Falmouth (Cornish: Aberfal) was originally called Peny-cwm-cuic, which became 'Pennycomequick'. It was formed from the older parish of Budock in 1661. The borough of Falmouth is on a peninsula 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. It is situated in the Deanery and Hundred of Kerrier, and is bounded on the north and north-east by the harbour and which separates it from Mylor, St Just-in-Roseland and St Anthony-in-Roseland, and on the east, south and west by Budock.

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. Apart from a harbour at Falmouth Haven, the only other place was Arwenack Manor - the home of the Killigrew family. The main town was then at Penryn.

During the English Civil War of 1642-45, Charles I's Queen, Henrietta Maria, fled into exile via Pendennis Castle. At the end of the War, the King being a prisoner, his heir did the same, planning before he left to build a chapel for public worship... and when the war ceased, to send an able on conscientious chaplain to preach God's word therein. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Sir Peter Killigrew had a long-standing ambition to found a town and church on Falmouth Haven (as the harbour here was then called). So he sent an emissary to the new King at his new court in London, seeking the grant of a Charter for the town. He also offered to give land for a church, parsonage and a churchyard if the King would sponsor the project. Owing partly, perhaps, to his diplomatic dedication of his new church to the King's martyred father, Sir Peter succeeded in modifying the royal vow and received much help from King Charles II and his brother, the Duke of York.

Falmouth became 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 its attractions as a tourism centre in the future.

The town of Falmouth is situated on the south-westyern side of the harbour and stetches along its shore for more than a mile. The old town received a charter of incorporation from King Charles II in 1661. There appears to have been no plan on the laying out of the buildings. On the adjoining hills, with every advantage of space, air and picuresque scenery scarcely to be equalled, the town was extended into open terraces. These extentions added much respectability to the appearance of the town. The Church of King Charles the Martyr lies on the main street running through the town.


Archives & Libraries

The National Maritime Museum, Cornwall
Discovery Quay
TR11 3QY

Tel.: +44(0)1326 313388; Email:enquiries[at]nmmc.co[dot]uk.

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.



  • The municipal cemetery at Falmouth is at Swanpool; it was consecrated on 19th May 1857. The only other cemeteries in the Falmouth area apart from Swanpool are the private Quaker burial ground and the Budock churchyard. The old Falmouth churchyard closed in the early 1850s, after which most burials took place at Swanpool which had one part for Anglican use and one part for Nonconformist use.
  • Falmouth Town Council have a searcheable burial index available on-line.
  • THE DISSENTERS, also known as the 'Congregationalist' or 'Independent' cemetery, had their own burial ground at Ponsharden, which was opened in 1808 for the exclusive use of the Dissenting Christian congregations of Falmouth and Penryn. They acquired their first (and only) dedicated burial ground in early 1808, when they were given a plot of land at Ponsharden (wikipedia).


Census information for the town of Falmouth (1841 - 1901) is held in the Cornwall Record Office. The Cornwall Family History Society offers a census search service for its members.
Specific census information for this borough is available as follows:


Church History

  • Anglican. Falmouth was, historically, the largest centre of population in Budock parish. Before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 in the aftermath of the English Civil War, most events took place in Budock Church. The town of Falmouth now consists of three ecclesiastical Anglican parishes:
    • King Charles's. This is the oldest parish covering Falmouth; it lies on the main street running through the town. The parish was created from Budock parish in 1661.
    • All Saints'. This is a modern parish in Falmouth, created from King Charles parish in 1887; the church is situated within the town in Killigrew Street.
    • The parish of Penwerris was created out of the northern part of Falmouth town in 1848, although at that time it was part of Budock parish. Although this is a separate ecclesiastical parish, in civil terms it is part of Falmouth town.
  • Roman Catholics. The first Catholic Church in Falmouth after the Reformation was a hut sited near the present Customs House. It was put up at the beginning of the nineteenth century by French fishermen who needed a place for private prayer when they visited the port. The hut was destroyed by fire, but nevertheless rebuilt. In 1818, a French émigré priest, Father de la Gresille, moved the Church to Well Lane, because the original ground was required by the Government. Another site was subsequently found on Greenbank. Five hundred pounds was collected and donations also came from the French Royal Family of Napoleon III. The foundation stone of the new church was dedicated to "Our Immaculate Lady". The Church, accommodating one hundred and fifty people, was solemnly opened at Stratton Terrace on 24th October, 1821.
    In due course, the congregation outgrew the little church. Negotiations began with Lord Kimberley, who agreed to sell a plot of land on the moor above the Market Place. Building work soon started on the new Church, which was designed by Joseph Hansom. The new Church of St. Mary Immaculate, which was mainly constructed of granite and Portland stone, was solemnly opened on 26th August, 1869 by Bishop Vaughan of Plymouth and Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was added in 1929.
    The Church narrowly escaped total destruction during an air raid in 1941, when it sustained severe damage to the roof and windows. The Church was consecrated in 1948 by Bishop Grimshaw.
  • Non-Conformist. The Wesleyan Methodist Society was first established here by John Wesley himself in 1754. The old chapel, situated in Killigrew Stree, was built in 1791 and enlarged in 1814. Another chapel, built in 1829, was situated in Porham Street. Yet another chapel was built in 1867 on Pike's Hill by subscription. Other sects in Falmouth included the Bible Christians, Congregationalists, Baptists and Primitive Methodists. There was also a Unitarian chapel which was purchased in 1840.
  • Quakers. The Society of Friends (Quakers) held meetings in the town in from 1670. Their chapel was built in 1803.

Church Records

  • General. Falmouth was, essentially, formed out of Budock parish, so early events are most likely to be found in Budock church registers.
  • LDS Church Records.
  • The Cornwall Record Office holdings: Deposited original registers 1663 - 1900, Boyd's Marriage Index 1663 - 1812, Pallot's Marriage Index 1790 - 1812, Non-Conformist Records 1783 - 1837.
  • BMD Information - General. S & N Genealogical Supplies have published on CD Falmouth Marriages and Baptisms 1663 to 1812, in Acrobat format.
  • Baptisms.
    • Baptisms at King Charles and All Saints 1890 to 1911 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
    • Non-Conformist baptisms in Falmouth are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP), as follows:
      • Armenian Bible Christian baptisms 1822 to 1837.
      • Independent Church baptisms 1783 to 1837.
      • Methodist baptisms 1810 to 1837.
      • Wesleyan-Methodist, Pike's Hill, baptisms 1889 to 1911.
      • Society of Friends (Quakers) baptisms 1837 to 1897.
      • Falmouth & Truro Mission Station baptisms 1856 to 1911.
      • Falmouth Wesleyan baptisms 1813 to 1861.
      • Wesleyan-Methodist Falmouth Circuit baptisms 1852 to 1862.
    • The Cornish Forefathers' Society have published on two CDs, baptisms 1695 to 1775 and 1776 to 1837 for Falmouth and these are available for purchase on Parish Chest.
  • Marriages. The Society of Friends (Quakers) marriages in Falmouth 1839 to 1894 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C- PROP).
  • Burials.
    • Falmouth Town Council have a searcheable burial index available on-line.
    • Burials at Falmouth (both King Charles and All Saints) 1813 to 1831, and 1924 to 1927, are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
    • The Society of Friends (Quakers) burials in Falmouth 1837 to 1908 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C- PROP).
    • S & N Genealogical Supplies have published on CD Falmouth Burial Registers 1663 to 1812.
  • Other Non-Conformist Records. OPC Coverage of Non-Conformist records of Falmouth is available.

Civil Registration

The town of Falmouth is in the Falmouth Registration District, and has been since 1st July 1837; there were sub-districts at Constantine, Falmouth, Mylor and Penryn. Parishes within the district are: Budock, Constantine, Falmouth, Mabe, Mawnan, Mylor, Penryn, Perranarworthal and St. Gluvias.

The Superintendant Registrar can be contacted at: Berkely House, 12-14 Berkeley Vale, Falmouth, TR11 3PH. Tel: 01326 312606.


Description & Travel

  • The Old Falmouth, is available on-line, courtesy of the Old Cornwall Society. It was edited by Susan E Gay, and published in 1903.
  • Photographs of Falmouth (including King Charles Church) are available on-line.
You can see pictures of Falmouth which are provided by:





The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"FALMOUTH, a parish, market town, seaport, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Kerrier, county Cornwall, 60 miles from Plymouth, 92 from Exeter, and 266 W.S.W. of London. The town is situated at the mouth of the river Fal, and is the most westerly seaport in England, lying northward of the isthmus which unites it to the peninsula of Pendennis, Being connected with Plymouth by the Cornwall railway, which has a station at Truro, it is of easy communication with every part of the kingdom. This port was first rendered famous by the landing of the Duchess Dowager of Bretagne, who came over to England for the celebration of her nuptials with Henry IV. At that time the site of the present town was occupied only by fishermen, and so continued until the reign of James I., with the exception of one house at which Sir Walter Raleigh was entertained on his return from Guiana. In this reign permission was granted to Sir John Killigrew to construct a quay, and lay the foundation of a town, certain dues being secured to him and his heirs by Act of Parliament. The town is first mentioned by the name of Falmouth in the charter of Charles II., dated October 5th, 1661, incorporating the inhabitants by the style of mayor, aldermen, and burgesses. An Act was passed in 1664 making the town of Falmouth a parish distinct from Budock, of which it had hitherto formed a part; and another Act was passed in 1670, limiting the boundaries, quay dues, and other municipal privileges. The establishment of the line of mail-packets to the West Indies, Portugal, and other places, about the year 1688, contributed greatly to the rising importance of the place. The town of Falmouth is about 1½ mile in length, consisting chiefly of one street, which extends along the S.W. shore of the harbour, and is gradually increasing in size.



OPC Assistance. The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme operates a service to help family historians; the OPC pages for Falmouth parishes is available on-line under each of those listed under Church History, from where the OPC can be contacted by email.



You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SW816322 (Lat/Lon: 50.149306, -5.058529), Falmouth which are provided by:


Merchant Marine

The Bartlett Library in the National Maritime Museum has information about the Falmouth Packet Boat Service.



  • The Falmouth Packet Newpaper Archives (1688-1850) are available on-line.
  • Issues of the Falmouth Packet (1801-02), will be of especial interest because the newspaper is the earliest and the immediate predecessor of the Royal Cornwall Gazette and the Cornish Herald. Eighty-five issues were published between 7 Mar 1801 and 16 Oct 1802 and the only complete set is in the Courtney Library of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (RIC). The British Newspaper Library have a microfilm of these.
  • The local newspaper of Falmouth today is the (resurrected) Falmouth Packet.

Poor Houses, Poor Law

  • The Falmouth parishes were part of the Falmouth Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief. The Workhouse is located at Trescobeas, in the parish of Budock, 1¼ miles north east of the Town.
  • The Falmouth Workhouse was a stuccoed building with stone dressings, erected in 1852 from designs by the Architect Fred William Porter, and was designed to hold 170 inmates. It later became known as Budock House and then under the National Health Service, as Budock Hospital. Relatively few records survive; holdings include Guardians' minute books (1839-1930), etc. These are located in the Cornwall Record Office.
  • Overseers' Accounts (1768 to 1773. 1813 to 1815 and 1819 to 1834) and Settlement Paper for 1722, are available in the Cornwall Record Office.


  • Population in 1801 - 4849 persons
  • Population in 1811 - 5307 persons
  • Population in 1821 - 6374 persons
  • Population in 1831 - 7284 persons
  • Population in 1841 - 7695 persons in the parish,
    14 persons in the Town prison and
    86 persons in the Union Workhouse
  • Population in 1851 - 8151 persons
  • Population in 1861 - 9392 persons
  • Population in 1871 - 10471 persons
  • Population in 1881 - 12131 persons
  • Population in 1891 - 11662 persons
  • Population in 1901 - 10715 persons
  • Population in 1911 - 13132 persons
  • Population in 1921 - 13322 persons
  • Population in 1931 - 15220 persons
  • Population in 1951 - 16975 persons
  • Population in 1961 - 17621 persons
  • Population in 1971 - 18041 persons
  • Population in 1981 - 18160 persons
  • Population in 1991 - 19470 persons
  • Population in 2001 - 20775 persons
  • Population in 2011 - 21385 persons


The Penryn & Falmouth Old Cornwall Society News Page is on-line.



The Town and civil parish of Falmouth comprises 989 acres of land.