The barge trade was once of great importance, being one of the main forms of transport in the area. The 1699 Gascoyne map of Cornwall shows many settlements which would have been served by barges. These were Pendavey, Wadebridge, Trevilling, Trewornan, Amble, Tregenna, Penquean, Ponskin, Tregunna, Trevelver, Halwyn, Little Petherick and Trebetherick. Most of these places can still be found on Ordnance Survey maps but Ponskin is now Pinkson Creek. There were once iron and copper ore mines on this inlet and sea-going vessels as well as barges used to load and unload prior to the coming of the railways.

Gilbert writing in 1817 notes that at Wadebridge there were commodious cellars and timber yards with good anchorage for boats and barges which came up daily from Padstow. Barges carried coals, general merchandise and sea sand for use as fertilizer on the fields.

Maclean's History of Egloshayle mentions that in 1794 a statement was prepared in connection with the proposed building of a canal which noted that there were 24 barges employed on the River Camel. The number had increased to 32 at the time of the opening of the Bodmin and Wadebridge railway in 1834.

There were large depots for unloading sand at Clapper and Sladesbridge. However the coming of the railways caused a steady decline in the use of barges. When Maclean was writing in 1871, bargemen were earning two shillings and sixpence with each tide. Those men employed unloading vessels at the Wadebridge Quays earned seven shillings a day, but as the river is only navigable at Spring tides they were often without employment.

Bargemen had to possess great skill and an intimate knowledge of the tides as it was necessary to avoid running aground. If too late a start was made the last mile or two had to be won against the first ebb of the stream which was very hard work. Should a sand barge run aground when fully loaded and failed to float off on the next high tide it could be in serious trouble. If the wind changed direction the barge could even be swamped at the next high tide.

A bargeman’s life was sometimes a dangerous one and could lead to death. Thomas Beer of St Kew was drowned in December 1805 while bound for Amble from Padstow. On September 2nd 1898 the lifeboat, Helen Peele, had to rescue bargemen N. England and W. Prior when their barge took in water and sank.

"Informative with lovely volunteers"

Really lovely free museum which is dog friendly. Volunteers are immensely helpful and knowledgeable, offering free historical guides and maps. Please do donate - this little museum really needs to continue.

"Great Local Museum"

This is a smashing venue just off the main shopping street. It is ideal for a visit to learn about thre local history of Wadebridge. The volunteers who run the place are cheerful and enthusiastic. There are plenty of visual displays backed up by knowlegable staff. It’s ideal for under an hour and open 11-3 Mon - Sat. It’s free but make a donation.

"Another great little museum"

This is a charming and informative local museum. Free to enter, the collection reflects local life and the history of the area. The museum is staffed by volunteers who are friendly and helpful. Free information guides are offered and the volunteers are ready and willing to answer any questions. This is another local museum which relies on donations to keep it running. It is a very dog friendly area and this includes the museum so canine friends are welcome. I spent about 45 minutes here as it is a small museum, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

"Very interesting"

The Wadebridge and District Museum reopened in 2013 and has a most interesting collection of photographs and artefacts about the history of Wadebridge. It is primarily manned by local volunteers who are able to provide you with not only the past historical details of this Town and about the various industries and businesses that used to be found in this area – but also about the typical life and times of local residents and how it has changed over the years. Recommended as a good starting point for visitors to Wadebridge

"just dropped in"

it was raining , glad it was or i would not have known how great this place is , finding out about where you are and the history , good fun and great staff to explain things you may not understand ,well worth the visit ,..