The Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Regatta 2014 – 28th – 31st August. Could there be a better time to imagine Falmouth as the hub of local and international news and information, when piracy and war were part of the tapestry of the towns day to day lives?
In 1688 the Post Office declared the port of Falmouth the perfect base for its fleet of mail ships. For over 150 years the sight of sail’s and crafted wooden ships out in the harbour and carrick roads became common place. Goods, passengers, news and bullion were regularly dispatched aboard a Falmouth Packet ship to a great many destinations including the Mediterranean, Brazil, the West Indies, North America and as far afield as Australia. Next to London Falmouth was the second most important center of information and news in the British Empire.
Imagine a time when the streets were filled with the cries of mutiny. The bellowing voices of angry sailors as Customs officers confiscated their personal goods to the tune of Christopher Saverland as he read the Riot Act. Were they legitimate goods or were they, as officials believed, smuggled contraband, ‘perks’?
As you sit on Gyllngvase, Swanpool or Castle Beach overlooked by one of the towns oldest surviving buildings, Pendennis Castle, imagine a time when the bay was filled with canon fire as navy fleets defended the town and Packet ships protected their cargo and crew, (not something we imagine our postal service doing today). Packet ships are believed to have engaged in some 32 battles during the Napoleonic war. In recognition of such great bravery a granite obelisk was erected on Falmouth Moor in 1896 and remains today as a memorial to the gallantry of the Packet crews.
John Bull, possibly the most famous Packet commander, was well known for his fierce temper and loud booming voice and the ships under his command are recorded as engaging in the most battles. In 1810 a French raider within sight of Pendennnis Castle bid a hasty retreat when Captain Bull cried, ‘Now, my lads there is Pendennis and there are your homes!’ This was followed by a cannon down the deck of the Fench ship, no wonder they retreated. The captains house remains a little way up from Swanpool lake. Marlborough House, named after the second of his ships to carry the name, is now a private residence but is still perfectly visible from the road and is worth the stroll up the short hill.
At it’s peak the Falmouth Packet Fleet totalled 39 ships, it is reported that over 35 ships have registered to take part in this years regatta. Although they are coming from all over the world this number alone will make the vision in the harbour and bay a near perfect picture of the Falmouth Packet Fleet in a 1827 Falmouth.
Will you Visit Falmouth for this years spectacular Tall Ships Regatta? Were you here in 2008? Where will you stay?