Falmouth has a marvellous heritage and one of the best ways to see and learn about it is by using the Packet Walkway Guide. You follow a trail of attractive plaques that take you to key vantage points in the town, and with the aid of the maps and the accompanying text you can open up the past. The new updated guide follows a similar format to the original guide celebrating the 300th anniversary of the first sailing of the famous Packet Ships from Falmouth.
The trail of commemorative plaques was laid through the town to provide glimpses of the port's history. Packet Newspapers, the publishers of the Falmouth Packet, the town's old-established weekly newspaper, named after the Packet Ship service which transported the country's overseas mail from Falmouth for a century and a half, sponsored the trail when it was first opened in 1988. The trail was laid with the help of Falmouth Town Council and the County Highways Department, and this latest edition of the guide to the trail incorporates various changes that have taken place including renumbering.
The Packet Walkway 1. THE GREENBANK HOTEL, famous for its association with the Falmouth Packet Service and with Kenneth Grahame's well known book Wind in the Willows,' stands inland of its quay used for many years as a terminus for the rowing boat to Flushing - the village across the water - operated by a number of "old salts" up until the 1940's.
GREENBANK or DUNSTANVILLE TERRACE consists of an impressive row of large houses, many of them originally built by Packet Captains, which look out over the stretch of water, known then as the "King's Road," where brigantines used to lay at anchor awaiting the arrival of the mails from London.
GREENBANK GARDENS, opened in 1914, was formerly as area of small workshops belonging to William Olver, Falmouth's leading builder up until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, who was responsible for much of the Terrace opposite as well as ST ANTHONY LIGHT-HOUSE, constructed at the harbour entrance in 1834.
THE ROYAL CORNWALL YACHT CLUB occupying the waterside building next to the Gardens, was founded in 1874 and is the most prestigious of five such organisations around Falmouth's magnificent harbour, the others being at Flushing, Mylor, Restronguet and St Mawes. On the seaward side at the southern end of the Terrace is the site of the old FALMOUTH PRISON and, almost at the crest of the hill, the site of the former WINCHESTER BUILDINGS named after their original occupant, Admiral Winchester.
2. Near the top of the High Street, once known as LUDGATE HILL, stands THE OLD TOWN HALL originally a Congregational Chapel - which was presented to the Town by Martin Lister Killigrew in 1725. It was also used as the Court House and, as such, was the scene of a famous trial in 1884 when two sailors were acquitted on a charge of cannibalism, having eaten the cabin boy while adrift in the Atlantic after their ship had sunk.
BARRACKS'S OPE, through which the famous clipper Cutty Sark was framed when she lay at anchor in the harbour as a Training Ship between 1923 and 1938, is one of the few remaining routes down to the waterfront, where in days gone by, Falmouth's entire livelihood was based. In 1862 many houses and shops in mid-High Street were destroyed on both sides of the road - the route by which the mail coaches arrived in the Town - in a serious fire, which had been framed by a strong easterly wind. Some time afterwards the buildings were reconstructed to make the street ten feet wider than it was before the fire.
3. The building housing the Town's MUNICIPAL OFFICES and LIBRARY was erected in 1894 with funds donated jointly by the Cornish philanthropist J. Passmore Edwards and Octavious Allen Ferris, both of whom were responsible for similar charitable gifts to other Cornish towns and villages. The Town's ART GALLERY is also housed there.
4. The POST OFFICE, opened in 1930, stands on the site of the old MARKET, which was moved in 1812 from its first location on the Strand. The roofed fountain now standing in the middle of The Moor once stood inside this market.
THE MOOR stands at the lower end of the valley whose stream originally flowed into Smithick Creek, around which the small village of SMITHICK stood in the early Seventeenth Century. Although now piped under ground, water from the stream operated a water mill here in Falmouth's early days and later supplied breweries which used to stand where Tesco's supermarket is now situated. The Moor became the Town's Market Place, a pleasant open space contrasting markedly with the present congestion. Recently been transformed into an events square.
5. THE PACKET MEMORIAL dates from November 1898, when a Public Subscription raised nearly £300 for a permanent reminder of the Service which operated from Falmouth between 1688 and 1850, according to its inscription.
6. JACOB'S LADDER (its date uncertain) has no real biblical association. Its one hundred and eleven steps were installed by Jacob Hamblen, builder, tallow chandler and property owner, to facilitate access between his business - at the bottom - and some of his property - at the top.
The METHODIST CHURCH first stood on this site in 1791 as a Wesley Chapel, but was completely rebuilt in 1876 to look much as it does today. After being bombed twice in World War Two it was reconstructed as the Central Methodist Church in 1956 with a three-storey interior.
7. The building opposite the Methodist Church was erected in 1864 on the site of the former Allen's Brewery. This became the new TOWN HALL, which had formerly been located at the top of High Street. At a later date, all Borough administration moved to the Municipal Offices and the building became the Town's Magistrate's Court.
8. High Street passes imperceptibly into MARKET STRAND where the Town's first Market House the PRINCE OF WALES' PIER, named when the Prince - who later became King George V - laid its foundation stone in 1903. It was at this Pier that the few survivors of the successful raid on the dock at St Nazaire returned to the port, five days after the small flotilla had left Falmouth in March, 1942.
In MARKET STRAND an insignificant set of steps on the north side is the sole indication of the earliest road to the southern end of the waterfront where ARWENACK HOUSE, home of the Killigrew family - the Town's founder - once stood.
9. A narrow alley leads up to BELL'S COURT, once the site of the Packet Agent's Office. It was from the steps of this office in 1810 that Christopher Saverland read the Riot Act to Packet crews who had mutinied when Customs Officers confiscated the private goods of the crew members which were intended for sale overseas and regarded as legitimate "perks."
The entire main street has changed out of all recognition over the past fifty years. For example, Woolworths and its neighbouring shops now stand on the site of the former FOUNTAIN INN and BAPTIST CHAPEL. On the opposite side of the street, in January 1870, a disastrous fire destroyed many homes and shops.
10. Number 27 Market Street was once occupied by the OLD CURIOSITY SHOP owned by John Burton, an eccentric whose collection of "articles" from all over the world attained widespread notoriety. Market Street ends at the Midland Bank, once the ROYAL HOTEL, the town's leading hostelry for several decades after 1800, when it was built mainly for the social activities of the Packet Captain. The Hotel later became the terminus of the London mail coaches.
11. FISH STRAND QUAY, built in 1790, was originally the landing place for the local fishermen and the site of the fish market, described by a visitor in 1823 as a "disgusting public nuisance." As a plaque on the car park relates, it was near this spot the news of Nelson's death and of the victory at Trafalgar was brought ashore. The car park itself was once the site of the FALMOUTH GAS WORKS, dating from the early Nineteenth Century. James Wynn, the owner of the Royal Hotel, closed his private gas making plant behind the hotel and moved it to this waterside location to produce gas commercially for the whole town making Falmouth for first Cornish town to lit by gas.
12. The impressive faade of the ST GEORGE'S ARCADE marks the location of Falmouth's first custom-built cinema, opened in 1912 - then the second largest in the country. Opposite, there is an interesting dated drainpipe next to the car park entrance, and two very attractive shop fronts constructed in the style of the Nineteenth Century by their owner.
13. The shop with the stately four-pillared faade was once the PUBLIC SUSCRIPTION ROOMS, opened in 1826, then with six columns. This was the gentlemen's club at which local merchants and traders met socially and played billiards and where visiting ships' officers caught up with the news since their last visit to the port.
The severe granite-fronted building opposite houses the MASONIC HALL (Freemasonry began in Falmouth in 1751) and the Trustee Savings Bank, of which Hereward Tresidder, a famous local artist, was once the manager.
14. UPTON SLIP is the sole remaining ope in this part of the town with direct access to the waterfront. At its lower end it has two remarkable ships' figureheads.
THE ROYAL CORNWALL PLOYTECHNIC SOCIETY was founded in 1833. Its building, erected two years later, became the venue for many years of the Society's Annual Exhibition, at which mechanical inventions and models were displayed for the inspection of interested industrialists and mine owners. It was here that many life saving devices first saw the light of day; the Man Engine, a mechanical means of raising and lowering men in a mine to replace dangerous ladders, and the Safety Fuse, a device used to reduce the risk of accidental explosions, were only two such exhibits. The building now houses the town's Art Centre, a library and Research Centre for local history and an art gallery which has exhibitions throughout the summer months.
One of Falmouth's former Post Offices, built next to the Society building in 1872, was erected by local businessmen to handle the increasing volume of mail in the district. For several years it also housed the British end of the DIRECT SPANISH TELEGRAPH COMPANY, establishing a cable link with the Mediterranean. French was well to fore in promoting this new method of passing messages, which completely revolutionised communications using the Electric Telegraph.
15. The PARISH CHURCH, which stands looking along its street, was dedicated by Charles II to his father, King Charles the Martyr, soon after the Restoration, in gratitude to the town for its Royalist support during the Civil War. Although the site has been occupied by a church since 1663, the present building only dates from 1898 when its almost total reconstruction was completed. Its airy, peaceful interior houses many interesting wall tablets which relate to the town's heritage.
Falmouth's earliest Quays were built by SIR PETER KILLIGREW in 1670, and still remain the focus of much harbour activity to the present day.
The red brick chimney which stands beside the main entrance to the Quays is the KING'S - or QUEEN'S - PIPE.
This was used, ostensibly, to burn confiscated contraband tobacco by Customs Officers based in 16 the adjacent CUSTOM HOUSE, the attractive Georgian building with a pillard facade fronting Arwenack Street.
GROVE PLACE is so named because here once stood a magnificent grove elm trees, inside which Martin Lister Killigrew erected 17 the KILLIGREW MONUMENT or PYRAMID in 1737. This now occupies its third resting place one hundred metres further south.
The beautifully rebuilt ARWENACK HOUSE 18 the location of the home of the Killigrew family for about sixteen generations, after they acquired the estate by marriage in 1403. Rebuilt in 1567, it was described as "the finest and most costly house in the country." Sadly, this house was destroyed by fire prior to the Roundhead occupation of the district and the Siege of Pendennis in 1646, after which is developed into an untidy hotchpotch of ill-planned buildings until reconstruction in its present form.
19. The impressive ARWENACK AVENUE, presently returning to its former wooded splendour after the ravages of Dutch Elm and sporadic vandalism, is much older than Falmouth itself. It was constructed as the means of access to Arwenack House as well as the venue for a leisurely stroll by the Killigrew inhabitants of the Manor, who called it the "Long Walk." Originally it stretched further south to the top of the hill where the railway cuts through. After the Killigrew departure in the early 18th century parts of the estate were sold off and this avenue was leased in 1737 to a Mr Deeble who used it as a "rope walk" by which name it is still known by older Falmothians, In those far-off days the "twist" necessary in hempen rope could only be imparted by extending the strands of their full length before twisting: hence a long straight stretch of land was needed and the old venue filled the bill admirable: some shelter was given to the "ropers" by a roof nailed between the trees but, largely, the work seems to have been done in the open air. The land to the west of the Avenue was subsequently bought by the Fox family who built GROVEHILL HOUSE in 1789 and established a small estate of which the present Dell car park was the water garden with flower beds and ornamental ponds fed by a spring which rose to the north and flowed through the gardens and out into what was then the tidal Bar creek.
20. At the northern end of the Avenue stood the entrance to the MANOR ESTATE which was defended in the early days by high walls and palisades with the house looking out eastwards on to an unspoilt view of the harbour, a privilege of which recent development has sadly deprived it. (Winston Graham's wonderfully descriptive book "The grove of Eagles" gives a fine description of Arwenack in the 16th century). The gate posts are believed to be the only parts of the estate to remain in anything like their original condition, except for a small part of the rebuilt house. On the east side at this end of the Avenue originally stood a grove of elm trees (you passed Elm Grove Cottages when walking along the Avenue) in which stood, until 1836, the Killigrew Monument (see No. 19) before its removal to the southern end of the Avenue. The building near the gate posts has a plaque indicating that it was the original Falmouth School of Art, its foundation stone laid by Lord St Levan in 1901, from which has developed the present nationally-recognised FALMOUTH SCHOOL OF ART AND DESIGN.
The Society of Friends (or "Quakers," so named after the movement's founder, George Fox, who bade others to quake at the name of the Lord) became established in Falmouth largely as a result of the Fox family (unrelated to the founder), merchants, mine owners and ships' agents (already mentioned under 18). To accommodate what was then a flourishing Quaker congregation in the district this MEETING HOUSE was completed in 1805 on the site of an old water mill, powered from a mill pool in a quarry on the hillside to the west, known as Pike's Hill where stood a Methodist Chapel, built in 1866 to house the Methodists in this part of the expanding town and demolished only recently. The steps which drop down beside the Friends' Meeting House form the upper part of Quay Hill leading straight down to the harbour. On the steps is the Oddfellows Arms. The recent housing development above it was for many years the stables of Cyrus Best, one of the town's several proprietors of all sorts of horse-drawn vehicles.
21. At the bottom of the steps is NEW STREET, one of the town's oldest streets. Behind the Meeting House once stood the QUAKER'S BURIAL GROUND until its removal to a site on what was then farmland on the western outskirts of the town. Along New Street towards the Parish Church great changes have taken place over the last 50 years: only a few of the old original houses remain on the east side and these, ruined by unsightly car parking facilities outside their front doors.
The PARISH HALL, built in 1935, once marked the end of New Street and the old original graveyard stretched from here up the hillside to the west. Road improvements in the 1960's pushed New Street through the old graveyard to continue into what used to be PORHAN STREET, another of the town's old streets which these improvements obliterated completely. Porhan Street had also been known as Pig Street after the number of these animals kept (for food) by its inhabitants and allowed, apparently, to roam freely.
22. At its northern end New Street meets WELL LANE, so named after the large number of wells sunk to supply the closely-packed courts and tenements which once led off from its north side covering the site of the present car park and the hillside above: these were, from the bottom, BIRTH'S COURT, ROSE COTTAGES, GUTHERIDGE'S YARD and SEDGEMOND'S COURT.
The site of one well in particular is marked today by an inspection cover in the road beneath which water may be heard running in the driest of summers: this was a large open well, 40 feet wide and with 15 steps down its side, from which many people took water up to the 1870's. Unfortunately, sewage disposal facilities were non-existent in those days and gravity ensured that much of the effluent from the hillside above found its way into the well, causing epidemics of cholera and dysentry in the 1850's and gastro-enteritis in the late 1890's in which many people died.
On the opposite side of the street against the wall of the old building once stood the Porhan Street or BEEHIVE PUMP, dated 1840, named after the Beehive beer shop, one of Falmouth's oldest such establishments, the entrance of which is still visible in the arch adjacent to the Polytechnic Society Building.
23. At the top of the steps at the end of New Street is, once again, GYLLYNG STREET, the principal route to Arwenack House before the 1660's when the present main street was little more than a clifftop path. Stand here awhile to admire the fine view of the harbour and TREFUSIS POINT from the top of the steps. The sub-standard housing mentioned as having covered much of the Well Lane/Porhan Street area below once covered much of this area also, the whole having been cleared during the "slum clearances" of the late 1920's and early 1930's which, in turn, gave rise to the extensive estates on the north side of the town to accommodate those displaced.
Here once stood ALLENS COURT, PRINCE'S PLACE and KOH-I-NOOR PLACEonly FAIR VIEW PLACE has survived this demolition.
Between LAWN STEPS and BARBARY'S HILL stands a stone wall today marking the site of the former WIDOWS ROW, a line of small almshouses built at the joint expense of Lord Wodehouse and Samuel Tregelles, for the use of "ten poor windows of good character who have not received parochial relief."
24. Further north along Gyllyng Street the road divides and here stand two locations of great interest. On the west the former JEW'S SYNAGOGUE stands, isolated now in what used to be a closely-packed mass of old homes.
Seaborne trade must have attracted Jewish traders and merchants to the port in its development and the first Synagogue was located near Fish Strand in 1776. This building erected in 1806, larger and more opulent than its predecessor, has today been tastefully converted into an artist's studio and living accommodation, having spent some years previously as a furniture repository.
25. Opposite stand the remains of a building used successively as Workhouse or Poor House (as was customary, as near the borough boundary as possible) it housed the town's paupers until new Poor Laws in the 1830's created "Union" workhouses in an attempt to reduce the cost of dealing with the poor by centralising them in a union of several (in this case, ten) parishes. Falmouth's UNION WORKHOUSE was built on the western edge of the parish in 1851 after much bitter local controversy and the building on this site, used to house child paupers, separated from their parents: the 1861 census shows it to have accommodated over 100 children. With the introduction of compulsory education money was saved by using former workhouses as schools and this building became the BRITISH SCHOOL when the Robert Barclay Fox, aided by subscriptions, in 1859. Purchased by the Falmouth Schools Board in 1898, it became SMITHICK SCHOOL, used by various branches of education until its demolition in the 1970's.
26. The left fork leads to CHAPEL TERRACE, named after the presence in a terrace of houses of the (former) Primitive Methodist Chapel. This particularly evangelical branch of the Methodist Church was established in the town in 1827 and the Chapel was built in 1832 at a cost of £226. Seating 193 people, it was said in its year of construction "to stand upon a hill and command a beautiful view of the sea," obviously before the houses opposite in VERNON PLACE were built. In 1932 the Primitive Methodists united with the parent Church and in 1939 the building was sold. Since then it has been used for a variety of purposesChristian Science Church, working men's club and Night Clubit is currently owned by the FALMOUTH AMATEUR OPERATIC AND DRAMATIC SOCIETY which uses it as headquarters, store and rehearsal rooms.
27. Round the corner of the inn at the end of the terrace, formerly the SUMMERHILL INN, is the narrow alley which leads to the top of Jacob's Ladder. This steep flight of 111 steps leads down to Falmouth Moor and connects with the earlier part of the Packet Walkway at the Central Methodist Church (No. 7).