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Falmouth, Cornwall
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FALMOUTH. We may wonder if the Mistress of the Seas has a nobler seascape for her children than from Pendennis headland. In front of us are the waters of the Channel running to the boundless ocean. Behind us is the enchanting harbour, only less majestic than Plymouth Sound and much more beautiful.

For those who explore South Cornwall there is no better centre than this. The richly wooded area of the county is all within easy reach, and the Channel coast is easily accessible from the Lizard and Land's End on one side to Fowey and Polperro and Looe. Dehghtful voyages can be made by river and by sea, and, as for the town itself, Falmouth is unique. For those who walk there are endless quaint places to walk to. For those who would sit and rest there is as much sunshine as anywhere in England. For those who love flowers there are beautiful gardens, roadways lined with hydrangeas, and hedges aglow with fuchsias; and for all there is in this man-made town a touch of nature which gives it dominion over palm and pine. Its streets are lined with them.

The Romans may have come here for corn, the Greeks for hides, and the Phoenicians for tin, but it needs no traditions such as these to thrill an Englishman as he stands here, looking this way out to sea and that way to the inner waters, with the Cutty Sark and a hundred sailing ships. Sir Walter Raleigh himself was so thrilled by this vast sheet of water that he had dreams of developing the land, which soon after his day began to grow up as Pennycomequick.

It has grown up now and is a queer corner of the oldfashioned world which almost hides the most enchanting thing it has, the glorious drive around the headland crowned by the battlemented castle of Pendennis. From here the horizon is never empty of passing ships, and in front of us lie all unseen the wrecks of German submarines, while far away are the cruel teeth of the rocks of the Manacles. Built up in the bay is the modern pleasure town of Falmouth; but the real Falmouth lies back about its street running all the town's length, with the grey houses and the church piled up behind it and alleyways slipping down on the other side to ancient wharves and quays. Along this street have rolled smugglers and preventive men, king's sailors and privateersmen, for it led the way to the harbour which has sent out ships whenever there was an enemy to be fought, a prize to be won, or money to be made.

For a mile this old street runs, winding its narrow way along the harbour, up hill and down and round many corners, with every sort of little shop and the church rising in the midst of them; behind it the hillside terraces reached by many steps, and above these the high road that misses it all and takes the motor-cars to the sea.

In this street is Falmouth's museum, filled with things curious and quaintan enormous brain-shaped coral, a collection of shells, a bell rescued from a ship wrecked off the Manacles, a number of samplers, and small things made by prisoners taken in Napoleon's wars. A group of marble busts includes one of a 19th-century Earl of Falmouth, and one of Edward the Seventh as a child, and there is an admirable painting of The Ringers in Launcells Tower by Frederick Smallfield; it is a vivid scene of the ringing-in of George the Third on his accession.

Just off this old street, close by the Prince of Wales pier from which the steamers go, is the traffic centre of Falmouth, the great square called the Moor, no longer grassy as in the days when it received its name. On one side of it are the public buildings: the post office, the town hall, the police and county courts, and the library, in which we found 600 volumes on Cornwall. In the library is a German mine from the Great War, in the square itself is a tank, and the council chamber has a quick-firing gun. But the most remarkable sight from the Moor is Jacob's Ladder, a flight of 111 steps running from the bottom to the top of the hill. Every visitor looks at it but as few as possible climb it. Beyond it on the harbour front the road leads to Greenbank, and# the ferry to Flushing on the opposite side of the creek, said to be the mildest spot in these islands. We can reach it only by going miles round by Penryn.

Round the other way the street leads us towards the sea, and all the way through its openings we have peeps of the loveliest little harbour in England, with busy stone quays and innumerable sailing craft on the waters. It is a captivating spectacle, Flushing lying delightfully on the other side, the castle looking down, and boats of every size and shape and colour moving in and out, with the background of the great repairing dock to which ships come from all parts. We found one here that had been bombed in the Spanish civil war, and another half-wrecked by an explosion in its hold. In the Great War Falmouth Harbour dealt with over ten thousand steamers, of which only 35 were lost. The patrol vessels had 120 engagements with submarines, and swept up about 300 mines. Eight of the submarines were destroyed, and it is still one of the thrilling adventures of boys who come to Falmouth to clamber over a German submarine at low tide. There are five altogether on the front, mostly covered with barnacles and rusting away when we saw them.

Perhaps we may feel that the visitor to Falmouth never loses his sense of wonder at peeping down the openings in this old street and finding there, like an old queen among her subjects, the old clipper Cutty Sark, her beautiful lines like those of a seabird on the wave, her masts and spars a filigree against the sky. She seems almost as much a part of the scene as the broad creek running up to Penryn, or the incomparable view across the Carrick Roads of the wooded Fal, the green shores of Roseland, or the castle of St Mawes, where another arm of the harbour runs out.

To this fascinating street we must always return, for the broad road starting in the bay at Swan Pool runs round the headland to join it. It really begins at the remains of old Arwenack House, the home of the Killigrews, the blustering Cornishmen who founded the town's fortunes and first interested Raleigh in the value of the harbour when he returned from the coast of Guinea.

Their 16th-century house was burnt down long ago, though a broad avenue on the hill has still the granite pillars of the entrance gates. The later Arwenack House is a long, low, fascinating 17th-century building, two houses joined in one, with an old window in one of them through which a Killigrew was said to watch for his contraband vessels. Pretty gardens are about the grey front, and on the opposite side of the road in another garden is a granite . obelisk in memory of Sir Peter Killigrew. It is a tribute deserved, for he obtained from the Commonwealth the right to establish a market and altered the name of the hamlet, as it then was, from Smithwick to Pennycomequick, which was changed again by Charles the Second to Falmouth.

Passing along the street we note at the foot of the alley of Custom House Quay an oddly-shaped chimney long known as Queen Victoria's tobacco pipe. In it was burnt smuggled tobacco, and many tons of it have gone up it in smoke. It is a queer little reminder of a business Falmouth favoured for many long years, though today the small amount of tobacco seized goes to the workhouse.

The 17th-century church standing high above the street, and built just after the Restoration, is one of the few dedicated to King Charles the Martyr, and it has an east window remarkable for its portrait of Charles Stuart, who is holding the axe of his execution. With him is Archbishop Laud, and the Bishop Juxon who was with him on the scaffold in Whitehall, to whom he spoke his last word, Remember. A modern painting of the tragic king hangs on the wall, a much better portrait than the king's head which greets us as we come out into the street again.

Many gifts and much wise restoration have added to the beauty and dignity of the church. The baptistry and the chancel have both been made lovely. Two gilded angels found in a coal store were placed over the east window. A lectern bearing an odd resemblance to a goose rather than an eagle was recovered from the lumber and is now in the warrior's chapel. There is some ancient Italian glass in a Window, and in the vestry is a painted alabaster of the Scourging by some Flemish or Italian painter. Another painting on the wall of the nave> by Burleigh Bruhl, is called The Wayfaring Men. The Very elaborate pulpit is adorned with a miscellany of carving, including figures of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and panels from old screens.

Extract from Arthur Mee's King's England, Cornwall (1937). An original copyright transcription by CuriousFox, edited for identification purposes.

It dates from only 1613. Its site, in 1600, had only two houses, -an ale-house and a smithy; but was observed by Sir Walter Raleigh, at a visit he made to the adjacent mansion of Arwenack, on his return from the coast of Guinea, to be eminently suited for a great port, -and was recommended by him as such, to the council, on his return to London. A small village began then to be formed on the site; and took the name, first of Smithwick or Smithike, -afterwards of Penny-come-quick, a corruption of Pen-y-cwm-cuick, signifying "the head of the narrow vale;" but even this, in 1613, had only 10 houses. -A plan was formed, in that year, by Sir John Killigrew of Arwenack, the proprietor of the site, to raise the place to the importance of a town; building operations thence went on, raising upwards of 150 houses within the next 30 years; an act of parliament was passed in 1652, making this place a head port in lieu of Penryn; a royal proclamation went forth, in 1660, requiring it to be thenceforth called Falmouth; a charter was issued, in 1661, investing it with the privileges of a corporate town; and the enterprises of trade steadily increased the number of houses to nearly 350 before the year 1700, and to upwards of 500 before the year 1750. The harbour, by its capaciousness and excellence, has ever since continued to render the town prosperous; and it gave perfect shelter, in 1815, during a severe gale, to a fleet of 300 vessels, several of them of large size; but was the scene, in the previous year, at a point not far from the town, of the disastrous shipwreck of the "Queen" transport, when 195 invalids on board perished. Yet, though Falmouth can lay no claim to antiquity, some place near it appears to have been a seat of population in the Roman times. The editors of the Mag. Brit., 1738, say, "In old time, a town which the ancients called Voluba stood on the river Fal; but that being destroyed long since, another is risen in its room at a little distance, which retains something of the old name, and is called Falmonth or Volemouth, which is a spacions and excellent haven, altogether as noble as Brundusium in Italy, and rivalled by Plymouth only, made by the falling of the river Fal into it."... Houses, 4, 051. Marriages in 1860, 202; births, 700, -of which 54 were illegitimate; deaths, 476, -of which 185 were at ages under 5 years, and 15 at ages above 85. Extracts from a much larger entry well worth reading - Goring, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1870-72

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