back of the 1st picture in the gallery above. The building has medieval origins, with the oldest sections consisting of those at the back of the Church, which have been dated to around 1390. The rest of the building was rebuilt in the 15th century, which includes the great tower itself, completed in 1487.
Like many historic Churches, it was given a Victorian restoration, in 1872 by George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881, English Architect from Essex) which helped preserve it for future generations.
Many of the oldest buildings in the town are located around the Church, including the old “Market House”, directly opposite, and shown over to the right.
The Market House is a stunning Granite/Ashlar construction from 1844, designed by Christopher Eales (1809 – 1903). The building replaced the former Market Hall, built sometime prior to 1791, in the centre of what had been the town’s Market Place. The Town had been granted a Market Charter by Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) in the late 17th Century, although it wouldn’t be expanded to include Fridays for another few decades.
The old building had become outdated, and the Market was quickly outgrowing its former home, so a new Market House was designed and built.
Only the ground floor of the building was used for the weekly Market, whilst the top floor became the Town Hall, which it remained until around 1918 when it was converted into a Cinema. The rest of the building remains in use, with different businesses and shops being located inside it, although it is now known as the “St Austell Market House Community Interest Company (CIC)”.
To the left of the Market House stands the “Queen’s Head Hotel”, a tall Victorian building from the 19th century which is one of a number of Listed Buildings in the town centre.
Looking back across the road, the St Austell War Memorial can be seen outside the Church, bordering on the edge of the Churchyard. Old photographs of the area from 1922 show that the Memorial had already been erected by this date, in memory of the fallen of World War I, and presumably later World War II.
Our last stop in the town happened quite by accident, as we came across a famous 3D Mural by an artist named Janet Shearer, also from Cornwall. It is painted on the side of a building just off the West end of Fore Street, and features a Cafe at the bottom (out of shot), and a woman leaning on her balcony at the top. When I first saw it I genuinely thought it was a real person. The 3D effect is very good, and it’s only when you get up close that you finally realise it’s only a painting. Very impressive!
St Austell is an interesting little town, and although we only had a quick stop at the end of the day on the way back to the Caravan, we found a number of historic buildings, and got to enjoy some of the towns main sites.
The town is well served by the local railway network, which lies on the Cornish Main Line which runs West to Penzance, and East into Plymouth in Devon, and from there on towards London. The town is also located next to the A390 which also heads for Devon, and the A391 which links up to the main A30 further North towards Bodmin.
Alas it was time to move on once more, and the following morning we arrived in St Ives…