PENZANCE, a large market and corporation town, formerly called Burriton, is
situated on the sea-coast, in Mount's-bay, 283 miles from London, and eleven
from the Land's-end. A market at this town, to be held on Wednesdays, was
granted in 1332 to Alice De Lisle (fn. 1) , then lady of the manor of Alwarton, with a
fair for seven days at the festival of St. Peter ad vincula: this market was confirmed, in 1404, to Thomas Lord Berkeley, with three fairs of two days each; one
at the Conception, another at the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and a third at the
festival of St. Peter in cathedrâ. In later times there have been two markets,
formerly Tuesday and Thursday, since changed to Thursday and Saturday: these
markets are well supplied with provisions of all sorts: Thursday is a considerable
corn-market. The present fairs are, May 28, the Thursday after Trinity-Sunday,
and the Thursday before Advent-Sunday.
The town of Penzance was originally incorporated in 1614; the charter was
confirmed by King Charles II. The corporation consists of a mayor, eight aldermen,
twelve assistants, and a recorder.
Carew relates the particulars of this town having been set on fire by a small
party of Spaniards, who landed near Mousehole, on the 23d of July 1595, and
who, as Camden observes, were the only Spaniards that ever landed in this
kingdom as enemies. Sir Francis Godolphin, having summoned the county to his
assistance, attempted to save Penzance from the threatened danger; but his
followers being seized with a sudden panic, he was obliged to abandon it to its
fate. The Cornish men having rallied the next day in greater numbers and in
better heart, the Spaniards, who had already set fire to Newlyn and Mousehole, as
well as Penzance, quitted the coast without attempting any further hostilities.
Penzance is said to have been plundered by Sir Thomas Fairfax's army in 1646,
as a punishment for the kindness which the inhabitants had shown to Lord Goring's
and Lord Hopton's troops. (fn. 2)
Penzance is a large and populous town, much frequented in the winter by
invalids, on account of the mildness of the climate. The number of houses
in 1801 was 694, of inhabitants 3,382; in 1811, there were 784 houses, and
4,022 inhabitants. Here is a considerable pilchard-fishery, and a great exporttrade for tin, copper, and fish; the imports are coals, groceries, cloth, and
other articles of merchandize. Penzance was added as a fifth to the coinage
towns about the time of the Restoration; all the tin is now coined at this town
The chapel of St. Mary, at Penzance, existed before the year 1612; it was
enlarged in 1671, but not consecrated till 1680, when it was endowed with land,
now let at 20l. per annum, by John Tremenhere, Esq.: a cemetery was then
inclosed and consecrated, and the limits of the town were defined to be the limits
of the chapelry. It has since been twice augmented by Queen Anne's bounty.
Marriages have not been solemnized at this chapel since the marriage-act. Penzance is not deemed a separate parish, but has its own vestry, and maintains its
own poor. There was an ancient chapel at Penzance, dedicated to St. Anthony,
near the Quay, on the site of which is now a fish-cellar. The registers of
the see of Exeter mention chapels there, dedicated to St. Raphael and St.
Gabriel. (fn. 3)
There are meeting-houses at Penzance for the baptists, independents, quakers,
and methodists; and a Jews' synagogue.
One of Mr. Buller's schools, the endowment of which, having been in the
Long annuities, has ceased for some years, was in this town.