Falmouth History

Painting of Falmouth, Cornwall in the 1700s

Painting of Falmouth, Cornwall in the 1700s

Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle to defend the Carrick Roads in 1540, which, together with St Mawes Castle on the east side meant that the estuary entrance was well guarded. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613, which received a charter from Charles II in 1661. A new church was consecrated in 1665 and there was soon a cluster of a few hundred homes around the Church of “King Charles the Martyr”.

In 1688, Falmouth was made the Royal Mail packet station. In 1805, the news of Britain's victory (and Admiral Nelson's death) at Trafalgar was landed here at the steps of Fishstrand Quay from the schooner H.M.S. Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach.

The development of Falmouth Docks began in 1858 with the first ship entering in 1861. The railway reached the town soon after, in 1863. This brought prosperity and also tourism to the town. Perhaps surprisingly, Falmouth boasts three railway stations; Falmouth Docks, Falmouth Town and Penmere.

Falmouth was the launching point for “Operation Chariot” in WWII, the famous Commando raid on the heavily defended docks of St Nazaire in France. This led directly to the sinking of the Bismarck by depriving her of a repair port.

The 15 week Golden Jubilee tour for Queen Elizabeth II came to Falmouth on 1st May 2002 when Her Majesty launched the brand new Falmouth lifeboat, the RNLI Richard Cox Scott on the National Maritime Museum pontoons.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall was formerly opened on 14th March 2003 by the Duke of York, HRH Prince Andrew. Falmouth now has its own university, the Famouth University; with two campuses located at Wood Lane and Tremough offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses mainly in the fields of Art, Design and Media.

Many notable sailing achievements have taken place in Falmouth waters, with perhaps the two most well known being Robin Knox-Johnston’s, who became the first person to sail single handed and non stop around the world in 1969 and Ellen Macarthur’s who did it in 2007, becoming the fastest person in the process, to do so.