Fowey is a beautiful part of Cornwall, full of winding streets lined with many wonderful shops and cafes, and is always full of life. But how much do you know about the history of the town? We have decided to take a leap back in time and give a brief history of the town.
Circa 1300, people living in what is now known as Fowey were granted a charter, thus creating Fowey as a town. Having been established next to a natural harbour, it quickly allowed trade to develop between the town and other places in Europe. Local ship owners were also able to hire their vessels to the King as a form of support, as well as providing men for the navy, which in 1337, were defending Britain against French opposition.
The ships that were sent from Fowey to serve under the Crown were built on the river, and armed by the community. This led to the harbour being very crowded, filled with incoming and outgoing sea vessels, as well as fishing boats and other ships.
Around a hundred years after, Fowey entered another great era - one of piracy. Piracy had developed slightly from the robbing of lone vessels at sea, to a more sophisticated form of business financed by privateers. It was around the 1400's that the activities of four pirates drew attention to Fowey. The most successful of these was Mark Mixtow, who instead of protecting the Crown with his fleet like he had agreed, would harass and plunder ships, returning the loot to Fowey. It was after he seized a ship just off Falmouth that the Crown labelled Mixtow as an embarrassment, and was made to answer for his actions.
Fowey continued to be an active trade port into the Tudor and later periods, with regular imports of goods such as soap, Spanish wine, olive oil, sugar and more. Heading out of the ports were shipments of tin, coal, beeswax and fish. Fowey's pilchard trade expanded during the middle of the 18th Century, with neighbouring Polruan contributing to vast amounts of exported fish.
During the 19th Century, the docks were fairly quiet, until 1869, when an application was made to the Board of Trade, requesting the construction of jetties and the incorporation of a Harbour Management Board. St. Austell Bay was struggling with the rapidly growing china clay industry, so Fowey was set to lend a hand. The jetties were used to load china clay, helping ease the burden on St. Austell. Today, Fowey is a popular stop for cruise liners, offering beautiful views, as well as access to local attractions.
This is just a brief look at the history of our lovely town, and how it has developed over the years. If you are looking to learn more for yourself, and are looking for hotels near Fowey, the Cormorant is an ideal place to visit, where you can explore the town at your own leisure!
Photo courtesy of Tony Atkin, under Creative Commons