History of Our Lookout

A short history of the lookout

In February 2001, Captain Peter Waters discovered a derelict Coastguard Auxiliary Station beneath years of undergrowth a short distance to the east of the old Cornish Clay Port of Charlestown.  Captain Waters, the Regional Manager of the National Coastwatch Institution, identified the building as a possible location for the NCI.  Although negotiations with the landlord were delayed by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth, a lease was finally signed for the Lookout in October 2001.
Now, where did I put my paintbrush?            Lookout 2001
In early 2002 work began on clearing the dense undergrowth, which had accumulated over many years.  It soon became apparent that the building had deteriorated significantly through neglect and vandalism.  Following discussions with St Austell College, it was agreed that we would supply the materials and the college would provide the manpower from their related courses.  Together with the students from the college and NCI volunteers, work started to fit new doors, floors and windows.  The restoration was finally completed with the supply and fitting of an external galvanised steel stairway and landing from the local china clay company, Imerys S.A.  By the end of the year the lookout was sufficiently equipped to allow in-house training to begin.

NCI Charlestown became operational on Saturday 5th April 2003.

An official opening ceremony was held on 11th October 2003 performed by our Patron, the author EV Thompson and attended by Jon Gifford, Chairman of the National Trustees, visitors from near-by stations and representatives from local businesses who had generously given their time and materials to our charity.
Thanks to all concerned.
Our Lookout was originally a Coastguard Auxiliary Station for watch and rescue; it was classified as “C Aux S (WR)”.  HMCG would set watches according to the prevailing weather conditions and/or the potential casualty risk.  No one is quite sure when the Lookout was last used by HMCG, although judging by the dense undergrowth, it was shortly after 1984 when it was mentioned in the 2nd Edition of the “Channel Pilot”.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately date the Lookout.  We know that it was in existence in 1928 when the nearby Porth Avallen Hotel was built but it was not visible in a photograph taken in 1905.  The building that can be seen on top of the headland on the following photograph, is the engine house of Appletree Mine.

Charlestown, before mobile phones

 ... and another photo' of old Charlestown 1910c

Early 20th c Charlestown 



Currently 56 NCI stations are operational and manned by over 2600 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles from Fleetwood in the North West, through Wales, to the South and East of England to Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire. 

NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies offering a variety of skills and experience, and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met.








The words National Coastwatch Institution and Eyes Along the Coast and the NCI logos are Registered Trademarks of NCI.


General enquiries
0300 111 1202

Media enquiries
0845 460 1202

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17 Dean Street, Liskeard,
Cornwall, PL14 4AB