PENZANCE, the most westerly town in England, is a seaport and municipal borough, union town and the head of a county court district, situated on the north-west side of Mounts Bay, and the terminal station on the West Cornwall (Great Western) railway, distant 328 miles from London, 130 from Exeter, and 10 from the Land’s End, 18 south-west from Redruth, 47 south-west from Bodmin and 27 south-west from Truro, in the civil parish of Madron, the Western division of the county, hundred of West Penwith, rural deanery of Penwith, archdeaconry of Cornwall and diocese of Truro. The name of the town, Pen-sans, is said to signify the “Holy Headland,” a chapel having formerly stood on the point which now forms the base of the Old Pier. In later days this place was denominated “Buriton,” or Castle Town. The Barbican cellars, near the quay, indicate the site of the former castle. In 1595 (July) a party of Spaniards landed at Mousehole, about three miles distant, and having laid waste that village and Newlyn, attacked Penzance, and ravaged it by fire and pillage: in 1646 the town was sacked by Fairfax.
Penzance was first incorporated in 1614, which charter was confirmed by Charles II. other charters have since been granted, and by the municipal Act (1835) the Corporation, acting also as the Urban Sanitary and Port Authority, now consists of a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The borough has also a commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. The town extends about a mile east and west, nearly the same distance north and south and is divided into two wards, the east and the west. The railway station is at the east end of the town, and through trains run from Penzance to the metropolis. A commodious steamer leaves twice a week in winter and three times a week in summer (except May and June, when there is a daily service) for the Isles of Scilly: the distance to St. Mary’s, Scilly, is about 40 miles: average passage, 4 hours.
The western arm of the pier, built in 1772, is constructed upon a vein of felspar porphyry, which at low water is exposed to view: a roadway, viaduct and swing-bridge, connecting the southern and northern portions of the harbour, were completed in 1881, and a floating space of 3½ acres in extent, with a depth of water over the dock sill of 21ft. will probably be available early in 1884; upwards of £100,000 will then have been expended on the harbour. A lighthouse stands at the extremity of the southern extension, exhibiting a dioptric light of the fifth order, at an elevation of 33 feet above high water at ordinary spring tides, and showing a bright red for 80 degrees of the circle when there is a depth of 15 feet of water at the pier head (which occurs for quite eight hours out of the twelve), and when less than that depth displaying green instead of red. A black ball is exhibited by day when there is 15 feet depth of water at the pier head.
The lords’ Commissioners of Her Majesty’ Treasury have appointed Penzance to continue and be a port, and have declared the limits of the port to commence at the western side of the Lizard Point, in the county of Cornwall (being the western limit of the port of Falmouth), and to continue from thence in a westerly direction round the Land’s End, and thence in a north-easterly direction to a place called Chapel and Gother [Chapel-an-Gotha], in Perranzabuloe, and described in the Ordnance map as Chapel Rock (being the western limit of the port of Padstow), extending seaward to a distance of three miles from low-water mark from the coast along the aforesaid limits, and including all islands, harbours, bays, rivers and creeks within the said limits: all former limits of the port of Penzance are annulled.
The ecclesiastical parishes of St. Mary and St. Paul were formed from the mother parish of Madron; and St. John the Baptist from that of St. Mary.
St. Mary’s ecclesiatical parish was formed in 1871; the church, rebuilt in 1834, is a large granite building in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles and a lofty pinacled tower, containing a fine peal of 8 bells, hung in 1865: the east window is stained, and there are several memorial windows: in the churchyard stands the mutilated head of an ancient cross, supposed to have been connected with the destroyed chapel of St. Anthony. The register of baptisms and burials dates from the year 1789; marriages and earlier records are incorporated with the registers of Madron. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £450, in the gift of the Bishop of Truro, with approval of the vicar of Madron for the time being, and held since 1860 by the Rev. Philip Hedgeland M.A. of Pembroke College, Oxford, prebendary of Exeter, and surrogate.
St. Paul’s ecclesiastical parish was formed in 1867; the church, situated in Clarence street, built at the expense of the late Rev. Henry Batten in 1843, is an edifice of granite in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave and transepts: the pulpit is carved out of one solid block of granite: the east window, presented at a cost of £400, and all the other windows are stained: there are 300 sittings. The register dates from the year 1867. The living is a vicarage, of the gross yearly value of £219, in the gift of Mrs. Henry Batten, and held since 1882 by the Rev. Jedediah John Hunt.
St. John the Baptist’s is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1882, from that of St. Mary; the church, situated at the top of Trewartha terrace, is a building of moor stone, in the Early English style, erected in 1881 at a cost of £7,000, and consists of chancel, nave, transepts and aisles, and has sittings for 600. The register dates from the year 1881. The living is a vicarage, prospective yearly value £200, in the gift of the Bishop of Truro, and is at present (1883) vacant.
The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Rosevean road, is a large edifice, erected in 1847; the altar with reredos of granite, serpentine and marble, was presented in 1869 by Sir Paul Molesworth bart.
The Society of Friends have a meeting house in Causeway Head street. There is a Jewish synagogue in New street. The Baptist chapel in Clarence street, was built in 1836. The congregational chapel, Market Jew street, was built in 1662[!?]. The Bible Christian chapel, High street, was built in 1879. The Primitive Methodist chapel is in Mount street. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel, Chapel street, erected in 1814 and enlarged in 1864, is a building of granite, with a portico of the Doric order, and has sittings for 1,800 persons. The Free Methodist chapel is in Parade street.
The Cemetery, situated about half a mile from the town, in the parish of Madron has two mortuary chapels.
The Public Buildings, in Alverton street, begun in 1864 and completed in 1867 from the designs of the late Mr. John Matthews, then surveyor of the town, cost nearly £13,000, exclusive of furnishing, and are built entirely of granite, in the Italian style: the east wing is occupied by the Corporation offices proper. the centre by a large concert hall, known as “St. John’s hall,” seating 850 persons, and containing a fine organ, and a smaller or lecture hall, seating 300, and above the main entrance is the Public Library, consisting of nearly 16,000 volumes, for the most part standard and valuable books; chess and whist clubs, a debating society, masonic lodge and other societies meet here: the west wing is devoted to the purposes of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall: in the courtyard in front is a fountain, the basin of which (nearly 12 feet in diameter) is cut out of one block of granite.
The Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, mentioned above, was established in 1814 by Dr. Paris and Mr. Ashurst Majendie, who were aided by the nobility, gentry and mine agents of the county, and it now ranks amongst the most distinguished scientific institutions in the kingdom, and has a museum containing an excelent and extensive collection of geological and mineralogical treasures and a good library.
The Natural History and Antiquarian Society, founded in 1839, occupy rooms in the east wing of the Public Buildings; the collection is chiefly of local interest.
The Institute, established in 1848, has also reading and lecture rooms in the Public Buildings. On the right hand side of the principal entrance and on the opposite side is the Penzance News Room, more recently established.
The market House, or old Town Hall, erected in 1837, is a building of granite in a quasi-Doric style, standing at the top of Market Jew street, and has a central dome, from which very fine views of the country around Penzance may be obtained; immediately beneath the dome, on the ground floor, is the Butcher’s market, which is spacious and well regulated: and above is a spacious chamber used as a corn market; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and market days; but on Thursday the chief market is held. The poultry and butter and fish markets are in Prince’s street. Cattle markets are held on the third Thursday in January, February, April, July, August, October and December.
In the market place is the upper portion of a round-headed cross, 5 feet high and about 2 feet wide, with this inscription: “Hic procumbunt corpora piorum.”
The principal trade consists in the importation of coals, timber, tallow, hemp, iron, corn, flour, bale goods and groceries, and the exports are tin, copper, fish, serpentine, granite and leather: the pilchard fishery is also carried on to a considerable extent in the adjoining villages of Mousehole and Newlyn, where the fish are cured and exported in shiploads, chiefly to Italy; large quantities of fruit, flowers, choice vegetables and the produce of the spring mackerel fishery are dispatched hence by rail, amounting in the course of a year to upwards of 10,000 tons of potatoes, about 11,000 tons of brocoli and 3,000 to 5,000 tons of mackerel and other fish:
The West Cornwall Infirmary, established in 1874, and the Dispensary, an older institution, dating from 1809, now form one establishment in St. Clare street: containing 12 beds, with an average of 90 in-patients and 1,256 out-patients: it is supported by voluntary contributions and is efficiently conducted.
The poor have £48 yearly, distributed in bread and money, by what is know as Dennis’s charity.
Sir Humphry Davy was born in this town in 1778, and died in 1829: a fine marble statue of the great philosopher, chemist, and author was erected in 1872, at a cost of above £600, in front of the Old Town hall, not far from the site of his birthplace, the sculptors being Messrs. Wills, of Euston road, London: the statue, which is 8 feet 8 inches high from the pedestal, is designed after Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait, painted for the Royal Society, and now at Burlington House, and represents Sir Humphry in the well-known costume of the portrait, with the right hand resting on a safety-lamp: the pedestal, about 10 feet high, is formed of the finest blue Lamorna granite.
Mounts Bay is a large expanse of sea bounded by Tol Pedn Penwith on the west, and the Lizard on the east, and is noted for its invariably mild and equable climate: the principal feature in the bay is St. Michael’s Mount, which will be found fully described under a separate heading [not included in this transcript]. There are numerous delightful walks around Penzance; and the locality is generally recommended as a place of residence for invalids suffering from pulmonary complaints.
The area of the township is 401 acres of land and 850 of water; rateable value, £36,641; the population of the borough in 1871 was 10,414; and in 1881, 11,684.
Official Establishments, Local Institutions &c.
POST, MONEY ORDER & TELEGRAPH OFFICE
Savings Bank & Government Annuity
& Insurance Office, 114 Market Jew street
Letters arrive from London at 8.20 a.m. 3.3, 6.40 & 9 p.m.; delivered at 9 a.m. & 7.15 p.m. The London mail is dispatched at 3.40 p.m. & 6.15 a.m.; the box closes at 9.20 & 11 a.m. Mail to Plymouth, Devonport & East Cornwall dispatched at 6.20 p.m.; box closes at 5.50 p.m. Mail from Plymouth, Devonport & West [East?] Cornwall arrives at 6.38 p.m. and is delivered at 7.15 p.m. The office is open for the transmission of telegraphic messages from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on week days, & from 7 to 10 a.m. & 5 to 6 p.m. on sundays
Pillar & Wall Boxes.
And at 3.45 p.m. at the Railway Station, with extra stamp, for places east of Grampound road.
Mayor—Councillor Richard Roberts