Today it is hard to imagine the Wadebridge of years ago when it was not only a busy market town but an equally busy port with barges plying their trade along the Camel and larger vessels sailing along the coast to Swansea, Cardiff, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow and London among other ports. Some locally registered vessels crossed the ocean to North America and beyond. The River Camel played a vital role, being navigable for small cargo ships as far as Wadebridge and for barges many miles further inland.

There are few records for the early days, but much useful information can be found in reports of a court case. The Prideaux Brune family of Padstow claimed the right to collect dues from vessels using Padstow and also other landing places along the Camel, but Adam Thomson, a Lostwithiel merchant, felt this to be unjust and brought a case before the Court of the Queen's Bench at the Guildhall in London on 15th December 1841, with a subsequent hearing at the Lent Assizes at Bodmin on 24th March 1842. The final result went in favour of the Prideaux Brunes. From the many witnesses called, a picture can be drawn of the trade passing through the port of Padstow and from the small quays along the river.

The witness accounts make clear that very considerable quantities of corn were shipped from every quay on both sides of the river, including Wadebridge, Rock, Porthilly and St Issey Bar. William Norway had a cellar and warehouse at Gentle Jane with a quay from which shipments of grain were made. He also owned a quay on the east side of the river near the Bridge. John Wills, a corn factor, said that he shipped corn from between twelve to thirteen places along the Camel including Gentle Jane, Porthilly, Dinham Cove, Polgammon, Penqueen Quay and from Tregunna Kiln for grain from St Breock. He also said that he used three quays in Wadebridge: Town Quay, Williams' Quay and Norway's Quay, all of which were on the northeast side. If unable to ship all his cargo from Wadebridge he would complete at Gentle Jane where farmers brought their grain, paying Norway for the use of the quay. He thought that he had shipped between 7,000 to 10,000 quarters of wheat and barley each year from various places along the river.

It was not only agricultural products that were shipped along the Camel. Between 1806 and 1817, 80 tons of copper ore were received and discharged. During 1807 other commodities passed through the port including corn, cider, coal, malt, ragstones and slate. The owners of Pentire Mine loaded copper ore at Rock and Padstow. Ore from other mines further up the Camel, such as Treburgett, a major producer of lead, was brought down the river by barge.

With the coming of the Railway in 1834, the barge trade lost custom. Mines near Bodmin, such as Lanivet Consols, sent iron, copper and tin to Wadebridge by train for onward shipment.

In addition, the river was the route for the arrival of imports and goods from elsewhere in the UK, mainly timber and coal, but also limestone, brick, salt and general merchandise. Considerable quantities of iron were brought in, particularly during the construction of the Railway.

"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 ,..