The harbour at Charlestown that we see today was begun in 1791 by one Charles Rashleigh from nearby Duporth Manor to plans by John Smeaton.
Prior to that it had been a tiny fishing village named West Polmear, but in 1799 the locals renamed it Charles's Town in his honour. This later became Charlestown.
Originally built to transport copper from nearby mines, trade switched to china clay as the mines became exhausted. However, by the 1990s, the harbour had become too small for the size of vessels used to transport china clay, and in 2000 the last commercial load left Charlestown.
The harbour is used by local fishermen, and has frequently been used as a film set. At the time of my visit, it was owned by Square Sail, a company that owned and sailed a small fleet of tall ships (including the Kaskelot seen here in 1997).
In 2018 it was sold to Sir Tim Smit of Eden Project fame, and is home to his Shipwreck Treasure Museum and Shackleton Exhibitions