1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Falmouth

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FALMOUTH, a municipal and contributary parliamentary borough and seaport of Cornwall, England, 306 m. W.S.W. of London, on a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 11,789. It is finely situated on the west shore of the largest of the many estuaries which open upon the south coast of the county. This is entered by several streams, of which the largest is the Fal. Falmouth harbour lies within Pendennis Point, which shelters the estuary from the more open Falmouth Bay. The Penryn river, coming in from the north-west, forms one of several shallow, winding arms of the estuary, the main channel of which is known as Carrick Roads. To the east Pendennis Castle stands on its lofty promontory, while on the opposite side of the roads the picturesque inlet of the Porthcuel river opens between Castle Point on the north, with St Mawes’ Castle, and St Anthony Head and Zoze Point on the south. The shores of the estuary as a rule slope sharply up to about 250 ft., and are beautifully wooded. The entrance is 1 m. across, and the roads form one of the best refuges for shipping on the south coast, being accessible at all times by the largest vessels. Among the principal buildings and institutions in Falmouth are the town hall, market-house, hall of the Cornwall Polytechnic Society, a meteorological and magnetic observatory, and a submarine mining establishment. The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club has its headquarters here, and in the annual regatta the principal prize is a cup given by the prince of Wales as duke of Cornwall. Engineering, shipbuilding, brewing and the manufacture of manure are carried on, and there are oyster and trawl fisheries, especially for pilchard. The inner harbour, under the jurisdiction partly of commissioners and partly of a dock company, is enclosed between two breakwaters, of which the eastern has 23 ft. of water at lowest tides alongside. The area of the harbour is 42 acres, with nearly 700 lineal yards of quayage. There are two graving docks, and repairing yards. Grain, timber, coal and guano and other manures are imported, and granite, china clay, copper ore, ropes and fish exported. Falmouth is also in favour as a watering-place. The parliamentary borough of Penryn and Falmouth returns one member. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 790 acres.

Falmouth (Falemuth) as a haven and port has had a place in the maritime history of Cornwall from very early times. The site of the town, which is comparatively modern, was formerly known as Smithick and Pennycomequick and formed part of the manor of Arwenack held by the family of Killigrew. The corporations of Penryn, Truro and Helston opposed the undertaking, but the lords in council, to whom the matter was referred, decided in Killigrew’s favour. In 1652 the House of Commons considered that it would be advantageous to the Commonwealth to grant a Thursday market to Smithick. This market was confirmed to Sir Peter Killigrew in 1660 together with two fairs, on the 30th of October and the 27th of July, and also a ferry between Smithick and Flushing. By the charter of incorporation granted in the following year the name was changed to Falmouth, and a mayor, recorder, 7 aldermen and 12 burgesses constituted a common council with the usual rights and privileges. Three years later an act creating the borough a separate ecclesiastical parish empowered the mayor and aldermen to assess all buildings within the town at the rate of sixteen pence in the pound for the support of the rector. This rector’s rate occasioned much ill-feeling in modern times, and by act of parliament in 1896 was taken over by the corporation, and provision made for its eventual extinction. The disfranchisement of Penryn, which had long been a subject of debate in the House of Commons, was settled in 1832, by uniting Penryn with Falmouth for parliamentary purposes and assigning two members to the united boroughs. By the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, the number of members was reduced to one. The fairs granted in 1660 are no longer held, and a Saturday market has superseded the chartered market. In the 17th and 18th centuries Falmouth grew in importance owing to its being a station of the Packet Service for the conveyance of mails.