St Mawes

St Mawes (Cornish: Lannvowsedh) is a small town opposite Falmouth, on the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It lies on the east bank of the Carrick Roads, a large waterway created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded as the melt waters caused the sea level to rise dramatically. The immense natural harbour created is often claimed to be the third largest in the world. It was once a busy fishing port, but the trade declined during the 20th century and it now serves as a popular tourist location, with many properties in the town functioning as holiday accommodation. The town is in the civil parish of St Just in Roseland.

St Mawes

St. Mawes Castle (foreground) and Pendennis Castle in Falmouth (background)
St Mawes
Location within Cornwall
OS grid referenceSW845330
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townTruro
Postcode districtTR2
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
UK Parliament

A year-round ferry provides a service to Falmouth, which is less than a mile away by boat, but due to its proximity to the Fal estuary it is some 30 miles (48 km) away by road. The Place Ferry links the South West Coast Path and operates from Good Friday to the end of October.[1]

History and geography

The town takes its name from the Celtic saint Saint Maudez (Mawe), who may have come from Ireland but is mainly venerated in Brittany.[2][3] A name: 'Musidum' in Roman times, has subsequently been applied to St. Mawes, although the source is dubious.[4]

St Mawes was once an important town and was made a borough in 1563, returning two members to parliament. It was disfranchised in 1832. The town was described, in 1880, by an anonymous writer,[5]

... as a quiet little fishing village, and consists of a long straggling street, fronting the water; it has, however a good pier, which was erected in 1854; and a sea-wall, with a parapet was built not long ago, along the centre front of the town.

St Mawes Castle is a well-preserved coastal fortress from the time of Henry VIII, built to counter the invasion threat from the Continent. Charles Henderson, writing in 1925, says of St Mawes, "an ancient fishing town which in late years has assumed the different and more sophisticated character of a watering place". The seal of St Mawes was Az. a bend lozengy Or between a tower in the sinister chief Arg. and a ship with three masts the sail furled in the dexter base of the second, with the legend "Commune Sigillum Burgi de St. Mawes al Mauditt.[6]

Just outside the town is a closed British Leyland garage on Polvarth Road which retains the British Leyland logo on a hoarding outside.

St Mawes lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Royal family

There have been frequent private visits to St Mawes by members of the Royal Family including HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, HRH Princess Margaret and more recently the Duke (Prince Charles) and Duchess of Cornwall who ended their stay in July 2008 by naming the new St Mawes ferry The Duchess of Cornwall. HM The Queen visited St Mawes in 1977 during her Silver Jubilee Tour.[7] In June 2002 for The Queen's Golden Jubilee and, with a brand new cast in June 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee, The Queen's Coronation was re-enacted in great detail by the young people of the village in a ceremony entitled "The Children's Coronation".

Church history

The name of the town comes from Saint Maudez, a Breton saint, and there was a chapel here dedicated to him with his holy well nearby. Its existence in 1427 is mentioned in George Oliver's Monasticon and it remained in use until the reign of Elizabeth I when it was abandoned. From that time until ca 1838 there was no chapel for the townspeople until a private chapel built in 1807 by the Marquis of Buckingham was licensed by the Bishop. This was on a different site and was rebuilt in 1881. St Mawes continued however to be in the parish of St Just in Roseland.[8] St Mawes' Church, St Mawes was opened in 1884. There is also a Methodist church. It was built in the first half of the 19th century and is a Grade II listed building.[9]


According to 2011 UK census data, 714 people lived in St Mawes. 91% of residents were born in UK and the most common religion stated was Christian (74.8%).[10]

Cultural associations

The Agatha Christie film Murder Ahoy was filmed here, as was the 1964 film Crooks in Cloisters.[11]

As well as this St Mawes is considered to be home to one of the oldest small Cornish bakeries in the county of Cornwall. The St Mawes bakery is estimated to have been founded in 1912 by the Curtis family (the current owners) making it 100 years old in 2012. Although the bakeries premises is probably much older (going back to the 1800s).

In the novels by Robert Galbraith, detective Cormoran Strike partly grew up in St Mawes, and strongly associates happy parts of his childhood with the town.

Notable residents


  1. "King Harry Ferry". Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  2. Into Cornwall, St Mawes, Information about St Mawes
  3. Doble, G. H. (1964) The Saints of Cornwall: part 3. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 57-73
  4. Drew, Samuel (1824) The Origin of Cornish Place Names.
  5. "St Mawes Castle". The Cornishman (120). 28 October 1880. p. 6.
  6. Pascoe, W. H. (1979). A Cornish Armory. Padstow, Cornwall: Lodenek Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-902899-76-7.
  7. "Protected Jubilee tree is left dying after act of vandalism". Thisiscornwall. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  8. Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; pp. 115-16
  9. "METHODIST CHURCH, St. Just-in-Roseland - 1312736". Historic England. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  10. "City Population: St Mawes". Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  11. Filming locations for Crooks in Cloisters on the Internet Movie Database
  12. "Barry Bucknell". Making the Modern World. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  13. "West Country property: the enchanting village". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  14. "West Country property: the enchanting village". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  15. "West Country property: the enchanting village". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  16. BT Phone Book


Further reading

  • Pollard, Chris (2007). The Book of St Mawes. Wellington, Somerset: Halsgrove. ISBN 978-1-84114-631-7.
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