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PENZANCE, a municipal borough, market town and seaport in the St Ives parliamentary division of Cornwall, England, the terminus of the Great Western railway, 3251 m. W.S.W. of London. Pop. (1901), 13,136. It is finely situated on the western shore of Mount's Bay, opposite St Michael's Mount, being the westernmost port in England. The site of the old town slopes sharply upward from the harbour, to the west of which there extends an esplanade and modern residential quarter; for Penzance, with its mild climate, is in considerable favour as a health resort. The town has no buildings of great antiquity, but the public buildings (1867), in Italian style, are handsome. By the market house is a statue of Sir Humphry Davy, who was born here in 1778. Among institutions there are a specially fine public library, museums of geology and natural history and antiquities, mining and science schools, the West Cornwall Infirmary and a meteorological station. The harbour, enclosed within a breakwater, has an area of 24 acres, with 12 to 16 ft. depth of water, and floating and graving docks. There is a large export trade in fish, including that of pilchards to Italy. Other exports are tin and copper, granite, serpentine, vegetables and china clay. Imports are principally coal, iron and timber. Great quantities of early potatoes and vegetables, together with flowers and fish, are sent to London and elsewhere. The borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 355 acres.
Nearly two miles inland to the north-west is Madron (an urban district with a population of 3486). The church of St Maddern is principally Perpendicular, with earlier portions and a Norman front. Near the village a "wishing well" of ancient fame is seen, and close to it the ruins of a baptistery of extreme antiquity. Monoliths and cromlechs are not uncommon in the neighbourhood. Three miles north-east is the urban district of Ludgvan (pop. 2274), and to the south is Paul (6332), which includes the village of Newlyn.
Penzance (Pensans) was not recognized as a port until the days of the Tudors, but its importance as a fishing village dates from the 14th century. In 1327 thirty burgesses in Penzance and thirteen boats paying 13s. yearly are found among the possessions of the lords of Alverton, of which manor it formed a portion of the demesne lands. The year 1512 marks the beginning of a new era. Until then St Michael's Mount had been regarded as the port of Mounts Bay; but in that year Henry VIII. granted the tenants of Penzance whatever profits might accrue from the "ankerage, kylage and busselage" of ships resorting thither, so long as they should repair and maintain the quay and bulwarks for the safeguard of the ships and town. Nevertheless thirty years later it is described by Leland as the westernmost market town in Cornwall "with no socur for Botes or shippes but a forsed Pere or Key." During the war with Spain the town was devastated in 1595. The charter of incorporation granted in 1614 states that by the invasion of the Spaniards it had been treacherously spoiled and burnt but that its strength, prosperity and usefulness for navigation, and the acceptable and laudable services of the inhabitants in rebuilding and fortifying it, and their enterprise in erecting a pier, have moved the king to grant the petition for its incorporation. This charter provides for a mayor, eight aldermen and twelve assistants to constitute the common council, the mayor to be chosen by the council from the aldermen, the aldermen to be chosen from the assistants, and the assistants from the most sufficient and discreet of the inhabitants. It also ratified Henry's grant of anchorage, keelage and busselage. In 1663 Ienzance was constituted a coinage town for tin. It has never enjoyed independent parliamentary representation. In 1332 a market on Wednesdays and a fair at the Feast of St Peter ad Vincula were granted to Alice de Lisle and in 1405 this market was ratified and three additional fairs added, viz. at the feasts of St Peter in Cathedra and the Conception and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. The charter of 1614 substituted markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the Wednesday market and added two fairs one at Corpus Christi and the other on the Thursday before St Andrew. Of the fairs only Corpus Christi remains; markets are now held on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Apart from fishing and shipping, Penzance has never been an industrial centre.
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