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Falmouth, Cornwall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Town and civil parish
Falmouth viewed from the estuary
Falmouth is located in Cornwall
Location within Cornwall
Population24,071 (2021)[1]
OS grid referenceSW810325
Civil parish
  • Falmouth
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtTR11
Dialling code01326
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°09′N 5°04′W / 50.15°N 5.07°W / 50.15; -5.07

Falmouth (/ˈfælməθ/ FAL-məth; Standard Written Form: Aberfala[2]) is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.[3]

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The name Falmouth is of English origin, a reference to the town's situation on the mouth of the River Fal. The Cornish language name, Aberfal or Aberfala, is of identical meaning. It was at one time known as Pennycomequick,[4] an Anglicisation of the Celtic Pen-y-cwm-cuic 'head of the creek'; this is the same as Pennycomequick, a district in Plymouth.[5]


Early history

The Old Town Hall

In 1540, Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle in Falmouth to defend Carrick Roads. The main town of the district was then at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.[6]

In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defences at Pendennis were strengthened by the building of angled ramparts. During the Civil War, Pendennis Castle was the second to last fort to surrender to the Parliamentary Army.[7]

Killigrew monument in Arwenack Street

After the Civil War, Sir Peter Killigrew received royal patronage when he gave land for the building of the Church of King Charles the Martyr, dedicated to Charles I, "the Martyr".[8]

The seal of Falmouth was blazoned as "An eagle displayed with two heads and on each wing with a tower" (based on the arms of Killigrew). The arms of the borough of Falmouth were "Arg[ent]. a double-headed eagle displayed Sa[ble]. each wing charged with a tower Or. in base issuant from the water barry wavy a rock also Sa. thereon surmounting the tail of the eagle a staff also proper flying therefrom a pennant Gu[les]".[9]

Being the nearest large harbour to the entrance of the English Channel, two Royal Navy squadrons were permanently stationed here. In the 1790s one was under the command of Sir Edward Pellew (later Viscount Exmouth) and the other under the command of Sir John Borlase Warren. Each squadron consisted of five frigates, with either 32 or 44 guns. Pellew's flagship was HMS Indefatigable and Warren's HMS Révolutionnaire. At the time of the French Revolutionary Wars, battle ships and small vessels were continually arriving with war prizes taken from the French ships and prisoners of war. Near Penryn, at Tregellick and Roscrow, were two large camps for the French prisoners.[10]

The Old Town Hall in the High Street was completed in 1710.[11] The corporation moved to a new town hall on The Moor, now the Palacio Lounge, in 1866.[12]

The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain's growing empire. At the end of the 18th century, there were thirty to forty, small, full rigged, three-masted ships. The crews were hand picked and both officers and men often made large fortunes from the private contraband trade they took part in, while under the protection of being a Government ship, free from customs and excise searches and therefore payment of duty.[10] Captain John Bullock worked in the Packet Service and built Penmere Manor in 1825.

19th and 20th centuries

The Falmouth Lifeboat moored by the docks with the old town and The Penryn River in the background

In 1805 news of Britain's victory and Admiral Nelson's death at Trafalgar reached Falmouth from the schooner Pickle and was taken to London by post chaise. On 2 October 1836 HMS Beagle anchored at Falmouth at the end of her noted survey voyage around the world.[13] That evening, Charles Darwin left the ship and took the Mail coach to his family home at The Mount, Shrewsbury.[14] The ship stayed a few days and Captain Robert FitzRoy visited the Fox family at nearby Penjerrick Gardens. Darwin's shipmate Sulivan later made his home in the nearby waterside village of Flushing, then home to many naval officers.[citation needed]

In 1839 Falmouth was the scene of a gold dust robbery when £47,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.[15]

The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858,[16] and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867. The present building dates from 1993 and also houses Her Majesty's Coastguard.[17] The RNLI operates two lifeboats from Falmouth: Richard Cox Scott, a 17-metre (56 ft) Severn-class all-weather boat,[18] and B-916 Robina Nixon Chard, an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat.

Jacob's Ladder, an 1840s flight of mostly dressed granite steps, rises from Killigrew Street to Vernon Place.[19]

Near the town centre is Kimberley Park, named after the Earl of Kimberley who leased the park's land to the borough of Falmouth. Today the park has exotic and ornate plants and trees.[20]

The Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth on 24 August 1863. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth, as it made it easy for tourists to reach the town. It also allowed the swift transport of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port. The town now has three railway stations. Falmouth Docks railway station is the original terminus and is close to Pendennis Castle and Castle beach. Falmouth Town railway station was opened on 7 December 1970 and is convenient for the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the waterfront, Gyllyngvase beach and town centre.

Penmere railway station opened on 1 July 1925 towards the north of Falmouth and within easy walking distance of the top of The Moor. All three stations are served by regular trains from Truro on the Maritime Line. Penmere Station was renovated in the late 1990s, using the original sign and materials.

The town saw a total eclipse of the Sun at 11:11 a.m. on 11 August 1999. This eclipse lasted just over two minutes at Falmouth, the longest duration in the United Kingdom.[21]

Second World War

St Nazaire memorial

During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbour.

It was the launching point for the St Nazaire Raid in 1942. Between 1943 and 1944, Falmouth was a base for American troops preparing for the D-Day invasions.[22] Many of the troops involved embarked from Falmouth harbour and the surrounding rivers and creeks. There are commemorative plaques at Turnaware Point, Falmouth Watersports marina, Tolverne and Trebah gardens.[23] The United States Navy had a large base in Falmouth harbour as well.

Post War

The SS Flying Enterprise, a cargo vessel that had sailed from Hamburg on 21 December 1951, ran into a storm on the Western Approaches to the English Channel. A crack appeared on her deck and the cargo shifted. A number of vessels went to her aid including the tug Turmoil which was stationed in Falmouth, but they found it initially impossible to take the Flying Enterprise in tow. The ship was finally taken in tow on 5 January 1952 by the Turmoil when she was some 300 nautical miles (560 km) from Falmouth. It took several days to reach port. On 10 January the tow line parted when the ship was still 41 nautical miles (76 km) from Falmouth. Two other tugs joined the battle to save the ship and cargo, but the Flying Enterprise finally sank later that day. Captain Carlsen and the tug's mate Kenneth Dancy, the only crew members still on board, were picked up by Turmoil and taken to Falmouth to a hero's welcome.

Historic estates

  • Arwenack, of which a small portion remains, was the estate which occupied the site before the development of the town of Falmouth; it was long the seat of the Killigrew family.[24][25]


Falmouth Town Council
Cllr Kirstie Edwards, Labour
Seats16 Councillors
Multiple non transferable vote
Last election
6 May 2021
Meeting place
Falmouth Town Council, Municipal Buildings, The Moor, Falmouth TR11 2RT

Falmouth Town is a civil parish within Cornwall, formed in 1974 from the historic Falmouth Borough Council. Falmouth received its Order of Charter in 1661.[26]

As of 2024, it is governed by sixteen councillors (four represent Arwenack and Boslowick, five for Penwerris and three for Trescobeas). Each of them serves a four-year term. The council provides municipal services while strategic services are provided by Cornwall Council, a unitary authority governing the entirety of mainland Cornwall.[citation needed]

From 2009 to 2021, Falmouth had elected five councillors to Cornwall Council, one from each of its then five divisions: Falmouth Arwenack, Falmouth Boslowick, Falmouth Penwerris, Falmouth Smithick, and Falmouth Trescobeas. Boundary changes in 2013 abolished the Falmouth Gyllyngvase division, replacing it with Falmouth Smithick. Since the 2021 elections, Falmouth has been covered by four divisions: Arwenack, Boslowick, Penwerris and Trescobeas and Budock.

Economy, industry and tourism

Falmouth Harbour, National Maritime Museum, Cornwall and Pendennis Castle.

While Falmouth's maritime activity has much declined from its heyday, the docks are still a major contributor to the town's economy. It is the largest port in Cornwall. Falmouth remains a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes also keep the port's facilities busy. The port is popular with cruise ship operators.[citation needed]

Further up the sheltered reaches of the Fal there are often several ships laid up, awaiting sailing orders and/or new owners/charterers.

Falmouth is a popular holiday destination and it is now primarily a tourist resort. The five main beaches starting next to Pendennis Castle and moving along the coast towards the Helford river are Castle, Tunnel, Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth beaches. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall opened in February 2003. The building was designed by the architect M. J. Long.[27]

The Falmouth & Penryn Packet, first published in 1858, is still based in the town as the lead title in a series of Packet Newspapers for central and western Cornwall.[28]

The West Briton newspaper, first published in 1810, is a weekly tabloid newspaper which has a Falmouth & Penryn edition reporting on the area.


Meteorological Observation Tower, built by the "Poly"

Falmouth has many literary connections. The town was the birthplace of Toad, Mole and Rat: Kenneth Grahame's classic The Wind in the Willows began as a series of letters sent to his son. The first two were written at the Greenbank Hotel whilst Grahame was a guest in May 1907. Reproductions of the letters are currently on display in the hotel. Poldark author Winston Graham knew the town well and set his novel The Forgotten Story (1945) in Falmouth.

The town has been the setting for several films and television programmes. British film star Will Hay was a familiar face in Falmouth in 1935 whilst filming his comedy Windbag the Sailor. The film had many scenes of the docks area. The docks area was featured in some scenes with John Mills for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. Robert Newton, Bobby Driscoll and other cast members of the 1950 Walt Disney film Treasure Island (some scenes were filmed along the River Fal) were visitors to the town.[29] Stars from the BBC TV serial The Onedin Line stayed in the town during filming in the late 1970s. In 2011 Paramount Pictures filmed parts of the film World War Z starring Brad Pitt in Falmouth Docks and off the coast.[30]

Falmouth had the first "Polytechnic": Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society which went into administration briefly in 2010 but is now a feature of the town with frequent art exhibitions, stage performances and an art house cinema.

Falmouth is home to many theatre groups, including Falmouth Theatre Company, Falmouth Young Generation and Amity Theatre. Falmouth Theatre Company, also known as FTC, is the oldest local company with performances dating back to 1927.

The Falmouth Art Gallery is a public gallery with a diverse 19th and 20th century art collection including many notable modern Cornish artists exhibited in four to five seasonal exhibitions a year, as well as a "family friendly and free" community and schools education programme.

Falmouth has its own community radio station Source FM broadcasting on 96.1 FM and online.[31]

In 2016, Falmouth won the "Great British High Street 2016" award, in the 'Coastal Community' category.[32]

Religious sites

Falmouth Parish Church, Church Street, dedicated to "King Charles the Martyr"

The Anglican parish churches are dedicated to King Charles the Martyr and to All Saints. A third church is St Michael's Church, Penwerris. The Roman Catholic church of St Mary Immaculate is in Killigrew Street. It was designed by J. A. Hansom and built in 1868; the tower and spire (1881) are by J. S. Hansom; the baptistery and porch were added in 1908 to the original designs. The style is a blend of Gothic and Burgundian Romanesque, creating a very French effect. Two of the stained glass windows are early works of Dom Charles Norris.[33] Falmouth Methodist Church is also in Killigrew Street; the street façade is "one of the grandest expressions of Methodism in Cornwall". The United Reformed Church (originally Bible Christian) is in Berkeley Vale. The former synagogue (1816) is one of the earliest surviving synagogue buildings in England; it was in use until 1879.[34]


Aerial view of Falmouth: Penryn River centre left; part of Carrick Roads top; part of Falmouth Bay right

Falmouth harbour

Falmouth is famous for its harbour. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe.[35] It has been the start or finish point of various round-the-world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Robin Knox-Johnston and Dame Ellen MacArthur.


Falmouth is a terminus of the A39 road, connecting to Bath, Somerset some 180 miles (290 km) distant although such a route has now been surpassed by the A303, A37 and A367. The A39 connects Falmouth with the A30 via Truro. The A30 provides a fast link between Falmouth and the M5 motorway at Exeter 98 miles (160 km) to the northeast.

Most commercial bus services are provided by First Kernow who have an outstation in Falmouth. Other services are run by Office & Transport Services on behalf of Transport for Cornwall.


Falmouth has three railway stations (described above) at the southern end of an 11+34 miles (19 km) branch line (the Maritime Line) from Truro. The train takes roughly 28 minutes inbound and 24 minutes outbound with stops at Perranwell, Penryn, Penmere, Falmouth Town and Falmouth Docks.


St Mawes ferry returning to Falmouth

Falmouth has regular ferry routes connecting to St Mawes,[36] Flushing[37] and Trelissick, Malpas and Truro.[38]


There are five primary schools in the town and one secondary school, namely Falmouth School.[39][40]

Falmouth University has a campus at the original town site, Woodlane, and another in the Combined Universities in Cornwall campus at Tremough, Penryn, which it shares with the University of Exeter. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses chiefly in the fields of Art, Design and Media. The University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, often with a particular focus on the environment and sustainability, and also hosts the world-renowned Camborne School of Mines (formerly located nearby in Camborne), which specialises in the understanding and management of the Earth's natural processes, resources and the environment.[41]

In 2015, actor and comedian Dawn French was installed as Falmouth University's chancellor.[42]

Falmouth Marine School, formerly Falmouth Technical College, specialises in traditional and modern boat-building, marine engineering, marine environmental science and marine leisure sport. The campus is part of Cornwall College.[43]

Sport and recreation

The town has a football team in the Western Football League, Falmouth Town A.F.C., who play at Bickland Park in the north-west of the town, and also Falmouth RFC, a rugby union club who play at The Recreation Ground, a site at the top of The Moor.

Falmouth is also home to one of Cornwall's biggest cricket clubs, where four teams represent the town in the Cornwall Cricket League, with the 1st team playing in the Cornwall Premier League. Falmouth CC play at the Trescobeas ground on Trescobeas Road.

Winter sunset over Falmouth Bay from Castle Drive.

With its proximity to sheltered and unsheltered waters, Falmouth has long been a popular boating and water sports location. It is, for example, a centre of Cornish pilot gig rowing, the home of Gyllyngvase Surf Life Saving Club (founded 2008)[44] and a popular location for sea swimming. Solo yachtsman Robert Manry crossed the Atlantic from Falmouth, Massachusetts (which is named after Falmouth) to Falmouth, Cornwall, from June–August 1965 in the thirteen-and-a-half-foot Tinkerbelle—this was the smallest boat to make the crossing at the time. The town was the location for the 1966, 1982 and 1998 and 2014 Tall Ships' Race in which approximately ninety Tall Ships set sail for Lisbon, Portugal. The town is also hosted the start of the 2021 race.[45]

Cornish wrestling

Falmouth has been a major centre for Cornish wrestling for centuries.[46][47][48] Tournaments were often badged as "the championship of the West of England".[49] Bouts were held at various venues around the town, including Pendennis Castle.[50] Alfred Ernest Trenoweth (1868–1942) from Falmouth was well known as light weight champion wrestler of Cornwall. [51] Another champion wrestler from Falmouth was Pellew, who was especially notable, since he only had one arm![52][53]

Notable people

Early times to 1780

1780 to 1810

1810 to 1850

1850 to 1910

1910 to present




Falmouth is twinned with Douarnenez in Brittany, France and Rotenburg an der Wümme, in Lower Saxony, Germany.[59]

See also

Further reading

  • Symons, Alan (1994). Falmouth's Wartime Memories. Arwenack Press. ISBN 9781899121007
  • Whetter, James (2003). The History of Falmouth. Lyfrow Trelyspen. ISBN 9780953997251


  1. ^ " South West England, Cornwall, Falmouth - Population". Retrieved 8 June 2024.
  2. ^ "Official Maga Placenames list". Cornish Language Partnership. May 2014. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 204 Truro & Falmouth ISBN 978-0-319-23149-4
  4. ^ Wilson, D.G. (2008). Falmouth Haven. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7524-4226-6.
  5. ^ "Falmouth Town". GenUKI. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Falmouth 1837". Old Towns of England. Retrieved 25 May 2007.
  7. ^ "Castle recreates Civil War strife". BBC News. 19 August 2006. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  8. ^ Guide to the Parish Church (No date, after 1997)
  9. ^ Pascoe, W. H. (1979). A Cornish Armory. Padstow, Cornwall: Lodenek Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-902899-76-7.
  10. ^ a b "The Flushing Boy Who Became A Great Traveller". The Cornishman. No. 212. 3 August 1882. p. 6.
  11. ^ Historic England. "The Old Town Hall (1270068)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 June 2024.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Former town hall and attached former fire station (1269980)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 June 2024.
  13. ^ FitzRoy, Robert (1839). Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Appendix to Volume II. London: Henry Colburn.
  14. ^ Keynes, R. D. (2001). Charles Darwin's Beagle diary. Cambridge University Press. p. 447.
  15. ^ The Times; Saturday, 29 June 1839; pg. 6: The Gold-Dust Robbery
  16. ^ "Falmouth Docks". Falmouth Packet Archives 1688–1850. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  17. ^ Morris, Jeff (2002). The History of the Falmouth Lifeboats (2nd ed.). Coventry: Lifeboat Enthusiast's Society.
  18. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society.
  19. ^ "Jacob's Ladder". Historic England. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Kimberley Park". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  21. ^ Bryn Jones. "THE 1999 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE OBSERVED FROM FALMOUTH". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  22. ^ Wilson, Viki. "What happened on D Day in Cornwall". Cornwall Today. Archived from the original on 30 October 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  23. ^ "War in Cornwall". Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  24. ^ Lysons, Daniel; Lysons, Samuel (1814). Magna Britannia: Being a Concise Topographical Account of the Several Counties of Great Britain. Containing Cornwall. Volume the third. T. Cadell and W. Davies.
  25. ^ Cornwall, Royal Institution of (1881). Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. Workers of Cornwall Limited.
  26. ^ Oliver, Samuel Pasfield (1875). Pendennis and St. Mawes. An Historical Sketch of Two Cornish Castles. ... With Illustrations.
  27. ^ "Falmouth International Maritime Initiative". Long/Kentish Practice. Archived from the original on 2 April 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  28. ^ "British Newspapers Online entry for Falmouth & Penryn Packet". Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  29. ^ "Treasure Island". Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  30. ^ "Matthew Fox Films 'World War Z'". Zimbio. 6 August 2011. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  31. ^ "Source FM 96.1 Falmouth and Penryn Community Radio". Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  32. ^ "The Great British High Street Awards 2016: Winners | The Great British High Street". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  33. ^ Beacham, Peter & Pevsner, Nikolaus (2014). Cornwall. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12668-6; pp. 187-88
  34. ^ Beacham (2014). p. 188
  35. ^ "About Falmouth". Falmouth Town Council. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  36. ^ "St Mawes Ferry". Fal River Cornwall. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  37. ^ "FlushingFerry". Fal River Cornwall. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  38. ^ "Enterprise Boats". Fal River Cornwall. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  39. ^ "Find an inspection report". 5 November 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  40. ^ "Welcome to Falmouth School's Website". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  41. ^ "Camborne School of Mines – Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  42. ^ "Dawn French installed as Falmouth University chancellor". BBC News. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  43. ^ "Open Event at Falmouth Marine School". Falmouth Marine School. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  44. ^ "About the club". Gyllyngvase SLSC. 4 October 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  45. ^ "Tall Ships Falmouth". Falmouth Bid. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  46. ^ Royal Cornwall Gazette, 17 May 1806.
  47. ^ Lake's Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, 5 August 1904.
  48. ^ West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, 12 May 1952.
  49. ^ Lake's Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, 11 August 1905.
  50. ^ Royal Cornwall Gazette, 10 June 1853.
  51. ^ a b Former wrestling champion, West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, 26 October 1942, p2.
  52. ^ a b Truro wrestling match, The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, 18 July 1878, p5.
  53. ^ a b Wrestling Match, The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, 13 Jul 1885, p2.
  54. ^ "Anna Maria FOX | Cornwall Artists Index". Retrieved 29 March 2024.
  55. ^ "Obituary". The Times. 24 April 1934. pp. 16, Col C.
  56. ^ "Caroline Fox". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  57. ^ Najder, Z. (2007) Joseph Conrad: A Life, pp. 90 to 91. Camden House. ISBN 978-1-57113-347-2.
  58. ^ Hichens, Robert Peverell (1946). We Fought Them in Gunboats. British Publishers Guild. pp. 15–18.
  59. ^ "Twinning Committee for Cornwall". Retrieved 20 September 2014.

External links

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