Penzance (/pɛnˈzæns/ pen-ZANSS; Cornish: Pennsans) is a town,
civil parish and port in Cornwall, in England, United Kingdom. It is
the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is about 75 miles
(121 km) west of
Plymouth and 300 miles (480 km)
west-southwest of London. Situated in the shelter of Mount's Bay, the
town faces south-east onto the English Channel, is bordered to the
west by the fishing port of Newlyn, to the north by the civil parish
Madron and to the east by the civil parish of Ludgvan.
The civil parish includes the town of
Newlyn and the villages of
Gulval and Heamoor.
Granted various royal charters from 1512 onwards and incorporated on 9
May 1614, it has a population of 21,200 (2011 census).
2.1 Prehistory to Early Medieval period
2.2 High and Late Middle Ages
2.3 Early modern period
2.3.1 Tudor period
Penzance as a town since 1614
2.3.3 1755 seiche
2.4 19th century
2.5 20th century
6 Main sights
9.1 Music and theatre
9.2 Art galleries
10 Cornish language
11 Notable residents past and present
11.1 Sir Humphry Davy
13 See also
15 External links
Penzance—Pennsans; "holy headland" in the Cornish language—refers
to the location of a chapel nowadays called St Anthony's that is said
to have stood over a thousand years ago on the headland to the west of
Penzance Harbour. There are no early documents mentioning
an actual dedication to St Anthony which seems to depend entirely on
tradition and may be groundless. The only remaining object from
this chapel is a carved figure, now largely eroded, known as "St
Raffidy" which can be found in the churchyard of the parish church of
St Mary's near the original site of the chapel. Until the 1930s
this history was also reflected in the choice of symbol for the town,
the severed "holy head" of St John the Baptist. It can still be seen
on the civic regalia of the
Penzance and on several important
landmarks in the town.
Prehistory to Early Medieval period
About 400 prehistoric stone axes, known as Group 1 axes and made from
greenstone, have been found all over Britain, which from petrological
analysis appear to come from west Cornwall. Although the quarry has
not been identified, it has been suggested that the Gear, a rock now
submerged half a mile from the shore at Penzance, may be the site. A
significant amount of trade is indicated as many have been found
elsewhere in Britain. The earliest evidence of settlement in
Penzance is from the Bronze Age. A number of bronze implements such as
a palstave, a spear-head, a knife, and pins, along with much pottery
and large quantities of charcoal were discovered when building a new
housing estate, at Tredarvah, to the west of Alverton. The
defensive earthwork known as Lescudjack Castle is not excavated, but
almost certainly belongs to the Iron Age. A single rampart encloses
three acres of hilltop, and would have dominated the approach to the
area from the east. There are no signs of the additional ramparts
William Hals in about 1730, and the site is now
surrounded by housing with allotments. Excavations in 2008 1 kilometre
(0.62 mi) to the west at
Penwith College found an enclosure ditch
and pottery indicating a settlement, and an evolving field system with
ditches and interconnecting pits suggesting water management. There
are traces of a rampart and ditch to the west of
Penzance at Mount
Misery, and an oval rampart and ditch at Lesingey above the St Just
road, which together with Lescudjack, overlook the coast of Penzance
Until recently, there was little evidence for anything but an early
and short Roman occupation of Cornwall, and there have so far been
only three finds in Penzance. In August 1899 two coins of Vespasian
(69–79 AD) were found in an ancient trench in
Penzance Cemetery. The
coins were eight feet below ground together with some cow bones, and
are now in the
Penlee House Museum. A 1934 find from the Alverton area
is described as a ″coin of the reign of Constantine the Great″,
and was also donated to the museum. A 30 mm (1 3/16 in)
sestertius was found on a building site in or around
ten years previously, and was presented to the Royal Institution of
Cornwall. Larger quantities of Roman coins have been found nearby,
Marazion Marsh and
Kerris in Paul parish, but there is no evidence
of any Roman settlement in the area, although nearby villages such as
Chysauster were occupied at this time.
The Hundred of
Penwith had its ancient centre at Connerton, now buried
beneath the sands of
Gwithian Towans at Gwithian. A Hundred was a
Saxon administrative unit which was sub-divided into tithings. The
Manor of Alverton, with an area of 64 Cornish acres, gave its name to
the second largest tithing in Penwith. The manor included
well as parts of Madron, Paul,
St Buryan and Sancreed.
Penzance is not mentioned in the survey document the Domesday
Book, it is likely that the area would have been included. Domesday
records that in 1066 the Manor of Alwarton was owned by Alward who was
dispossessed by Robert, Count of Mortain, a half-brother of William
the Conqueror. The name Alward and tun, a personal name combined with
a town or settlement suffix, indicate Saxon land ownership. In
Cornwall the tun indicates a manorial centre such as
Connerton. The change of ownership in 1066 was a change from one alien
landlord to another, and the name Alverton lives on as the western
Penzance from St John’s Hall, to the housing estate on the
west side of the River Laregan.
High and Late Middle Ages
The first mention of the name Pensans is in the
Assize Roll of
1284, and the first mention of the actual church that gave
Penzance its name is in a manuscript written by William Borlase in
1750: ″The ancient chapel belonging to the town of
Penzance may be
seen in a fish cellar, near the key; it is small and as I remember had
the image of the Virgin Mary in it.″ The chapel was built of
greenstone and about 30 ft in length and 15 ft in breadth of
which only a fragment remained in situ. In around 1800 the chapel was
converted to a fish cellar. A carving in "
Ludgvan granite" thought to
be of St Anthony was removed in about 1830 and was used in the wall of
a pig sty, which was further vandalised in 1850 when "a stranger ...
taking fancy to the stony countenance and rough hands, they were
broken off and carried away as relics ...". The remains of the
vandalised relic were taken to St Mary's Churchyard by a mason who
told Mr Millett that he "popped St Raffidy into a wheelbarrow and
trundle him off to the chapel yard." The carving remains in St
Mary’s Churchyard and has been dated by Prof Charles Thomas as early
12th century. There are no early documents mentioning the dedication
to St Anthony; this seems to depend entirely on tradition and may be
groundless. A licence for Divine Service in the Chapel of St Gabriel
and St Raphael was granted in 1429, but nothing more is known of this
chapel except, possibly, for the mason who mentioned ″St Raffidy″
in 1850. Adjoining the chapel is St Anthony's Gardens, named in 1933
and containing an archway said to have been taken from the chapel
Dominating the skyline above the harbour is the present church of St
Mary's. A St Mary's Chapel is mentioned in a 1548 document which
states that it was founded by Sir Henry Tyes, Knight, Lord of the
Manor of Alverton, who gave a £4 stipend for a priest. There is
an earlier document from 1379, when Bishop Brantyngham licensed for
services "the chapel of Blessed Mary of Pensande". At this date it
was probably used as a chapel of ease, and not used for Sunday
services, which would have affected the attendance at the Parish
Church in Madron. Further evidence of historical settlement from
this period is in the St Clare area of the town, where a chapel
existed to St Clare or Cleer. The earliest reference is a lease of
1584: "...a certain chapel situate below the high road between
Pensaunce and Madderne." In the early part of the 19th century the
foundations of a building, said to be the chapel, was discovered, and
enough was exposed to show the shape of the building. An episcopal
licence cannot be traced for this chapel. The name, St Clare, lives
on in the town as "St Clare Street", which is part of the road from
Penzance to Madron, and the St Clare cricket ground at the top of the
Markets were held on a fixed day each week, and fairs on fixed date(s)
each year. To obtain either, a manorial lord had to apply for a royal
charter. The right to hold a market each Wednesday was granted by King
Edward III to Alice de Lisle, sister of Lord Tyes and widow of Warin
de Lisle, on 25 April 1332; a fair, lasting seven days at the Feast of
St Peter ad Vincula on 1 August; and another fair of seven days on 24
Mousehole for the feast of St Bartholomew – later to be
held in Penzance. The settlement was growing in importance as the
weekly Wednesday market was confirmed by King Henry IV and three
further fairs, each of two days, were granted on 8 April 1404. These
were at the Feast of the Conception of Virgin Mary (8 December), St
Peter in Cathedra (22 February) and the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8
It is not known when a quay was built at
Penzance as there is no grant
or licence, but an Inquest as to the
Manor of Alverton in 1322 records
eight fishing boats each paying 2 shillings each, and an unspecified
Mousehole each paying 12 shillings. There was also a payment
of 8 shillings for the rent of logii (huts or sheds) of foreign
fishermen, i.e. those outside the manor. At a second Inquest in 1327
the number had risen to 13 at Penzance; with 16 recorded at Mousehole
and both now paying only 1 shilling each: the total rent for logii was
8s 6d (42½p) with 17 tenants paying 6d (2½p) each. Both Inquests
record 29 burgesses at
Penzance and 40 at Mousehole. A burgess paid
his rent with money rather than with personal services, and this
Mousehole were considered to be towns.
A comparison of the settlements in West
Cornwall can be made with the
annual payments, based on the number of fishing boats, made to the
Cornwall in 1337: Porthia (St Ives) £6; Mosehole (Mousehole)
£5; Marcasion (Marazion) £3; Pensanns (Penzance) 12s (60p);
Londeseynde (Land's End), (
Sennen Cove) 10s (50p); Nywelyn (Newlyn)
10s; and Portmynster (Porthminster, St Ives) 2s (10p). In 1425,
1432 and 1440 ships in
Penzance were licensed to carry pilgrims to the
shrine of St James of Compostella, in north-west Spain.
In medieval times and later,
Penzance was subject to frequent raiding
by "Turkish pirates", in fact Barbary Corsairs. Throughout the
Penzance gained borough status in 1614 the village and
surrounding areas continued to be within the control of the Manor of
Alverton and was subject to the taxation regime of that manor.
Early modern period
In the summer of 1578
Penzance was visited by the plague. The burial
Madron (where all
Penzance births, deaths and marriages
were recorded) shows a massive increase in deaths for 1578, from 12
the previous year to 155. This is estimated to be about 10% of the
population of the village at the time. The plague also returned in
1647 and the registers again show an increase of from 22 burials to
217 in one year.
Being at the far west of Cornwall,
Penzance and the surrounding
villages have been sacked many times by foreign fleets. On 23 July
1595, several years after the
Spanish Armada of 1588, a Spanish
force of four galleys transporting 400 arquebusiers under Don Carlos
de Amesquita, which had been patrolling the Channel, landed troops in
Cornwall. The local militias, which formed the cornerstone of their
anti-invasion measures and numbered several hundred men, threw down
their arms and fled in panic. Only Francis Godolphin, Deputy Lord
Cornwall and commander of the militias along with 12 of
his soldiers stood to offer some kind of resistance. Amesquita's force
seized supplies, raided and burned
Penzance and surrounding villages,
held a mass, and sailed away to successfully engage and put to flee a
Dutch squadron of 46 ships .
Penzance as a town since 1614
The reason for Penzance's relative success probably stems from the
15th, 16th and 17th centuries when King Henry IV granted the town a
royal market in 1404. Henry VIII in 1512 granted the right to
charge harbour dues, and King James I granted the town the status
of a Borough in 1614. The Charter defined the bounds of the town by an
artificial line formed by a half-mile circle, measured from the market
cross in the Greenmarket. The granting of Borough status made the town
independent of the County Courts, a right held until County Councils
came into being in 1888. Other privileges included owning land and
property; imposing fines for breaking bylaws; holding a civil court
with jurisdiction over cases not exceeding £50; and providing a
prison. The Charter also confirmed the harbour rights given earlier in
1512 and granted two weekly markets to be held on Tuesdays and
Thursday; which replaced a single market previously held on
Wednesdays. Seven fairs were granted (or confirmed):
Corpus Christi, the Sunday after
Whitsun - still held
The Thursday before St Andrew's Day (30 November)
St Peter's Day (1 August); first granted in 1332
St Bartholomew's Day (24 August); originally granted to
now obsolete probably due to the Spanish Raid of 1595
St Mary the Virgin's Day (8 September); granted in 1404
The Conception of St Mary the Virgin's Day (8 September); granted in
St Peter's Day in Cathedra (22 February); granted in 1404
The Crown was paid a perpetual rent of five marks (£3 6s 8d / £3.33)
in acknowledgment of the rights granted by the Charter, which was paid
until 1832, but there was no grant of Parliamentary representation.
The old arms of
Penzance were the head of
St John the Baptist
St John the Baptist on a
charger, with the legend "Pensans anno Domini 1614". The arms of the
borough are Arg. a Paschal lamb proper in base a Maltese cross Az. on
a chief embattled of the last between two keys in saltire wards
upwards Or and a saltire couped Arg. a plate charged with a dagger
point downwards Gu.
Within a year the new Borough bought a substantial degree of freedom
Manor of Alverton then known as Alverton and
£34 plus a perpetual annuity of £1 which was last paid in 1936. A
market-house and Guildhall was built, and together with the rights
bought in 1615, provided almost all the borough income for more than
two centuries. The southern arm of the pier was built in 1766 and
extended in 1785, to add to the first pier of which was built in
English Civil War
English Civil War
Penzance was sacked by the
Parliamentarian forces of
Sir Thomas Fairfax
Sir Thomas Fairfax apparently for the
kindness shown to Lord Goring and Lord Hopton's troops during the
Further Civic improvements included the construction in 1759 of a
reservoir which supplied water to public pumps in the streets. In
1768 a friendly society of Tradesmen was formed at
Penzance with 101
members living within three miles of the town. The members met on the
first Monday in each month at the King's Head, kept by Richard
Runnals. The benefits of the Society were: a member being sick, lame
or infirm would receive seven shillings a week. [gout and rupture were
common, and excepted from payment unless 'needful'. Aged and infirm
members were allowed 3/6p per week. Three pounds was given toward the
funeral of a member and 10 pounds to the widow or children. All
members were to attend the funeral or be fined a shilling. How long
this association lasted is not known.
Penzance has a long-standing association with the local parish of
Madron Church was in fact the centre of most religious
activity in the town until 1871, when St Mary's Church (until this
period a chapel of ease) was granted parish status by church
authorities though it had been registered since the new church was
built in 1832.
On 1 November 1755 the
Lisbon earthquake caused seiching, a form of
standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water,
along the Cornish coast, and particularly in Mount's Bay, which is
prone to seiching. At around 2:00 pm, the sea rose eight feet in
Penzance, came in at great speed, and fell at the same rate. Little
damage was recorded.
At the start of the 19th century (1801), the town had a population of
2,248. The census, which is taken every ten years, recorded a peak
population in 1861 of 3,843, but it then declined, as in most of
Cornwall, through the remainder of the century, being just 3,088 in
By the time
Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837,
established itself as an important regional centre. The Royal
Geological Society of
Cornwall was founded in the town in 1814 and
about 1817 was responsible for introducing a miner's safety tamping
bar, which attracted the Prince Regent to become its patron.
The first lifeboat in
Cornwall was bought by the people of
1803 but it was sold in 1812 due to lack of funds to keep it in
operation. The pier had been extended again in 1812 and John
Matthews opened a small dry dock in 1814, the first in the South West.
In 1840 Nicholas Holman of St Just opened a branch of his foundry
business on the quayside. These facilities proved valuable in
supporting the steamships that were soon calling at the harbour in
Gas lighting was introduced in 1830 and the old Market House was
demolished in 1836. Its replacement, designed by W. Harris of Bristol,
was completed at the top of Market Jew Street in 1838. (The name
Market Jew comes from the
Cornish language Marghas Yow, meaning
Thursday Market, the name of a nearby village now absorbed into
Marazion, to which Market Jew Street leads.) St Mary's Church,
another prominent feature of the
Penzance skyline, was completed in
1836, while a
Roman Catholic church was built in 1843. Another
familiar building from this period is the eccentric Egyptian House in
Chapel Street, built in 1830. The first part of the
the sea front dates from 1844.
After the passing of the Public Health Act (1848),
Penzance was one of
the first towns to petition to form a local board of health, doing so
in September that year. Following a report by a government inspector
in February, the Board was established in 1849 which led to many
facilities to enhance public health. The report shows that most
streets were macadamised or sometimes paved, and the town was lit by
121 gas lamps from October to March each year, although they were not
lit when there was a full moon. Water was supplied from 6 public
pumps, and there were a further 53 private wells. There were no sewage
pipes at the time, waste being collected from the main streets by a
Penzance railway station, the terminus of the West
opened on 11 March 1852 on the eastern side of the harbour,
although trains only ran to
Redruth at first. From 25 August 1852 the
line was extended to Truro, but the
Cornwall Railway linking that
Plymouth was not opened until 4 May 1859. Passengers and
goods had to change trains at
Truro as the West
Cornwall had been
built using the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
standard gauge, but the
Cornwall Railway was built to the 7 ft
(2,134 mm) broad gauge. The West
Cornwall Railway Act included a
clause that it would be converted to broad gauge once it had been
connected to another broad gauge line, but the company could not raise
the funds to do so.
The line was sold to the
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway and its "Associated
Bristol and Exeter Railway and South
Devon Railway) on
1 January 1866. The new owners quickly converted the line to mixed
gauge using three rails so that both broad and "narrow" trains could
Broad gauge goods trains started running in November that
year, with through passenger trains running to
London from 1 March
1867. The last broad gauge train arrived at 8.49pm on 20 May 1892,
London Paddington railway station at 10.15am that morning.
The two locomotives, numbers 1256 and 3557, took the carriages away to
Swindon railway works
Swindon railway works at 9.57pm, and all trains since have been
The ability of the railway to carry fresh produce to distant markets
such as Bristol,
Manchester enabled local farmers and
fishermen to sell more produce and at better prices. The special
"perishable" train soon became a feature of the railway, these being
fast extra goods trains carrying potatoes, broccoli or fish depending
on the season. In August 1861 1,787 tons of potatoes, 867 tons of
broccoli, and 1,063 tons of fish were dispatched from the station.
Fruit and flowers were also carried; the mild climate around Penzance
and on the
Scilly Isles meant that they were ready for market earlier
and could command high prices.
The completion of the railway through
Cornwall made it easier for
tourists and invalids to enjoy the mild climate of Penzance. Bathing
machines had been advertised for hire on the beach as early as
1823, and the town was already "noted for the pleasantness of its
situation, the salubrity of its air, and the beauty of its
natives". The town's first official guide book was published in
1860 and the Queen's Hotel opened on the seafront the following year.
It was so successful that it was extended in 1871 and 1908.
At the same time as the railway was being built more improvements were
being made to the harbour, with a second pier on the eastern side of
the harbour, the Albert Pier, completed in 1853 to provide even better
shelter for shipping, and a lighthouse built on the Old Pier in
Scilly Isles Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1858
and placed in service the first steam ship on the route, SS Little
Western. In 1870 the new West
Cornwall Steam Ship Company joined the
route, taking over the
Scilly Isles Company the following year.
In 1853 the
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed one of their
boats in the town, the first since 1812, and maintained a station here
until 1908 when the Watson Class Elizabeth Blanche was transferred to
Newlyn as the first step towards setting up Penlee Lifeboat Station.
The RNLI still use a boat house built on Jennings Street near the
Promenade in 1884 to promote their activities. Penzance, with its
dry dock and engineering facilities, was chosen as the western depot
Trinity House that serviced all the lighthouses and lightships
from Start Point to Trevose Head. It was opened in October 1866
adjacent to the harbour and the
Buoy Store became the Trinity House
Museum until 2005 when
Trinity House closed the
Inside the new railway station.
In 1875 a local newspaper described the railway station as a large
dog's house of the nastiest and draughtiest kind but a series of
works improved this part of the town during the 1880s. The original
railway station was rebuilt with the present buildings and train shed
over the platforms (1880). The lower end of Market Jew Street was
widened and a new road was built to link the station with the harbour
over the Ross
Swing Bridge (1881), allowing the construction of proper
sewers beneath. A larger dry dock replaced Matthews' original facility
(1880), and a floating harbour was made (1884) with lock gates to keep
in the water at low tide.
Around the headland, public baths were opened on the
Promenade in 1887
Morrab Gardens with its sub-tropical plants was opened two
years later. A bandstand was added to the gardens in 1897.
In 1901 the town had a population of 3,088. The decennial census
recorded a continuing decline in population until 1921, when just
2,616 people were recorded. The population then climbed to 4,888
(1931) then 5,545 (1951) – thus more than doubling in 30 years. It
was now larger than at any time in the past. (The census
boundaries changed in 1981 so these figures do not directly compare
with those stated for the current population.)
A proposed electric tramway along the
Promenade to Newlyn, which would
have continued as a light railway to St Just, failed to gain
authorisation in 1898. Instead motor buses were put into service on 31
October 1903. These linked
Marazion and were
operated by the Great Western Railway, being introduced only 11 weeks
after the railway's pioneering service between
Helston and the Lizard.
They were considered a success, carrying 16,091 passengers by the end
of the year, so were followed the next spring by further routes to
Land's End and St Just. These services developed into the First South
West bus network that currently serves the area and is still centred
on a terminus alongside
Penzance railway station.
The dry dock was sold on 25 August 1904 to N. Holman and Sons Limited,
the engineering business that had been trading in
Penzance since 1840.
New workshops were built during the 1930s, and the facility continued
to be used by the Scilly ferries and other merchant ships, as well as
Trinity House, the
Royal Navy and Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service. In
1951 a new vessel for the
King Harry Ferry
King Harry Ferry on the
River Fal was
launched, built on the keel of an old landing craft. A steam tug, the
Primrose, was built in 1963.
Land was reclaimed beside the Albert Pier in the 1930s to allow the
railway station to be enlarged at a cost of £134,000. The 1880
building was retained, but extra platforms and sidings were provided
to handle more perishable goods, as well as the increasing numbers of
In 1905 a new bandstand was built on the
Promenade opposite the
Queen's Hotel, and the Pavilion
Theatre opened nearby in 1911,
complete with a roof garden and café. Travel to
easier than ever, with the
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway introducing the
Cornish Riviera Express
Cornish Riviera Express on 1 July 1904, which left
at 10:10 am and arrived in
Penzance just 7 hours later, two hours
faster than the previous quickest service. (In 2007 it left
Paddington at 10:05 am and took 5 hours and 5 minutes.) The
railway promoted local tourism with postcards that were sold at its
railway stations, and an annual guide book, The Cornish Riviera, in
which SPB Mais described the town as "a suburb of Covent Garden, and a
great fishing centre ... there is always something going on in its
1923 saw a new road link the harbour area and the Promenade, and in
1933 the St. Anthony Gardens were built, followed two years later by
the Jubilee Bathing Pool opposite. Tourists could now make full use of
the whole seafront between
The A30 from
London to Land’s End is a trunk road as far as the
Chy-an-Mor roundabout, a mile (1.6 km) to the east of
Penzance. After bypassing
Penzance to the north the road continues
to Land’s End mainly as a rural A route. The distance from Penzance
London is 275 miles (443 km) or about 5 hours by car.
Penzance railway station
Penzance railway station is at the eastern end of Market Jew Street
and close to the harbour. It is the southernmost station on the UK
mainland rail network. It is the western terminus of the Cornish Main
Line which runs above the beach to Marazion, affording passengers good
views of St. Michael's Mount and Mount's Bay. Most services are
operated by Great Western Railway, both local services to St Erth, St
Ives, Hayle, Camborne,
Redruth and Truro, and direct trains linking
Penzance with Plymouth, Exeter St David's,
Bristol Temple Meads,
London Paddington. The
Night Riviera train offers an
overnight sleeping car service to and from Reading and London. Journey
Plymouth is typically under 2 hours; to
Bristol around 4
London less than 5½ hours.
CrossCountry run a small number of services (departing in the morning,
arriving in the evening) providing a service to destinations such as
Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Derby, Sheffield, Manchester
Piccadilly, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The bus and coach station is next to the railway station from where
National Express operates coach services to
London Victoria Coach
Station (taking around 9 hours) via Heathrow Airport. Local bus
services run by
First South West
First South West connect
Penzance with most major
settlements in Cornwall, including Truro, St. Ives, St Just, St
Land's End and also
Plymouth in Devon.
Scillonian III docked in
A ferry service operates between
Penzance Harbour and the Isles of
Scilly. The Scillonian III, carries both foot-passengers and cargo.
Sailing time is about 2 hours and 40 minutes. For 49 years, Penzance
Heliport had a helicopter route to the
Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly run by British
International, but this ended on 1 November 2012 due to rising costs
and falling passenger numbers. The company had sought to sell its
current base, and relocate elsewhere in West
Cornwall to raise funds,
although no suitable site was found in time to save the service. A bus
service run by the Skybus Airline Service connects with Land's End
Airport for fixed wing flights (15 minutes) to the Isles of Scilly.
The buses leave from the railway station, near the taxi rank, rather
than the bus station.
Newquay Airport is 41 miles (66 km) away and offers flights to
Gatwick, Stansted, Dublin, Cork and many other places, including an
increasing number of foreign destinations.
Common seal of the Borough of Penzance, used in lieu of a coat of arms
1614–1934 (now the Mayoral Seal)
Penzance was an ancient borough, which became a municipal borough in
1835. Until 1934 the Municipal Borough of
Penzance referred only to
the town, but in 1934 the borough absorbed the nearby settlements of
Newlyn, Paul and
Mousehole (from Paul Urban District),
Penwith Rural District) and
Madron Urban District).
In 1974 the
Penzance Borough was abolished and replaced by Penwith
District Council. Initially the area of the former borough was
Charter Trustees were appointed, but in 1980 the civil
Penzance was reformed in the unparished area, and the new
parish council elected to be called
Penzance Town Council. Penwith
District Council was abolished in 2009, and the principal local
authority in the area is now
Cornwall Council. For the purposes of
Cornwall Council the civil parish of
Penzance returns 6
members representing the
Penzance East Division,
Gulval and Newlyn
Civil Parish of
Penzance was further extended in 2004 under
Penwith (Electoral Changes) Order 2002 to include
Eastern Green, formerly part of the
Ludgvan civil parish area.
Town Council does not have in place a system of political
registration, so councillors do not form groups of any kind and
technically act independently; however, the current political
composition of the council (as of 22 August 2009) is as follows:
Independent 10, Liberal Democrats 8,
Mebyon Kernow 1 with one vacancy.
Penzance also elects a mayor every year in May from the members of
Penzance town council. Although mayors have a political affiliation,
this position is largely ceremonial. The current mayor is Cllr. Dick
Penzance Harbour and surrounding area as seen from the air
The economy of
Penzance has, like those of many Cornish communities,
suffered from the decline of the traditional industries of fishing,
mining and agriculture.
Penzance now has a mixed economy consisting of
light industrial, tourism and retail businesses. However, like the
rest of Cornwall, housing remains comparatively expensive, wages low
and unemployment high. In 2007, house prices rose 274% from 10 years
prior, the fastest rise in the UK. The fishing port of Newlyn,
which falls within the parish boundaries, provides some employment in
the area, but has also been greatly affected by the decline in the
fishing industry over the last 30 years. In the 2004 index of
Penzance is listed as having 3 wards within the top 10%
for employment deprivation,
Penzance East (125th most deprived in
Penzance West (200th most deprived in England), and Penzance
Central (712th most deprived in England). 18-31% of households in
the parish are described as "poor households". The
Ward also has one of the highest unemployment rates in Cornwall,
stated as 15.4%.
Following Sir Humphry Davy’s contribution to the mining industry,
the Miners' Association began mining classes in Penzance. As mining in
the area became more complex, the
Mining and Science School
was founded in 1890. The school continued to teach mining until 1910,
when it was amalgamated with
forming the School of Metalliferous
Mining in Camborne, which is now
known as the
Camborne School of Mines. This institution has now moved
to the Combined Universities in
Cornwall campus at Tremough, Falmouth.
From 1663, Penzance was a coinage town, responsible for the
collection of tin taxation on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall; it held
this status for 176 years. According to
William Pryce in his 1778
book Mineralogia Cornubiensis,
Penzance coined more tin than the towns
Helston put together.
Penzance also had its own submarine mine situated off the coast of the
town next to the area known as Wherrytown. The mine, known as Wheal
Wherry Mine, was worked from 1778 to 1798 and again from 1836 to
1840. Founded by "a poor 57 year old miner" named Thomas Curtis,
the mine was said to be "very rich at depth" and was connected to the
shore by a wooden bridge; the ore was transported by wherry boat. The
mine suffered considerable damage in 1798 when an American ship broke
anchor off nearby
Newlyn and smashed into the bridge and head gear.
Later attempts at mining were not as profitable.
During the 19th century and until 1912,
Penzance had the largest tin
smelting house in Cornwall, operated by the Bolitho family. The
smelting works were situated at Chyandour. As a consequence of this
concentration of mining wealth,
Penzance became a centre for
commercial banking. The Bolitho Bank (now part of Barclays Bank)
Penzance Bank were two of the largest, although the latter
collapsed in 1896.
St Mary's Church, Chapel Street
Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Humphry Davy Statue and
Penzance Market House
Large sections of
Penzance are classified as ″conservation areas″
Penwith local plan and are subject to special planning
laws. The current conservation area forms most of the core of the town
Penzance and the historic harbour areas of
Mousehole. A number of Georgian and Regency buildings are present
in the town. However, the majority of developments in the town centre
itself are of mixed date, including several 20th-century buildings –
one of which, the former Pearl Assurance building (now the Tremenheere
Wetherspoon's pub), was subject to comment by Sir John Betjeman
who wrote, in 1963:
Penzance has done much to destroy its attractive character. The older
houses in the narrow centre round the market hall have been pulled
down and third-rate commercial 'contemporary', of which the Pearl
Assurance building is a nasty example, are turning it into Slough".
The Market House and Old Town Hall (1836-38) in Market Jew Street was
designed by William Harris, District Surveyor for Bristol, in the
Greek Revival style. It has a grand Ionic portico and is surmounted by
a dome. Alterations for Lloyds Bank were carried out in 1922-25.
Penzance's former main street Chapel Street has a number of
interesting features, including the Egyptian House, the Union Hotel
(including a Georgian theatre which is no longer in use) and Branwell
House, where the mother and aunt of the famous
Brontë sisters once
lived. The Georgian theatre was built in c. 1787, closed in 1831, and
is said to be where the first public announcement of Nelson's victory
at Trafalgar took place. Regency, and Georgian terraces and houses
(such as Regents Square and Clarence Street) are common in some parts
of the town. The nearby sub-tropical Morrab Gardens, has a large
collection of tender trees and shrubs, many of which cannot be grown
outdoors anywhere else in the UK. Also of interest is the seafront
with its promenade and the open-air seawater Jubilee Bathing Pool (one
of the oldest surviving
Art Deco swimming baths in the country), built
during Penzance's heyday as a fashionable seaside resort. The pool was
designed by Captain F. Latham, the
Penzance Borough Engineer, and
opened in 1935, the year of King George V's Silver Jubilee. The
grade II listed pool is triangular with graceful curves and is
considered the best surviving example of its type, with the exception
Saltdean Lido in Brighton. In early 2018, work began to add
a Geothermal section to the pool, becoming the first of it's kind in
United Kingdom to use this type of technology when it eventually
Penzance promenade has been destroyed in parts several times by
storms. The most recent example was on 7 March 1962 (Ash Wednesday),
when large parts of the western end of the promenade, the nearby
Bedford Bolitho Gardens (now a play park) and the village of
Wherrytown suffered severe damage. On the outskirts of town is
Trereife House, a grade II listed Queen Anne style, manor house which
now offers accommodation and hosts events.
Penlee Quarry which is within the boundaries of the
Penzance parish is
a geological SSSI.
Penzance is home to two state run comprehensive schools (Mount's Bay
Humphry Davy School) and one Church of
school (Bolitho School)now closed. Bolitho School was founded in the
early 1990s following the financial collapse of the former School of
St. Clare. Post 16 education is catered for by
founded in 1981 from the sixth form departments of the former Penzance
Grammar School and the
Humphry Davy Grammar School.
Penzance parish there are 8 primary schools, including
the newly created Pensans Primary School which was formed in 2006 from
Junior School and the Lescudjack Infants School.
There is also a special educational needs school within the parish
boundary named Nancealverne.
Every June since 1991 the
Golowan Festival (which includes Mazey Day)
has been held in the town. Before the 1930s
Penzance was the scene of
large May Day celebrations, which saw local children making and using
tin 'May horns' and 'May whistles'; a small revival of these
traditions took place on 4 May 2008. The feast day of Corpus Christi
was also celebrated in Penzance. The Corpus Christi fair has been a
long-standing event in the town, and is currently undergoing attempts
to revive it in a more traditional format.
Mayor and Mock
Mayor speeches at the
Golowan Festival 2005.
Allantide, a Cornish version of Halloween, was also a popular activity
in the town. Many of these customs were recorded by local antiquarian
M. A. Courtney and have influenced historical views of traditional
Cornish cultural activities.
In October 2010 the first full festival of music and the arts - the
Penzance Proms - was held (23–31 October)
Penzance holds the
Montol Festival a community arts
event reviving many of the Cornish customs of Christmas, including
traditional contumes, masks and guise dancing.
Music and theatre
Penzance is the home of the pirates in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic
opera, The Pirates of Penzance. At the time the libretto was written,
Penzance had become popular as a peaceful resort town, so the
idea of it being overrun by pirates was amusing to contemporaries.
Penzance is home to the Acorn Arts Centre, sited within a former
Methodist chapel. This provides a mixture of theatre, film, dance
music and cabaret and is partially public funded. The Savoy is an
independent cinema located in the town which opened in 1912 and was
originally named the Victoria Hall Music Hall, the Savoy is one of the
locations of performances sponsored by the
Penwith Film Society (an
arts cinema society based in the
Penwith area). It is reputedly the
oldest continuously used cinema in Britain. Prior to the Second World
Penzance was also home to a further 3 cinemas and at least 2
theatres, one of which, the Pavilion Theatre, is now home to an
Penzance is home to the new
Newlyn Art Gallery establishment "The
Exchange" which opened in 2007.
Penzance is also the home of Penlee
House, an art gallery and museum notable for its collection of
paintings by members of the
Newlyn School. Within
Penzance town centre
there are a growing number of commercial art galleries.
As in other Cornish towns and villages
Methodism is the predominant
Christian denomination. Prior to the 1980s
Penzance had six Methodist
churches, but this number has now been reduced to two, Chapel Street
and High Street. There are Methodist churches in most of the
surrounding villages including Newlyn's Trinity Methodist which
operates The Centre, a busy multi-use church and community facility.
Penzance is also home to a
Salvation Army citadel, a Roman Catholic
church, two Church of
England parish churches (formerly three), a
Christadelphian meeting hall, two Evangelical independent
Penwith pagan moot, an independent
Baptist church and a
Buddhist meditation group.
St Mary's Church was built in 1832–35, St Paul's (now closed) in
1843 and St John's in 1881.
Penzance was formerly in the parish of
Madron but St Mary's parish was established in 1871 and St Paul's in
1869. Two medieval chapels (see above, History) are known to have
existed before the Reformation. St Mary's chapel was consecrated in
1680 but was in existence three hundred years earlier and the
licensing of it in 1379 is recorded. The chaplain's stipend was £4
p.a. from the manor of Alverton. In 1549 its endowments were seized by
the Crown though the burgesses made representations that they should
Thomas Lamplugh Bishop of Exeter by much cajolery induced the
mayor and burgesses to consent to consecration of the chapel in 1680.
The curate then had a stipend of £5 p.a.
Arthur Langdon (1896) described a Cornish cross in front of the Market
House. This cross stood in the Green Market until 1829 when it was
removed to a house in North Street close to its original position.
About 1868 it was moved again to the western end of the Market House.
It is ornamented on the front and the sides. On the back there is said
to be an inscription: PCMBUNT /QUICUMQ / VENIENT // COP / PIO / UM //
O / + / X (described in 1850). 
Penzance is the home of Cornwall's most successful rugby team, the
Cornish Pirates (
Newlyn RFC). The Championship side moved
Truro in 2005 in a bid to reach the Premiership and was renamed the
Cornish Pirates. In 2006 the side moved again, this time to the home
Camborne Rugby Club, before returning to
Penzance in 2010 to
play, once more, at the Mennaye Field. The club has twice reached the
play-off final for promotion to the top tier of English rugby in
seasons 2010–11 and 2011–12.
Penzance was the home of Mount's Bay
RFC, founded in 1999, originally as a team for local players who could
not play for the professional Cornish Pirates. They won promotion
seven times in eight seasons to reach the third tier of English rugby
before folding in 2009 due to financial problems. The Pirates Amateurs
are part of the
Cornish Pirates and play in the lower levels of the
league system. They ended their first season in second place in the
Cornwall One and won promotion to Tribute Cornwall/
2011–12 season, where they continue to play. They also won the
Cornwall Clubs Cup in 2010–11.
Penzance A.F.C. were relegated from the Carlsberg South West Peninsula
League Premier Division in season 2012–13 and now play in Division
One West. The club was one of the founding members of the Cornwall
County Football Association and the first winners of the Cornwall
Senior Cup in season 1892–93.
Penzance have won the Senior Cup on
ten occasions, the last in 1980–81.
England and Surrey cricketer
Jack Richards (born Clifton James
Richards) was born in Penzance. He played eight test matches and was
the wicket keeper during England's 1986 Ashes win in Australia. He
learnt his cricket with the
Grammar School and Penzance
Cricket Club. The cricket club was founded in 1829 and are
Cornwall’s most successful club having been champions on 23
occasions and have had more players play for
Cornwall than any other
club. The club currently plays in the top tier of the
Penzance Wheelers, Britain's most south-westerly cycling club was
founded in the 1930s. Their most famous member is
Tom Southam who
represented Great Britain in five World Championships. Penzance
Wheelers predecessors was the
Penzance Bicycle Club who were in
existence in 1880 and, for example, on 30 April had a run to St Just,
Trewellard and Pendeen.
Mount's Bay Harriers, a
triathlon and running club founded in 2005 are based at Mount's Bay
School, Heamoor. Athletes from the club participate at most road races
and triathlons in
Cornwall as well as many further afield. Other
sporting clubs and organisations include
Penzance Hockey Club, with
male and female teams, based at the
Penzance Astro Park, Penzance
Tennis Club at Penlee Park and lawn bowling at
Penzance Bowling Club
and Penlee (Newlyn) Bowling Club.
Mini Transat 6.50
Mini Transat 6.50 (now the Transit 6.50) transatlantic yacht race
Penzance (hosted by
Penzance Sailing Club) from its
conception in 1977 to the fourth edition of the race in 1983.
The local newspaper is The Cornishman, published weekly. Both ITV
television (Westcountry Television) and BBC Radio
Cornwall have small
news studios in the town. The local community radio station is Coast
Penwith Radio), which is based in the town, and
broadcasts on 96.5 and 97.2
MHz FM. There are two ILR stations for
Pirate FM can be received in
Penzance on 102.8
MHz FM, and
Heart on 107.0
When the area between
Penzance was mainly marsh, people
tended to avoid the Eastern Green because of the "White Lady". She
would jump onto a horse (already with rider) and ride pillion as far
as the Red River,
Chyandour (not the Red River at Marazion). Her
identity and reasons for haunting are unknown. Mr William Richards of
Chapel Street is reputed to be the last person to have seen her.
Passengers using the station are greeted with a bilingual sign in both
Cornish and English.
Cornish Language at
Penzance railway station, installed by British
Notable residents past and present
See also: List of residents of Penzance
The celebrated scientist Sir Humphry Davy
Penzance has been home to numerous persons of note, including actress
Thandie Newton, model
Jean Shrimpton and cricketer Jack Richards.
Penzance was the birthplace of Maria Branwell, mother of three famous
novelists – Charlotte Brontë, Emily
Brontë and Anne Brontë.
Sir Humphry Davy
Main article: Sir Humphry Davy
Penzance was the birthplace of the chemist Sir Humphry Davy. Davy was
President of the
Royal Society and invented the process of
electrolysis; was the first person to isolate sodium; was the first
person to discover Nitrous oxide; as well as proving (with Michael
Faraday) that diamonds are made of pure carbon. Today he is possibly
best known as the inventor of the Miner's Safety Lamp, or Davy lamp.
There is a statue of Davy at the top of Market Jew Street, near the
house in which he was born. One of Penzance's secondary schools is
also named after the scientist, and runs as a music and maths
community college. Robert Dunkin, a
Penzance sadler and maker of
scientific instruments taught Davy the basis of practical science.
Penzance is twinned with the following towns:
Concarneau, Brittany, France
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Nevada City, California, USA
Cuxhaven, Germany. From 1967 to 1974
Penzance was twinned with
Cuxhaven, though between 1974 and 2009 this twinning arrangement was
passed to the now defunct
Penwith District Council. As of April 2009,
the arrangement was reinstated.
The Pirates of Penzance
List of topics related to Cornwall
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^ The Eva Collection of the Royal Institution of
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^ a b
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^ Courtney. (1882) Ghosts and Witchcraft. Trans
Penzance Nat Hist Soc.
^ Information supplied by
Concarneau Twinning Association
Chairman, Mrs D Cotton and The Penzance, Bendigo and Nevada City
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Penzance.
Penzance travel guide from Wikivoyage
Penzance Town Council
Cornwall Record Office Online Catalogue for Penzance
Ceremonial county of Cornwall
Council of the Isles of Scilly
St Columb Major
St Just in Penwith
See also: List of civil parishes in Cornwall
Population of major settlements
Places of interest
Outline of Cornwall
Index of Cornwall-related articles
Civil parishes of St Ives constituency
St Michael's Mount