Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for FALMOUTH

FALMOUTH, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Cornwall. The town stands on the W side of the estuary of the river Fal, a short distance above its mouth, 11¾ miles, by railway, S by W of Truro, and 65½ WSW of Plymouth. It dates from only 1613. Its site, in 1600, had only two houses, -an ale-house and a smithy; but was observed by Sir Walter Raleigh, at a visit he made to the adjacent mansion of Arwenack, on his return from the coast of Guinea, to be eminently suited for a great port, -and was recommended by him as such, to the council, on his return to London. A small village began then to be formed on the site; and took the name, first of Smithwick or Smithike, -afterwards of Penny-come-quick, a corruption of Pen-y-cwm-cuick, signifying "the head of the narrow vale;" but even this, in 1613, had only 10 houses. -A plan was formed, in that year, by Sir John Killigrew of Arwenack, the proprietor of the site, to raise the place to the importance of a town; building operations thence went on, raising upwards of 150 houses within the next 30 years; an act of parliament was passed in 1652, making this place a head port in lieu of Penryn; a royal proclamation went forth, in 1660, requiring it to be thenceforth called Falmouth; a charter was issued, in 1661, investing it with the privileges of a corporate town; and the enterprises of trade steadily increased the number of houses to nearly 350 before the year 1700, and to upwards of 500 before the year 1750. The harbour, by its capaciousness and excellence, has ever since continued to render the town prosperous; and it gave perfect shelter, in 1815, during a severe gale, to a fleet of 300 vessels, several of them of large size; but was the scene, in the previous year, at a point not far from the town, of the disastrous shipwreck of the "Queen" transport, when 195 invalids on board perished. Yet, though Falmouth can lay no claim to antiquity, some place near it appears to have been a seat of population in the Roman times. The editors of the Mag. Brit., 1738, say, "In old time, a town which the ancients called Voluba stood on the river Fal; but that being destroyed long since, another is risen in its room at a little distance, which retains something of the old name, and is called Falmonth or Volemouth, which is a spacions and excellent haven, altogether as noble as Brundusium in Italy, and rivalled by Plymouth only, made by the falling of the river Fal into it." Borlase, in his "Antiquities of the County of Cornwall, " states, also, that a large quantity of Roman coins, nearly all of the emperors Gallienus, Carinus, and Numerian, were found on a branch of the harbour. "

The town stands on a peninsula, which terminates in a bluff point, crowned by Pendennis castle, at the entrance of the haven. It partly extends along the beach, and partly ascends and occupies an adjacent eminence. It consists chiefly of one continuous line of streets, upwards of a mile in length, along the beach; but includes thoroughfares branching inland from the main line; and has, at each end, and on the eminence, handsome and commodious dwellings, which command a clear view of the estuary. It presents, in its older parts, a mean appearance; but it has, of late years, undergone much improvement; and it shows, in its recent portions, a pleasant and tasteful aspect. Flushing and Little Falmouth, opposite to it, on the further shore of a branch of the estuary, are a sort of suburbs. Its climate is so mild that many exotic plants, in the gardens of its suburbs, flourish perennially in the open air; while orange-trees and lemon-trees grow against the garden-walls, and bear abundance of fruit. The mansions of Arwenack, now the property of Lord Wodehouse, Grove Hill, the seat of G.Fox, Esq., Tregedna, the seat of Joshua Fox, Esq., Pengerrick, the seat of R. W. Fox, Esq., and Gyllyngdune, erected by the Rev. W. J. Coope, are in the neighbourhood; and an obelisk, in memory of the visit of Sir Walter Raleigh, stands in the grounds of Arwenack. Pendennis Castle stands 198 feet above sea-level; occupies a considerable area; includes a circular tower, erected in the time of Henry VIII., and enlargements of the time of Elizabeth; is fortified, on two sides, by bastions and connecting curtains; is defended, on the other sides, by works conformable to the contour of the ground; is protected also by outlying batteries; contains magazines, storehouses, barracks, and accommodation for the lieutenant-governor; gave shelter, in 1644, to Queen Henrietta Maria, when embarking for France, -and, in 1646, to Prince Charles, when embarking for Scilly; stood a siege of six months, by the forces of the parliament; and then kept the royal standard longer in the breeze than did any other fort in England. The chief public buildings in the town are a town-hall, a market-house, public rooms, a custom-house, a prison, a church, nine dissenting chapels, the Cornwall Polytechnic Society's hall, an athenæum, a proprietory school, a dispensary, a merchant seamen's hospital, widows' alms-houses, and a workhouse. The market house was built by Lord Wodehouse. The public rooms form a handsome edifice. The prison is for the borough; and has capacity for 10 males and 10 females. The church was built soon after the Restoration. A Wesleyan chapel was built in 1867, at a cost of £2, 500. The Polytechnic Society's hall contains portraits and busts of scientific men; and belongs to an institution which was founded in 1833, for promoting science, art, and manufacture, and which holds annual exhibitions, and has published many volumes of transactions. At the exhibition of 1861, 769 articles were shown, and upwards of 300 of these belonged to the department of fine art.

The harbour is 1 mile wide at the entrance, between Pendennis point and St. Anthony's point; has a light-house on the latter point; is slightly obstructed, a little inward from the entrance, by the Black Rock, which is covered by the tide, but pointed out by a beacon; has a fine deep channel on each side of that rock; ramifies into several creeks, one of them going between the town and Flushing; ascends about 4 miles, between picturesque hilly shores, to the influx of the fluviatile Fal; has an average. breadth of about a mile, but a breadth at the town of about 2 miles; possesses a spacions anchorage, opposite the town, in Carrick-roadstead, with a depth of from 12 to 18 fathoms; has commodious quays and docks at the town; and has been so much deepened in its approaches to these, as to afford access to the largest steamers in all states of the tide. The port has St. Mawes and Penryn for sub-ports. The vessels belonging to it, at the commencement of 1863, were 49 small sailing-vessels, of aggregately 1, 542 tons; 94 large sailing-vessels, of aggregately 12, 456 tons; and 2 steam-vessels, of jointly 32 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1862, were 12 British vessels, of aggregately 3, 990 tons, from British colonies; 4 foreign vessels, of aggregately 1, 448 tons, from British colonies; 73 British vessels, of aggregately 5, 360 tons, from foreign countries; 45 foreign vessels, of aggregately 8, 275 tons, from foreign countries; 693 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 41, 393 tons, coast-wise; and 105 steam-vessels, of aggregately 43, 031 tons, coastwise. The vessels which cleared, in 1862, were 22 British vessels, of aggregately 5, 135 tons, to British colonies; 1 foreign vessel, of 494 tons, to British colonies; 63 British vessels, of aggregately 5, 178 tons, to foreign countries; 18 foreign vessels, of aggregately 4, 190 tons, to foreign countries; 180 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 8, 808 tons, coastwise; and 1 steam-vessel, of 141 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs, in 1867, was £6, 703. The export trade consists chiefly in tin, copper, pilchards, and fuel; and is increasing. The import trade consists chiefly in timber, grain, fruit, hemp, wine, guano, and dried fish. Mail packets sail from Falmouth; steamers to many foreign ports call at it; and steamers go from it to Dublin, Liverpool, Plymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, and London. Fishing, boat-building, and trades connected with the business of a port are carried on. Markets are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and fairs on 7 May, 7 Aug., and 10 Oct. The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, a hotel, built in 1865, at a cost of £16, 000, and three other chief inns; and publishes two weekly newspapers. Its railway joins the Cornwall at Truro, and was opened in 1863. The town is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; and it unites with Penryn in sending two members to parliament. The municipal borough includes only part of the parish; while the parliamentary borough includes also the rest of the parish, Penryn borough, part of Budock parish, and part of St. Gluvias township. Acres of the m. borough, 325. Real property, £9, 514; of which £300 are in gas-works. Pop., 5, 709. Houses, 669. Electors of the p. borough in 1861, 810. Pop., 14, 485. Houses, 2, 238.

The parish comprises 734 acres of land and 255 of water. Real property, £20, 385. Pop. in 1851, 8, 151; in 1861, 9, 392. The manor belonged formerly to the Killigrews, and belongs now to Lord Wodehouse. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £688. Patron, the Rev. W. J. Coope.—The sub-district contains also the parish of Budock. Acres, 5, 203. Pop., 11, 643. Houses, 1, 663.—The district comprehends also the sub-district of Mylor, containing the parishes of Mylor and Perranarwothal; the sub-district of Penryn, containing Penryn borough and St. Gluvias parish; and the sub-district of Constantine, containing the parishes of Constantine, Mabe, and Mawnan. Acres, 27, 906. Poor-rates in 1862, £6, 696. Pop. in 1851, 22, 052; in 1861, 23, 332. Houses, 4, 051. Marriages in 1860, 202; births, 700, -of which 54 were illegitimate; deaths, 476, -of which 185 were at ages under 5 years, and 15 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,820; births, 6, 399; deaths, 4, 438. The places of worship in 1851 were 10 of the Church of England, with 5, 612 sittings; 3 of Independents, with 1, 040 s.; 3 of Baptists, with 976 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 470 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 100 s.; 13 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 5, 352 s.; 3 of Primitive Methodists, with 613 s.; 4 of Bible Christians, with 734 s.; 1 undefined, with 170 s.; 1 of the Catholic and Apostolic church, with 260 s.; 1 of Roman Catholics, with 220 s.; and 1 of Jews, with 60 s. The schools were 12 public day schools, with 1, 459 scholars; 70 private day schools, with 1, 375 s.; and 24 Sunday schools, with 2, 972 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Falmouth CP/AP       Falmouth SubD       Falmouth PLU/RegD       Cornwall AncC
Place: Falmouth

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