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Liskeard (St. Martin)

LISKEARD (St. Martin), a borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of West, E. division of Cornwall; containing 4287 inhabitants, of whom 3001 are in the borough, 18 miles (S. S. W.) from Launceston, and 225 (W. S. W.) from London. The ancient name was Liskerrett, derived probably from two Cornish words signifying "a fortified place." The town was formerly amongst the possessions of the earls of Cornwall, and was, by act of parliament, annexed to the duchy in the reign of Edward III. The castle, of which there are still some vestiges, was occasionally the residence of Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans. In 1643, during the civil war, a battle was fought near this place, between the royalists, under Sir Ralph Hopton, and the parliamentary forces; the latter were defeated, and the royalist army marched into Liskeard the same night. The king, on his entrance into Cornwall, in 1646, halted here on August 2nd, and remained until the 7th. The town is one of the most ancient and considerable in the county: it is irregularly built, chiefly on steep hills at the upper extremity of a valley; the streets are well paved and lighted, the inhabitants are supplied with excellent water, and the air is very salubrious. The tanning of leather is carried on to a considerable extent. Facility of conveyance is afforded by the canal from Liskeard towards Looe, which commences about one mile west of the town, where are coal-wharfs and limekilns. This is one of the four coinage or stannary towns; but no coinage has taken place for some time, the practice having been abandoned. A handsome market-house for poultry, fish, and vegetables, was erected in 1822; and there are butchers' shambles beneath the town-hall. The market, on Saturday, is abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, and great annual markets or fairs for the sale of cattle are likewise held. The town-hall is a good structure on granite arches and columns, erected in 1707, and surmounted with a clock.

Liskeard was made a free borough in 1240, by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who conferred on the burgesses similar privileges to those enjoyed by the towns of Launceston and Helston; and several charters were afterwards bestowed, under the last of which, granted by Elizabeth, and dated the 26th of July, 1587, the corporation consisted of a mayor, nine capital, and an indefinite number of inferior, burgesses, a recorder, and a town-clerk. The government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, elected under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76; and the magistrates, four in number, assemble on alternate Mondays for the despatch of business. The powers of the county debt-court of Liskeard, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Liskeard. The borough first sent representatives to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I.: it formerly returned two members, but was deprived of one by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, when an enlarged district was substituted for the borough, for elective purposes. The limits, previously comprising 2387 acres, now extend over an area of 8115 acres, embracing the old borough and parish of Liskeard, with part of the parish of St. Clear. The mayor is returning officer. There is a small prison.

The parish is intersected by the river Looe, and comprises by measurement 7126 acres: the soil is various, but generally fertile, and in some parts a deep rich loam; the surface is very hilly, and the surrounding country strikingly diversified. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £18. 13. 11½.; net income, £303; patron, the Rev. F. J. Todd. The church stands on an eminence at the eastern entrance of the town, and is a spacious and handsome edifice of fine large slate-stone, with a low embattled tower, which was erected in 1627; it contains several monuments, among which is one raised by Captain Martyn and his brother officers, to Lieut. James Huntley, who fell in a gallant attack on a squadron of Russian gun-boats in the Gulf of Finland. An episcopal chapel was opened at Dubwalls, in 1839. Amongst other lands of smaller value, a tenement called Lanseaton, now let for £50 per annum, is vested in the wardens for the repairs of the church. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans, and Association Methodists. A school was founded by the trustees of the Rev. St. John Eliot, who died in 1760, and was endowed by them with £5 per annum. A British and Foreign school was erected in 1835; and a diocesan classical and commercial school has been established. The union of Liskeard comprises 26 parishes or places, with a population of 26,484: a workhouse has been built near the town for 350 persons. A great part yet remains of the buildings of the nunnery of Poor Clares, founded here, and endowed by Richard, Earl of Cornwall; it is called "The Great Place," and has been converted into dwelling-houses.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.