The Attack on Cawsand was a minor Spanish raid on the coast of Cornwall, England, on the night of 14 March 1596 in the context of the Brittany Campaign during the Anglo-Spanish War.[5]

Attack on Cawsand
Part of the Anglo–Spanish War

Cawsand village and beach
Date15 March 1596
Result Houses and fishing boats burned
Raiders driven away[1][2]
England England  Spain
1 militiaman[3] 1 pinnace
25 sailors and soldiers[3]
Casualties and losses
Two boats and several houses set on fire[1][4] Unknown

In August 1595 the area of Mount's Bay in Cornwall had been attacked by a Spanish raiding force led by Carlos de Amésquita. In that attack over two days, Penzance, Newlyn, Mousehole, and Paul were raided and torched.[6]

In March 1596 a Spanish pinnace arrived in Cawsand Bay just below Mount Edgcumbe with upwards of 25 men armed with muskets. The Spanish forces managed to land on the beach and made their way to the village. They fixed barrels of gunpowder and brimstone to the doors of several houses and to two boats in the harbour, setting them on fire.[1][4] The Spanish forces were spotted by one member of the militia who had gone ahead of the main force; he promptly opened fire with a caliver, scaring the intruders off. Shortly after, the main militia force arrived in the village from Plymouth in time to prevent the fire from spreading to the whole settlement.[1][2]

The defences were strengthened as it was feared that the Spanish forces would try again. The heights were then manned by 170 pikemen, 300 musketeers and cavalry commanded by Sir Nicholas Parker and maintained by sole expense of Richard Carew.[7]

A second naval raid on the area took place on 26 April 1599, when four Spanish warships captured five fishing boats from Plymouth Sound.[3][4][8][9]

Years later, when the Mayflower's Pilgrims had a port of call at Cawsand, they recalled the Spanish forces’ burning of the village, and how they spared the brick walls by the beach.[10]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Harrison p. 82.
  2. ^ a b Longmate p. 488.
  3. ^ a b c Carew, Richard (1953). The survey of Cornwall. Melrose. p. 37.
  4. ^ a b c Annual Reports and Transactions, Volume 6. Plymouth Institution and Devon and Cornwall Natural History Society. 1887. p. 313.
  5. ^ Daniell, John (1880). A Compendium of the History of Cornwall. Netherton & Worth. p. 156. ISBN 9781103397143.
  6. ^ Publications of the Navy Records Society, Volume 22. Navy Records Society. 1902. p. 323.
  7. ^ Carrington, Henry Edmund (1828). The Plymouth and Devonport Guide: with Sketches of the Surrounding Scenery. Byers. p. 87.
  8. ^ Rowse, A. L. (1987). Court & Country: Studies in Tudor Social History. Harvester Press. p. 265. ISBN 0710811470.
  9. ^ Worth, Richard Nicholls (1890). History of Plymouth: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. W. Brenden. p. 59.
  10. ^ Bunker, Nick (2010). Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-307-59300-9.
  • Longmate, Norman (2011). Defending The Island: From Caesar to the Armada. Random House. ISBN 9781446475751.
  • Harrison, G.B (2013). A Second Elizabethan Journal Volume 2 of Elizabethan and Jacobean journals, 1591-1610. Routledge. ISBN 9781136355578.