Lostwithiel

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Lostwithiel (Cornish: Lostwydhyel) is a civil parish and small town in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom at the head of the estuary of the River Fowey. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 2,739. The name Lostwithiel comes from the Cornish “lostwydhyel” which means “tail of a wooded area”.

The town is situated in the Fowey river valley, positioned between the A390 road from Tavistock to Truro and the upper tidal reaches of the river.

Lostwithiel railway station is on the Cornish Main Line from Plymouth to Penzance. It is situated on the south side of the town, just across the medieval bridge. The line was originally built for the Cornwall Railway which built its main workshops here, but the surviving workshop buildings were transformed into apartments in 2004. A branch line takes china clay trains to Fowey.

The town contains the suburbs of Bridgend to the east and Rosehill and Victoria to the west of the River Fowey.

Lostwithiel’s most notable buildings are St Bartholomew’s Church and Restormel Castle. There is a small museum devoted to the history of the town. Once a stannary town, and for a period the most important in Cornwall, it is now much reduced in importance. There is a fine early fourteenth century bridge with five pointed arches, and nearby the remains of the Stannary Court, with its Coinage Hall – this was the centre of royal authority over tin-mining, and ‘coinage’ meant the knocking off of the corner of each block of tin for the benefit of the Duchy of Cornwall. The small Guildhall has an arcaded ground floor. The old Grammar School has been converted into dwellings.

Lostwithiel is a historic borough. The Lostwithiel constituency elected two members to the Unreformed House of Commons, but was disenfranchised by the Reform Act 1832. It remained a municipal borough until the 1960s, when it became a civil parish.

The seal of the borough of Lostwithiel was A shield charged with a castle rising from water between two thistles, in the water two fish, with the legend “Sigillum burgi de Lostwithyel et Penknight in Cornubia”.

The town has a playing field known as King George V Playing Field. Lostwithiel has several large parks including Coulson Park which was named after Nathaniel Coulson (the San Francisco property magnate) who was raised in Lostwithiel after being abandoned by his father.

The town boasts a number of annual cultural activities including an arts and crafts festival, a beer festival, a week long carnival in the summer, food and cider festivals in the October, and a Dickensian evening in December.

There are two primary schools in Lostwithiel: St Winnow C E School and Lostwithiel Primary School. The majority of children aged between 11 and 16 attend Fowey Community College.

The origin of the name Lostwithiel is a subject much debated. In the 16th century it was thought that the name came from the Roman name Uzella, translated as Les Uchel in Cornish. In the 17th century popular opinion was that the name came from a translation of Lost (a tail) and Withiel (a lion), the lion in question being the lord who lived in the castle.

Current thinking is that the name comes from the Old Cornish Lost Gwydhyel meaning “tail-end of the woodland”. The view from Restormel Castle looking towards the town shows how this may have come to be.

From Lostwithiel railway station trains operated by First Great Western run approximately every two hours towards Plymouth or Penzance. Some through services to and from London Paddington station and those operated by CrossCountry between Penzance and Scotland also stop.

Lostwithiel is twinned with Pleyber-Christ in Brittany, France.

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