Fowey Cornwall Family History Guide

Fowey is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Cornwall. 

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1543
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1609

Nonconformists include: Bible Christian Methodist, Independent/Congregational, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Society of Friends/Quaker, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Adjacent Parishes

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

FOWEY, a town, a parish, and a sub-district in St. Austell district, Cornwall. The town stands on the right bank of the river Fowey, about a mile from its mouth, opposite Polruan village, 3 miles SE of Par r. station, and 28 W by S of Devonport. It belonged, at the Conquest, to the Earl of Mortaigne. It was, at an early period, one of the principal seaports of England. Many vessels were fitted out at it for the crusades; and a windmill, on the heights above it, was a well known sea-mark in 1296, and is believed to have been built by persons who had been in Palestine. Its mariners were famous, in the time of Edward I., for sea exploits; and they appear to have then, or soon afterwards, traded to most parts of the world. A fleet of 47 ships, with 770 men, was sent by the town, in the time of Edward III., to the siege of Calais. The "gallants of Fowey," as its seamen were then called, carried on, in subsequent reigns, such a system of descent and spoliation on the coast of Normandy as provoked much wrath and retaliation. The French made expeditions, at several times, against the town; and, in the reign of Henry VI., they effected a landing by night, set fire to the houses, slew a number of the inhabitants, and chased others into places of shelter in the neighbouring country, but were eventually driven back to their ships. The townsmen, in the time of Edward IV., were denounced by government for piracy, and deprived of their vessels; and they then sustained a blow which ever afterwards affected their prosperity; yet they rose, on several subsequent occasions, into prominent notice, for deeds of activity; and, in the time of Charles II., they so assailed a Dutch man-of-war as to preserve a fleet of merchant ships from capture. Block-houses had been erected at the haven's mouth, on both sides, in the time and at the command of Edward IV.; a strong iron boom also stretched across the harbour; a fort, called the Fort of St. Catherine, was erected, in the time of Henry VIII., on a magnificent pile of rocks, at the harbour's mouth; and these strengths, both from their character and their situation, enabled the towns-men, with comparatively small numbers of hands, to perform comparatively great acts of bravery. St. Catherine's fort, and two others of more modern erection between it and the town, still form a sort of defence, and have the advantage of being so much elevated that no ship could bring her guns to bear upon them; but they are much dilapidated, and have become more picturesque than useful. The Earl of Essex was driven from Fowey by the royalists, in 1644, and escaped by sea to Plymouth; and Fairfax retook the town in 1646. A visit was made to Fowey by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846; and this is commemorated by a granite obelisk, 23 feet high. The Prince and Princess of Wales also visited it, and Garibaldi embarked at it, in 1865.

The town lies in a valley, under sheltering hills, amid picturesque environs. It is nearly a mile long; but has narrow streets; and is very irregularly built. The market-house and town hall are a spacious edifice, erected in the present century by Viscount Valletort and Philip Rashleigh, Esq. The church is a large, lofty, and interesting edifice, chiefly of the 14th century; has a handsome tower, with carvings and pinnacles; has also an ornamented oak ceiling; and contains a pulpit of the 15th century, and monuments of the Treffry, Rashleigh, and Graham families. There are a post office‡ under Par Station, two chief inns, two dissenting chapels, an endowed school with £80, almshouses with £150, and other charities with £76. A weekly market is held on Saturday; and fairs are held on Shrove Tuesday, 1 May, and 10 Sept. The chief employments are shipment of minerals and a coasting trade. The harbour is admirably sheltered; has depth, at the lowest tide, for vessels drawing 3 fathoms water; and possesses ample capacity and excellent anchorage. The port is a head one; and has Charles-town, Mevagissy, Par, Pentwan, Polkirris, and Polmear for sub-ports. The vessels belonging to it, at the beginning of 1863, were 41 small ones of aggregately 1,265 tons, and 132 large ones of aggregately 13,229 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1862, were 18 British, of aggregately 1,642 tons, from the colonies; 1 foreign, of 105 tons, from the colonies; 55 British, of aggregately 3,875 tons, from foreign countries; 95 foreign, of aggregately 9,733 tons, from foreign countries; 1,025 sailing vessels, of aggregately 65,677 tons, coast-wise; and 29 steam-vessels, of aggregately 7,687 tons coastwise. The vessels which cleared, in that year, were 43 British, of aggregately 3,222 tons, to the colonies; 1 foreign, of 440 tons, to the colonies; 197 British, of aggregately 15,681 tons, to foreign countries; 45 foreign, of aggregately 12,837 tons, to foreign countries; 572 sailing vessels, of aggregately 38,739 tons, coastwise; and 5 steam-vessels, of aggregately 606 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs, in 1867, was £703. The town was made a member of the cinque ports, in the time of Edward III.; was chartered as a borough, in the time of James II.; and, from that time, sent two members to parliament; but was disfranchised by the reform bill. The parish comprises 1,895 acres of land, and 50 of water. Real property, £5,115; of which £90 are in mines. Pop. in 1851, 1,606; in 1861, 1,429. Houses, 309. The decrease of pop. arose partly from the decline of trade at the port. The manor belonged, in the time of Richard I., to Robert Cardingham; was given by him to the priory of Tywardreath; and is held now by the duchy of Cornwall. Place House is the seat of the Treffry family; stands immediately above the town; takes its name of Place from a Cornish word signifying "a palace;" dates, in its original form, from the time of Henry VI.; was once called Cune Court, signifying "the king's court;" appears, from relics found at it, to have been a royal residence; underwent recent restoration and enlargement; has ornamentations in granite and elvan; includes a fine hall, lined with polished porphyry; and contains a number of interesting objects, together with an original portrait of Hugh Peters, a native of Fowey, the chaplain of Cromwell. Menabilly is the seat of the Rashleighs; stands on the Greber Head promontory, about 2 miles W of the town; contains a rich cabinet of minerals, and a fine collection of drawings; and has, on its grounds, near the shore, an artificial octagonal grotto, constructed of serpentine and fine marbles, with interspersions of shells and crystals. The land is hilly; and the rocks include slate, quartz, and fossiliferous old red sandstone. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £179. Patron, the Rev. E. J. Treffry. The sub-district contains also three other parishes. Acres, 8,464. Pop., 9,343. Houses, 1,908.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Bankrupts

People who were declared bankrupt and the date of bankruptcy.

Brown James, Fowey, Cornwall, draper, Jan. 3, 1840.

Illingworth Henry Alexander, Fowey, Cornwall, merchant, May 25, 1822.

Parish Records

Fowey Marriages 1568 to 1812 - View and Download Free

Maps

Vision of Britain historical maps

Administration

  • County: Cornwall
  • Civil Registration District: St Austell
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall
  • Diocese: Exeter
  • Rural Deanery: Powder
  • Poor Law Union: St Austell
  • Hundred: Powder
  • Province: Canterbury