Padstow Cornwall Family History Guide

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

Alternative names:

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1599
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1608

Nonconformists include: Baptist, Bible Christian Methodist, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Adjacent Parishes

Parish History

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

PADSTOW, a town, a parish, and a sub-district, in St. Columb district, Cornwall. The town stands on the S side of the Camel’s estuary, 1¾ mile from the sea, 12 N W by W of Bodmin, and 15 NW by W of Bodmin-Road r. station; dates from very ancient times; was known to the Cornish as Lodenek; took the name of Petrocstowe from the Saxons, in honour of St. Petroc, a Culdee missionary from Ireland who made it his head-quarters; took afterwards the name of Athelstowe or Aldestowe, in honour of Athelstane, after his conquest of Cornwall: was re-named Padstow, by corruption of Petrocstowe, in the latter part of the 16th century; had a religions house, founded by St. Petroc in 560, and burnt by the Danes in 981; sent two war-ships to the siege of Calais in 1344; declined from its ancient importance, in consequence of the partial choking of its harbour, in the time of Henry VIII.; underwent much revival about the middle of last century; is nominally governed by a port reeve and other officers, under a charter of Elizabeth; presents an appearance agreeable enough at a distance, but much less so when entered; is a head port, with a harbour affording the only place of shelter on the N coast of Cornwall; and has a head post-office, designated Padstow, Cornwall, two chief inns, a custom-house, a coast-guard station, a church, three dissenting chapels, and an endowed school with £10 a year. The church is ancient and good; was built by Prior Vivian; and contains a slatey catacleuze font, decorated with figures of the twelve apostles, and a monument of 1627 to Sir Nicholas Prideaux. A weeklymarket is held on Saturday; fairs are held on 18 April and 21 Sept.; and a considerable commerce is carried on with Bristol, Wales, and Ireland. The vessels belonging to the port, at the beginning of 1864, were 59 small sailing-vessels, of aggregately 2,302 tons; and 75 large sailing-vessels, of aggregately 10,303 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1863, were 3 British sailing-vessels, ofaggregately 1,267 tons, from British colonies; 9 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 734 tons, from foreign countries; 3 foreign sailing-vessels, of aggregately 480 tons, from foreign countries; 664 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 29,334 tons, coastwise; and 45 steam-vessels, of aggregately 4,288 tons, coastwise. The vessels which cleared, in 1863, were 2 British sailing-vessels, of jointly 726 tons, to British colonies; 1 foreign sailing-vessel, of 201 tons, to British colonies; 9 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 705 tons, to foreign countries; 1 foreign sailing-vessel, of 223 tons, to foreign countries; 280 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 12,658 tons, coastwise; and 47 steam-vessels, of aggregately 4,480 tons, coastwise. The chief imports are iron, coals, and bale-goods; and the chief exports, corn, block-tin, and slates. The amount of customs in 1862 was £189. A steamer sails regularly to Ilfracombe, Swansea, and Bristol. The harbour has a difficult and somewhat dangerous access, particularly during N W gales; was much improved in 1811 and following years, by removal of enormous quantities of sand from a bar at the estuary’s mouth; and is provided with convenient quays. A capstan is on Stepper-Point, at the mouth of the estuary, 227 feet above sea-level; and, at the arrival of a vessel in the offing, during a prevalence of adverse winds, a hawser is conveyed from the capstan, by a pilot-boat, to the vessel, to aid its passage over the bar. A life-boat establishment also is at the mouth of the estuary. Both a harbour of refuge and a railway to Plymouth were contemplated so long ago as 1836.

The parish comprises 3,239 acres of land and 625 of water. Real property, £7,038. Pop. in 1851, 2,224; in 1861, 2,489, of whom 148 were persons on board vessels. The manor belonged to Bodmin priory, and passed to the Prideauxs. Place House was the seat of the Prideauxs; is now the seat of Prideaux Brune, Esq.; occupies the site of the monastery of St. Petroc; stands on high ground, above the town, encircled by trees; was the birth-place of Dean Prideaux, author of the “Connection of the Old and New Testaments; “ and contains numerous interesting portraits and pictures. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £202. Patron, the Rev. E. Henville. An ancient chapel stood near the shore. The sub-district contains also six other parishes. Acres, 28,263. Pop., 6,649. Houses, 1,384

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

Health and Housing

The following was extracted from the 1842 Sanitary Enquiry of England and gives an insight into the health and enviroment of Padstow in the 1840s:

“In the year 1833 cholera prevailed: in that year 70 deaths took place. In the preceding year typhus fever produced the same rate of mortality, and in 1831, 43 deaths from typhus and scarlatina. The year after the cholera prevailed, viz 1834 only 31 deaths are recorded. There were 31 deaths in 1835, and 35 in 1836. During these years, immediately after the prevalence of cholera much greater attention was paid to cleaning the streets and the removal of various nuisances; but there still exist many causes likely to produce disease, should we have a return of very warm weather favouring the production of miasma. The local advantages for draining and cleaning the town are great, from the excellent supply of fresh water which might easily be made to pass through every street; and there is a gradual descent towards the sea. All obnoxious matters might by that means be washed away, instead of being allowed to accumulate as at present, rendering the streets alike disgusting to the senses of smell and vision.”


People declared bankrupt and the date of bankruptcy.

Rawe William, Padstow, Cornwall, mercer, draper, & grocer, Feb. 26, 1822.

Parish Registers

Marriages at Padstow 1599 to 1812 - View and Download Free


Vision of Britain historical maps


  • County: Cornwall
  • Civil Registration District: St Columb
  • Probate Court: Court of the Peculiars of the Court of the Bishop of Exeter (Episcopal Consistory)
  • Diocese: Exeter
  • Rural Deanery: Pre-1848 - None, Post-1847 - Pydar
  • Poor Law Union: St Columb Major
  • Hundred: Pyder
  • Province: Canterbury