Pretty village with deep water harbour
Fowey Town Council
The mouth of the Fowey River, with the town of Fowey on one side of the deep-water estuary and the village of Polruan on the other, is a breathtakingly beautiful location, seven miles south of Lostwithiel. The A3082 road connects the town to the main A390 road near St. Austell. The population of the village was 2,395 at the 2011 census.
The source of the Fowey River is near Brown Willy the highest point in Cornwall on Bodmin Moor, and meanders over 30 miles of moor and marsh to the Fowey Harbour and the sea. The Fowey is tidal and navigable for small vessels from Lostwithiel Bridge, at high tide, to Fowey Harbour about 7 miles south, and flows through some of the most beautiful and historic countryside in the world.
The town of Fowey itself, has been important as a port since Celtic times. In the early centuries AD, gold, mined in Southern Ireland, was transported by sea to the estuary of the River Camel and then hauled overland to Fowey. This was to avoid the dangers of Land's End and the Lizard. From Fowey, it was then exported to Europe and Egypt. The same route through Cornwall, was used by early missionaries and is part of what is known as the 'Saints' Way', which is now a 26 mile footpath to Padstow.
The medieval town ran from a north gate near Boddinick Passage to a south gate at what is now Lostwithiel Street; the town extended a little way up the hillside and was bounded on the other side by the river where merchants had their houses backing onto the waterfront. The natural harbour allowed trade to develop with Europe and local ship owners often hired their vessels to the king to support various wars.
14th century Fowey replaced Lostwithiel as the principal port on the estuary. Its expansion was stimulated by the wars with France and Spain. Ships were requisitioned by the crown while others were equipped by landowners such as the Treffry family to seize ships with or without the Kings commission. Its exposed location at the mouth of the estuary made Fowey vulnerable to attack and the town was destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1380 and 1457.
Today, Fowey is the 9th largest exporting port in the UK, mostly china clay and also a major yachting centre, receiving more than 6,000 visiting yachts during the summer period. This represents over 30,000 extra visitors entering the town without a motor vehicle being involved, as they will mostly land at the pontoon on Albert Quay. This quay was so named after Queen Victoria landed here with Albert, the Prince Consort on September 8th 1846. Fowey also still has a small but active fishing fleet.
In mid May every year the Fowey Festival of Words and Music is held, and in mid August every year Fowey holds a Royal Regatta which is one of Britain's premier sailing events.
In 1869 Fowey was served by a branch railway line from Lostwithiel via Golant, it was closed to passengers in 1965 but continued to carry goods traffic.
This ancient church is dedicated to St. Finn Barr, who was the first Bishop of Cork, Ireland (AD 613 - 630). On a pilgrimage to Rome, possibly for his consecration, he crossed the sea following the old trade and pilgrim route to Padstow (The Saints' Way) overland to Fowey and from here via Brittany to Rome. During his stay in Fowey, he 'built a little church in a sheltered place between the hills'.
St. Finn Barr's church replaced an earlier one, that of St. Goran (or Guron) who, probably left his cell at Bodmin when St. Petroc arrived, established a church at Fowey and finally settled at Goran. (Celtic Christianity was an influence in Cornwall long before Roman missionaries arrived in Britain in AD 597). About 1150, a Norman church was built here but unfortunately only the font has survived. At this stage, the Church at Fowey was served by Benedictine monks from a Priory at Tywardreath (a few miles away) and a resident vicar was appointed in 1260. In 1328, the Church was rebuilt as a result of destruction possibly by pirates, and it was dedicated in 1336 by the Bishop of Exeter, to St. Nicholas of Bari, patron saint of sailors, but the name failed to replace that of St. Finn Barr.
In 1457, the church was partially destroyed (this time by the French) and restoration began again in 1460 with the help of the Earl of Warwick, Lord High Admiral of England, and lasted until the next century. The tower, wagon roof, rood screen and loft date from this period. Warwick's badge (the ragged staff) can be seen on the second string course of the Church Tower. Around 1500, the Treffry brothers undertook to widen the narrow south aisle and extend it to make a family chapel and the clerestory windows, unusual for Cornwall, were constructed.
In 1876, an important restoration took place removing the western gallery, providing a new roof for the north aisle, a clergy vestry, choir stalls and pews for the congregation. A choir vestry was added in 1894. The font, survivor from the Norman church, is made of hard elvan from a quarry near Padstow. The un-carved portion is thought to be unfinished because the carver died. The pulpit was made in 1601 from the panelling of the captain's cabin of a Spanish Galleon.
On a pew near the second pillar on the south side, there is a memorial to 'Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who lived at "The Haven" on the Esplanade'. There are also some ancient brasses of the Treffry and Rashleigh families, the former dating from 1456. Kenneth Grahame, author of "The Wind In The Willows" was married here in 1899 and many of the scenes in his book were based on the River Fowey.
The Treffry family association with 'Place' (Cornish for palace) goes back to the late 13th century and, an 8th generation Treffry (John) was Knighted by Edward, the Black Prince, at Crecy in 1346. The present building in essence, dates back to 1457 when, in a reprisal for raids on the French coast by local seamen, Fowey was attacked by the French in 1457 and set on fire. They were repulsed at 'Place' by Elizabeth Treffry, who is reputed to have had lead poured over the attackers. Joseph Treffry (1782-1850), was a great industrialist who was responsible for creating Par Harbour in an effort to save Fowey from the ravages of the ore being transported from his mines to the waiting ships here. He also constructed canals and the Luxulyan viaduct/aqueduct in the Luxulyan Valley. The Treffry family still live here and have been involved in the growth of the town in many ways including the china clay industry and other developments. The house and grounds are occasionally opened for charitable functions.
Built in 1380 on each bank of the estuary was a pair of defensive blockhouses. They were to defend against French, Spanish and Dutch attacks. The structures had 6 foot thick walls and were 4 storeys tall. The two blockhouses were linked by a metal chain, 16 inches thick, which could be raised during an attack, preventing vessels from entering the harbour and leaving them vulnerable, from both sides.
Built in 1540 by Henry VIII who had cannons placed here to defend the town from French invaders. It appears in many drawings of Fowey Harbour. The name comes from a chapel built nearby dedicated to St. Catherine, which was dissolved by Henry VIII and parts of it were probably used in constructing the castle. The Castle has two storeys with gun ports at ground level. Below the 16th century fort is a two gun battery built in 1855. The Rashleigh Mausoleum now stands on the old chapel site.
An imposing 19th century residence built for Sir Charles Hanson, J.P., M.P., Sheriff and Lord Mayor of London. Fowey Hall was purchased by the Countrywide Holidays group in 1968 from the Hanson family. The building stands in more than four acres with commanding views over the harbour and sea. It is also well know for its association with The Wind In The Willows story by Kenneth Grahame, as he used it as "Toad Hall " in the story.
Built in 1882, the hotel was used by 'Q' to deliver "Literary Lectures . The gardens have been reinstated over the last few years and are a lasting memorial to landscaper Jim Buscombe, who died in 1994. They are well worth a visit as the lower section is now used as a Tea Garden with stunning views over the harbour. Noel Coward stayed here as well as a string of other well known personalities.
Trafalgar Square, Fowey, PL23 1AY, Tel:(01726) 832752 Open May - September.
Town Quay, Fowey, PL23 1AT, Tel:(01726) 842321 Open Easter - October.
The china clay industry is Cornwall's most important source of revenue outside of tourism, with Fowey being the only harbour capable of loading deep water clay vessels. More than half of the clay shipped out of the county is loaded at these docks. In 1813 Joseph Treffry of 'Place'. had the harbour surveyed and built a quay and later a dock, to ship ore from his mines. A railway link was made in 1874 from Par to these docks, allowing china clay to be transported directly here for shipping for the first time. Prior to the first World War, Fowey experienced boom times as thousands of tons of clay was finding its way here to be shipped out via the docks on what became known as the great white road to Fowey. A ton of clay in those days fetched £1 per ton at source, as opposed to coal which realised less than half this amount. Most of the clay shipped out of Fowey today, is highly refined for paper coatings. Larger vessels are turned in the lower harbour and then reversed by the tugs, up river to the docks for loading. The railway line that connected Par to Fowey was converted to a private surfaced road in 1968 to enable lorries to continue transporting the clay to Fowey Docks.
Built around 1875, this was the home of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch from the time of his departure from London in 1892, until his death in 1944.
"I can't afford a mile of sward
Parterres and peacocks gay
For velvet lawns and marble fauns
Mere authors cannot pay.
And so I went and pitched my tent
Above a harbour fair
Where vessels picturesquely rigged
Obligingly repair . . . "
The building itself has no special architectural features but has been listed because of the association with 'Q'. It had a wonderful copper kitchen that is remembered by some locals. Many famous writers were guests at The Haven including Kenneth Grahame and Daphne du Maurier. This part of the Esplanade was known as the Rope Walk as it had the perfect geometry for rope-making in the days of sailing ships.
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, was born at Bodmin in 1863, entered Trinity Collage Oxford in 1882 and started writing for the Oxford Magazine which was founded in 1883 and where he started using the pseudonym 'Q'. He was given a lectureship in 1886. Family financial difficulties forced 'Q' to move to London to work for the publishers Cassells and to write. His early novels were successful and in 1889 he married Louisa Amelia Hicks of Fowey. In six years he had paid off his father's debts, but overwork caused a breakdown and he was advised to leave London. Arthur and Louisa came home to Fowey in 1892. His health improved and he began to write again and became actively involved in local affairs becoming Mayor, Vice President of the Fowey Royal Regatta, Commodore of the Yacht Club as well as holding other offices.
He was knighted in 1910 and received many honorary degrees and was given the freedom of Bodmin, Fowey and Truro. In 1912 'Q' was invited to become Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. Here his lectures attracted larger audiences than any other at the university, and two collections of them were published "On The Art Of Reading" in 1921 and, "On The Art Of Writing" in 1923. The latter is still in print! He always stressed that "Literature is not a mere science to be studied, but an art to be practised".
On the outbreak of war in 1914, 'Q' divided his time between Cambridge and Fowey. Sadly, with the advent of peace, his only son, Bevil, who had served in the army throughout the war, died in the influenza epidemic in 1919. 'Q' continued a prolific output of novels, short stories, literary criticism, serious and light verse, and children's books.'Q' died at Fowey on the 12th May 1944 and was buried in the parish cemetery. For the next generation 'Q' left "A.
In 1945 a memorial fund was established in 'Q's honour. Grants from this fund have been made to those engaged in local research in literary or allied subjects.
The Quiller-Couch Memorial is situated on the Hall Walk about 15 minutes from Bodinnick and overlooking Fowey, the monument stands at the top of Penleath Point at the mouth of Pont Creek.
Romantically associated (without any substantial evidence) with smugglers. Readymoney is a delightful beach overlooked by the Rashleigh house at Point Neptune built around 1865, and an old lime kiln which today shares duties as a public toilet facility and a pump-house. There are steps up from the beach (at low tide) to the cliff leading to St. Catherine's Castle or, at high tide, the castle can be reached by the cliff path behind, which also leads to 'Loves Lane', a National Trust path which takes you for a climb through the woods to the upper part of Fowey.
The plaque at this standing stone reads:
'This stone erected nearby about 550 AD has on its north side a raised T, an early form of Christian cross. On its south side, in 6th century letters is inscribed:
DRVSTANS HIC IACIT
Translated this reads "Tristan hear lies of Cunomorus the son".
Cunomorus was Marcos Cunomorus of the Medieval life of St. Sampson and King Mark of Cornwall in the love story of Tristan and Iseult.'
The T cross is called a TAU in Cornish.
The plaque at Castledore reads:
The earthworks, 225 feet in diameter, enclosed a village dating from the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. Though best seen from the air, The double concentric ring of the defensive ridges, some still over eight feet in height, are clearly visible. In the 6th century AD they surrounded the wooden hall of King Mark of Cornwall, who figures in the story of Tristan and Iseult and who is named on the stone found near here and now at the Four Turnings, Fowey. On 31st August 1644, during the civil war, the site was held by Parliamentary forces and taken by the Royalists.
Some writers have identified Castledore as the 'Croftededor' of Domesday Book and others think that Dore represents D'or, the gold colour found in the profusion of gorse bushes around the site (and indeed throughout Cornwall).
Much of the land around the estuary belongs to the National Trust which effectively preserves the landscape as seen today from further development. The whole area is a walkers paradise at all times of the year, and for those who prefer their exploring by boat, the water provides a unique means of viewing the estuary and upper reaches of the river during the warmer months.
The town is also well known tor its writers such as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, known as 'Q', and Dame Daphne du Maurier. 'Q' wrote about Fowey in a number of his books, the most well known being "The Astonishing History Of Troy Town" (Troy being Fowey). Since the date of its first publication over 100 years ago, this story has amused a considerable succession of readers and time has in no way eroded its entertainment value.
Present writers are still producing stories related to Fowey, for example, the story of Mary Bryant as captured by Judith Cook in her book "To Brave Every Danger". In 1786, Mary Bryant, a Fowey fisherman's daughter turned highway robber, was sentenced to hang for the theft of a silk hat and property worth 11 guineas. Her sentence was commuted to transportation to Australia and, after a barbarous nine month voyage during which her first child was born! Mary arrived in Botany Bay where she married fellow convict William Bryant. Determined to escape her harsh sentence, Mary and William fled the penal colony in an open boat. sailing 3254 miles in 69 days to the Dutch East Indies, only to be recaptured and brought back to London chained to the ship's deck in an open cage. Imprisoned in Newgate, and again threatened with death. her cause was championed by James Boswell, who was so taken with her at her trial, winning her first a reprieve, then a full pardon. Such is the stuff of this local girl, that MGM are proposing a film of this book in 1995 with locations in Fowey and Sydney, Australia.
Another Cornish author, Denys Val Baker lived at the Old Saw Mills near Golant in 1967, where he wrote "Life Up The Creek" and his wife Jess, started the Mill Stream Pottery in North Street in 1968. In 1939, Leo Walmsley's "Love in the Sun" was published, which tells how he and his wife had made a derelict army hut up Pont Creek, habitable and, how their furniture had been fashioned from driftwood. Daphne du Maurier wrote of this book: "'Love In The Sun' will make other writers feel old fashioned. It is a revelation in the art of writing . . . Walmsley gives the reader a true story, classic in its simplicity. . . (the characters) are made of the very stuff of life itself." Later, Walmsley wrote again from this old army hut and produced "Paradise Creek" and "Sound Of The Sea". Many of these titles are scarce today. There are presently many writers and artists living in the area, as the surroundings evidently generate the right creative ambiance.
On the north side of Fore Street, it is one of the oldest buildings in Fowey having been here long before the fire of 1457. Originally the home and warehouse of a wealthy merchant, today it is now a dentist's surgery and adjoining shop.
This medieval house, reputedly the oldest building in fowey, was built in 1430. The old kitchen is enchanting: walls fireplace and beams are very little altered from when they were built and some of the original cobbles remain to view.
This fine Georgian building is on the site of a medieval rest house for pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. James of Compostela in Spain. Records show that between 1412 and 1456 licences were granted to seven Fowey shippers who carried approximately 350 pilgrims.
5 South Street, Fowey, PL23 1AR
Tel: (01726) 833619
Set in the heart of Fowey, the Centre celebrates the life and works of the author Daphne du Maurier.
There is an exhibition and 15 minute video, which reflects the inspiration Cornwall provided for Daphne's most well-known novels.
A range of merchandise is also available.
The Visitor Centre is open daily from 10:00am to 5:30pm May to September
Small admission charge for adults.
Children under 16 free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Prices for groups available on request.
The local leisure centre is at the Windmill, PL23 1HE.
The town's Tourist Information Centre is at 5 South Street, PL23 1AR.
Situated in the attractive Fowey estuary, the lifeboat station has been operating for nearly 150 years and the crews have been presented with 14 awards for gallantry. Today's station has an all weather Trent class lifeboat and an inshore D class lifeboat.
Gribbin Head between Par and Fowey, is 250 feet high, owned by the National Trust, and topped by an 84 foot high day marker built in 1832 to guide ships into Fowey. Wonderful walking along the coast path with impressive views. Menabilly, the family home of the Rashleigh's, and once home to Daphne Du Maurier is nearby.
Charles Fitzgeoffrey (1576–1638) an Elizabethan poet and clergyman was the son of the Rector of Fowey.
Hugh Peters (or Peter) (1598–1660), a 17th-century preacher, was born at Fowey.
Kenneth Grahame (1859–1932) most famous for The Wind in the Willows published in 1908. Lived for part of the year in Fowey during the 1890's and into the early part of the 20th century.
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944) settled in Fowey in 1891 and remained there for the rest of his life. Quiller-Couch was an author and professor of English literature primarily recalled for his influential literary criticism.
Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879–1964) was a British illustrator. She was known for her cute, nostalgic drawings of children, based on her daughter, Peggy. Her drawings are featured on many postcards, advertisements, posters, books and figurines. She settled in Fowey, dying here in 1964.
Leo Walmsley (1892–1966) was an English writer. He died in Fowey, and his house 21 Passage Street was named Bramblewick after his popular book series.
Clarence Frederick Leary (1894–1918) a United States Navy officer and Navy Cross winner was born here.
Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989) English author and playwright; lived in Fowey. Her works include Rebecca, an adaptation of which won the best Picture Oscar in 1941.
Antony Hewish FRS FInstP (born 1924), co-recipient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics, was born here.
Gordon Waller (1945-2009), of the singing duo Peter and Gordon, resided in Cornwall for eight years during his children's youth. His family maintains a lifelong association with the village.
Dawn French (1957-) the actor, has lived in Fowey since 2006.
Mary Bryant was born here in 1765 before being transported as a convict to the colony of New South Wales, where she became one of the first escapees.
The Hall Walk
Gribbin Head Walk
The Fowey Festival of Words and Music - May.
Fowey Royal Regatta - August.
Fowey Christmas Market - December.
Fowey has two very busy ferries across the river to Polruan (foot) and Bodinnick (vehicle). There is also a summertime only ferry across St. Austell Bay to Mevagissey.
Pinky Murphys Cafe
The Lifebouy Cafe
The Toll Bar
The Well House
Readymoney Beach Shop
The Lugger Inn
The Ship Inn
The Galleon Inn
The Safe Harbour Inn
King of Prussia
Fowey Museum Golant Lostwithiel Par Polruan St. Austell Tywardreath St. Catherine's Castle
Fowey Aquarium The Saints' Way The Coastal Footpath Cornish Lifeboat Stations Cornwall's Ferrys
Cornwall's China Clay Industry The Hall Walk Place House Polkerris Gribbin Head