Today, Cornwall is known as a distant peninsula of Britain, renowned for its natural beauty and as a tourist destination.
In prehistory however, Cornwall lay at the centre of a busy network of seafaring routes, linking trade from the Mediterranean to the Orkney Islands in the far North.
Permanent exhibition, Hayle Unearthed (launched in 2019), tells the story of Hayle in this context from prehistory to the Anglo Saxons of the fifth century CE.
Hayle has been in continuous occupation since prehistory. Its natural port and river mouth create one of only two sheltered harbours on Cornwall’s treacherous north coast, the other being Padstow. In fact, the name Hayle comes from the Cornish Heyl, meaning estuary.
For 10,000 years, Hayle has attracted seafarers, settlers, and passers-by: from traders in Cornish tin (a thriving industry in prehistoric West Cornwall), to Christian missionaries seeking to convert the Cornish from paganism and folk beliefs.
Our forerunners left a mass of evidence from Mesolithic flints and Roman hordes to the remains of a Bronze Age settlement (at Gwithian) and an Iron Age hill fort (at Carnsew). Most mysterious is the fifth century ‘Cunaide’ Stone, the oldest burial stone discovered in Cornwall.
Read our exhibition panels below to find out more.
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