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Famous Falmouth Family, Cornwall

January 31, 2016

A holiday at the Rathgowry Guesthouse is not just the best choice for comfortable accommodation and fantastic breakfasts, but it is also in an excellent location!  With just an easy ten minute walk into the centre of Falmouth, you can start exploring some of the sights

To bring Falmouth to life a bit more, we thought we would tell you a bit about one of the most prominent families in Falmouth – The Killigrews.  In fact, there is so much to say that this is 1 of 2 posts.  The 2nd post is about Piracy – and yes, still all linked to this illustrious Falmouth family – The Killigrews.

Royal Connections:

The Killigrew family have a long history intertwined with Kings and Queens as well as pirates.
The name ‘Killigrew’ is said to signify in the ancient Cornish language “a grove of eagles”.
The earliest recorded member of the family is Ralph Killigrew, supposed to have been a natural son of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272), King of the Romans (second son of King John (1199-1216) and thus brother of King Henry III) by his concubine Joan de Valletort.

Killigrew Eagle.jpegThe Killigrew arms showing a double-headed spread eagle within a bordure bezanty, are believed to refer to this royal descent, namely the eagle representing the arms of the King of the Romans.

Members of the Killigrew family grew to much prominence as royal courtiers to the Stuart Kings, as evidenced by their various tombs in Westminster Abbey.



The Family ‘Pile’

The Killigrew family had been based in Cornwall since the mid 13th century, the family seat at Arwenack being established in 1385.  They were the most powerful family in Cornwall and lived here for about 16 generations.

Arwenack House is the oldest building in Falmouth, originally built in 1385 and then largely rebuilt around 1567-1571 by Sir John Killigrew, the first Governor of Pendennis Castle. At that time it was described as ‘the finest and most costly house in the country’.

Much of the original building was destroyed during the Civil War when it was the headquarters of the Roundhead Army besieging Pendennis Castle, and was rebuilt in 1786. (Although never to it’s original grander scale).


It was Peter Killigrew who was persuaded by King Charles II to make the town the Royal Mail Packet Station.

The Killigrew dominance ended in the 18th century when Peter Killigrew’s son was killed in a duel. His son-in-law Martin, took the Killigrew name – but he had no heirs, bringing to an end one of the most powerful dynasties in Cornwall.

The house fell into disrepair before being restored to something like its former glory in the 1980s. This building is now opposite Events Square – the entrance is gated.  

Intriguingly, across the road from Arwenack House stands a pyramid, built by Martin Killigrew that has no markings on it and thus its purpose is uncertain.

Pyramid.jpegIt was moved in 1836 to make way for the houses now known as ‘Grove Place’ and again in 1871 to its present appropriate site opposite the Arwenack Manor-office.

During one of it’s relocations, it was said that green bottles with paper in them were found within the pyramid- but annoyingly I can’t find any reference to what the papers said!

You can’t miss the pyramid as you walk into Falmouth – between Arwenack house and Events Square.

Don’t miss the next post…Pirates here in Falmouth, Cornwall.

So, once you have unpacked at The Rathgowry Guesthouse in Falmouth, why not take an easy stroll into Falmouth and see if you can spot these landmarks.  If you haven’t booked your accommodation yet then look no further, call us directly on 01326 313482 for the best prices.  We look forward to seeing you!  🙂

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