Some residents are apparently upset that a new block of retirement flats being built on the former Madeira Hotel site is to be named the Fitzroy. They want a more Cornish name beginning with Tre, Pol or Pen.
“By Tre Pol and Pen / Shall ye know all Cornishmen” the rhyme goes.
The name Fitzroy in this case is associated with Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy, who had tangible links with Falmouth.
He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12, went on to command several ships including HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin across the world on his various voyages of scientific exploration.
HMS Beagle, under the command of Fitzroy anchored in Falmouth harbour on the 2nd October 1836 after nearly five years away from England. Darwin departed from the port that evening “on the Mail” bound for Shrewsbury.
The admiral became an MP in 1840 and introduced a Bill introducing qualifications for navigating officers that improved safety at sea.
In 1854 Fitzroy became Director of the Meteorological Office.
He was instrumental in establishing a gale warning service whereby UK ports would use a system of cones and drums to signal the direction from which gales were expected.
He became the first person to issue weather forecasts. In his honour the Met Office renamed the sea area Finisterre to Fitzroy in 2002.
The famous admiral succumbed to depression in 1865 when he slit his throat and committed suicide. As a pioneering meteorologist and founding father of the Met Office, Fitzroy made accurate weather forecasting a reality. "
Outside the former Customs House (The Stable restaurant) in Arwenack Street, is a beautifully made polished granite plinth, made by Freeman and Sons of Penryn, which once housed a Fitzroy RNLI barometer.
Fitzroy, who was on the Committee of Management for the RNLI wanted more done to protect the lives of sailors and fishermen. He oversaw the making and distribution of a new type of barometer that could be installed around the fishing harbours of the British Isles to warn mariners of bad weather. Such was his passion for the barometer he used almost all of his own personal wealth to fund the project.
The RNLI provided a barometer for Falmouth in 1874. Later other barometers were located at the Prince of Wales pier and on Flushing quay.
What happened to the instrument at the Prince of Wales pier remains a mystery. Only the Flushing barometer and another at Coverack are the sole survivors from this bygone era.
Sadly, the Falmouth barometer was stolen in the 1960’s. Yet in Flushing their original RNLI barometer is bolted onto the side of a house on the waterfront.
What is wrong with the name Fitzroy in a port steeped in rich maritime history? Or is ‘Dropped Anchor” a more appropriate nautical name for the retirement flats ?