West Cornwall's capital town


Penzance Town Council


Penzance is located to the western side of mounts bay, which runs from the Lizard (the most southerly point of mainland Britain) to Land's End, just ten miles away. It is well known for being the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is right on the A30 main road. It had a population of 21,382 in the 2011 census.

With its sub-tropical gardens, busy working port, fishing industry, superb promenade and charming shopping streets, Penzance has enormous appeal. Easy reached by road and rail and with air and ferry links to the Isles of Scilly, Penzance is the ideal centre for touring the area. The A30 from London to Land's End is a trunk road as far as the Chy-an-Mor roundabout, a mile to the east of Penzance.

For hundreds of years Penzance has been the trading centre for West Cornwall, with a rich variety of shops and services plus strong links with communities in the area.

Penzance received its market charter in 1332 from King Edward III. The town received Royal Charters for its harbour in 1512 by King Henry VIII, for markets and fairs in 1592 and was formally incorporated by Royal Charter in 1614 by King James I.

In 1595 reports came in that the Spanish were landing at Newlyn and Mousehole which were soon followed by attacks on Penzance itself. They were eventually repelled by a small group of determined Cornish-men under the command of Sir Francis Godolphin, but not before they had burned down most of the town.

In 1646 during the Civil War, Penzance was ransacked by the Parliamentarian forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax apparently for the kindness shown to Lord Goring and Lord Hopton's troops during the conflict.

In 1663, Charles II made Penzance a new coinage town for the tin mining industry, removing this privilege from Bodmin and Lostwithiel at the same time and thus marking the westward movement of mining activity.

As the population increased many new streets were built including North Parade in 1826. (South Parade was built earlier, in 1790). Clarence Street was built in 1827. Victoria Place followed in 1829. Adelaide Street was built in 1835 and Regent Square in 1839. In 1809 a dispensary opened in Penzance where the poor could obtain free medicines. In 1830 Penzance gained gas street lighting. Also in 1830 Penzance gained a piped water supply. At first it was supplied by a private company but the corporation took it over in 1852. Also in the 1850's a network of sewers was created. Penzance gained its first newspaper in 1839. The dry dock on the wharf opened in 1834.

In the 19th century amenities in Penzance improved rapidly. The first cemetery in Penzance opened in 1856. A modern fire brigade was formed in 1860 and an infirmary opened in Penzance in 1873. Morrab Gardens opened in 1889 and Princess Mary Recreation Ground opened in 1893.

The town has many historic buildings to loiter over, particularly the picturesque Chapel Street, with its antique shops and the gleaming colours of the National Trust owned Egyptian House built in 1830. A plaque at No. 25 marks the home of the mother of the Bronte sisters, Maria Branwell who was born here in 1783. The street leads down to the sea and memories of pirates and bygone centuries still linger with the Admiral Benbow, the old Turk's Head pub and the rich display of the lighthouse museum. The Union Hotel, once the most important hotel in town housing a theatre, and the assembly rooms where it is believed the news of the Battle of Trafalgar was first announced in 1805.

The Albert Pier was built in 1847. In 1853 the old pier was extended and in 1855 a lighthouse was built on the end. Wharf Road was built in 1866. Ross Bridge was built in 1881 to connect the piers to the railway station. A floating dock was built in 1884. Penzance, with its dry dock and engineering facilities, was chosen as the western depot for 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 Lighthouse Museum until 2005 when Trinity House closed the museum. The 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. 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.

In the 20th century Penzance continued to develop as a resort. Alexandra Grounds opened in 1903. In 1912 Penzance gained electric street lights. Also in 1912 Penzance gained its first cinema. A war memorial was erected in Penzance in 1922. The Winter Gardens opened in 1926. St. Anthony Gardens opened in 1933. After 1945 many more council houses were built in Penzance including the estate at Alverton.

There are charming Regency squares and terraces as well as charming Victorian buildings including the Market House and St. John's Hall, which houses the Cornwall Geological Museum. Penzance boasts the only promenade in Cornwall and was built in 1844. The Jubilee Open Air Bathing Pool built in 1935 is to be found at the eastern end of the promenade. The Pool and the promenade was much damaged during the storms in February 2014. The Jubilee Pool was repaired during 2015 and then re-opened in May 2016.

The church of St. Mary was built to the design of Charles Hutchins of St. Buryan in 1836.

Due to its latitude, Penzance offers a warmer climate than the rest of Britain. Palm trees and sub-tropical plants are not uncommon in the many gardens and hotels. Look behind the high street signs and you will still find a town with an exciting and unique character. Many unusual shops are hidden in backstreet's and arcades, with items that are often hard to find anywhere else. Wharfside Shopping Centre opened in 1999.

Davy Statue

Penzance is the terminus of the main railway line, opened in 1852, which runs from London Paddington via Plymouth, with regular services. The ability of the railway to carry fresh produce to distant markets such as Bristol, London and Manchester enabled local farmers and fishermen to sell more produce and at better prices.

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 run by British International, but this ended on 1st November 2012 due to rising costs and falling passenger numbers.

Along the seafront is the National Coastwatch Institution lookout, giving amazing views across the bay.

The town's Tourist Information Centre is at Station Road, TR18 2NF.

The local leisure centre is at St. Clare, TR18 3QW.


Penzance Town Trail is an interesting tour around the towns landmarks and parks covering about two miles.

Another attractive walk is along the promenade to Newlyn, a distance of about three miles.

Notable Residents

Colonel Edward Thomas Bolitho, OBE (1955-) from Penzance, is a former British Army officer, who serves as Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall since 2011.

William Copeland Borlase FSA, (1848-1899), An antiquarian and Liberal politician from Penzance who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 until 1887 when he was ruined by bankruptcy and scandal.

Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet, FRS, MRIA, FGS, (1778-1829), born in Penzance and of inventor of the miners safety lamp, whose statue was erected outside Market House in 1872.

Adrian Stephens (1795-1876), born in Penzance and inventor of the steam whistle.

Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), was a Cornish fisherman and artist from Penzance.

Maria Branwell (1783-1821), from Penzance was the mother of three famous novelists – Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), Emily Brontë (1818-1898) and Anne Brontë (1820-1849).

John Coulson Tregarthen FZS (1854–1933), from Penzance was a British field naturalist and author, described as "the best loved Cornishman of his time".

Clifton James "Jack" Richards (1958-), from Penzance is an English former first-class cricketer, who played for England from 1981 to 1988.

John Davy MD FRS FRSE (1790–1868), was a Cornish doctor from Penzance, amateur chemist, and brother of the noted chemist Sir Humphry Davy.

William Colenso FRS (1811–1899), was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Richard Edmonds (1801-1886), was a notable British scientific writer of the Victorian period born in Penzance.

Helen Glover MBE, (1986-) Olympic Gold medal winner in rowing, born in Truro and now lives in Penzance.

William Noye (1814–1872) was born at Paul near Penzance, and died in Australia. He was an amateur entomologist and his paper on insects found in the Land's End district was the first published account of the Cornish Lepidoptera.

Caroline Jackson (1946-), MEP.

Stanley Patrick Johnson (1940-), is an author and former Conservative Party politician who served as Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Michael Loam (1797-1871), Inventor of the man engine from Ludgvan near Penzance.

William Henry Penhaligon (1837–1902), was a Cornish barber and perfumer, the founder of the British perfume house Penhaligon's, and Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria.

Clifton James Richards (1958-), is an English former first-class cricketer.

Sweet Saraya (1971-), Professional wrestler and promoter born in Penzance.

Ethelwynn Trewavas (1900–1993), was an ichthyologist at the British Museum of Natural History.

George Marsden Waterhouse (1824–1906), was a politician and Premier of South Australia.

Art Galleries

Art Galleries in Penzance


Potteries in Penzance


Cornish Language Festival - End February.

West Cornwall Spring Show - March.

Golowan Festival - End June.

Penzance Literary Festival - July.

Penzance Christmas Lights Switch-On - End November.

Montol Festival - December.

Humphry Davy Lantern Parade - December.


Cafes in Penzance


Pubs in Penzance

Hayle       Marazion       Newlyn       St. Buryan       St. Erth       St. Michael's Mount       Polgoon Vineyard       Morrab Gardens

National Lighthouse Museum       Sir Humphry Davy       Trengwainton Garden       Trewidden Garden       Tanglewood Wild Garden

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens       Chysauster Ancient Village       Penlee House Art Gallery & Museum       Penzance Lighthouse

Cornwall's Ferrys       The Coastal Footpath       Penzance Youth Hostel       The Scillonian       Jubilee Bathing Pool