To get a potted history of Penzance take a look at the timeline below:
300 BC Lescudjack Hill Fort (c300BC) is the oldest man-made structure in Penzance. The site was bought for the public in 2004.
400 prehistoric hand-axes of green elvan from Gear Rock off Penzance have been found all over Britain, showing much early trade.
1007 AD Penzance Cross now in Penlee Gardens shows the name Recgisi, believed to be a senior churchman connected to Penzance’s mother church, Madron.
1070 The Norman Conquest. Around 1070 William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert of Mortain, Earl of Cornwall, took possession of the large Manor of Alverton.
1230 Richard, Earl of Cornwall gave the Manor of Alverton to le Tyes family, who were of German origin.
1233 The Turks Head pub is reputed to date from this date.
1284 The name ‘Pensans’ was first found in 1284 and different forms include Pensant (1368), Pensauns (1482), Pensance (1555) and Pensanse (1620).
Penzance’s first chapel, formerly in Barbican Lane, was dedicated to St Anthony, patron of fishermen. A mediaeval stone arch is preserved in St Anthony Gardens.
1322 – Edward III grants the Manor of Alverton under its owner Alice de l’Isle a weekly Wednesday market and annual week-long fair.
1425 International Pilgrim Route: In 1425, 1432 and 1440 ships in Penzance were licenced to carry pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.
1512 – Penzance receives a charter from King Henry VIII, granting the profits from all ships visiting the Harbour.
1595 – 400 Spaniards landed and burnt Mousehole, Newlyn and Paul parish church under Capt. Carlos de Amezola. Penzance was evacuated and then torched. Sir Francis Godolphin rallied 200 men outside Penzance although the Spaniards left voluntarily.
1600 Penzance re-built itself and began an unauthorised Saturday market prompting a writ from the Corporation of Marazion.
1614 – Borough Status granted to Penzance by James I giving important rights to the town and freeing it of taxation and regulations formerly levied by the Manor of Alverton.
1614 – The original Coat of Arms showing the severed head of St John the Baptist was first used.
1648 – Two years after the Civil War, Penzance is attacked and plundered by Parliamentary soldiers who massacre 70 inhabitants.
1663– Penzance is created a Stannary Town by Royal Charter to become the chief tin-trading town west of Truro. The Coinage Hall is built in the Market Place.
17th and 18th centuries ‘Barbary Corsairs’ from Algeria known as Turkish Pirates take hundreds of people into slavery from the area.
1743-87 John Wesley visited frequently, changing his view from ‘Penzance, where Satan keeps his seat” to “it is now a pleasure to be here”.
1768 – The Jews’ Old Synagogue was built in Penzance.
17th, 18th and 19th centuries – The great houses to the north of Penzance were built largely through mining wealth.
1778 – Humphry Davy, inventor of the miners’ lamp was born in Market Jew Street. A President of the Royal Society, he became one of Britain’s leading scientists.
1778 – Thomas Curtis, a poor miner spent three summers constructing the offshore Wherry Tin Mine. The mine had some very rich lodes.
1783 Birth of Maria Bramwell, mother of Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Bramwell Bronte. She was from an established Penzance family from Chapel Street.
1795 -The first of several banks established which saw Penzance become a centre for banking as a result of mining business.
1803 – The first Lifeboat in Cornwall was installed at Penzance.
1805 – Mayor Thomas Giddy announced the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death in the Union Hotel.
1814 Penzance’s Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, the second oldest in the world was founded by royal charter.
1816 a new Coinage Hall, in Coinage Hall Street by the harbour is built. This ceased in 1838 and was taken down in 1906.
1818 — Penzance Library was established and later relocated to Morrab Gardens in 1889.
1900s By the early 19th century consulates in Penzance included Danish, Dutch, French, Hanovarian, Norwegian, Oldenburgh, Ottoman, Portuguese, Prussia, Spanish and Swedish.
1836 – 1838 – The Old Market House taken down and the new Market House built.
1851 – Mary Kelynack, a fishwife aged 84, walked to London carrying her fish cowl to see the Great Exhibition and Queen V
1852 – West Cornwall Railway opened from Penzance to Truro and by 1866 London Paddington was linked to Penzance.
1854 – The Newlyn Lugger the “Mystery” sailed to Australia with seven local men onboard.
1867 St John’s Hall, which includes the world’s largest granite slab at the top of the main flight of steps, is built.
1872 – Humphry Davy’s statue goes up.
1883 – At the International Fisheries Exhibition in London the Mounts Bay fleet was considered to be the finest in the world
1890’s Penzance Borough bans (due to insurance costs) the ancient Midsummer Golowan festival with its fireworks, tar barrels and dances.
1896 – Newlyn Riots. Local fishermen fiercely opposed Lowestoft fishermen for fishing on the Sabbath.
1914 – Penzance Harbour resumed the role taken in the Napoleonic period and a naval base was established.
1920 – Demonstration by a thousand St. Just miners and clay workers in Penzance protesting against the high price of butter.
1934 The Air Service between London and Penzance by Provincial Airways began
1935 Penzance Jubilee Bathing Pool opened, built at a cost of £15,000.
1940/42– 867 bombs dropped in the Penzance area with 16 people killed and 116 injured. 48 houses were completely destroyed and 4,000 damaged.
1962 – The ‘Great Ash Wednesday Gale’ devastated the seafront from Jubilee Pool to Tolcarne. 300 people were made homeless.
1964 Penzance Heliport opened (closed 2012), linking Penzance to Scilly as the world’s first scheduled helicopter passenger service.
1970s – Queen, The Stranglers, Talking Heads, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Elvis Costello, Status Quo, etc all performed at the Penzance Winter Gardens.
1974 – Penzance Borough Council is dissolved, its powers passing to Penzance Town Council and Penwith District Council
1991 Golowan Festival was revived. In Golowan 2011, 8,734 people dressed as pirates to break the world record.
2004– The St Piran’s Festival which features 600 children dancing though Penzance every March 5th was inaugurated.
2004 – 2011Penzance saw a fiercely contested battle over the Route Partnership’s proposed developments to Penzance Harbour.
2012 – Penzance’s Helen Glover and her rowing partner win the UK’s first Olympic gold medal gaining the first gold postbox for Penzance.