Fowey (/ˈfɔɪ/ ( listen) FOY; Cornish: Fowydh, meaning
'Beech Trees') is a small town, civil parish and cargo port at the
mouth of the
River Fowey in south Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.
The town has been in existence since before 1300; the estuary of the
River Fowey forms a natural harbour which enabled the town to become
an important trading centre. Privateers also made use of the sheltered
Lostwithiel and Fowey Railway
Lostwithiel and Fowey Railway brought
China clay here
1.1 Early history
1.2 Later history
4 Religious sites
Fowey Parish Church
10 Public services
11 Notable people
13 Further reading
14 External links
Domesday Book survey at the end of the 11th century records manors
at Penventinue and Trenant, and a priory was soon established nearby
at Tywardreath. c. 1300 the prior granted a charter to people living
Fowey itself. This medieval town ran from a north gate near
Boddinick Passage to a south gate at what is now
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, although the town also developed a reputation
for piracy, as did many others at this time. A group of privateers
known as the '
Fowey Gallants' were given licence to seize French
vessels during the Hundred Years' War. In the 14th century the harbour
was defended by 160 archers; after these were withdrawn, two
blockhouses were built on either side of the harbour entrance. Despite
these defences the town was attacked by French forces in 1457. Place
House, by the church, was successfully defended against the French but
subsequently strengthened. This building still exists, but much
remodelled. A small castle was built on St Catherine’s Point, the
western side of the harbour entrance, around 1540. The defences proved
their worth when a Dutch attack was beaten off in 1667.
The people of
Fowey generally sided with the Royalists during the
English Civil War, but in 1644 the
Earl of Essex
Earl of Essex brought a
Parliamentarian army to
Lostwithiel and occupied the peninsula around
Fowey. In August, a Royalist army surrounded Essex’s troops and King
Charles I himself viewed
Fowey from Hall Walk above Polruan, where he
came close to being killed by a musket shot. On 31 August, the
Parliamentarian cavalry forced their way through the Royalist lines
and retreated towards Saltash, leaving the foot soldiers to be
evacuated by sea from Fowey. Essex and some officers did indeed
escape, but the majority of the force surrendered a few days later
Golant and were then marched to Poole, but most died before
The fortunes of the harbour became much reduced, with trade going to
Plymouth and elsewhere instead. Fishing became more important, but
local merchants were often appointed as privateers and did some
smuggling on the side. Tin, copper and iron mines, along with quarries
and china clay pits became important industries in the area, which led
to improvements at rival harbours. West Polmear beach was dug out to
become Charlestown harbour circa 1800, as was
Pentewan in 1826.
Joseph Austen shipped copper from Caffa Mill Pill above
Fowey for a
while before starting work on the new Par harbour in 1829. Fowey
had to wait another forty years before it saw equivalent development,
but its natural deep-water anchorage and a rail link soon gave it an
advantage over the shallow artificial harbours nearer to the mines and
china clay works. Meanwhile, a beacon tower was erected on the Gribben
Trinity House to improve navigation into
Fowey and around Par
Loading china clay circa 1904 (jetty number 1 in foreground)
Fowey Harbour Commissioners were established by an Act of
Parliament in 1869, to develop and improve the harbour. On 1 June
in that year, the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge Lostwithiel
Fowey Railway was opened to new jetties situated above Carne
Point, and in 1873, the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in
(1,435 mm) standard gauge
Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR) opened
a line from
Newquay and Par to further jetties between Caffa Mill Pill
and Carne Point. Both of these railways initially carried just goods,
but on 20 June 1876, a passenger station was opened on the CMR on land
reclaimed from Caffa Mill Pill. The
Lostwithiel line closed at the end
of 1879 but was reopened by the CMR as a standard gauge line in 1895,
and the short gap between the two lines at Carne Point was eliminated.
Passenger trains from Par were withdrawn after 1934 and from
Lostwithiel in 1965. The Par line was subsequently converted to a
dedicated roadway for lorries bringing china clay from Par after which
all trains had to run via Lostwithiel.
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Royal National Lifeboat Institution established
Station near the
Town Quay in 1922 to replace an earlier station at
Polkerris. This was replaced in 1997, by a new facility in Passage
Street. Two lifeboats are stationed at Fowey: Maurice and Joyce
Hardy, a Trent Class all weather boat that is kept afloat opposite the
lifeboat station, and Olive Two, an IB1 inshore lifeboat kept inside
the station and launched by davit.
Fowey was the main port for loading ammunition for the US 29th
Division that landed on
Omaha Beach on
D Day during the Second World
War. There was a munitions siding at Woodgate Pill just north of
Fowey, originally built for the Great War conflict.
Bodinnick ferry, Fowey,
The seal of the borough of
Fowey was On a shield a ship of three masts
on the sea her topsail furled with the legend "Sigillum oppidi de Fowy
Anno Dom. 1702".
Fowey elected two members to the unreformed House of Commons until the
Reform Act 1832
Reform Act 1832 stripped it of its representation as a rotten borough,
it having lost its borough corporation a few years before. It was
restored as a municipal borough in 1913, and then was merged with the
nearby and much larger
St Austell in 1968 to form the borough of St
Austell with Fowey. This was itself in 1974 replaced with the
Restormel Borough, which was replaced by
Cornwall Council in 2009.
In local government terms,
Fowey is now a civil parish with a town
council and a mayor. Local government responsibilities are shared by
the town council and
Cornwall Council. Besides the town of Fowey
itself, the parish includes the coastal area between the mouth of the
River Fowey and
St Austell Bay, including
Gribben Head and the small
settlements of Menabilly, Polkerris, Polmear and
The parish of
Fowey lies within the
St Austell and Newquay
constituency of the
United Kingdom Parliament, and the South West
England constituency of the European Parliament.
Fowey Harbour panorama
Fowey is a small town, civil parish and cargo port at the mouth of the
River Fowey in south Cornwall, England. It is at the entrance to a
large flooded valley created after the last ice age by the melt waters
that caused the sea level to rise dramatically, creating a large
natural harbour which is navigable for its last seven miles. 
Fowey is in the South Coast (Eastern Section) of the
Cornwall Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty. It lies at the end of the
Saints' Way and
has ferries across the river to
Polruan (foot) and Bodinnick
(vehicle). There are many historic buildings in the town, including
the ruins of St Catherine's Castle, while
Readymoney Cove possesses a
At the time of the 2001 census,
Fowey had a population of 2,273. This
had increased slightly at the 2011 census to 2,395 The Fowey
electoral ward had a population of 4,690 in 2011.
Fowey Parish Church
Popular legend has it that
Fowey as a child, along with
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea who was a merchant visiting local tin mines in
which he had a commercial interest. At the entrance
to the River, on the eastern side below the cliffs to the south-west
of St Saviour's Point, there is a cross to commemorate this supposed
visit. This cross is marked on very early charts and was maintained by
monks from Tywardreath. The cross is known locally as "Punches Cross",
supposedly derived from the name of Pontius Pilate.
One hundred yards west of the lighthouse on the west of the harbour
entrance, about thirty feet below the top of the cliff edge and
broadly concealed, is a small grass area known as "Johnny May's
Chapel". This name is believed to be that of a Methodist preacher at
the time when Nonconformism was persecuted.
Fowey Parish Church
The church is dedicated to
Saint Finbarr and is listed Grade I. It was
built in the early 14th century and rededicated in 1336, replacing a
previous Norman church. The church was damaged by the French in 1457,
and repaired in 1460 by the Earl of Warwick, when the clerestory and
the north and south aisles were rebuilt. There is a nave and two
aisles with a clerestory, and the aisles are unusually wide; the
aisles and the clerestory may be additions of the 15th century. The
tower, of the 16th century, is of four stages and has buttresses and
bands of ornament. There is an exceptionally fine 15th-century carved
wagon roof. The south porch has open arches to the west and east and
an eight-ribbed vaulted roof. The font is Norman, of Catacleuze stone,
and similar to those of Ladock, Feock and St Mewan. The hexagonal
pulpit was made in 1601. The monuments include two brasses of the mid
15th century and those of John Rashleigh, 1582, and Alice Rashleigh,
1602. The most interesting are two later Rashleigh monuments: John
Rashleigh, c. 1610, and another of 1683. The church was used as a
town hall for a period up to 1684. Sir
Arthur Quiller-Couch is buried
in the churchyard.
Loading china clay at Carne Point
Fowey has thrived as a port for hundreds of years, initially as a
trading and naval town, then as the centre for china clay exports.
Fowey is busy with trawlers and yachts. Tourism is also an
important source of income, contributing £14m to the local economy
and accounting for more than half of the jobs in the town.
Fowey railway station
Fowey railway station closed to passengers in 1965, the
Fowey branch line remains open for goods traffic,
carrying bulk china clay to the jetties at Carne Point. The nearest
passenger station is at Par, whence there are trains to Penzance,
Newquay, Plymouth, Bristol and London Paddington. First South West
operate regular bus services, numbered 25, 524 and 525, between Fowey,
Par railway station
Par railway station and St Austell. The combined frequency varies from
one bus per hour on Sundays to four buses per hour on weekdays. From
St Austell Bus Station connecting buses operate to other places in
Town Bus is a frequent and regular service running from
outside the church in the town centre to the main car park on Hanson
Both vehicle and foot ferry services cross the river to
Polruan. A ship to shore water taxi service operates from Easter until
the end of October and a foot ferry to the fishing village of
Mevagissey runs from 1 May to 1 October, weather permitting.
Fowey has two schools:
Fowey Primary School and
Fowey River Academy,
both of which are in Windmill Road.
Fowey Grammar School, for which
Silvanus Trevail received a silver medal, was demolished
Fowey has been the inspiration for many authors, including Sir Arthur
Quiller-Couch ('Q'), Daphne du Maurier,
Leo Walmsley and Kenneth
Fowey was Quiller-Couch's main residence from 1892 onwards, and a
number of his stories are set in 'Troy Town', a thinly disguised
Fowey. The du Maurier Festival Society runs the Fowey
Festival of Arts and Literature each May, the month of her birth.
Various visual artists have had close connection with
Fowey and lived
there, including painters Fred Yates Andrew Litten and Amanda
Hoskin who primarily paints the local coastline..
Fowey holds an
annual Christmas craft market.
The surrounding coastline of
Fowey is popular with fishermen and
spear-fishermen. Many sea creatures can be seen all around the Cornish
shoreline, including mullet, bass, mackerel, lobsters and
cuttlefish. Many of the species can be seen in the
in the heart of the town, which includes a very rare Albino Bull
Yacht Club is based on the harbour front. A Pilot
Gig Rowing Club races in and around Cornwall, with an event at Fowey
being held the same week as the Regatta. The club launches from Caffa
Fowey Golf Club was founded in 1894 and continued until
the late 1940s.
A doctors' surgery called the '
Fowey River Practice' is situated in
Rawlings Lane, and is part of a group including two other surgeries in
Fowey River Practice group, which are situated at Par and
Charles Fitzgeoffrey an Elizabethan poet and clergyman was the son of
the Rector of Fowey.
Hugh Peters (or Peter), a 17th-century preacher, was born at Fowey.
Mary Bryant (born 1765) was born in
Fowey before being transported as
a convict to the colony of New South Wales, where she became one of
the first escapees.
Kenneth Grahame (1859–1932) most famous for The Wind in the Willows
(1908) lived for part of the year in
Fowey during the 1890s and into
the early part of the 20th century.
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
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,
Cornwall, on 8 June and his house 21 Passage Street was named
Bramblewick after his popular book series.
Clarence F. Leary a
United States Navy
United States Navy officer and Navy Cross winner
was born here on 11 January 1894.
Daphne du Maurier
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, Jamaica Inn and numerous short stories
including The Birds and Don't Look Now that were turned into films.
Antony Hewish (born 1929), co-recipient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for
Physics, was born here.
Gordon Waller (1945-2009), of the singing duo Peter and Gordon,
Cornwall for eight years during his children's youth. His
family maintains a lifelong association with the village.
A number of wealthy entertainers have second homes around the town,
which may have contributed to raising house prices above what many
local people can afford. These include married couples Richard
Madeley and Judy Finnigan and
Dawn French (who paid around £2
million in October 2006 for a mansion at Readymoney Cove),
Gloria Hunniford, and former
Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis.
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Fowey Festival website
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Fowey.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fowey.
Fowey at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Ceremonial county of Cornwall
Council of the Isles of Scilly
St Columb Major
St Just in Penwith
See also: List of civil parishes in Cornwall
Population of major settlements
Places of interest
Outline of Cornwall
Index of Cornwall-related articles
Civil parishes of
St Austell and
Grampound with Creed
St Austell Bay
St Columb Major
St Michael Caerhays
Tywardreath and Par