Borough of Saltash

Borough of Saltash - in the words of PEB Porter

The name of this "very ancient Borough,"—so described in the old Charter of Queen "Bess" is derived from a family named "Esse," and afterwards "Trecarrel," who lived on their property near what is now called Ashtor, close to the Ferry. After them the town was called "Villa d'Esse," corrupted to "de Ashe," and changed on becoming a Borough to Ashburgh." Subsequently by prefixing the word "Salt," to note its situation on the tidal or saltwater River Tamar, the name finally became "Saltash."

The family of Esse, d'Esse, took the name of Trecarrel of Trecarrel near Launceston, the last of the family being Sir Henry Trecarrel who died without heir at the end of the 16th century. Upon the death of his only son in 1540, Sir Henry devoted his property largely to charity and built Launceston church, a gothic structure of remarkable beauty. The arms of the d'Esse family were: argent 2 chevrons sable on each a mullet of the field; crest: a cock or beaked gules. At the period of the rebellion Charles I. on visiting Cornwall was entertained at the fine mansion of Trecarrel on 1st August, 1644. The King and his suite stayed one night and then proceeded to Liskeard.

The name "Tamar" is derived from the Celtic 'Ta,' or 'Tau,' water, 'Ta-mavr' meaning great water, and 'Ta-veor' little water.

The situation of the Borough on the Southern side of a promontory is excellent for all purposes except the securing of a water supply. The houses rise one above another from the banks of the Tamar to a high point at Longstone, 261 feet above the level of the sea, and it is difficult to find a water source with sufficient quantity at any point in the locality high enough for water to be brought over Longstone by gravitation.

Almost every part of the town offers magnificent views for a radius of many miles, extending on the South over all the Hamoaze, the chief anchorage of Britain's best bulwarks; ancient training ships and modern ironclads being there seen floating idly on the waters, while over the towers, spires, and chimneys of the Three Town, Plymouth Sound and Breakwater are visible with Staddon heights and the Mewstone on the left, and the picturesque woods and glades of Mount Edgcumbe on the right, the whole displaying to the eye a lovely combination of art and nature. Yet there are likewise on the Eastern side river and moorland views of great expanse, embracing a lake as fine as any sheet of water of its kind in the Kingdom which is formed by the Tamar upon its junction with the Tavy near Warleigh—the seat of the Radcliffes—beyond which we see Maristow (Sir Massey Lopes, Bart.) and the ancient mansions Buckland Abbey and Walreddon Manor backed along the whole Eastern horizon by the wild vales and Tors of Dartmoor; Cocks Tor, Peu Tor, Mis Tor, and Brentor capped by its Lilliputian church being chiefly conspicuous. Again on the North over the woods of Pentillie and moors of Viverden stands the granite height Kitt Hill on Hingston Down at an altitude of 1067 feet. From Longstone can also be seen the churches of Landulph, St. Stephens, and Landrake which has the highest tower but one in the county and is said to be only three barley corns below Probus tower the loftiest.

As regards the antiquity of Saltash there is an old couplet.

"When Plymouth was a fuzzy down,

Saltash was a Borough Town",

which is undoubtedly true, for Plymouth deriving its early government from the Prior of Plympton, who appointed a Reeve, did not obtain its charter until 1439, while Saltash being contiguous to the important feudal fortress of Trematon Castle was early a commercial place, and so secured a charter in the 12th century, from Reginald de Valletort, lord of the manor of Trematon, confirming its even then existing rights and immunities. This charter was ratified by Richard II on 27th November, 1382. The terms Mayor and free burgess appear first to occur in the record of an inquisition or law court held at Trematon Castle on 19th October, 1442, when Richaid Bonde of Erth, John Parkyn of Torre, William Porter of Ayshe, John Rede of Shilling-ham, John Rowe of Wadesworthy, and others, claimed that "The Major and free burgesses of Ayshe had from antient time been seized of the Water 'Tamer," etc.


which is undoubtedly true, for Plymouth deriving its early government from the Prior of Plympton, who appointed a Reeve, did not obtain its charter until 1439, while Saltash being contiguous to the important feudal fortress of Trematon Castle was early a commercial place, and so secured a charter in the 12th century, from Reginald de Valletort, lord of the manor of Trematon, confirming its even then existing rights and immunities. This charter was ratified by Richard II on 27th November, 1382. The terms Mayor and free burgess appear first to occur in the record of an inquisition or law court held at Trematon Castle on 19th October, 1442, when Richaid Bonde of Erth, John Parkyn of Torre, William Porter of Ayshe, John Rede of Shilling-ham, John Rowe of Wadesworthy, and others, claimed that "The Major and free burgesses of Ayshe had from antient time been seized of the Water 'Tamer," etc.


All rights were again confirmed by the Charters of Edward IV. on 5th February, 1464 ; Henry VIII. on 4th March, 1509; and by a long Charter of Queen Elizabeth on 19th June, 1585 (three years before the coming of the Armada) wherein the privileges of the Borough are enumerated, and William Hechins, John Willes, Henry Cloberie, William Lucas, John Porter, Simon Glanfelde, and others appointed the first Aldermen under it, with Anthony Lanpen, gentleman, as Mayor. The succeeding Charter of Charles II dated 27th November, 1683, is still in excellent preservation in the seven keyed chest of the Corporation; it is in Latin, illustrated in the margin with a portrait of King Charles and the royal coat of arms exhibiting the lions of England and lillies of France. The first Burgesses under this Charter included the Earls of Bath and Radnor, Lords Lansdowne and Arundel, Sir Peter Prideaux, Sir Jonathan Trelawney, Sir John Coryton, Sir Richard Edgcumbe, Sir Nicholas Stanning, Sir Jos. Tredinham, and Sir Hugh Piper, Benard Grenville, Francis Roberts, Nicholas Courtenay, and William Coryton. The next Charter, that of George III (7th June, 1774) was rendered necessary by the power obtained over the Borough by the Buller family, which was so great that the residents were unwilling to become members of the Corporation at all. After this George IV by legal measures varied the immunities of the Borough, and since then the Corporation has had to pay an .annual tribute of £18 a year to the Duchy of Cornwall for the perpetual rights of the Ferry, oysterage, anchorage or port dues, and royalties of the Water Tamar. The Ferry had been previously held of the Crown on leases for lives -or 21 years. It was not until 1st January, 1886, that the Rate-payers acquired under a new Charter the right of electing representatives to the Council, vacancies being previously filled by the Corporation themselves electing someone. Since that date, however, the privilege of voting has been exercised with considerable zest and has had a wholesome effect; the expressed wishes of the ratepayers have been respected, and a period of steady municipal progress has resulted.


The most valuable by far of the rights derived from the recited charters is that to the Ferry tolls, which is now worth some £1,000 a year net, equal to a half-crown rate per annum. The Ferry and landing for half a mile up and down stream was granted to the Borough by the Black Prince (the first Duke of Cornwall) in the reign of Edward III, also a tract of land in St. Budeaux parish (Devon side) for Ferry approaches; this is now rated as a part of St. Stephen's parish.


Of all the Dukes of Cornwall the present one and the Black Prince paid more visits to their Duchy than any of the other holders of the title. The Black Prince was frequently at Plymouth, and there is a tradition that being at Saltash on the eve of a battle he wished to join his troops, and in the absence of other means two Saltash women offered their services and pulled him over to the Devon side but refused any reward. In gratitude the Prince granted the Passage to the inhabitants; but whether this is reliable or not it is recorded that an old follower petitioned the Prince to grant him the Ferry at Saltash on the plea that he had lost an eye in battle; the record is still extant at Mount Edgcumbe written in Norman-French.


For many years the anchorage, or port dues, produced about £200 a year. These dues of 1s. each were collected from every decked boat entering Plymouth Sound; the Corporation being responsible to maintain in position a buoy over the Cobler Reef near Sutton Pool, and (until the last Charter) to hold inquests on bodies found within the liberty of Water Tamar. In 1844 there was litigation about this right and the Corporation succeeded but had to pay the expenses (£1,160) owing to the defendant becoming insolvent. Of late the Cobler Buoy has been alleged to be a useless marine mark as the head of a jetty is now close to the reef and affords a mark; it is likely therefore that the Buoy will have to be removed in the year 1900, when the collecting of the tolls will be discontinued and a custom the Corporation has enjoyed from an early date will cease; in the meantime the income (£140) is paid to a sinking fund towards the reduction of mortgages on that property.


Another important right is the Oyster Fishery of the water Tamar, which has sometimes produced good revenues, but is not now leased. The Tin refuse, mundic and chemical wastes passed into the river from some mines and works up the rivers came down in such pungent doses as to destroy the young fish and oysters, while the copper under sonic of the old war ships makes the oysters unpalatable, even if they live to maturity. No doubt in a short time the discharge of mineral refuse into the rivers will be prohibited, and the fishing industry resuscitated. This fishery right has also cost the Corporation a good deal in lawsuits. In 1584 there was a long suit of "Rudyard v Porter," about the oysterage, and in 1876 a case was carried through to the House of Lords about it, and cost the Corporation more than £1,000.

The limits of the water Tamar were recorded in 1779 thus:

From the Town of Saltash to Penlee Well, in the parish of Rameihenoe, in a straight line across Plymouth Sound, to the Shagstone, thence to Fisher's Nose, at Plymouth and Princess Rock, in Catwater.

Also from Saltash to Cuddenheake, in the river Tiddy, and to Cumble Tor Rock, in the river Lyner.

Also from Saltash to a rock called OckleTor in the parish of Calstock, and to high water mark within every of the creeks, etc. within the aforesaid limits.

This water, or "silver oar" limit, extends over more than 20 miles of the Tamar, Hamoaze, etc. and to Calstock, embracing the water portions of most of the 12 parishes forming PlymouthHarbour, &c., having 100,000 inhabitants.

The rights in the river Lynher were sold to the Admiralty in 1890.


The Assizes for the county were held here in 1393, and a Court of Quarter Sessions existed up to 1886; amongst the Recorders were Sir John Coryton, Hart. (1676), Lord North, Nicholas Courtenay, Attorney-General for the Duchy of Cornwall (1677), William Symons, Esq, of Hatt, John Beer, Esq., and last of all, G. H. E. Rundle, Esq., who now resides at Stoke. The final severe sentence was in 1877, William Shaddock, Esq., being then Mayor, an old offender, out on ticket of leave, was transported for 7 years for stealing a watch at the regatta. Civil actions were also tried at the Borough Law Court as early as Queen Elizabeth's reign. The Constitution Book contains minutes of a court held October, 1575, referring to the old Guildhall and Corporation chapel (St. Nicholas), as follows:-

That no p'son presume to syt in either of the said places unless he

be thereunto appoynted by the Mayor and his brethren. The old

Guildhall has for many years been vacated.

It is supposed that weekly markets were established at Saltash soon after the Norman Conquest by Robert, Earl of Moreton, to benefit his manor, and the market was at one time so well stocked with cheap produce, that artisans came from Plymouth to buy provisions. In Carew's time it was the chief local market, and a minister preached a sermon every market day; all the neighbouring gentry attended, adjourning afterwards to a dinner, and subsequently proceeding to business.


About the year 1770 an M.P. for the borough built the lower part of the present Guildhall as a market house, and it was for a time called the "Tamar Hall." He did not, however, complete the undertaking. It is most likely the gentleman was Thomas Bradshaw, Esq., M.P., who was also Mayor about that time. He was Secretary to the Treasury, but dying suddenly, his family was not left in good circumstances. The records show that on the 19th November, 1774, " It was unanimously agreed to rebuild " the market house, and the Receiver is directed to pay for " same, and also such expenses as attend the repairing and " altering of the house adjoining, lately given by the Corpn. " for the residence of the chaplain." In 1780 this was done, and recent alterations have made it a convenient Guildhall. On the dais are 3 handsome carved oak chairs, that for the Mayor having the arms of the borough carved on the panel. Along the top, over the bench is a carved screen, in the centre being the Royal arms, dated "C. R.," "1661." In the building are the old stocks and an 8ft. staff headed with a coronet, and having a plate engraved (Presented by the ladies of Saltash to the Mayor, etc. in commemoration of 21st March, 1844, in the Mayoralty of William Hutchinson, Esq.) There was than attached to it a banner with the borough arms, and this was always used when the Mayor and Corporation proceeded to hold a water court. The banner has, however, been some time since worn out and lost, so that there is again an opportunity for the ladies, of the borough to emulate their predecessors by renewing it. Outside, on the wall, is an old sundial, dated 1727, inscribed "Me lumen vos umbra regit" (the light rules me, She shadow you), a very similar sentiment to that on St. Stephen's church sundial.


The Mayor's insignia are the handsomest in the West, comprising 5 sterling silver maces and a gold chain and pendant, the latter only recently (1890), provided chiefly by the gift of a rich medallion by the Mayoress (Mrs. Dusting, jun.), links being added by Aldermen William Shaddock, P. E B. Porter, William Gilbert, G. Adams, Wm. Dusting, jun., and the representatives of Messrs. William Rundle, John Lower Clarke, John Martyn, and William Hawke, former Mayors, and F. W. P. Cleverton, late town clerk. The two maces now in use are each of sterling silver, 3ft. 7in. long. The stems are massive, with knots, and beautifully figured with the rose, shamrock, and thistle. At the top of each are three figures supporting the head which is richly ornamented, and displays


(1) The borough arms, a three masted ship

(2)The Prince of Wales' plumes

(3) An Anchor

(4) Arms of the Buller family.


On the top surface are the Royal arms and supporters, and above are the silver oars in saitire rising out of a regal crown. These were presented in 1699, by Francis Buller, Esq., of Shillingham, then M.P. for the borough. The second pair are also silver, each 20in. long, with the Royal arms engraved on the heads, while the stems, shaped like oars, display the three masted ship, the anchor, and the Duke of Cornwall's plumes, with the date 1623, one having the initials "E. H." which, no doubt, are those of Edmund Herring, who was Mayor at that period. The small silver oar mace is about 7 long, dated 176o, and has on it, the seal of the borough. It was used by the town sergeants as the emblem of their authority when making arrests on vessels in harbour.


The chapel of St, Nicholas and St. Faith is also the freehold of the Corporation, being originally built and endowed by the Corporation as a chapel-of-ease for their accommodation, and the town sergeant is verger. A chapel was dedicated to St. Fide (St. Faith) 4th January, 1432, but the register only dates from about 1700. It is also assumed to have been dedicated to St. Nicholas. The borough was included in St. Stephen's parish up to 1881, when a separation was effected, and the land boundaries of the borough and parish are identical, and comprise 177 acres, but as there is no parish church, the parishioners still use St, Stephen's churchyard, while the Church of England congregation continues to have seats allotted by the Mayor in St. Nicholas. This, the oldest edifice in the borough, was consecrated by Bishop Grandisson, of Exeter - period, 1330 - on the site of a still older church, It is chiefly of the Norman period, and is built of stone, and consists of two, aisles, with gothic windows, some with decorated and some perpendicular tracery, a southern transept and a tower with battlements on the N. side 57ft. high, with six bells. On the side of the N. door is a granite slab removed there from a public well in Fore-street, on which is inscribed


"Borough of Saltash, J. S., Myr, 1767, May God increase this spring"


whilst over that door is an inscription showing that the church was restored in 1689, in the mayoralty of Mathew Veale, gentleman. In the S. wall is a closed arch, which is thought by some to have connected the chapel with an ancient abbey supposed to have been of the Cistercian Order, and to have been situated just under the railway bridge, between Fore-street and Middle-street, and there may be seen now several old granite mullions and a complete abbey window of granite which may have come from some such building. C. S. Gilbert, in his history, published 1820, says:

"At Saltash there was an abbey, the remains of which are now scarcely visible."

There is no sign in the interior of St. Nicholas of any onslaught by the Puritans, hut the niche over the S. door probably held a figure at one time, which may have been removed by the Puritans. The ceiling is ornamented with knots and arms, conspicuous being those of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall, and his son Edward. Looking from the transept, and judging from the grooved rising approach and top steps, there appears to have been a hagioscope, while underneath there is also a squint. In the N. aisle is an elegant monument, richly sculptured in marble, to the Drew family, and well worth close examination. The Drews were natives of the borough. Captain Drew, R.N., of the "Cerberus," returning in rough weather from Cowes, with his nephew, tried to come through "The Bridge," but struck the reef, and stove in his boat, he and his nephew perishing. Soon after Captain J. W. Drew, R.N., being off "The Brake," was wrecked, and lost in Delaware. These three Drews were gallant men of distinguished service. There are also several tablets to deceased members of the Corporation, amongst other names, "John Evans, R.N. (Secretary to Admiral Hon. Cornwallis); an alderman, several times Mayor of this borough, 1784," "Nicholas Hore, a member of the Corporation, 1800," "Edward Hawkins, 1813, Mayor," "John Cook, R.N., Mayor, elected 9 times in succession." The E. window is put up to the memory of the late John Martyn, Mayor, while in the N. aisle a window has recently been put in memory of Fred A. Sheppard, C.E. On the south side of the chancel is a window dated 1869, having a portrait of "Hippocrates," the father of medicine, with a quotation from Cicero, and the arms of Littleton underneath. It is in memory of the family of Littleton, for many years resident in the borough

Several members of the family were surgeons at Saltash, and original characters of considerable genius. Dr. Nicholas Littleton became a somewhat noted medico by his specific for cholera, which proved a great success, whilst his literary work, "Tributes to Truth," published in 1819, is one which exhibits very close reasoning powers. The late Mr. John Littleton left in 1878 £200 for immediate distribution among the poor of the borough. In the transept is an artistic stained glass window in memory of Robert Nepean Duins and Rose Anne Brady (nee O'Neill) his wife. The pulpit is of Bath stone, with massive marble pillar. The reredos, which is very handsome, was presented, in 1869, by the ladies of Saltash. It is of Bath stone and Devonshire marbles, with a fine ornamental cross in the centre, and arcadings on each side returned on the side walls. The backs of these recessed panels are filled by carved diaper. It was one of the early works of Mr. Harry Hems, of Exeter, whose sculpture may now be found in over a thousand cathedrals and churches in various parts of the world. The Norman font is stated to have come from an ancient chapel at Wadgeworthy, in St. Stephen's. It rests on a polyphant stone base. The communion plate is handsome, and consists of 5 cups and chalices. The largest is supposed to have been brought over from Spain. The church was restored in 1859, and in 1886 the Corporation also renovated the belfry, and purchased a set of Ellacombe chimes. The living is a perpetual curacy, formerly in the gift of the Mayor and Corporation, but sold in 1836 for £405 to the Trustees of Sir Robert S. Hawks, and assigned to the Bishop. In the first half of the present century the chaplain was sometimes elected Mayor. The Revs. Wm. T. Barlow. J. C. Grylls, and William Hawks being instances.

Of all the features of Saltash the most noted is, of course, the Royal Albert Bridge, which is amongst the first bridges of the whole world. Saltash has much to thank Brunel for; probably no man is at the present time endowed with such engineering talent and power of inspiring confidence in a modern board of directors as to carry out such a costly work. Brunel made Saltash the gateway to ancient Cornubia, and the traveller now easily and rapidly passes the portals, and finds himself in the county celebrated for squab pie and potato pasty. The bridge cost £230,000, and was opened by Prince Albert 2nd May, 1859. It is 2,240ft. long, the greatest span 455ft., and the road runs 100ft. above high water level. The centre pier is on solid rock, and measures 260ft. from foundation to summit.


The Baptists have a modern chapel of Gothic style, erected in 1864, in Culver-road. Near to it, among the trees, are buried some Roman Catholic French prisoners who died while in captivity on parole during the wars of Napoleon, and there are still in the borough some wood work articles worked by those prisoners while here in exile. Increasing numbers necessitated the building of a new Wesleyan chapel and schools at the top of Fore Street, which are commodious and an imposing addition to the edifices of the borough. In the front is a foundation stone, inscribed


"This stone was laid by Mrs. William Dusting, Mayoress of Saltash, 14th October, 1890."


The Roman Catholics have a Friary of the Franciscan order in Port View. The old Wesleyan chapel has been converted into a Drill and Masonic hall. In each capacity it will fill a want long felt. The strong company of local volunteers, having a recently raised band, with good instruments, subscribed for locally, will now have roomy headquarters. The pettiest supplement to our local structures is St. Barnabas Convalescent Hospital, erected in 1887, at an outlay of £5.500, by the munificence of Mrs. H. Ley. It is of red brick and tile stone and logwood points. A new Bank being built in Fore Street by the Devon and Cornwall Bank, is a welcome reconstruction; while the new police station and cells will supply a want long felt. The Board School was established in 1872, the schools in North Road costing about £2500, of which some £1,500 is still owing.


The entrance to North Road from Fore Street was widened. in the year 1871. By the purchase, for £750, and removal of the old "Fountain Inn." Prettily situated under a spreading tree, near to the Brewery, is Elwell, with its granite arch, inscribed "J. S. Myr. 1767." The mansion was built by the Kekewich family in 1620, and many buildings appear from the dates inscribed on them to have been erected about 1580.


The "Green Dragon" Hotel was a much frequented posting house Prior to the middle of this century. Assemblies were held there, and the 4-horse coaches from the country districts made it a busy house. Just above the Commercial Hotel there stood up to about 1850 the gate of the borough, visitors passing in under an arch across the street.


The Saltash biscuit is a specialty of considerable note, and scarcely surpassed for its kind by the innumerable modern varieties. There was up to the last quarter of a century a grammar school in the borough, founded by Queen Elizabeth, and from the Saltash school have emanated many good men. The most noted at the present time is Mr. Justice Boucaut, late Premier of South Australia. In proposing his health at a recent banquet at Adelaide, the speaker said;-


"His Excellency Mr. Justice Boucaut was a gentleman who by his acts had conferred lustre on South Australia. He was one of the ablest statesmen this young colony had ever had."

In replying the same evening, His Excellency referred to Saltash as follows:-

"I won't even dilate on the pluck and endurance of the Saltash women rowers. It was a pretty sight to see half a dozen boats start in a Regatta with all the women in snow-white frilled caps and frilled jackets. One crew, of which Ann Glanville was stroke, and which I have seen row, would beat any crew of men of the same number, and would not, I believe, have thought it anything very wonderful to heat a crew of men with a couple of men extra. I read in the Times that Ann Glanville then an old woman upwards of eighty was introduced to the Duke of Cornwall when he was down West, and I have often heard that she used to row round the captains' man-of-war gigs in the Hamoaze, and chaff the blue jackets."

His Excellency revisited Saltash in 1892


The shipping possessed by Saltash merchants about the Armada period was considerable, and we have now a small of colliers and a fine fleet of passenger steamers the Plymouth Harbour. The place is still, and has for generations been an unrivalled nursery for the Navy, and the borough distinctly a place of residence for "service" In 1643 the Cornish forces, about 7,000 strong, lay at Saltash, under Slanning; Liskeard, under Lord Mohun; Launceston, under Trevanion; and Stratton, under Sir Bevill Grenville, and at the outbreak of war, the King fortified Saltash, but the following year, 1644, it was taken by Parliamentary forces under Lord Essex, who at once strengthened the works, and also added a 400-ton ship and 16 pieces of cannon at the bottom of the hill. After the victory for the King at Braddock Down, below Liskeard, the vanquished, under General Ruthven, retreated to their stronghold at Saltash, and here made an obstinate resistance, but the Royalists, led by Grenville and Mohun, attacked the place, took it, and made havoc among the rebels, many of whom were drowned, their leader, Ruthven, escaping to Plymouth by water. This resulted in the Royalists holding the whole of Cornwall for a period. Saltash had after-wards, in 1645, to be given up to the Parliamentary forces. Hawker, writing of the times:

Call the hind from the plough and the herd from the fold,

Bid the wassailer cease from his revel,

And ride for old Stow, where the banner's unrolled

For the cause of King Charles and Sir Bevill.

Trevannion is up, and Godolphin is nigh,

And Harris of Hayne 's o'er the river.

From Lundy to Looe 'One and all,' is the cry,

And 'The King and Sir Bevill for ever."


The ancient borough has, beyond question, a past history of great interest and antiquity, and she has also a future full of hope, for by wise administration considerable progress and prosperity may be anticipated, without the prospect of increased burdens


"Eu hay perkon qwav" (old Cornish).

"In summer remember winter."