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Penzance in 1840

PENZANCE, a corporate town in the parish of Madron, in the hundred of Penwith, in the county of Cornwall, 286 miles from the Post-office, London, by the south western
railroad to Basingstoke, and from thence, by road, through Andover, Salisbury. Dorchester, Exeter, and Launceston. It is the most westerly town in England.

Penzance received a charter for a market and a fair in 1332, and was incorporated by charter of James I in 1615. It was burnt by the Spaniards, who landed at Mousehole, a short distance south of the town, in 1595, and was plundered in 1646 by the parliamentary troops under Fairfax, on account of the predilection shown by the townsmen for the royalist cause.

The town is situated on the north-western shore of Mount’s Bay, and consists of several streets converging to the market-place, and of some smaller streets or lanes connecting them. The town has much increased of late years, and many of the houses are of modern erection, neat, and commodious. The number of inhabited houses in 1831 was 1,264, of uninhabited 90, and 40 building.

At the time of the Report of the Commissioners of Municipal Corporation Boundaries, more than 1,500 houses were assessed to the poor-rate. The shops are numerous and good ; the best are in the market-place.

There is an Episcopal chapel, with a small endowment ; several dissenting places of worship, and a Jew’s synagogue. The population has doubled during the present century ; in 1831 it was 6,563. and may be now probably estimated at from 7,000 to 7,500.

The trade consists in the export of tin, copper, earthenware, clay, potatoes, bacon, pilchards and other fish ; and in the import of timber, iron, hemp, tallow, &c. A large proportion of the tin produced in Cornwall is shipped at Penzance. The pilchards are brought in by the fishermen of Mousehole and other places on the shore of Mount’s Bay.

The are a quay and pier near the southern end of the town, the dues from which bring in a yearly revenue of £1,600 to the corporation. There are two weekly markets, one of them a considerable corn-market, and three yearly fairs. Some woollen yarn and coarse woollen cloth are manufactured.

The climate of Penzance is very mild, and the place is occasionally visited on that account by invalids suffering from pulmonary complaints.

The council, under the Municipal Reform Act, consists of 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. The borough boundary forms a semicircle round the town, having the market-place for its centre, and a radius of half a mile. The Boundary Commissioners recommend an extension of the limits. The borough is divided into two wards.

The borough has a commission of the peace. A Court of Record for the hundred of Penwith is held here every fortnight for personal actions not exceeding 50 shillings, Quarter-sessions are held, and petty sessions every week. There is a small gaol, having two wards, one for men and one for women, each comprehending a yard and several cells, with a small treadwheel in a separate yard ; but there is neither chapel, infirmary, nor bath.

The annual value of the chapelry of Penzance is £156 ; it was, before the Municipal Reform Act, in the gift of the corporation.

There were in the chapelry, in 1833, an infant-school, with 26 boys and 17 girls ; an endowed grammar-school, with 16 boys ; a school of industry, with 75 girls ; two charity-schools, with 124 boys and 57 girls ; a Jews' school, with 10 children ; and thirty-eight other day-schools, with 1,014 children of both sexes ; and five Sunday-schools, with 504 children.

The church, which was rebuilt a few years ago, and the new town-hall, both constructed of hewn granite, are great ornaments to the place. The latter building is surmounted by a handsome cupola, and its eastern front, consisting of a pediment supported by four noble columns, is a striking object. The taste of the inhabitants for scientific and literary pursuits is shown by their possessing a good public library, a Society of Natural History, and an Horticultural Society. This place is also the seat of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, whose museum contains one of the best collections of minerals in England.