Falmouth is famous for its harbour. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe.
Falmouth became a municipal borough in 1835 and continued as such until the municipal reorgaization of 1974. Prior to 1835 it was an "ancient borough" in Kerrier Hundred. In 1894, when the terms of urban district and rural district were first adopted, Falmouth absorbed a part of the former civil parish of Budock (which was called Budock Urban Parish), leaving the remainder of Budock as Budock Rural civil parish in the rural district of East Kerrier. In 1934 it absorbed more of Budock Rural and also part of Mawnan parish further south.
See also: Miss Susan Gay's Falmouth chronology
The name Falmouth is of English origin, which recent Cornish language enthusiasts have translated to "Aberfal" (or "Aberfala") based on Welsh precedents. It is claimed that an earlier Celtic name for the place was Peny-cwm-cuic, which has been Anglicized to 'Pennycomequick'.
Falmouth was the site where Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle to defend Carrick Roads, in 1540. The main town of the district was then at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.
In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defences at Pendennis were strengthened by the building of angled ramparts. During the Civil War, Pendennis Castle was the second to last fort to surrender to the Parliamentary Army.
The seal of Falmouth was An eagle displayed with two heads and on each wing with a tower (based on the arms of Killigrew). The arms of the borough of Falmouth were Arg. a double-headed eagle displayed Sa. each wing charged with a tower Or. in base issuant from the water barry wavy a rock also Sa. thereon surmounting the tail of the eagle a staff also proper flying therefrom a pennant Gu.
The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain's growing empire. As the most south-westerly good harbour in Great Britain Falmouth was often the first port for returning Royal Navy ships.
19th & 20th centuries
In 1805 news of Britain's victory and Admiral Nelson's death at Trafalgar was landed here from the schooner Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach. On 2 October 1836 anchored at Falmouth at the end of its famous survey voyage around the world. That evening, Charles Darwin left the ship and took the Mail coach to his family home at The Mount, Shrewsbury. The ship stayed a few days and Captain Robert Fitzroy visited the Fox family at nearby Penjerrick Gardens. Darwin's shipmate Sulivan later made his home in nearby waterside village of Flushing, then home to many naval officers.
In 1839 Falmouth was the scene of the gold dust robbery when £47,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.
The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867. The present building dates from 1993 and jointly houses Her Majesty's Coastguard. The RNLI operates two lifeboats from Falmouth: Richard Cox Scott, a Severn Class all weather boat, and Eve Park, an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat.
Near the town center is Kimberley Park. The land pre-dates 1877, and is named after the Earl of Kimberley who leased the park land to the borough of Falmouth. Today the park boasts a beautiful array of exotic and ornate plants and trees.
The Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth on 24 August 1863. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth, as it made it easy for tourists to reach the town. It also allowed the swift transport of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port. The town now has three railway stations. Falmouth Docks railway station is the original terminus and is close to Pendennis Castle and Gyllyngvase beach. Falmouth Town railway station was opened on 7 December 1970 and is convenient for the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the waterfront, and town centre. Penmere railway station opened on 1 July 1925 towards the north of Falmouth and within easy walking distance of the top of The Moor. All three stations are served by regular trains from Truro on the Maritime Line. Penmere Station was renovated in the late 1990s, using the original sign and materials, and is now a fine example of an early 20th-century railway station.
During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. It was also the launching point for the famous Commando raid on St Nazaire. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbour.