Cornwall, England
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Launceston, Cornwall, England         OS Map Grid Ref: SX330847
 The County of Cornwall
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The town of Launceston developed as a market centre serving the surrounding area in the shadow of the Norman castle which guarded the main route into Cornwall from Devon. It recieved its first charter in 1225 and became the capital of Cornwall until 1835. The town became the commercial and industrial centre of the region. Its central position makes Launceston an ideal base for exploring the moors, the north and south coasts, as well as cities such as Exeter, Plymouth and Truro.

Modern Launceston, astride the main A30 road and only a mile from the river Tamar which has formed the boudary between Cornwall from Devon for centuries, is centered upon The Square, the shopping centre, surrounded by narrow streets of Georgian houses.

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Museums and Galleries

Lawrence House Museum

A wide variety of historical artifacts is on display in what is recognised as one of the finest museums in the South West.
Lawrence House Museum,
9 Castle Street, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 8BA
tel:   01566 773277


The Southgate arch houses an art gallery.

see also:   Museums in Cornwall

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Parish Church

The 16th century parish church possess and earlier tower stands close to the castle and is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. The granite exterior is one of the most lavishly carved of any church in England and was described by John Betjeman as 'a medieval triumph of Cornwall '.

There are three other churches, a Methodist Chapel and Kingdom Hall.

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Launceston Castle which dominated the life of the town and from which the whole county was ruled, has been reduced to just the keep perched atop its hill. It is well worth the climb for the views to be had from the top - click here for more information.

Northgate and Prison where the Quaker George Fox was imprisoned.

The Town Hall possesses a fine clock with quarterjacks to chime the hours and quarters.

The Town Square and surrounding narrow streets present as splendid array of Georgian buildings.

The Square is dominated by the War Memorial where Westgate Street and High Street join it. This was built on the site of the old butter market. Below the Square is a large unused water reservoir.

The South Gate is the only survivor of the three original which allowed access through the walls of the town.

Launceston Priory, near the parish church of St Thomas below and to the north of the town was founded in 1126 by the Bishop of Exeter - click here for more information.

The ancient Clapper Bridge over the River Kensey canstill be crossed bypedestrians.

The White Hart Hotel in the Square is an imposing Georgian building but its fabric contains a fine archway reputed to be from St Thomas's Priory.

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Lanceston Town Councilis the parish authority for the town which provides a range of social and recreational facilities. It also promotes the town's interests, represents it and lobbies for its interests at local and parliamentary levels.

North Cornwall District Council is responsible for development control, environmental health, refuse collection, economic development, tourism and major recreational facilities while Cornwall County Council is responsible for education, social services, highways, fire and rescue, strategic planning and libraries.

Links to Council Web-Sites

Launceston Town Council
  North Cornwall District Council
    Cornwall County Council

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Lanceston has been twinned with Plestin-les-Greves in Brittany since 1985.

Plestin-les-Greves is a market town, 2-kilometers from the coast in a predominantly agricultural area.

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The area around the town is rich in history dating back to the stone age and Devon and Cornwall were a refuge of the Celts escaping the influx of Iron Age immigrants. The Romans seem not to have settled in the far South West to any great extent but the advance of the Saxon invaders after their departure in the 5th century saw another influx of refugees, this time the Britons of England.

By 927, Athelstan of Wessex pushed the Celts further westwards when he took Exeter and nine years later, the Tamar (only a mile from Launceston) was agreed as the border between Celtic Cornwall and Saxon Wessex - a line which divides Cornwall and Devon to this day.

In Saxon times, the Launceston was important enough to be the site of a Royal Mint.

The Normans subjugated their newly-won domain with castles, citadels from which they rode out to control surrounding territory, and within which they could shelter if attacked. It was Brian de Bretagne, the first Norman Earl of Cornwall who built Launceston Castle in the 11th Century and the town grew around the castle walls. The town itself was defended by protective walls - the only walled town in Cornwall and, being the centre of power, possessed a Royal mint.

The Catholic priest Cuthbert Mayne and his friend Francis tregain were brought to the prison here after their arrest in January, 1577. Condemned for treason, he was hugn, drawn and quartered in the Square and his head was displayed on the gate of the castle.

The town has a trail which visitors can follow highlighting its ancient architrecture and historic features which include the 16th century church of St Mary Magdalene with its ornately carved exterior.

The Bude Canal was built in 1823 to carry beach sand from Bude, 20 miles inland to Launceston for use as fertiliser and to export local produce, bringing development to the coastal town. It is now used for pleasure-boating and fishing.

The Launceston Poor Law Union was formed in 1837 to serve 21 local parishes with a population of 14,841 in 1831. The Launceston Union workhouse was built to house 150 inmates in 1838 at Page's Cross. The worhouse buildings have been demolished and a supermarket now occupies the site.

The workhouse, costing �4,350, was built on a three-acre site and designed by Charles Lang who also designed the workhouse at St Germans. It served the parishes of Boynton, Egloskerry, Lawhitton, Lewannick, Lezant, Laneast, North Hill, St Mary Magdalen, St Stephen's with the Borough of Newport, St Thomas the Apostle (St Thomas Street, Alternon), Stoke Climsland, South Petherwin, Tregmeer, Tremaine, Trenegloss, Trewen, Warbstow and the Devonshire parishes of North Petherwin and Warrington.

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This time-line has been generated for this page from our general time-line
which you can view by clicking here or on the dates in the left-hand column.

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577Battle of Deorham Down near Bristol results in the separation of the West Welsh (the Cornish) from the Welsh by the advancing of the Saxons
Bath, Cirencester and Gloucester mentioned in an account of the battle but not Bristol
927Athelstan of Wessex attacks the south western Celts forcing them to withdraw from Exeter
There is no record of him entering Cornwall - the Cornish king Hywel probably agreed to pay tribute to Athelstan
936Settlement between Cletic Cornish and King Athelstan of Wessex fixes the east bank of the Tamar as the boundary between Wessex and Cornwall
1066The Norman Robert of Mortain becomes Earl of Cornwall and builds a castle at Launceston
1126Foundation of Launceston Priory (Cornwall) by the William-de-Warelwest, Bishop of Exeter
1166Launceston established as Cornwall\\\'s Assize Court (-1840)
1225Launceston (Cornwall) recieves its first charter
1272Death of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, succeeded by his son, Edmund who pulled out of Launceston
1577.Jun.08Imprisnment of Roman Catholic priest Cuthbert Mayne at Launceston in Cornwall
Francis Tregian was also imprisoned
1577.Nov.29Martyrdom of the Roman Catholic priest Cuthbert Mayne for high treason at Launceston
1656Imprisonment of George Fox, founder of the Quaker sect, at Launceston, Cornwall
1792First convict ship leaves for Australia
On board is Cornishman James Ruse from Launceston
1835Cornwall\\\'s capital moved from Launceston to Bodmin
1837Formation of the Launceston Poor Law Union serving 21 local parishes
1838Building of the Launceston Union Workhouse to house 150 inmates at Page\'s Cross
1840Cornwall\'s assizes moved from Launceston to Bodmin
1860Edward Barrett from St Mellion becomes the full-time (only) constable of the Launceston Borough Police
1883The Cornwall Constabulary take over the Launceston Borough Police and the superintendent\'s office is moved to the town
Edward Barrett, Launceston\'s only Police Constable since 1860, retires
1921First pilgrimage in honour of St Cuthbert Mayne organised at Launceston by Fr Richard McElroy
1970Canonization of Cuthbert Mayne by Pope Paul VI
1985Launceston twinned with Plestin-les-Greves in Brittany
2003.Oct.28Andrew James Stevens, of Underlane, Launceston, jailed by Bodmin Magistrates for 30 days for non-payment of �1,217.36 in council tax
He had been given a suspended sentence in August on the understanding that he would pay off the council tax debt and cost in instalments

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