St Mawes Cornwall History

St Mawes Old Roseland Ferry
St. Mawes by J.M.W. Turner History records that there were inhabitants in the area that we now know as St. Mawes over 2000 years ago. St. Mawes or St Maudez as the Bretons know him was an important Welsh Christian teacher who arrived in 550 AD. The Holy Well located at the base of Church Hill is the centre of his cell and a chapel was built close by later on.

By 1283 St. Mawes was known as a town, most likley consisting of a cluster of houses or cottages along the shore line. In the 1540's King Henry V111 had St. Mawes castle built in tandem with Pendennis, the latter positioned on the western side of the Fal estuary; these two forts were built to protect the river Fal and its many settlements. From this fortification, at the mouth of the river came the town of Falmouth, as living so close to the sea would have, up to then, been concidered far to dangerous, with French, Spanish, Pirate and other vessels posing a serious risk to local inhabitants.Sailing Ship

Granted borough status by Elizabeth 1 in 1562, St.Mawes comprised of a manor, which consisted of a decayed fishing port and market town in the west of Cornwall. Like most of the Cornish boroughs enfranchised or re-enfranchised during the Tudor period, it was a rotten borough from the start.

The right to vote rested with the portreeve and "resident burgesses or free tenants", making it essentially a scot and lot borough (there were 87 voters in 1831), but the control of the "patron" was entirely secure. In practice the patron always worked inclose collusion with the Crown, and the members returned were generally court nominees throughout the borough's existence. In the 1760s the Boscawen family (the Viscounts Falmouth) were considered to have the main influence over the choice of one member and Robert Nugent over the other; by the time of the Great Reform Act the patronage had passed to the Marquess of Buckingham.In 1831, the borough had a population of 459, and 95 houses.Mary Barrow


With its proximity to major trading routes St.Mawes has for centuries been associated with boat building and repair and rope making. Many sea captains based themselves in the village, earning their living carrying cargos of goods from port to port. Almost all movements of food, coal, stone and other materials used or sold by the town would have been carried by sailing barges or "coasters", as the condition of the road into St.Mawes was in very poor condition.

The black and white photograph is of a ship skippered by Captain Peter Mortenson. This class of schooner was common in local waters, perhaps carrying cargos of coal from northern ports to Falmouth or Truro. Captain Mortenson lived in the locality for many years.Fishing Boat

Seining for Pilchards (Sail Loft and Harbourside were built on the site of an old Pilchard store) in the Autumn provided valuable income for the inhabitants, with catches being cured and stored ready for shipment to markets. Most fishing villages, and St. Mawes is no acception, have nearby Bay trees, the leaves being an important flavouring in "Cured Mackerel".

Second homes have been owned in St. Mawes since the turn of the 19th century, with household names such as, Birds, Bassett, Webley and Eley being but a few of the notable families to appreciate the charm of the village and enjoy holidays in St.Mawes.