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Fowey, Cornwall

Historical Description

Fowey, a town and a parish in Cornwall.i The town stands on the right bank of the river Fowey, about a mile from its mouth, opposite Polruan village, and 28 miles W by S of Devonport, with a station on the G.W.R., 280 miles from London, and a post, money order, and telegraph office. Acreage of parish, 1953; population, 1957. The town belonged at the Conquest to the Earl of Montague. It was at an early period one of the principal seaports of England. Many vessels were fitted out at it for the crusades, and a windmill on the heights above it was a well known sea-mark in 1296, and is believed to have been built by persons who had been in Palestine. Its mariners were famous in the time of Edward I. for sea exploits, and they appear to have then, or soon afterwards, traded to most parts of the world. A fleet of 47 ships, with 770 men, was sent by the town in the time of Edward III. to the siege of Calais. The "gallants of Fowey," as its seamen were then called, carried, on in subsequent reigns such a system of descent and spoliation on the coast of Normandy as provoked much wrath and retaliation. The French made expeditions at several times against the town. and in the reign of Henry VI. they effected a landing by night, set fire to the houses, slew a number of the inhabitants, and chased others into places of shelter in the neighbouring country, but were eventually driven back to their ships. The townsmen in the time of Edward IV. were denounced by government for piracy and deprived, of their vessels, and they then sustained a blow which ever .afterwards affected their prosperity; yet they rose on several subsequent occasions into prominent notice for deeds of activity, and in the time of Charles II. they so assailed, a Dutch man-of-war as to preserve a fleet of merchant ships irom capture. Block-houses had been erected at the haven's mouth on both sides in the time and at the command -of Edward IV., a strong iron boom also stretched across the harbour, a fort, called the Fort of St Catherine, was erected in the time of Henry VIIL on a magnificent pile of rocks at the harbour's mouth, and these strengths, both from their character and their situation, enabled the townsmen, with comparatively small numbers of hands, to perform comparatively great acts of bravery. St Catherine's Fort and two others of more modern erection between it and the town still form a sort of defence, and have the advantage of being so much elevated that no ship could bring her guns to beat-upon them, but they are much dilapidated, and have become more picturesque than useful. The Earl of Essex was driven from Fowey by the Royalists in 1644, and -escaped by sea to Plymouth, and Fairfax retook the town in 1646. A visit was made to Fowey by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846, and this is commemorated by a granite obelisk 23 feet high. The Prince and Princess of Wales also visited it, and Garibaldi embarked at it in 1865. The town lies in a valley, under sheltering hills, amid picturesque environs. It is nearly a mile long, but has narrow streets, and is very irregularly built. The market-house and town-hall are a spacious edifice, erected in the 19th century by Viscount Valletort and Philip Rashleigh, Esq. There are a working men's institute, young men's Christian association, a masonic lodge, forester's' court, and a cottage hospital. The church is a large, lofty, and interesting edifice, chiefly of the 14th century, has a handsome tower with carvings and pinnacles, has also an ornamented oak ceiling, and contains a pulpit of the 15th 'century and monuments of the Treffry, Rashleigh, and Graham families. The church was thoroughly restored in 1876, when a new organ was erected. There are two chief inns, three dissenting chapels, an endowed school, almshonses, and other charities. A weekly market is held on Saturday, and fairs are held on Shrove Tuesday, 1 May and 10 Sept The chief employments are shipment of minerals and a coasting trade. There is a railway from Fowey to New Quay, called the Cornish Minerals railway, which is worked. by the G.W.R. The harbour is admirably sheltered, has depth, at the lowest tide, for vessels drawing 3 fathoms water, and possesses ample capacity and excellent anchorage. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1893 was 130 (14,075 tons), the entries and clearances each average 2200 (230,000 tons) per annum. The town was made a member of the cinque ports in the time of Edward III., was chartered as a borough in the time of James II., and from that time sent two members to Parliament, but was disenfrancised by the Reform Bill of 1832. The corporation was finally abolished in 1883. The manor belongedyin the time of Richard I., to Robert Cardingbam, was given by him to the priory of Tywardreath, and is held now by the duchy of Cornwall, Place House is the seat of the Treffry 'family, stands immediately above the town, takes its name of Place ( from a Cornish word signifying "a palace," dates in its original form from the time of Henry VI., was once called Cnne Court, signifying " the king's court," appears from relics found at it to have been a royal residence, has undergone restoration and enlargement, has ornamentations in granite i and elvan, includes a fine hall lined with polished porphyry, and contains a number of interesting objects, together with j an original portrait of Hugh Peters, a native of Fowey, the i chaplain of Cromwell. The land is hilly, and the rocks i include slate, quartz, and fossiliferous old red sandstone. The [ living is a vicarage in the diocese of Truro; gross value, —£150 with residence. !

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 CountyCornwall 
Ecclesiastical parishFowey St. Fimbarrus 
Poor Law unionSt. Austell 

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

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Fowey from the following:


Online maps of Fowey 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 districtPL23
Post TownFowey