CORNWALL ONLINE PARISH CLERKS - helping bring the past alive

The parish of




St Mary Magdalene, Launceston
Sketch Plan showing approximate positions of nearby Parishes
Launceston lies between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, about two miles west from the crossing into Cornwall across the river Tamar at Polson Bridge, and approximately equidistant between the north and south coasts. The parish covers mainly the town of Launceston and an area of agricultural land to the south of the town that tapers off to a point between Hurdon Down and Tredivett farm.
The Parish is in the Launceston Registration District but from 1837 to 1922 it was called the St Mary Magdalene Registration District.
It is located in the Anglican Diocese of Truro and is attached to the Deanery of Trigg Major in the Archdeaconry of Bodmin.
The Parish of Saint Mary Magdalene, Launceston is now part of the United Parish of Launceston, the other parts being St Thomas-by- Launceston and St Stephen-by-Launceston.
Church of St Mary Magdalene
© Dennis G Madge, Launceston Camera Club
Launceston was previously known by its Saxon name of Dunhuet, while across the valley to the north-west laid Lanscauestone. It was here that St Stephens’s church stood, a religious foundation flourished with its own mint and market, and a community thrived around it.
Robert de Mortain, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, was given substantial property throughout the country but his greatest strength lay in Cornwall with 247 manors. Dunhuet was a site of great strategic importance, standing on high ground and near the main crossing point into Cornwall at Polson. So it was here that Robert built a wooden castle (which was replaced by the present castle made of stone in the 13th century) and where he set up his court and administrative centre.
The town grew in size around the castle and when first the market and then the mint, which was operating from its old location until the end of the 12th century, were transferred

Launceston from a Distance
© John Stout
from Lanscauestone to Dunhuet, the former settlement’s importance diminished as the latter’s increased, and in time Dunhuet became known as Lanscauestone, while the former settlement became known as St Stephens.
Launceston Central Methodist
Central Methodist Church, Launceston
Employment was related to straw hat making, Eyre’s Mineral Water factory in the early 19th century, and down the hill by the Kensey in the parish of St Thomas-by-Launceston there were a number of tanneries by the river Kensey, a serge factory at Town Mills and several wash-houses and other woollen and combing establishments in both parishes.
The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene is not the first church of that name to occupy the site. The tower is all that remains from the second church which was built in 1380, and the present church was built of Cornish granite by Sir Henry Trecarrel in 1524, the exterior being superbly carved.
On one of his many visits to Cornwall between 1743 and 1787 John Wesley started a small group in Launceston. The buildings of the Central Methodist Church in Castle Street were constructed between 1860 and 1890. The Central Methodist Church congregation is an amalgamation of the Wesley Methodist Church, the Tower Street Methodist Church, and most recently the St Stephens Methodist Church.

The Online Parish Clerk (Genealogy) for this parish is Janet Thomas, who can be contacted by email.

For information about (and contact details for) the current town council, please see this website.
Contact details for the church can be found by searching here.


Information can be found at COCP (Cornwall Online Census Project) which is complete for 1841 to 1891 and has been verified, FreeCen at Rootsweb, which has a very good search engine and information from COCP, as well as GenUKI, which has more reference information and alternative resources.


For Parish Register information and other resources, please see our online searchable database (C-PROP) which is updated frequently. The parish coverage page is here.


  1830, Pigot's Directory for Launceston & Newport  

For more information, see GenUKI or visit the University of Leicester's Historical Directories website.


Settlement Papers:

  11 May 1710, Richard WITHYELL (& St Breock) 3 Nov 1785, Elizabeth JACKETT (& Altarnun)

Voters Lists:

  1. 1851/52
  2. 1852/53
  3. 1856/57
  4. 1864/65


  25 Feb 1557, William FOSCOMBE 5 Oct 1721, Joseph TYETH
  29 Jul 1592, Sampson PIPER 10 May 1732, Jane BENNETT, proved 1753
  16 Dec 1593, Sampson GRYLES 11 Nov 1734, John TYETH
  14 Oct 1595, Thomas HECKES 21 Mar 1746, William HARVEY, proved 1753
  24 Mar 1595, Oliver COLLIN 9 Jun 1747, Sydenham BOLT
  16 Mar 1605, William HOCKEN 25 Oct 1748, Elizabeth NEALE
  16 Jun 1613, Jane HEEKES/HYCKES 31 Aug 1749, Richard WILLIAMS
  8 Dec 1613, Thomas HUETT  

To view a bastardy order, dated 25 Jul 1825, involving Mary ROWE of Altarnun and Henry PEARSE of Launceston, click here.

Some facts about Launceston:

  • Launceston is pronounced Laun-son or Lan-son.
  • In the Middle Ages Launceston was the only walled town in Cornwall and the Southgate Arch, pictured right, is the only remaining gateway of the original three to the old walled town.
  • In 1555 Launceston was incorporated (granted a corporation and a mayor).
  • St Cuthbert Mayne, a Catholic priest, was martyred in the market place November 1574.
  • Launceston was the site of a Civil War battle in 1643 when it was taken by Royalists from the Parliamentarians. The town eventually fell to Parliament February 1646 when most of the Launceston garrison retreated and Fairfax and Cromwell entered the town.
  • Its motto is "Royale et Loyale".
  • George Fox, the Quaker was imprisoned at Launceston in 1656.
  • Philip Gidley-King, who in 1800 became the Governor of New South Wales, was born in number 5, Southgate Street in 1758. He was the son of a Launceston draper. This connection was the reason that Launceston on the Tasmanian Tamar River came to be so named.
  • French prisoners of war were ‘paroled’ in the town during the Napoleonic wars.
  • The castle served as the County Prison until the new County Gaol was built in Bodmin and executions were carried out here until 1821.
  • Launceston was the County town of Cornwall until Bodmin replaced it in 1838.
  • From the time that Launceston was granted a Royal Charter it held a weekly livestock market continuously until it closed in 1981.
  • The renowned poet Charles Causley was a native and resident of the town. He died in 2003.

For more information regarding History, Population, and much more, visit GenUKI.


For a zoomable and printable map of Cornwall please visit Cornwall Council’s mapping website. To see the Parish boundaries, click on the Layers Tab for Government Boundaries.

For maps and satellite images use Google Maps.

To enjoy a "walk" around this parish, search for Launceston at, then drag the person icon from above the zoom commands and place it at a specific location on the map.


St Stephen by Launceston, Launceston St Thomas, South Petherwin and Lawhitton.


A series of well researched and informative monographs written by Launceston U.3.A., Local History Group and Friends of Lawrence House Museum, Launceston, are available from ‘The Book Shop’, Church Street, Launceston or Lawrence House and cover a range of interesting topics.
Because the parishes of St Mary Magdalene, Launceston, St Thomas-by-Launceston and St Stephen-by-Launceston are interrelated I include the entire list.

A Thousand Years of Launceston. Compiled by Patrick Hutton.
Mary, Mary Magdalene, A History of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Launceston. Compiled by Patrick Hutton.
Education Launceston’s Children. Compiled by Margaret Jarvis.
No 1. Two Geniuses of Alternun, The Story of the Mathematician and Astronomer, John Couch Adams and the Sculptor, Neville Northey Burnard. Compiled by Basil Ward.
No 2. Lepers at St. Leonard’s. A history of the Leper Colony at Gilmartin from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century. Compiled by Margaret Jarvis.
No 3. Of Lakes and Leats. The development of the water supplies for Launceston Town. Research by Jim Edwards.
No 4. Cornish Convicts. Information on the Cornish men and women who sailed to New South Wales, Australia with the First Fleet of convicts in 1787. Research by Basil Ward
No 5. Philip Gidley King 1758 – 1808. Third Governor of New South Wales 1800 – 1806. Research by Carol Bunbury.
No 6. Religious Persecution in Launceston. Agnes Prest, Cuthbert Mayne & George Fox. Research by Ann Raymont.
No 7. Prisoners of War in Launceston 1940 – 1945. Research by Jake Jackson & Basil Ward.
No 8. The Launceston Union Workhouse, 1838 – 1948. Research by Patrick Hutton.
No 9. Parliamentary Representation in Launceston, 1295 – 1832. Research by Jake Jackson.
No 10. Launceston Priory 1126 – 1539. Research and illustrations by Arthur Wills.
No 11. The Pearses of Lawrence House. Research by Margaret Jarvis.
No 12. The Public Houses of Launceston. Research by Miriam Mincher. Background material by Margaret Jarvis.
No 13. Mining and Quarrying in the Kensey Valley. Research by Diana Sutherland. Illustrations by Norman Preston.
No 14. Launceston Shops 1902 – 2003. Research by Launceston U3A Local History Group and compiled by Carol Bunbury.
No 15. Reminiscences of Launceston by John Ching. Researched and edited by Jake Jackson.
Launceston: Some Pages in History (A local interest book with a lot of Launceston history supported by black and white photographs) by Joan Rendell. Landfall Publications.
The archive photographs series - Around Launceston (A pictorial history of Launceston and the surrounding area, from South Petherwin to Yeolmbridge, with nearly 200 old photographs) compiled by Joan Rendell. Tempus Publishing.
Old Launceston (local interest book with 52 black and white photographs of old Launceston) by John Neale. Stenlake Publishing.


  1. Launceston, St Mary Magdelene (Lanceston) is included in The Parochial History of Cornwall, Volume II by Davies Gilbert, William Hals, Thomas Tonkin, Henry Samuel Boase, originally published in 1838 (page 416). Also downloadable as a pdf.
  2. Launceston, Past and Present by Alfred F Robbins. First published in 1888.
  3. An Itinerary of Launceston, Cornwall, published by William Philp.
  4. Phillimore's Marriages Vol XXIV transcripts including Launceston St Mary Magdalene (transcribed and in our database).


Above: External carving of St Mary Magdalene
Right: External carving detail of St Mary Magdalene Church
Launceston Castle Left: The Castle in 1878
© Malcolm McCarthy