Turner visited St Mawes, east of Falmouth Bay, during a tour of the West Country in 1811. He was gathering material for a series of engraved views of the south coast. These were to reflect its scenery, industry and defensive role during the Napoleonic Wars.
The fishing industry suffered wartime depression, but Turner shows the pilchard season in a healthy state. He also emphasises the sixteenth-century fortress overlooking the bay. Built to guard against French invasion, this was a forerunner of the chain of Martello Towers constructed in Turner’s day along the coastline of south-east England for the same purpose.