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Falmouth, King Charles

Falmouth, King Charles parish (Cornish: Aberfal Myghtern Charles) was formed from the older parish of Budock in 1661. The parish is on a peninsula and occupies the old town area. Falmouth is located at the west side of the entrance to Carrick Roads, a large natural harbour on the south coast of Cornwall fed by the River Fal. Henry VIII built a fort here at Pendennis Point and another on the opposite shore at St. Mawes, both of which are still in excellent condition. Falmouth is the largest port in Cornwall whose real prosperity began in 1688 when it became a Post Office packet station. Brigantines sailed with mail to Spain, Portugal, West Indies and North American Colonies until 1852, when mail traffic was transferred to Southampton. The port and shopping area are on the north side of the peninsula, while on the south coast are sandy beaches and hotels. Today Falmouth is a combined holiday resort, fishing port and ship repairing centre. Ambitious plans to transform the waterfront will no doubt increase it's attractions as a tourism centre in the future. The Church of King Charles the Martyr lies on the main street running through the town.

Falmouth King Charles is the main parish Church for the town of Falmouth

Most parish and church description(s) on these pages are from Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall by J Polsue (Truro, 1867 - 1873)

Archives & Libraries

The National Maritime Museum, Cornwall
Discovery Quay
TR11 3QY

Tel.: +44(0)1326 313388;

The Museum contains the Bartlett Library which makes available key maritime reference books, which are necessary to trace the maritime achievements of Cornish men and women. The Library includes an extensive run of Lloyd's Registers from 1764 to 2002. Archive material includes the Falmouth Harbourmaster's Daily Records from 1880 to 1990. In addition, there are several databases, the most important of which covers all vessels built in Cornwall between 1776 and 1914. The Library also includes the Martime Censuses of Falmouth.

The Library will undertake research for enquirers, although the cost of extensive research will be charged. Entry to the Library is free and it is normally opened five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm. The telephone number of the Library is: +44(0)1326 214579.


Whilst there are burials at the church, most parishioners were interred at the municipal cemetery of Falmouth, which is at Swanpool.


See under Falmouth Town.

Church History

The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SW8032 and was dedicated to King Charles the Martyr in 1665. It must be remembered that in the early 1600's there were no more than eight houses in Falmouth, and by 1665 this number had increased to only 200. Even as late as 1721 no house lay to the west of Market Street and no road was made up the moor. Sir Peter Killigrew in 1660 planned his church to be the centre of what he envisaged as a growing town, and this has come about in the church's three hundred years of history, with Falmouth's building estates now reaching out towards the parish of Budock.

On August the 29 1662, Sir Peter measured out the ground which was to be devoted to the Church and a ministers house and workers began to dig the foundations. The building was finished on February 21st, 1664 having taken only 18 months to complete. The first sermon was preached in the finished Church by John Bedford, who was appointed as the first rector, his chosen as his text being: Gen: 33; 20 etc. On March 17 1663 the first sacrements were administered, and on August 22nd, 1665, the church was consecrated by Dr Seth Ward, Lord Bishop of Exeter. It was built at the expense of King Charles II, the Duke of York (later James II) and other distinguished persons. in memory of their father - the executed King Charles I.

The Records show that on the 26 November 1664 James Prowse, Gent, was the first to be buried in the Churchyard. The Rector John Bedford was forbidden to bury anyone else because the ground was not consecrated. On April the following year, he was permitted to resume burials by The Most Reverend C T Gilbert, Archbishop of Cantabury, and the Right Reverand ct Seth Bishop of Exon (Exeter). From 1663 to 1877 the parish was part of the Diocese of Exeter; from 1877 onwards it became part of the Diocese of Truro.

The church comprises a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, north, south and west galleries, and a vestry. The central roof is supported by eight lofty Ionic columns of granite, four on each side, assisted by wooden pillars. In 1684 extensions were made to the east and west. A chancel was added and the lowest part of the tower was built. In 1695 a gallery was built at the west end at the joint cost of Sir Peter Killigrew and Mr Bryan Rogers; also in that year, another gallery was built on the north aisle by voluntary contributions, and in 1702 one was built in the south aisle. An organ was erected in 1703 which was replaced in 1798. The tower was raised another stage in 1738 when it acquired a 12-hundredweight bell, and was raised again by another stage in 1800 for the reception of a clock. Three additional bells were added in 1861. The tower is finished with battlements and pinnacles.

The population of Falmouth had grown to about 7000 by 1813, so the 1684 chancel was demolished. At the same time, the church was lengthened eastward by one-third of its whole length, and the chancel was then rebuilt. In 1861, the flooring of the church was renovated. In 1896 another major reconstruction began. The three pitched roofs and the galleries were removed and the walls raised. Three new barrel ceilings in ornamental plaster work were installed. The building was back in use within a year. An organ chamber was installed in 1915, when the previous space occupied by the organ became the Warrior Chapel. A new window was added to this chapel which was dedicated as a war memorial in 1928. A baptistry was formed in 1936.

There are a south door, a north porch, a priest's door and a vestry door. The bells have now been replaced by an eight-bell carillon.

Church Records

Civil Registration

The ecclesiastical parish is part of Falmouth Town for civil purposes.

Description & Travel


The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme operates a service to help family historians; the OPC page for this parish is available on-line, from where the OPC can be contacted by email.


Poorhouses, Poor Law, etc.

The Falmouth parishes were part of the Falmouth Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief.


  • Population in 1801 - 1165 persons
  • Population in 1811 - 1374 persons
  • Population in 1821 - 1982 persons
  • Population in 1831 - 2523 persons
  • Population between 1841 and 1861 are incorportated in the town population figures
  • Population in 1871 - 5177 persons
  • Population in 1881 - 6158 persons
  • Population figures after 1891 are included in the town population figures


The parish comprises 1180 acres of land.

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