Penzance, Cornwall

Historical Description

Penzance, a market-town and a municipal borough in Cornwall. The town was formerly a chapelry of Madron parish, but is now divided into the three separate parishes of St Mary, St Paul, and St John. St Paul's parish is SW of Madron. The town stands at the head of Mounts Bay, and has a station on the G.W.R., 320 miles from London, 10 NE of Land's End, and 26 SW of Truro. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. Population of the municipal borough, 12,432. Acreage of the civil parish, 337; population, 12,383; of the ecclesiastical parish of St John the Baptist, 4668; of St Mary, 6461; and of St Paul, 1311. Penzance derives its name, signifying " holy headland," from a chapel of St Anthony which stood on a point adjoining the pier; is conjectured to have had a castle on a site above the Barbican, near the quay; was burnt by the Spaniards in 1595, and plundered by Fairfax in 1646; was a coinage-town from the time of Charles II. till 1838, when the tin dues were abolished. It was The birthplace of Davies Gilbert and Sir Humphry Davy. It received a charter of incorporation from James I. of date 1614, and it is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. It is a quarter sessions borough, has a coastguard station, and port; enjoys a charming climate, delightful environs, and good bathing appliances; attracts large numbers of strangers, both as summer residents and as visitors of hundreds of rich scenes and interesting antiquities for miles all around it. It presents, both in itself and in combination with Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount, a very picturesque appearance. The town consists chiefly of several well-built streets, meeting in a market-place, and has been greatly improved in recent years. There are two esplanades-one of them the best in the W of England, 23 feet above the railway, overlooking all Mounts Bay, and which has been lengthened 300 feet and otherwise unproved. There is a head post office, four banks, several good hotels, a town-hall and corn market, an ancient market-cross, public hall, police station, custom-house, pier, assembly and billiard rooms, public baths, and a good swimming bath. There are three churches and several dissenting chapels, Penzance Library, established in 1818, containing over 20,000 volumes, a free library opened in 1893, a literary institute, a geological society and museum, a natural history society and museum, a science and mining school, a school of art, a free school, almshouses, and charities.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient County Cornwall
Civil parish Madron
Hundred Penwith
Poor Law union Penzance

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Penzance from the following:


Online maps of Penzance are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtTR18
Post TownPenzance