The name Portreath (meaning “sandy cove”) was first recorded in 1485. Tin streaming in the valley was recorded from 1602, and the first quay was built in 1713 near Amy’s Point,2 though it was destroyed by the sea before 1749.3 The village also had a fishing fleet, mainly for pilchards.2
In the late 1770s, during the American Revolutionary War, lieutenant-colonel of the North Devon militia, Francis Basset, commanded local miners to fortify the port, which helped counter a Franco-Spanish invasion fleet gathered as part of the European theatre of the war.
In the 19th century, Portreath was, with Devoran on the south coast, one of the main ports for sending the copper ore mined in the Gwennap area to Swansea for smelting. The ships returned with Welsh coal to fire the steam engines used on the mines. The two rectangular basins that today make up the harbour and the long breakwater just below the cliffs were all built for this trade. The peak of this enterprise was around 1840, when some 100,000 tons of copper ore were shipped out each year.