The ancient Cornish town of Launceston lies in between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, sharing its border with Devon across the River Tamar. The 11th century Domesday Book, that provides details of land holdings in England, mentioned that the ownership of Launceston belonged to Count Robert of Mortain. This ancient town, as it stands today, should be visited for its history and mystery. Launceston has witnessed history unfold and has countless stories in store for you.
The royal dukedom of Launceston pays its feudal dues to the Prince of Wales. Once in his lifetime, the Prince visits Launceston as the Duke of Cornwall to exercise his duchy right.
Once a Cornish capital, Launceston is defined by its prominent attributes. In 12th century, the entire town of Launceston was walled. During Saxon times, Launceston housed the prestigious Royal Mint. It is the only Cornish town that earned the special status to house Assize. The Assize tradition of setting up county courts went on for centuries. To date, Launceston retains its uniqueness of being the only walled town of Cornwall.
The medieval Southgate arch is a prime feature of Launceston. The Southgate, Northgate and the Westgate provided access to the 'walled town'. There was no need for Eastgate due to a sharp upslope leading to Kensey valley. The worn down stones of all the three gates portray the strong historical flavour that Launceston carries.
The Town Square is Launceston's centre of activity, The Town Square, proudly presents the Town Hall. Dating to 1887 this Gothic style structure was recently renovated in 2010. Managed by Launceston Town Council, it can be hired for various purposes like meetings and cultural events. The Town Square resonates the culturally vibrant side of Launceston.
Launceston Castle causes some disconcert amongst historians, they have a difference of opinion as to when and by whom this castle was built. Facts suggest, the construction of Launceston Castle was initiated by Edward the Confessor. The Northgate serves as the main access to the Castle that housed the notorious Northgate Prison. It is in this prison, George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was imprisoned in 1656. Perched upon a hill, the Launceston Castle is a perfect example of hill fortress and a major tourist attraction.
Lawrence House was built in 1753, this Georgian town house itself is a blend of art and history. A variety of intriguing historical artefacts are carefully preserved and put on display in this three storied museum. Lawrence House is acknowledged as one of the finest museums in South West.
Built much before its reformation in 1511 by Henry Trecarrell, St. Mary Magdalene Church stands out exceptionally as one of the finest churches in Britain for its exquisite granite carvings. St. Mary Magdalene Church is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
The Lakeside Gallery in Treburley, four miles south of Launceston, is a treasure for art lovers. Established in 1989 by Linda and Roger Garland, the gallery permanently exhibits 'The Tolkien Collection'. The gallery's collection of original paintings and other artworks are absolutely mind-blowing.
Launceston Priory was the home of the Augustine Canons, this 12th century priory was rediscovered and excavated by O. B. Peter in the 19th century, during railway construction. This ancient site is now a museum exhibiting railway memorabilia. Launceston Steam Railways organize a steam ride from Launceston to Newmills on a relaid track. The ride is immensely exciting!
Launceston Market is located on the banks of River Tamar, Launceston has been an important business centre since the Norman times. Later, the commercial rights to hold such markets was renewed by the Royal Charter. Such charters and other documents of historical value, find place in the Archives of Launceston.
Good news for paranormal investigators! Strange stories add a layer of mystery to this ancient Cornish town. As reported by many, the ghost of Dorothy Dingley still lurks around the Botathon area of Launceston. The Wild Hunt is also seen crossing a bridge at nearby Yeolmbridge. It is believed, anyone who comes across the Wild Hunt twice, doesn't live to tell the tale!
For those fascinated by the phrase, 'once upon a time', Launceston will be an unforgettable experience.