Launceston (Cornish: Lannstevan; rarely spelled Lanson) is a town, ancient borough, and civil parish in the east of Cornwall, England. In the West Saxon period Dunheved was the Southwestern Brittonic name for the town.
The full title of the modern civil parish is Launceston-St Mary Magdalene (which includes the town itself). The population of Launceston-St Mary Magdalene parish in the 2001 census was 7,135. Ecclesiastically it is in the Diocese of Truro.
The town is built on the side of a large hill, which makes it almost immune to flooding, unlike the nearby suburb of Newport, situated at the bottom of the hill, which is susceptible to flooding by the River Kensey. Launceston is a market town and the main shopping centre for the adjoining rural areas of west Devon and east Cornwall.
The suburb of Newport is recorded for the first time during the 13th century. The natural advantages of the Launceston district had been recognised by the Anglo-Saxon monks of St. Stephen and by the Norman lord of Cornwall in the reign of King William I. At Launceston the River Tamar is joined by four tributaries within a short distance and its flood plain is relatively large, while further south the Tamar valley is narrow and meandering.
Launceston 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 East Hundred. As well as Launceston Civil Parish it included Lawhitton Civil Parish (until 1894), South Petherwin Civil Parish (until 1889), St. Mary Magdalene, St. Stephen's by Launceston Civil Parish (1835-1894), and St. Thomas-by-Launceston Civil Parish (also known as St. Thomas the Apostle or St. Thomas-Street) (1835-1894). When Launceston Rural District was established in 1894, Lawhitton, St. Stephens by Launceston and St. Thomas-by-Launceston parishes split into urban and rural parts with the urban parts being absorbed into Launceston and the rural sections transferred to the rural district.
NOTE: An explanation of the term St. Thomas-Street can be found in GENUKI.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Launceston.