Constantine Cornwall

Visit to Harvey’s at Hayle

22 June 2018

On a lovely summer’s evening 19 members of Constantine History Group were given a fascinating and informative tour by Kingsley Rickard of the Harvey & Company businesses at Hayle. John Harvey a blacksmith and engineer was born in 1730 & established Harvey & Co at Hayle in 1779. By 1780 he was already employing 50 people!

The tour started by the railway viaduct, built in 1852, which is situated above an earlier railway station of the old Hayle Railway Company of 1837. This earlier railway was initially for transporting minerals but later carried passengers and after runningthrough lower Hayle and along the wharf serviced Harvey’s various businesses.

Three Rivers flow into Hayle Harbour and sluices were used to retain water. Har-vey’s later built Carnsew Pool, a tidal reservoir, and both these sources were important for flushing silt out from the harbour.

We learnt that the Port was established in 1720 and the South Quay in 1819. The latter was where Harvey built ocean-going ships, including the USS Cornubia of 4,000 tons in 1858, which when fully fitted out was too big to ever return to Hayle!

Nearby was another Quay where Harvey’s imported timber for use in making engi-neering patterns and beside the road still exists the old and original ventilated building used to store drying timber.

On South Quay in 1819 Harveys had its very own gas works! The Harbour was also a major importer of coal and exporter of Ore to South Wales.

Moving away from the Harbour we walked into where the main works were situated. Some of these buildings have now been tastefully renovated to serve local businesses. We saw the remains of the early 1800’s Boring Mill building, the Foundry, astore where the wooden patterns were kept behind which tunnels lead into the hillside. Nearby was the old horse stables which serviced the hundreds of horses a day that would visit Harveys businesses at their peak! To think this is where the three biggest steam beam engines in the world were built in 1843 for pumping out water to drain the Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands. Their cylinders were a massive 144 ins (12 ft) in diameter! Sadly the foundry was closed in 1903, although the company continued to trade as a general and builders merchant, eventually merging with UBM to become Harvey-UBM in 1969.

John Harvey and a massive Haarlemmermeer pump cylinder
John Harvey and a massive Haarlemmermeer pump cylinder

We moved on across the main road by the Mill Pond and looked across to the old Mill Building which in its hey-day had been five stories high but was reduced to its current size in the war. Then along Millpond Avenue where the sea captains lived in terraced cottages and then past the opulent houses that belonged to the Harvey’s directors, before seeing thesite of the old smelting works closed in 1919.

Returning towards the Harbour we walked past the remains of the rope making business, which closed in the 1900’s and the brass foundry.

There are stories of conflict over 30 years between the two local Hayle foundries. Eventually the Cornish Copper Co Foundry business was bought out by Harvey’s in 1875  which finally resolved the issue.

John and his son Henry Harvey, were certainly very successful and enterprising entrepreneurs running many different businesses in Hayle. John had four sons and four daughters. Sadly two infant sons died and one was killed in the Harvey works, which left Henry Harvey, who took over and further expanded the business after his Fathers death in 1803. At its peak the Harvey & Co employed was around 1,200!

Returning to the Square by the White Hart Hotel we heard how Jane, one ofJohn Harvey’s daughters, had married the great engineer Richard Trevithick. But due to his poor handling of financial matters he was unable to provide properly for his wife and six children, so Henry Harvey had a boarding house built for her which is now the Masonic Lodge. This business proved so successful that the White Hart Hotel was then built in 1838.

Henry had ten children by his common-law wife Grace Tonkin but he still lived to 75, dying in 1850, after which the businesses were split up amongst the family!

The group all expressed their appreciation to Kingsley for his knowledgeable and enjoyable tour.

Peter Tatham