Liskeard

Street Map

Liskeard (/lɪsˈkɑrd/) (Cornish: Lys Kerwyd or Lyskerrys) is an ancient stannary and market town and civil parish in south east Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.

Liskeard is close to the Caradon Mining District, one of ten sites comprising the Cornwall & West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Liskeard is situated approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Plymouth, 14 miles (23 km) west of the River Tamar and the border with Devon, and 12 miles (20 km) east of Bodmin. The town is at the head of the Looe valley in the ancient hundred of West Wivelshire and has a population of 8,656. Liskeard was the base of the former Caradon District Council and it still has a town council.

The placename element Lis, along with ancient privileges accorded the town, indicates that the settlement was once a high status ‘court’. A Norman castle was built here after the Conquest, which eventually fell into disuse in the later Middle Ages. By 1538 when visited by John Leland only a few insignificant remains were to be seen. Sir Richard Carew writing in 1602 concurred:

Of later times, the Castle serued the Earle of Cornwall for one of his houses; but now, that later is worm-eaten out of date and vse. Coynages, Fayres, and markets, (as vitall spirits in a decayed bodie) keepe the inner partes of the towne aliue, while the ruyned skirtes accuse the iniurie of time, and the neglect of industrie.

Liskeard was one of the 17 Antiqua maneria of the Duchy of Cornwall. The market charter was granted by Richard, Earl of Cornwall (brother of Henry III) in 1240. Since then, it has been an important centre for agriculture. The seal of the borough of Liskeard was Ar. a fleur-de-lis and perched thereon and respecting each other two birds in chief two annulets and in flank two feathers.

When Wilkie Collins wrote of his visit to the town in his Rambles beyond Railways he had a low opinion of it: “that abomination of desolation, a large agricultural country town”. The town went through a period of economic prosperity during the pre-20th century boom in tin mining, becoming a key centre in the industry as a location for a stannary and coinage.

Liskeard is one of the few towns in Cornwall still to have a weekly livestock market. Market day is Thursday.

Local business largely comprises small independent establishments, many specialising in unique local products. Some shops retain original Victorian shopfronts and interiors.

Liskeard is a popular local town serving a wide local area of small villages and is one of the main gateways to Bodmin Moor. There is a range of restaurants, cafes and pubs in the town.

Liskeard puts on a pantomime in the last week of January with 2 nights free entry for the OAPs and holds a very popular carnival every June all arranged by the Liskeard Lions. St Matthew’s Fair was originally established by charter in 1266, the Liskeard Lions’ Club re-established the fair in 1976 which runs in September/October. Every December the town comes together for Liskeard Lights Up, Street entertainment and fun activities throughout the day and a lantern parade around the streets before the Christmas lights are switched on.

Every July Liskeard holds one of the biggest agricultural shows in the region. The Liskeard Show is always held on the second Saturday in July.

Bodmin Moor lies to the northwest of the town. The A38 trunk road used to pass through the town centre but a dual carriageway bypass now carries traffic south of the town leaving the town centre accessible but with low traffic levels.

The town boasts St. Martin’s, the second largest parish church in Cornwall  Built on the site of the former Norman church, the oldest parts of the current structure date back to the 15th century. Other places of worship include a Roman Catholic church and Methodist chapels.

  • Foresters Hall now houses the Tourist Information Office and Liskeard & District Museum. The Foresters still meet in the town at the Public Rooms in West Street.
  • Stuart House (on The Parade) was used by Charles I as a lodging in 1644, when his forces were chasing the Parliamentarians. Restored, it is now used as a community building for arts, heritage and community events
  • Luxstowe House (1831). Designed by George Wightwick for William Glencross.
  • The Guildhall was built in 1859 and has a prominent clock tower.
  • The Public Hall was constructed in 1890.
  • Webb’s House (formerly Webb’s Hotel) is a classic early Victorian market-town hotel featuring in royal visits, parliamentary declarations and much more but recently converted into flats and is the home of the local newspaper The Cornish Times.
  • Pencubitt House was built in 1897 for J. H. Blamey, a wealthy wool merchant. The house was designed by local architect John Sansom, responsible for many Liskeard homes of that period.
  • The Liskeard Union Workhouse, architect John Foulston of Plymouth (later the Lamellion Hospital).

In the year 1294, Liskeard began to send two members to Parliament, but this was reduced to one by the 1832 Reform Act. The MPs have included Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Isaac Foot.

Liskeard is now part of the South East Cornwall constituency.

Liskeard railway station, on the London to Penzance Cornish Main Line, and the A38 trunk road provide the town with rapid access to Plymouth, the rest of Cornwall and the motorway network. The town is also served by the Looe Valley branch line to Looe.

There are three leisure trails in the town, each with its own blue commemorative plaque.

  • Footpath from the town to the railway station: the path was built by Thomas Lang, who was a former mayor, in 1890.
  • Trail around the north of the town centre, including the Parade and the ornamental fountain. The fountain was given to the town by Michael Loam, whose father (also called Michael Loam) invented the Man engine (a device for lifting men up and down mineshafts, and used in many mines throughout Cornwall & West Devon).
  • Trail around the southern part of the town, commemorating Lt. Lapenotière, who brought back the news of the Battle of Trafalgar to England. For this Lt. Lapenotière was given a silver spice sprinkler by King George III. The sprinkler is still owned by the mayor’s office, and is exhibited occasionally.

Liskeard has a sizeable Masonic presence with no fewer than 6 Masonic bodies meeting at the Masonic Hall in The Parade.

Liskeard is twinned with Quimperlé in Brittany, France.

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