Close to Budock Parish is the town of Falmouth, a popular tourist centre, with narrow streets, passages and alleyways leading down to the waterside and views of bobbing boats and dazzling water. There are passenger ferries to St Mawes and Flushing, boat trips up the River Fal to Truro, or South West to the beautiful Helford River, famous for its oysters and Frenchman’s Creek.
Falmouth boasts the third largest natural harbour in the world, after Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. Pendennis and St Mawes Castles, either side of the estuary, were built to defend the port against sea-borne invaders. Today the harbour has ever-changing views of yachts, pleasure boats and other small craft, and also international shipping vessels which visit Falmouth Docks at the mouth of the river.
Falmouth was originally called Peny-cwm-cuic, which became ‘Pennycomequick’, and was formed from part of the much older Parish of Budock. Falmouth is located 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 bounded on the north and north-east by the harbour 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 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 and 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). 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, the West Indies and the North American Colonies until 1852, when mail traffic was transferred to Southampton. The port and shopping area are on the north side of the peninsular, while on the south coast are sandy beaches and hotels. Today Falmouth is a combined holiday resort, fishing port and ship repairing centre.
The town of Falmouth is situated on the south-western 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 picturesque scenery scarcely to be equalled, the town was extended into open terraces.