Located in one of the worlds’s most beautiful bays, Penzance is one of the friendliest towns in Cornwall. For a thriving market town, Penzance still manages to be true to its heritage, maintaining an “olde worlde” atmosphere. With its long promenade, lovely beach, delightful gardens and atmospheric harbour, Penzance is a desirable seaside location.
Notable buildings include the decorative “Egyptian House” in Chapel Street , the Old Market House built in 1837 and Penlee House, which houses the local art gallery and museum. On the promenade, the Art Deco Jubilee Pool is a splendid example of the popular 1930’s lidos. Open from June-September, the open-air sea-water pool offers superb views of Mounts Bay.
A day’s walk along the South West coast path from Pendeen to Sennen Cove passes through Cornwall’s oldest mining district which is now a World Heritage site.
For centuries, fishing has been one of the main industries in and around Penzance and nearby Newlyn is Cornwall’s busiest fishing port. On the last Monday in August, the Newlyn Fish Festival attracts thousands to enjoy a host of entertainment and tasty seafood.
The Penlee Lifeboat operates from Newlyn Harbour and is an integral part of the marine search and rescue facilities covering the Mounts Bay and Lands End area.
The Newlyn Art Gallery showcases some of the top names in contemporary art, while the Penlee House Museum in Penzance has a regular changing exhibitions from the famous Newlyn School of Art.
Mousehole (pronounced “Mouzel”) is another small fishing village, rising above its granite-walled harbour, with its narrow streets and fisherman’s cottages dotted with craft and gift shops.
From Penzance, frequent public bus services travel to all major points of interest, including Lands End, Porthcurno and the Minack Theatre, Mousehole, Marazion and St Michaels Mount, while there are both bus and train services to St Ives. Penzance also has excellent transport links to the famous sub-tropical Isles of Scilly, which lie 28 miles to the west of Lands End.
Penzance gets its name from the Headland. It is a corruption of the old Cornish word “Pensans” wich, in the ancient Cornish language, means “Holy Headland”, referring to the headland to the western side of the harbour on which a chapel was established by early Christians welll over 1000 years ago. Today, St Mary’s Church is located on the same site.
The stunning harbour was primarily responsible for the establishing of the town, as it is the first sheltered harbour reached from the Atlantic. Indeed, news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar was brought by returning fishermen and announced in a hotel in Chapel Street, before it had even reached London .
One of Penzance’s most famous citizens was Humphry Davy, best known for the invention of the miners’ safety lamp but also responsible for discovering the anaesthetic effects of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”. Born and raised in Penzance, a statue commemorating him stands at the top of Market Jew Street.
In 1663, Penzance was chosen as a Stannary town for the tin trade. By 1700, the town had developed a significant foreign trade in addition to its fishing and boatbuilding. The harbour was improved several times during the 18th century to accommodate this.
In Penzance, smuggling was more openly practiced than in any other Cornish town. In 1740, a Smuggling Prevention Officer was sent to Penzance – he found that the local collector and his staff (based at the harbour) were so heavily involved in smuggling themselves that they were instantly dismissed; even the local mayor in 1769 was bound over for smuggling.
Around Penzance, dramatic disused tin mines, ancient stone circles and wells, and the many myths and legends, add to Cornwall’s romantic past.