A brief history of Saltash Cornwall.

The Royal Albert Bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel 1859

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Saltash is known as the Gateway to Cornwall, as it lies just across the River Tamar from Plymouth. Travellers arriving in the county by train will cross the Royal Albert Bridge, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous railway bridge across the river completed in 1859. One of the first sites as you cross the bridge is the colourful painted Union Inn with its Union Jack painted facade and murals

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WEDDING VENUE: TREMATON HALL: A 19th century country house and garden. Tranquil yet only 10 minutes from the Tamar Bridge off the A38 West of Saltash. Available for: Wedding Receptions & Parties 20-200. Contact Liz Turner, Trematon Hall,Saltash,Cornwall.PL12 4RU. 01752 848920.

Nearby 11th century motte-and-bailey Trematon Castle was built in a commanding position over the valley and Trematon Manor is a Georgian house worth a visit. In fact, the villages of Trematon and Burraton are the original settlements of this area.

The Lord of Trematon founded the market town of Saltash in the 12th century, at a point where an ancient highway crossed the Tamar estuary by means of a ferry. Saltash achieved borough status around the end of that century. It was the first port to be established on the system of estuaries stretching from Plymouth Sound. Until 1901, Saltash had jurisdiction over all those waters. The town’s strategic position led to its involvement in many important events.

An early Norman church is St Nicholas and St Faith uphill from the ferry crossing. However the main parish church for Saltash is the 15th century St Stephens which is about a mile from the town centre.

Saltash Old Photos


Francis Drake born at Crowndale nr Tavistock about 1543 married Mary Newman of Saltash in 1569. (You can visit Mary Newman's Cottage and gardens in Saltash). They had no children and she died twelve years later in 1581, leaving the newly knighted Sir Francis Drake a widower. He later remarried in 1585. The birthplace of Mary Newman, Drake's first wife, is a cottage in Culver Street. Mary Newmans supposed home dates from about 1480 and is by far the oldest building which remains intact in Saltash giving an insight into life in the 1400’s. It contains fine early furniture, and has a peaceful garden with views down the Tamar estuary.

Mary Newman's cottage.

Drake returned to the Caribbean in 1569, 1571, and 1572 attacking Spanish ports and ships.When he returned to England,on arriving in Plymouth Drake sent a courier to London to inform Queen of his success and sent samples of the silver, gold and jewels booty taken from Spanish treasure ships in the Pacific Ocean. The 26 tons of silver were stored in Trematon Castle nr Saltash before being transported to London, where it was stored in the Tower of London. Drake sent for his wife, Mary, and travelled with her to London for an audience with the Queen. Drake was now a national hero.

Saltash produced a champion rower in Ann Glanville who was famous between 1820 and 1850, at regattas all over England, she and her crews of Saltash women were seldom beaten in four-oared gig races, even against male competitors.


In 1846 the Cornwall Railway Act received Royal Assent and one of the stipulations was that the ferry at Saltash should be replaced by a railway bridge thus linking Cornwall to the rest of the UK by rail.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as chief designer and engineer. His challenge was to build a bridge to span the River Tamar which at this point is some 1100 ft wide. At first he intended to construct a single span bridge of 850 ft but the constraints imposed by the Admiralty ruled this out. These demanded the deck of the bridge be 100 feet above high tide and that the river remain fully operational to the Navy at all times.

On July 4th 1853 the foundation for the first of the Cornish piers was laid by the Mayor of Saltash Mr W Rundle in Silver Street. The central pier was capped in 1856 and work then began to erect the four octagonal columns which were to hold the deck.

On September 1st 1857, watched by some 20,000 spectators, the first truss was floated out into the centre of the river supported by two barges. It took two hours, five navy vessels and 500 men to manoeuvre them through 45 degrees, where as the tide turned they then sank into position on to the piers. The truss was gradually raised at a rate of 6 feet a week using hydraulic jacks until on 1st July 1858 it reached its final height 100 feet above the water. On July 10th 1858 the second span for the Devon side was floated out into the river. Word had spread about this amazing feat of engineering and special trains were laid on to bring spectators from London. Brunel by this time was too ill to attend. The first test train, a South Devon Locomotive, crossed the bridge on 11th April 1859. His Royal Highness Prince Albert officially opened the bridge on 2nd May 1859. After visiting Coombe viaduct (at that time constructed of wood) he returned to Saltash station and walked back across the bridge to Devon to declare the bridge officially open. Brunel did not attend the opening due to ill health. He finally crossed his bridge on an open wagon two days later. He died on 5th September 1859.

Saltash is an ideal location for visitors to the Tamar Valley and there are many beautiful views across the river.The town has a local Heritage Trail and also boasts a Leisure Centre. The town is within easy reach of many major attractions in both Cornwall and Devon and is on all the main transport routes by road and rail. Saltash Museum and Local History Centre opened in 2000 and contains a small permanent display about the history and well-known characters of Saltash. A temporary display is mounted during the summer.

A must place to visit:CORRADI Italian Coffee Shop. The Courtyard Fore St. Saltash.01752 846930.Delicious traditional Italian food.The Courtyard is at the top end of Fore St. Renato serves mouthwatering pasta dishes, 8.30am-4pm.

A new all-tides pontoon for short-stay moorings sailing and motor boats opened recently. The river is navigable beyond the Tamar bridges and, on some tides, it is possible to sail further up the beautiful river valley, as far as Cotehele and Calstock. Plymouth Sound is full of interest, as are such sites as Mount Edgecumbe, Drake’s Island, the historic Devonport Dockyard, and Torpoint. There is a passenger ferry at Cremyll and a chain car ferry at Torpoint. Not too far away are the attractive resorts of Looe and Polperro.

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Fore St. and Lower Fore St. Saltash.c.1910.

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