Lostwithiel (St. Bartholomew)

LOSTWITHIEL (St. Bartholomew), an incorporated market-town and a parish, having separate jurisdiction, locally in the E. division of the hundred of Powder, union of Bodmin, E. division of Cornwall, 6 miles (S.) from Bodmin, 26 (S.W.) from Launceston, and 236½ (W. S. W.) from London; containing 1186 inhabitants. This place is supposed by some to have been the Roman station called by Ptolemy Uzella, but this opinion does not appear to be warranted by the discovery of any certain traces of Roman occupation. According to tradition, Lostwithiel was so named from having been the residence of Withiel, anciently earl of Cornwall, who is said to have had a palace at Penknight, now part of the borough, but in the parish of Lanlivery. In the reign of Richard I., the town was held under the Earl of Cornwall, by Robert de Cardinham, who procured for it the privilege of a market; and Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III., made Lostwithiel, including Penknight, a free borough. His son Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, was a great benefactor to the town; he erected a shire-hall, an exchequer-office, and other handsome buildings, and ordered that the coinage and sale of the tin from the Cornish mines should take place at Lostwithiel only, and that all county meetings should be held here. These privileges, however, were not preserved inviolate, for, in 1414, the burgesses complained to the parliament that the men of Bodmin, Truro, and Helston had caused tin to be sold at those towns, and that the prior of Bodmin had then recently procured the county meetings to be held at Bodmin; and although these grievances were redressed, Lostwithiel was gradually deprived of its exclusive advantages. In the summer of 1644, the place was the head-quarters of the parliamentary general, the Earl of Essex; previously to which a battle had been fought near the town, in which a body of the king's troops, under Sir Richard Grenville, was defeated by Lord Robartes. Dugdale asserts that the parochial church was profaned by the republican soldiers, and injured by an explosion of gunpowder.

The town is situated in a beautiful vale, on the banks of the river Fowey, and upon the road from Plymouth to Falmouth, and comprises two parallel streets, extending from the river to the foot of a steep hill; it is lighted and paved, and there is a good supply of water. The houses are chiefly built of stone, and covered with slate, which abounds in the neighbourhood. A regatta, and a ball, take place in August; and assemblies are held in the winter. The wool-combing business affords employment to about twenty persons, and there is a large tanyard; the chief trade, however, consists in the conveyance of the iron-ores and other mineral produce of the district to the port of Fowey, for shipment to Wales, and in bringing from that place timber, coal, lime, limestone, sand, and other articles, for the supply of the adjacent country. The increased number of mines has added greatly to the prosperity of the town. About three miles distant are the extensive mines of Lanescot and the Fowey Consols, surpassing, in the variety, extent, and power of their machinery, all others in the kingdom, their produce amounting to an eleventh part of all the copper-ore furnished by the mines of Cornwall. The river Fowey, over which is a commodious bridge, is navigable to the quay at spring tides. The market is held on Friday; and the establishment of a corn-market, free of toll, has been attempted, but only a very small quantity of corn is brought for sale: the market-house was erected at the expense of Viscount Mount-Edgcumbe, in 1781. Fairs for horses, cattle, and sheep are held on July 10th, Sept. 4th, Nov. 13th, and the Tuesday before the fourth Sunday in Lent.

The borough contains portions of the adjoining parishes of Lanlivery and St. Winnow. A charter of incorporation was granted by James I., in 1623, and renewed by George II., in 1738, under which the corporation consists of seven aldermen or capital burgesses, including the mayor and seventeen assistants or commoncouncilmen. The mayor, late mayor, and recorder are justices of the peace; and the first-named is also coroner. A court leet is held annually by the mayor, when presentments are made concerning matters relating to the borough and the river; and all persons having boats on the river are required to yield suit and service to the court. There are petty-sessions generally on Friday. The quarter-sessions for the county, formerly held here in the summer, were a few years since removed to Bodmin. In the old shire-hall erected by the Earl of Cornwall, in which the stannary parliaments were held, is the original stannary court-room, with a prison adjoining, which is the only one in the county belonging to the stannaries. The town-hall is a neat building with a prison underneath, erected in 1740, at the cost of Lord Mount-Edgcumbe. The borough first returned members to parliament in the 33rd of Edward I., and then ceased till the 4th of Edward II., from which time the returns were made regularly until the period of the Reform act in the 2nd of William IV., when it was entirely disfranchised.

The parish comprises 110a. 1r. 27p.; the soil is fertile. The living is a discharged vicarage, endowed with the rectorial tithes, valued in the king's books at £2. 13. 4., and in the gift of the Earl of Mount-Edgcumbe: the tithes have been commuted for £40, and some land purchased by Royal Bounty produces £42 per annum. The church is a handsome edifice in the early English style, with a lantern tower at the west end, surmounted by a fine octagonal spire erected in the fourteenth century; it contains an ancient stone font, on the sides of which are sculptured grotesque figures and armorial bearings, rudely executed, and now much defaced. There are places of worship for Bryanites, Independents, and Wesleyans. About a mile northward of the town, on the edge of a lofty hill, are the venerable ruins of Restormel Castle, supposed to have been erected by Robert, Earl of Montaigne, and anciently the residence of the earls of Cornwall. At the commencement of the great civil war, although then ruinous, it was garrisoned for the parliament, and was taken by the royalist general, Sir Richard Grenville, in August, 1644. The remains are comprised within a circular area, 110 feet in diameter: the walls are nine feet thick, surrounded by a deep moat, and at the southern entrance, where was a drawbridge, are two arches supporting a square tower; traces of suites of apartments and stone staircases are visible, and the whole, being richly overgrown with ivy, presents a very picturesque appearance. The chapel of the Holy Trinity, anciently appendant to the castle, is also in ruins.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.