Falmouth, Cornwall

Historical Description

Falmouth, a town, a municipal borough, a seaport, and a parish in Cornwall. The town stands on the W side. of the estuary of the river Fal, a short distance above its mouth, 11½ miles by railway S by W of Truro, and 65½ WSW of Ply-mouth. It has a station on the G.W.R. 306 miles from London. 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 Ealeigh, 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 Smithick; 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 Falmouth or Volemouth, which is a spacious 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.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient County Cornwall
Ecclesiastical parish Falmouth King Charles the Martyr
Hundred Kerrier
Poor Law union Falmouth

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Falmouth from the following:


Online maps of Falmouth are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtTR11
Post TownFalmouth