A brief history of the town
A thousand years ago there were many Saxon settlements in the rural area to the west of the modern town, notably the villages of Trematon and Burraton. Soon after the Conquest in 1066, the Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle in a commanding position 1.5 miles south-east of Trematon village.
Saltash was founded as a market town by the lord of Trematon Castle in the 12th century. The town was sited at a point where an ancient highway crossed the Tamar estuary by means of a ferry. By the end of that century Saltash had achieved borough status.
Saltash also developed as a port, the first to be established on the system of estuaries reaching far inland from Plymouth Sound. In consequence, the borough was entrusted with jurisdiction over all those waters, an arrangement that was challenged many times but was not terminated until 1901. Trade on the estuaries invigorated rural life in St Stephens and other adjoining parishes.
The town's strategic position and maritime interests led to its involvement in many important events, and produced some lively personalities. Here there is space to mention just a few.
- During the Civil War, 1642-46, fighting took place in Saltash on several occasions, resulting in numerous fatalities (mostly on the Parliamentarian side) and the destruction of many buildings.
- Saltash has produced many champion rowers, of whom the redoubtable Ann Glanville was the most famous. Between 1830 and 1850 at regattas all over England, she and her crews of Saltash women were seldom beaten in 4-oared gig races, even against male competitors.
- The engineer-genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel chose Saltash as the site for a bridge, of unique design, to carry the railway in to Cornwall. The Royal Albert Bridge, Brunel's masterpiece completed in 1859 is undoubtedly the town's most famous feature.
- In 1896 Captain Henry Jackson, commander of the R.N. Torpedo School aboard HMS Defiance stationed in the Lynher estuary off Wearde Quay, near Saltash, made a series of pioneering radio transmissions from the ship and so became the first Briton to use radio for practical communication.