LauncestonCornish: Lannstefan


Launceston is our 'gateway to Cornwall', the first town in Cornwall after crossing the River Tamar from Devon on the A30 trunk road. This is an important landmark and a lovely little town.


a little history




The Saxon name for the town was Dunheved, with the name Launceston originally confined to St. Stephen on the opposite side of the River Kensey. In the Middle Ages this was the main town of Cornwall, with one of the most important castles and an important monastic house. Launceston remained the county town until 1835.


Launceston Castle

Launceston castle was built by the first Norman Earl of Cornwall, Brian deĀ  in the 11th century, following the Norman conquest when William the Conqueror gave lands to his loyal knights, land that was previously held by native chiefs and tribes. The castle became the administrative centre for the wealthy Earls of Cornwall.


Royal Mint

There is some evidence of coinage being minted here from the Saxon and Norman period, early coins bore the inscription 'LANSTF', later 'STEFANT' and 'LANST' all being the early form of the names St Stephens and/or Launceston. The mint seems to have ceased production in the early 13th century.


Walled town

By the 12th Century, a protective wall had been built round the town, of which parts survive to this day, including Southgate Arch which is one of the original three gateways built during the reign of Edward VI.


Launceston Priory

Launceston Priory was founded in 1126 on the banks of the River Kensey close to the medieval clapper bridge and the parish church of St Thomas. The priory had great influence and wealth up until the 16th Century, but was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, 1536 and 1541, by which Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities and confiscated their property.
In the late 19th Century, the site was rediscovered during the building of the railway line to Launceston.


places to visit




Launceston Castle

The castle began as an earthwork, on a high natural mound overlooking the nearby settlement of St. Stephens and controlling the river crossing below, so great views from the top!

See the English Heritage website

St Mary Magdalene Church

This magnificent church was completed in 1524, is highly ornamental with intricate carvings on the exterior stonework. The church tower is said to hold the first public clock in Cornwall.


The Railway

Launceston railway station opened on 1st June 1865 and was served by both the Great Western Railway and the London and South Western Railway. Trains came to Launceston from Plymouth and Okehampton, and ran to Padstow on the north coast, via Camelford Station and many small rural platforms along the route. The stations were closed in the 1960s by the 'Beeching Axe' when the British Government decided to reduce the costs of running a national railway network.
The Launceston Steam Railway is now a short heritage line, a narrow gauge railway built on the trackbed of the North Cornwall Railway.


Lawrence House Museum

This Georgian house was built in 1753, in a street described by John Betjemen as 'having the most perfect collection of 18th Century town houses in Cornwall.' It is owned by the National Trust and houses a museum and civic centre. See the website www.lawrencehousemuseum.org.uk






toptop of page

the network for Cornish businesses in the Lynher Valley protecting the environment