Falmouth was originally called Peny-Cwm-Cuic (more affectionately, Pennycomequick), meaning ‘head of the narrow vale’. Its harbour-side location and position at the head of the River Fal have always been integral to Falmouth’s development and identity.
Falmouth is the third deepest natural harbour in the world and a bedrock of British maritime history. In the 1540s, King Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle as a defence against Spanish and French invasion. Renamed Falmouth in 1660, the town became a flourishing port which connected Britain to its expanding Empire. In 1688 the Falmouth Packet Service began to provide a form of maritime postal service. By 1817 the Service used forty ships and delivered mail and troop supplies to the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.
Famous seafarers associated with Falmouth include Charles Darwin, who set sail on The Beagle in 1836, and more recently Sir Francis Chichester and Dame Ellen MacArthur whose round-the-world voyages respectively started and finished in Falmouth. Falmouth Docks were built in 1860 and the railway and tourism followed immediately after. Both industries continue to help sustain the town’s current population of around 22,000.
Falmouth continues to act as a central telecommunications point for world shipping and HM Coastguards at Pendennis Head provides Maritime Rescue Coordination not only for the Cornish coast but also for British shipping around the globe.
Falmouth is also home to an increasingly diverse artistic and creative community and a rapidly expanding University, each of which makes a significant contribution to the local economy and the region’s cultural life.