This multi-purpose building was originally a Passmore Edwards Free Library, Falmouth's Council Chamber and a science and art school, all in one. It is an impressive Grade II listed complex designed by the firm of Tressider & Ballamy, opened in 1896, and, according to the listing text, built of "[s]quared grey limestone" with ashlar pilasters, slate roofs, gables with finials and a central octagonal lantern with a leaded dome. It is further described in the listing text as "a good example of a Free Style library building of the late C19." Inside, it retains many original features, including a grand staircase and large rooms on the upper floor which serve well now as gallery spaces. Much of the funding came from philanthropic sources, from Passmore Edwards himself, of course, and from a bequest from Octavius Allen Ferris (see Black et al. 374). The building stands on the north-west side of The Moor, in the centre of this Cornish seaside town.

Left: Castle Bay, Falmouth, overlooked by another large Victorian building, Falmouth Hotel. Right: One of the paintings on show at the gallery in 2016: Alexander K. Brander's The Wreck of "Jeune Oscar," showing the use of Henry Trengrouse's rocket apparatus (1862-63). [Click on all the images to enlarge them.]

Falmouth's artistic heritage, and the early facilities here for encouraging the arts, make its present use as an art gallery particularly appropriate. Turner visited Falmouth in 1811, and he was followed by others who also appreciated "the special Cornish light" (see "Falmouth and Art"). Other nineteenth century artists who visited or were based here include Henry Scott Tuke, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler.

Photographs and commentary Jacqueline Banerjee, with thanks to the gallery for permitting photography. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


Black, Alistair, Simon Pepper and Kaye Bagshaw. Books, Buildings and Social Engineering: Early Public Libraries in Britsin from Past to Present. London: Routledge,

"Falmouth Art Gallery and Library: Passmore Edwards Free Library." Historic England. Web. 22 December 2018.

"Falmouth and Art. Falmouth. Web. 22 December 2018.

Gay, Susan Elizabeth. Old Falmouth: The Story of the Town from the Days of the Killigrews to the Earliest Part of the Nineteenth Century. Falmouth: Headley Bros, 1903.

Created 22 December 2018