Snap Facts

A general collection of short facts about the history of Penzance and the characters who lived and worked there.
Snap Facts Penzance

Did you know that it was tradition to fly a red flag on a building site to signify that the roofs were raftered and the chimneys high. At that stage of the building, builders could draw their second amount of cash and often a barrel would be breached in celebration. This was a completely English tradition. The last red flag to be flown locally was in September 1948 at Trelawney Estate Madron.

Did you know that in 1802 Humphry Davy was the first in the world to create light through passing electricity through a strip of Platinum…? Yes, Davy was the god father of the electric light.

You may already know that the railway came to Penzance in 1852, but did you know that in 1879 the entire railway station was moved eastwards several hundred yards to its present location. 

In 1878 plans for a new road for Penzance were being discussed. At £750,000 in today’s money, but the sticky point wasn’t so much of the cost, but that the road would be straight. At least one councillor objected until it was agreed a curve or bend could be added to the plans.

Today that road is called Morrab Road. 

Did you know that Penzance had its own prison. It was described as one of the most notorious and run by the manor of Conorton. The prison was near the top of Chapel Street.

In Penzance shoemakers were so numerous that they had a special benefit society, called ' The Shoemakers' Club In 1839 there were 30 to 40 stalls in the market, and some would hold over two hundred pairs of boots and shoes.

It wasn’t until 1878 that the Penzance Town Council even considered the need for Penzance to have a public park.

On July 12th 1883 the Penzance branch of the Salvation Army, under the control of Captain Lieutenant Lazaros took part in an illegal march. When confronted by three police officers the Salvation Army encircled them and set about beating them. Later summons were issued against the soldiers, but the police were told that other soldiers would flood the town.

Naturally the police took up reinforcements.

In 1864 The Post office in Chapel Street was closed to make way for the new larger one at the Market House. Also that same year railings were placed along Market Jew Street Terrace for the first time.

In May 1912 Penzance was illuminated for the very first time by electric street lamps.

In July 1908 A homing pigeon got stuck in a chimney for 4 days without food or water. All attempts to rescue it failed. It was decided to light the fire and suffocate the bird and put it out of its misery. Later it was removed from the chimney by net. However, the bird suddenly sprang to life once outdoors and flew away. Its ring number was 19-8-3

In 1578, the plague hit Penzance killing around 10% of the population.

The Dolphin Inn, Penzance is thought to be the first place in Britain where tobacco was smoked. The inn accommodated Sir John Hawkins who first brought tobacco to England in 1564.

Did you know the Bath Inn Cornwall Terrace, Penzance got its name after the indoor baths and swimming pool on the promenade Penzance that opened in 1810

In June 1869 The Exhibition of Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association was held at Penzance.

15 October 1924 saw the very first motor car on the Isle of Scilly. In 2014 Cornwall had 4 million registered vehicles

according to the National Statistics from the Department of Transport

1933 July to Oct saw Britain's longest drought on record. Penzance, however enjoyed a continuous supply of water, which was not turned off during the period.

In November 1926 The Winter Garden opened on the Promenade.

In 1935 Penzance Council decided to erect Belisha Beacons (flashing orange lights next to zebra crossings) in Penzance at a cost of £300. That's £20k in today's money!

1916 Oct. An ancient Bronze cannon believed to be from the Armada, found at Low Lee, presented to the town, and placed in front of the Public Library in Morrab Road.

The Cannon was valued about £120,000 but disappeared in the 90s

Nov 11 1894 Great Flood in West Cornwall. 2.33 inches of rain fell at Penzance in 24 hours 52,778 gallons per acre.

In 1851 Mary Kelynack, an old Newlyn fishwife, walked from Penzance to London with her fish cowl on her back to see Queen Victoria who accepted ½-lb. of Tea from her as a present from Penzance.

That's 5 days solid walking!

During World War I in Aug 1914 80 German prisoners of war were brought to Penzance and kept prisoner at Chy-an-dour Barracks for the duration of the war.

Between 1940–42 867 bombs dropped in the Penzance area, killing 16 persons and injuring 115 others; 48 houses completely destroyed, 157 seriously damaged, and 3,752 damaged.

In 1908 there was a global butter famine that pushed the price of butter up. Penzance suffered badly and the price of best butter shot up to 1s 7d... In today's money that's a whopping £8.51 ld

Sir Humphry Davy monument was erected in 1872, at a cost of about £600, that would be £64200 in today's money.

Many years ago the most popular street in Penzance was a street called Our Lady Street... Today it is better known as Chapel Street.

October 1880 Lloyds Bank clock faces illuminated for the first time and by modern means of electricity!

  • Published
    Feb 16, 2016
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