Seaport and resort in Cornwall, southwest England, on Mount's Bay 38 km/24 mi southwest of Truro; population (2001) 20,250. The most westerly town in England, it has a ferry link with the Scilly Isles. It is the centre of a market-gardening and agricultural area, and early fruit, flowers, and vegetables are produced. It now incorporates the seaport of Newlyn. It is known as the ‘Cornish Riviera’.
Features Penzance has a mild climate in which palm trees flourish, and subtropical plants are grown in Morrab Gardens. There is a museum of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, and Penlee Park includes an art gallery and museum containing a natural history collection and paintings by members of the Newlyn School. In front of the domed market house (1836) is a marble statue of Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner's safety lamp, who came from Penzance. The town overlooks St Michael's Mount in the bay.
Churches include St Mary's (1832); St Paul's (1843), built in 13th-century style; the Roman Catholic church (1847); and St John's (1881), built in the Early English style.
History In 1332 Edward III granted Penzance a weekly market and a fair of seven days. In 1512 Henry VIII gave Penzance a charter granting it ship dues on condition that the town maintained the quays in repair. Another grant of a market was received in 1592 from Elizabeth I. Penzance was burned by the Spanish in 1595 and was incorporated by James I in 1614. Formerly important in the tin trade, it developed with the growth of tourism from the early 19th century, and further expansion followed the arrival of the railway in the 1850s.
The occasional pirate raids that Penzance experienced during the 17th century, due to its location on a sheltered bay on England's southwest point, made it the location for Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance.