Falmouth

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Falmouth (Cornish: Aberfal) is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,635.

Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which begins some 200 miles away in Bath, Somerset.

Falmouth is famous for its harbour. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe.[3] It is also famous for being the start or finish point of various round-the-world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Sir Francis Chichester and Dame Ellen MacArthur. Falmouth Docks Police enforce the law in the docks.

The name Falmouth is Anglo-Saxon, and appears to be a direct translation of the prior Celtic name Aberfal, “mouth of the Fal river”. It is claimed that an earlier Celtic name for the place was Peny-cwm-cuic, which has been Anglicized to ‘Pennycomequick’.

Falmouth was the site where Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle to defend Carrick Roads, in 1540. The main town was at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.

In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defences at Pendennis were strengthened by the building of angled ramparts. During the Civil War, Pendennis Castle was the second to last fort to surrender to the Parliamentary Army.

After the Civil War, Sir Peter Killigrew received Royal patronage when he gave land for the building of the Church of King Charles the Martyr, dedicated to Charles I, “the Martyr”.

The seal of Falmouth was An eagle displayed with two heads and on each wing with a tower (based on the arms of Killigrew). The arms of the borough of Falmouth were Arg. a double-headed eagle displayed Sa. each wing charged with a tower Or. in base issuant from the water barry wavy a rock also Sa. thereon surmounting the tail of the eagle a staff also proper flying therefrom a pennant Gu.

The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain’s growing empire. As the most south-westerly good harbour in Great Britain Falmouth was often the first port for returning Royal Navy ships.

News of Britain’s victory and Admiral Nelson’s death at Trafalgar was landed here from the schooner Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach. On 2 October 1836 HMS Beagle anchored at Falmouth at the end of its famous survey voyage around the world. That evening, Charles Darwin left the ship and took the Mail coach to his family home at The Mount, Shrewsbury. The ship stayed a few days and Captain Robert Fitzroy visited the Fox family at nearby Penjerrick Gardens. Darwin’s shipmate Sulivan later made his home in nearby waterside village of Flushing, then home to many naval officers.

In 1839 Falmouth was the scene of the gold dust robbery when £4,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.

The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867. The present building dates from 1993 and jointly houses Her Majesty’s Coastguard. The RNLI operates two lifeboats from Falmouth: Richard Cox Scott, a 17-metre (56 ft) Severn Class all weather boat, and Eve Park, an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat.

The Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth on 24 August 1863. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth, as it made it easy for tourists to reach the town. It also allowed the swift transport of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port. The town now has three railway stations. Falmouth Docks railway station is the original terminus and is close to Pendennis Castle and Gyllyngvase beach. Falmouth Town railway station was opened on 7 December 1970 and is convenient for the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the waterfront, and town centre. Penmere railway station opened on 1 July 1925 towards the north of Falmouth and within easy walking distance of the top of The Moor. All three stations are served by regular trains from Truro on the Maritime Line. Penmere Station was renovated in the late 1990s, using the original sign and materials, and is now a fine example of an early 20th century railway station.

During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. It was also the launching point for the famous Commando raid on St Nazaire. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbour.

While Falmouth’s maritime activity has much declined from its heyday, the docks are still a major contributor to the town’s economy. It is the largest port in Cornwall. Falmouth is still a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes also keep the port’s facilities busy. The port is also becoming popular with cruise ship operators. Sixty-four cruise ships were due in Falmouth in 2007.

Further up the sheltered reaches of the Fal there are several ships laid up, awaiting sailing orders and/or new owners/charterers.

With its Georgian town houses converted into guest houses and small hotels, often overlooking one of the beaches, Falmouth has proven a popular holiday destination and it is now primarily a tourist resort. The five main beaches starting next to Pendennis Castle and moving along the coast towards the Helford river are Castle, Tunnel, Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth beaches. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall opened in February 2003. The building was designed by the architect M. J. Long.

The Falmouth & Penryn Packet, first published in 1858, is still based in the town as the lead title in a series of Packet Newspapers for central and western Cornwall.

Falmouth has many literary connections. The town was the birthplace of Toad, Mole and Rat: Kenneth Grahame’s classic Wind in the Willows began as a series of letters sent to his son. The first two were written at the Greenbank Hotel whilst Grahame was a guest in May 1907. Reproductions of the letters are currently on display in the hotel. Poldark author Winston Graham knew the town well and set his novel The Forgotten Story (1945) in Falmouth.

The town has been the setting for several films and television programmes. British film star Will Hay was a familiar face in Falmouth in 1935 whilst filming his comedy Windbag the Sailor. The movie had many scenes of the docks area. The docks area was featured in some scenes with John Mills for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. Robert Newton, Bobby Driscoll and other cast members of the 1950 Walt Disney movie Treasure Island, (some scenes were filmed along the river Fal), were visitors to the town. Stars from the BBC TV serial The Onedin Line stayed in the town during filming in the late 1970s. In 2011 Paramount Pictures filmed parts of the movie World War Z starring Brad Pitt in Falmouth Docks and off the coast.

Falmouth has the first and last “Polytechnic”: Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

The Falmouth Art Gallery is a public gallery with a diverse nineteenth century and twentieth century art collection including many notable modern Cornish artists exhibited in four to five seasonal exhibitions a year, as well as a “family friendly and free” community and schools education programme.

With its proximity to sheltered and unsheltered waters, Falmouth has long been a popular boating and water sports location. Solo yachtsman Robert Manry crossed the Atlantic from Falmouth, Massachusetts to Falmouth, Cornwall from June–August 1965 in the thirteen and a half foot Tinkerbelle – this was the smallest boat to make the crossing at the time. The town was the location for the 1998 Tall Ships’ Race in which approximately ninety Tall Ships set sail for Lisbon, Portugal.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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