A History of Liskeard

By Tim Lambert

Early Liskeard

The name Liskeard is believed to be derived from the words Lys Kerwyd which meant Kerwyd’s court or palace. Unfortunately who Kerwyd was is lost in the mists of time. At the time of the Domesday Book, in 1086, Liskeard was a typical village where the peasants lived by farming. However, in the 13th century, Liskeard grew into a town.

In 1240 Richard Earl of Cornwall gave Liskeard a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Afterward, Liskeard was a thriving market town. Furthermore from 1266 Liskeard also had fairs. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area. However, Medieval Liskeard would seem tiny to us. It probably only had a population of a few hundred.

In the Middle Ages Liskeard was also a stannary town where tin was stamped and taxed. (The word stannary comes from the Latin word for tin, stannum). Liskeard was also an important wool market.

From the end of the 13th century, Liskeard sent 2 MPs to parliament. In 1832 the number was reduced to 1 and later in the 19th century, Liskeard was merged with the county constituency.

In the 13th century, a castle was built at Liskeard but it has long since vanished.

In Liskeard is the Stuart House, so-called because Charles I (Charles Stuart) stayed there for several nights in 1644 during the English Civil War. However, by the 18th century, Liskeard was a quiet agricultural market town.

19th century Liskeard

In 1801 Liskeard was a busy little market town. The parish of Liskeard had a population of just over 2,700. However, it grew much larger during the 19th century.

In 1827 the Liskeard and Looe Canal opened. (Although it was not finished until 1830). The canal was used to transport farm produce and granite from the moor.

Then in 1836 reserves of copper were discovered at Caradon Hill. The result was a mining boom. Large quantities of copper were transported along the canal to the coast. Then in 1844-1846, the Liskeard and Caradon Railway was built. The Liskeard to Looe railway opened in 1860.

The copper mining industry led to rapid growth in the population of Liskeard. It peaked at almost 6,500 in 1871. However, in the late 19th century the mining industry declined rapidly.

Copper kettle

Meanwhile, Liskeard Guildhall was built in 1859. The Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Neot was built in 1863. The Public Hall was built in 1890 and Foresters Hall followed in 1896.

2oth century Liskeard

The population of Liskeard was a little over 4,000 in 1901. It changed little during the early 20th century. By 1951 the population of Liskeard was still below 4,500.

In the late 20th century the population of Liskeard began to grow again partly because of the opening of the Tamar Road Bridge in 1961. Today Liskeard is a flourishing market town and tourist destination. Liskeard Town Museum opened in 1985. It moved to a new building in 2002. Liskeard also has Liskeard Business Park, which opened in 1994.

21st century Liskeard

In the 21st Century, Liskeard is a flourishing little town. Liskeard and District Museum opened in 2002. Furthermore, Stuart House was refurbished and reopened in 2002. Liskeard Community Hospital opened in 2004. Today the population of Liskeard is about 9,500.