The Gateway to Cornwall by ferry

Torpoint Town Council


Torpoint is another place where the tourist enters Cornwall. It has grown up because of the ferry service crossing from here to Devonport. The A374 road continues ten miles west from the town to the A38 at Trerulefoot. The population of the town was 8,364 at the 2011 census.

Although much of the town may be considered as a residential suburb of Plymouth, there are many features of interest. Tor House in Nelson Street dates from the Georgian era and Lord Graves lived there in the 19th century. A Martello tower stands near Gravesend Point, a reminder of the threat of invasion by Napoleon.

The history of Torpoint goes back about 260 years - not very long in comparison with many of the local towns and villages. One of the first mentions of Torpoint is an old print of the Hamoaze dated 1734. It shows two men leaning against a millstone which has the words 'Tarr Point' carved on it. There is also a mention in Antony church records dated 1745. Sir Walter Raleigh at some time suggested that the lower reaches of the river would be a good site for a Dockyard, but nothing was done until the reign of William III when in 1690 the first steps were taken to start building the Dockyard at Mount Wise.

This expansion of the Navy and Dockyard was responsible for the growth of Torpoint. Many tradesmen had to be brought to 'Dock' as Devonport was originally called, both for building ships and construction of the Dockyard. Plymouth was very remote from the Dockyard because of the extremely poor road communications - it was only possible to reach Plymouth by travelling over marshy ground and boat crossings. This would have been done twice a day so not unnaturally the workers looked around for alternative possibilities.

Torpoint began to take shape by about the late 1750's. Antony Estate and the Carew-Pole family were controlling factors in the development of the town. The grid-based design for the town was commissioned by Reginald Pole Carew in 1774. Business and trades sprang up in the area - among them lime kilns, rope-walks, quays, quarries, shops, spinning houses and stables, as well as the houses for Naval Officers and personnel.

Obviously there was some scheme to cross the river - ferries must have been in operation and indeed there are old prints showing craft crossing back and forth to 'Dock' with passengers and horses. However it was essential that an 'official' ferry be built so that workers - sailors, traders, farmers - ordinary people could cross to Plymouth and all points east. The official ferry service started on the 4th July 1791. (strange that the Americans should have chosen this day as Independence Day!)

Torpoint is a friendly community that has risen in popularity over the last 20 years. It developed at the turn of the 18th century around the growing ferry service across the River Tamar. Torpoint has therefore become the gateway to the picturesque peninsula of South East Cornwall.

Torpoint Ferries have been operating since 1791 with the first chain ferry in 1834. There have been several modernisations since then and Torpoint can now boast the world's largest chain ferries.

Antony House, home of the Carew-Pole family, is opened to the public by the National trust. It houses many paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and its grounds were landscaped in the Repton style. The estate's Woodland Walks are especially beautiful in spring when the rhododendron, camellias, and azaleas are in bloom. The commanding views of the Lynher River are magnificent.

Torpoint's parish church is dedicated to St. James and was built in 1885.

St. John's Lake is part of the tidal estuary of the River Tamar. It is an outstanding wintering spot for waders and wildfowl as well as being a stopover for migrating gulls and terns.

Torpoint's proximity to St. John's Lake and Plymouth Sound has encouraged the development of its thriving sailing community. The open tidal waters provide the challenging conditions enjoyed by sailors and windsurfers alike.

HMS Raleigh, situated on the outskirts of Torpoint, is a Royal Navy training establishment for all ratings and artificer apprentices, it also is the home of the Royal Marine Band (Plymouth). HMS Raleigh has figured prominently in the community since it was originally commissioned in 1940. Many an old salt has visited Torpoint to re-kindle memories of their time in the Royal Navy.

The local leisure centre is in Antony Road, PL11 2NH.

Notable Residents

John Langdon Down (1828-1896) was born in Torpoint, he later described the condition which is now referred to as Down syndrome. He was called back on a number of occasions to help his father in his local business until his father's death in 1853.


Torpoint Carnival - Mid September.


Cafes in Torpoint


Pubs in Torpoint

Antony House       Antony Woodland Garden       Cawsand and Kingsand       Millbrook       Saltash

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park       The Cornish Owl Centre       The Tamar Valley       Cornwall's Ferrys