Falmouth Harbour: Connecting the corner of the UK to the rest of the world since the 17th century

21 September 2020

Posted under: News articles

Falmouth Harbour

We love a bit of history, so it’s understandable that so many of our communities are built in areas that have their own interesting tales to tell. Falmouth, the home of our community at The Fitzroy, is just one such place. 

It isn’t easy to imagine a small coastal town in West Cornwall, almost 300 miles from Westminster, playing a pivotal role in the British Empire, connecting British people all over the world. But that’s exactly what the Falmouth did with its packet trade, almost 400 years ago. 

It was 1689 when Britain entered a war with Catholic France and the island nation was in full swing of establishing overseas colonies in all corners of the world. Up until the war with the French, British sailors, diplomats and traders enjoyed their freedom of passing French channels to reach the rest of Europe from the harbours of the South East. But the Empire quickly needed a new solution.   

When the marine paths out of the capital were blocked due to the war, Royal Mail looked westwards, appointing Falmouth as the official packet station which would deliver letters and packets (parcels) from the harbours on the River Fal to the rest of the British Empire, continental Europe and even the Americas for the next 160 years. It was a critical period for the British Empire, the volume and importance of some of the outgoing messages and packets were paramount. The packet services didn’t only include handwritten letters from British diplomats based in Spain sending love to their families on the island, but also included bullions, war commands and armour. 

It was because of this that the ships going to and from Falmouth Harbour were at constant risk of being attacked. The packet ships were usually armed with gun brigs, cannons and carronades – unusual for delivery packet vessels. The set of armaments was to defend rather than pre-empt, but many packet ships saw their passengers and captains killed and wounded by the French.

Although Falmouth is located far from London, it played a crucial and strategic role in delivering a range of goods in and out of its harbours for over 160 years. Its location was paramount to the successful transporting of messages and goods through the gauntlet of enemy naval ships and privateer. 

The packet trade eventually ended in the 1850s upon the development of the steam engine, but Falmouth Harbour continued to serve an important role in British history. In 1860, Docks now known as Falmouth Docks were laid by the renowned engineer James Abernethy over a 150-acre area. With the construction of the Cornwall Railway by the Falmouth Dock Company, the area played a pivotal role in taking the goods off the water and moving them inland during much of the 19th century. 

Appropriately, the local newspaper in West Cornwall is called The Packet, now delivering news from Falmouth to the rest of the world, instead of hand-written letters and parcels.


There is so much more to Falmouth than meets the eye, so we wouldn’t be surprised if you were interested in calling this community home one day. To register your interest in either purchasing or renting one of these gorgeous apartments, please call our team on 01326 567664 or email [email protected].