Although Cornwall is renowned around the world as a tourist destination, its industrial past played a crucial role in shaping the area as we see it today. For centuries, Cornwall was a major centre of the fishing, mining and agricultural industries - indeed, fishing and agriculture, along with tourism, continue to play a critical role in modern Cornwall. What's particularly interesting, however, is the way in which Cornwall's famous industrial heritage has been adapted to modern tourism. Some of the most famous industrial landmarks in Cornwall have become a major attractions to visitors and are every bit as important to Cornish tourism as the beautiful countryside and quaint villages the area is renowned for.
Cornwall's fishing villages have become themselves become major tourist destinations. One of the most famous of these, Port Isaac, is particularly popular for its distinctive charm - shaped in large part by its economic role. Indeed, it remains a working fishing village to this day, although tourism has come to play an ever more prominent role in the local economy over the years. Local fishermen land their catches of fish, crab and lobsters daily, which in turn seems to add to the attraction - the feel that Port Isaac is an authentic fishing village itself attracts tourists.
In addition, the Cornish tin mining industry is another key relic of the area's past. Tin mining in Cornwall and Devon stretches back for centuries, with metalliferous mining only ceasing in Cornwall in 1998, when the South Crofty mine closed. At the 30th meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Vilnius, in 2006, the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was officially declared a World Heritage Site. In 2012, the Heartlands visitor attraction - stretching across 19 acres in what was once Cornwall's mining heartland - opened its doors to the public after 14 years of planning and £35m worth of funding courtesy of the National Lottery.
The Geevor Tin Mine also remains a key tourist attraction in Cornwall. The mine finally closed after 300 years of tin mining in 1991, despite a bitter fight to keep it open. It subsequently reopened as a museum and heritage centre two years later, and is now the largest mining history centre in the UK. It is home to a wide range of mining-related artefacts and mineral displays, and its surface buildings still retain many of their original winders and compressors. In addition, the site also hosts a collection of archive photographs portraying Cornwall's tin miners as they went about their work in bygone days.
Cornwall was also home to large china clay deposits, which are something of a rarity around the world. First discovered in Cornwall by Cookworthy in 1746, there were 7,000 people working in the industry in the St Austell district by 1850. Today, the Wheal Martyn China Clay Heritage Centre allows visitors a glimpse back into the past, with an extensive tour of the 19th century clay works - including a working water wheel - and a range of informative audio-visual displays.
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