St Austell, Cornwall: Old Photos & Film

Categorised as Cornwall
St Austell Cornwall England UK local history

St Austell is one of the largest towns in Cornwall, with a population nudging 20,000 people. It boasts a lovely beach well known to locals, tourists, and film crews.

St Austell Brewery opened in the town back in 1851, making it one of the oldest businesses in Cornwall.  It’s still an independent and family-owned company, quite a rarity for such an old firm.

Nearby are the china clay pits, which have been captured on film several times from the post-war era onwards.

Thanks to dena187 for use of the image shown at the top of this page.

Old Pictures Of St Austell

St Austell: New and Old Pictures 1

Uploaded to YouTube on 10 Oct 2011 by selwyn62.

A collection of new and old pictures of St Austell in the English county of Cornwall.

This video includes just some of the many hundreds of old pictures shared on the Facebook group “St Austell area in the old days”.

St Austell: New and Old Pictures 2

Uploaded to YouTube on 11 Oct 2011 by selwyn62.

The second in the series, this video includes just some of the many hundreds of old pictures shared on the Facebook group “St Austell area in the old days”.  

 St Austell: New and Old Pictures 3   

Uploaded to YouTube on 14 Oct 2011 by selwyn62.

The third in the series, this video includes just some of the many hundreds of old pictures shared on the Facebook group “St Austell area in the old days”.


Uploaded to YouTube on 21 Jul 2015 by British Movietone.

There isn’t a date or any commentary. However, Prince Edward, who briefly became Edward VIII before his abdication to marry Wallace Simpson, is clearly seen in this footage.  He was Prince of Wales from 23 June 1910 to 20 January 1936.

The short film opens with scenes of the Prince inspecting the regiment. 

Then there are various shots of the Prince walking around with his official party. Around them people wander about.

Note the field of cars in the background, which all look very similar.

Then we see shots of the cattle being led round the arena, many of them by women.

The Great War Hero

For a long while the camera rests on a close shot of an older, portly gentleman, who sports a big mustache. On his chest hang 4 medals, from WWI service. 

Given the age of the man, and the age of the film, he was probably in active service in his mid to late 30s.

The World War I Medals

Let’s consider the medals the war veteran is wearing at the St Austell agricultural show in the 1930s.

The medal to the far left appears to be the 1914 Star, colloquially known as the Mons Star. It is a British World War I campaign medal for service in France or Belgium between 5 August and 22 November 1914. The former date is the day after Britain’s declaration of war against the Central Powers, and the closing date marks the end of the First Battle of Ypres. In total, 365,622 1914 Star medals were awarded.

Second left is the British War Medal.

“The British War Medal was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War One.  It commemorates some of the most terrible battles the world has ever known.  The casualties in the Ypres Salient and on the Somme for 1915 to 1918 were more than our total for the Second World War”

Forces War Records

Next along the man’s row of medals was The Victory Medal, also called the Inter Allied Victory Medal. It was never awarded alone without other service medals. 

Because it was typically awarded with the 1914 Star and the British War Medal, the three medals together were known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

The medal on the right is hidden from view most of the time. Without colour and a clearer view, it’s uncertain which medal it is.

Other People

Around the war veteran other people move about, some of them stopping to look at the camera.

Finally the Prince and his party walk off the field and through the quiet crowd.

St Austell In World War 2 (1939-1945)

World War II began on 1st September 1939. 

On 16th July 1940, Directive No 16  ‘On preparations for a landing operation against England’ was signed by the The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Adolf Hitler.

The Directive ordered preparations to invade Britain. Cornwall found itself at risk of Nazi invasion.

“The landing will be in the form of a surprise crossing on a wide front from about Ramsgate to the area west of the Isle of Wight. Units of the Air Force will act as artillery, and units of the Navy as engineers.”

Defences were prepared around St Austell Bay. This three part video examines those defences, and discovers what remains of them today.

This is Part One of three, showing the coast from Dodman Point to Black Head, covering Hemmick Beach, Gorran Haven, and Mevagissey.

Invasion Around St Austell Bay 2

The second part of this video looking at the World War 2 defences of St Austell Bay travels from Porthpean to Carlyon Bay. It takes in Charlestown, Crinnis Beach, Shorthorn Beach and Fishing Point.

Copyright issues of an Ink Spots song means a slight alteration to the uploaded soundtrack, but this should not alter your viewing experience.

Invasion Around St Austell Bay 3

The third part of this video looking at the World War 2 defences of St Austell Bay commences at Spit and looks at Par Docks, Par Beach, Polkerris, Polridmouth and the Gribben Head.

St Austell In Post-War Britain

China Clay Works At Little Treviscoe Pit (1948)

This British Pathé footage captures china clay works at the Little Treviscoe Pit, which was in operation by the early 1800s.

Heaps of china clay are piled about the landscape. 

High pressure water hoses wash the clay down from the pit walls.  The liquid clay runs down the cliff, mixing with sand as it goes into a basin. 

Then it’s pumped into the micas, a system of long channels.  A man pushes the clay along with a wooden pole.

Next we see two workmen covered in clay. They shovel thick clay from a pit into a wagon, then pull the cart along a track.  

Inside a drying shed the clay is tipped out into kilns. It bubbles as it dries.

Finally, we see brief and dark shots of ships docked at Fowey. They’re being loaded with dried clay.

St Austell In The 1960s

China Clay (1964)

Following its 1948 visit, British Pathé returned to look at the china clay pits.

It’s like a lunar landscape, but with a truck passing by. 

A man supervises a hose as it blasts the clay pits with a fierce jet of water. The clay explodes away from the rock face and cascades down into the valley.

The liquid clay runs in rivers to huge vats that rotate to extract the clay. 

The resulting powder falls through a chute into a huge storage tank.  

A man stands at the base of one of the clay ‘mountains’ and picks up a handful. 

The powder is seen being tipped from a lorry onto a conveyor belt, taking the clay to the hold of a ship.

St Austell Redevelopment 1 (1960s) 

“The redevelopment of St Austell Town Centre in the 1960’s.”


St Austell Redevelopment 2 (1960s) 

“The second of three films showing the demolition of slum dwellings and the building of Trinity Street and Aylmer Square in the 1960’s.”


St Austell Redevelopment 3 (1960s) 

“St Austell 1960’s redevelopment.”


St Austell In The 1970s

St Austell (1970s)

“Cine film from the early 1970’s of St Austell Cornwall also driving out towards Lostwithiel.”

St. Austell Punk Movie (1970s)

Uploaded to YouTube on 10 Apr 2016 by Buttz TV.

“The true story of how punk rock was invented in a shed in Cornwall 1976.”

This is a trailer for the DVD DEMOLITION SQUAD – How Punk actually began in a shed in Cornwall, which can be purchased at

St Austell In The 1980s

China Clay Train Cornwall (1980s)

This 1980s short film is in the Huntley Film Archives.

A goods train travels along the Fowey line, transporting china clay to Carne Point in Cornwall. 

It is filmed from a distance as it crosses the green countryside. St Winnow church and the graveyard appear, with a view across the bay beyond. 

We then see a 3 way sign post pointing to St Winnow, Lostwithiel & Lerryn. Another arrow warns “impracticable for cars”. 

Then there’s a warning sign for road flooding at high tide. 

The train proceeds along the estuary, where small boats rest in the sand with the tide out. 

Finally, we see the car ferry crossing the River Fowey.

St Austell In The 1990s

Student Film by James Hawke (1991)

“It’s Christmas 1991 and four university students are very bored so they make a video about St. Austell.  It still does not make any sense.”

Aylmer Square on YouTube

Queens Head Pub (1991)

Uploaded to YouTube by wastedon4loko, this is a short video shot on 29th December 1991 in the Queen’s Head pub.

St Austell Buses (2000)

Uploaded to YouTube by DaveSpencer32, who sells a wide range of DVDs showing buses operating around England in past decades.

A Drive Through St Austell (2007)

Uploaded to YouTube on 18 Aug 2007 by Gavin Holcroft.

From charlestown roundabout (with the flags of ozzel) through the town centre.

Carlyon Bay (2007)

Uploaded to YouTube on 18 Sep 2007 by chez1807.

The Dracula film released in 1979 included a shipwreck scene with a beach. The filming happened at Carlyon Bay at St Austell. 

The film’s shipwreck was left on the beach for several years, before a big storm in the 1980s swept it away.

In 1986 the beach at Carlyon Bay once again saw a location shoot, this time for the pop video accompanying Alison Moyet’s “Is this love?”. This single was released in the UK in November 1986, and in North America in March 1987.

In 2007, a beachside resort was planned for Carlyon Bay so chez1807 filmed the beach before this happened.

St Austell Bus Station (2009)

YouTube channel Video47 uploaded this short film of some buses operating in St Austell in July 2009.

Newquay to St Austell Inter Urban Link (2009)

Uploaded to YouTube on 23 Aug 2009 by GKMB1948.

“This is the Focal concept of the Urban Link between Newquay and St Austell.  This film shows that the infrastructure is in place for this to happen however the control would have to automated with Par signal box.”

Eden Project Biomes, St Austell, Cornwall (2009)

Uploaded to YouTube on 21 Nov 2009 by SpeedyHeadcleaner.

“Eden Project Cornwall – if you haven’t been you are missing a unique attraction – from their website; The Eden Project is an unforgettable experience in a breathtaking location; a global garden; a place of beauty and wonder. Our world famous architecture and art draws inspiration from nature, our educational work is about creating a positive future in a world that is going to go through radical change, and we try to ensure everyone who visits Eden leaves knowing something more about their connection to the world. That’s the big stuffEden is also about simple pleasures; enjoying tasty food, rediscovering what puts the great into the great outdoors, imaginative play for children, taking time to stop and smell the flowers, having a good garden. Edens Rainforest Biome takes you on a fascinating journey of discovery into the humid tropical regions of the world, showing you the plants that grow there, and all the wonderful things they give us.

The Rainforest Biome is an impressive piece of engineering. It contains nearly 1,129 plants from the main rainforest regions: South-East Asia, West Africa, South America and the tropical oceanic islands, particularly the Seychelles and St Helena.

Within this, there are over twenty different displays, from a Malaysian Garden to a banana plantation. 

Eden’s Mediterranean Biome takes you on a relaxed camper-van road trip of a tour through the Mediterranean-type climates (also known as warm temperate regions) of the world.  This colourful, sensory journey begins in the Mediterranean Basin, takes you across the equator to South Africa, and on to experience the grandeur of the Californian landscape.”

St Austell 2010-2019

St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre (2010)

Uploaded to YouTube on 24 Feb 2010 by staustellbrewerytv.

“Explore St Austell Brewery’s interactive museum and learn the fascinating story of our pubs, beers, wines and spirits and about the Cornish families who created them. Walk through the Victorian Brewery and see the brewing process first hand, and hear about the secret spring that supplies our water!”

The Eden Project Cafe (2011)

Uploaded to YouTube on 14 Jul 2011 by edenprojecttv.

The Eden Project Cafe opened in 2011 in St Austell’s White River Place development.

This is a short film by Zara Maung about the Eden Project’s environmentally sustainable cafe.

Find out about the sustainability features as well as the book exchange and veg exchange.

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