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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Cornwall Part 3

Originally published on Blogspot by Gethin Thomas October 30th 2021


Penzance is a town, and port in the Penwith district of Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is about 255 miles (410 km) west-southwest of London.

Situated in the shelter of Mount's Bay, the town faces south-east onto the English Channel, It was granted various royal charters from 1512 onwards and incorporated on 9 May 1614.

It has many interesting buildings the most unusual of which is The Egyptian House.

The Egyptian House is a grade I listed building. It is built in the style of Egyptian Revival architecture and has been in the ownership of the Landmark Trust since the 1970s. The current building dates from 1835–36.

In his Guide to Penzance, published in 1845, J S Courtney describes the building as ".... the astonishing gaudy and eccentric Egyptian House recently built by John Lavin, mineralogist and Egyptologist".

Mineral collectors visited the building to see and purchase from Mr Lavin's collection. His son, Edwin Lavin, in about 1865, sold the collection for £3000 to Baroness Burdett Coutts who donated it to the University Museum, Oxford.

In 1878 and 1879, the property is described as ″The Library″ in weekly advertisements in The Cornishman newspaper, and states that Mrs Daves stocks ″a large and complete stock of berlin and other wools, stationery, useful and ornamental articles″. (Wikipedia)

The building was later neglected and was repainted "brightly but inexpertly" by Norman Shipton in 1960.

In 1973, it was acquired by the Landmark Trust and scaffolding, which had been erected for several years, was removed to reveal a refurbished building and a new exterior colour scheme of brown and creams.

The architect Paul Pearn of Plymouth concluded that these were the original colours after stripping layers of paint from the elaborate mouldings which were mainly of coade stone. The building continues to be managed by the Landmark Trust, with two shops on the ground floor and holiday accommodation on the upper floors. (Wikipedia)


The Union Hotel was standing in Elizabethan times and is thought to have been the original Manor House of Penzance. It witnessed both the Spanish Armada and the attack on the town by the Spanish on July 24th 1595 when it was set on fire. To this day the walls of the Nelson Bar remain smoke-blackened.

Penzance's former main street Chapel Street has a number of interesting features, including the Egyptian House, the Union Hotel (including a Georgian theatre which is no longer in use) and Branwell House, where the mother and aunt of the famous Brontë sisters once lived. Regency, and Georgian terraces and houses are common in some parts of the town. (Wikipedia)

As if to prove the point here is Regent Square a very rare example of a perfect Regency Square of 21 houses all of them Grade 2 listed by Historic England.

A complete square of small circa 1840 Regency style houses. Each 2 storeys, 3 windows, some 1st floor centre blind. Stucco. Some recessed some relief architraves, semi-circular headed architraves on ground floor. Scribed pilasters. String course. Open porches, slender Tuscan columns and entablatures with flat cornices. Slate roofs with wide eaves soffits. Sash windows. Nos 1 to 21 (consecutive) form a group.

The Regency era in Britain was a period towards the end of the Georgian era, when King George III was deemed unfit to rule due to his illness and his son ruled as his proxy, as Prince Regent. Upon George III's death in 1820, the Prince Regent became King George IV.

Competing for the title of the most colourful building on the Street is the Admiral Benbow pub. Named after the 17th century Admiral John Benbow the pub is also famed for being in the opening scene of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The first thing you'll probably notice is the statue of a smuggler lying astride the roof, musket in hand.

The inn was converted from cottages which explains the low ceilings and small paned windows. Inside there is a nautical feel with loads of interesting artefacts from dives such as cannons and bits of ships.

The next building of any great interest on Chapel Street is the Turks Head, reputedly the oldest pub in the town. In the 1820s the pub was run by a Mr. Holloway. He was the father of Thomas Holloway who went on to become an incredibly rich pill and ointment maker, In fact when he died he left £700,000 to build the Holloway College in Surrey which I presume is now part of the Royal Holloway and Bedford. (

My favourite currency converter says that today that is over £56 million or $77 million. Back then it would have bought 3.5 million days labour from a skilled tradesman. Exhausting.

Today's Royal Holloway College is formed from two colleges, founded by two social pioneers, Elizabeth Jesser Reid and Thomas Holloway. They were among the first places in Britain where women could access higher education.

Bedford College, in London, opened its doors in 1849, and Royal Holloway College's stunning Founder's Building was unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1886 – it’s still the focal point of the campus. (

The pub itself is steeped in history and is reputed to date from 1233 when during the crusades, the Turks invaded Penzance from Jerusalem.

Frequented by Pirates and Smugglers seven hundred and fifty years ago, the underground tunnel which secretly led them and their bounty from Penzance Harbour can still be seen from the pub’s courtyard today. (

The Navy Inn dates back to the late 19th Century and it is thought to have originally been 3 cottages, which have a number of character features indicative of this era, most notably wooden floors, exposed ceiling beams, some exposed walls and multi-pane windows.

It also serves some excellent seafood.

Almost everything in Penzance is built of granite.

This side alley off Chapel Street caught my eye. The original granite cobbles and cart tracks are still surviving.

The Jubilee Bathing Pool opened in 1935. It is the UK's largest Art Deco Sea Water Lido and Geothermically Heated Pool.


As with other coastal lidos across the country, Jubilee Pool is designed as a seawater pool with no mechanical filtration and minimal chemical treatment.

The quality of the water is carefully maintained with a regime of daily water replacement that is timed with the outgoing and incoming tides; and the water in the learner pool is normally replaced daily when a small amount of chlorine is added. This approach means that the water levels in the main pool are continuously changing and access to some areas may occasionally be restricted.

This programme is also supported by a regular drain down (over 5 million litres of water). Cleaning and refilling is usually completed during fortnightly higher tides, weather and sea conditions permitting. The quality of the pool water is scientifically tested to ensure we meet the required standards.


The geothermal pool is heated to 30-35 degrees C via a 410m deep geothermal well.

Documentary evidence indicates that by the early 14th Century the harbour was already supporting a small fishing fleet and there was certainly a pier in existence before 1512 because Henry VIII issued a charter which refers to the “kaye and bulwarks” as already existing.

On the national stage the South Pier at Penzance is reputed to be the site of at least three notable events. The first is the claim to be the first place in England that tobacco was smoked (by Walter Raleigh), the second as the site of the last invasion of England (by the Spanish) in 1595 and the third where news of Nelson’s victory and death at Trafalgar was first received. (

Interestingly that fact specifies England because the last attempted invasion of Britain was in Wales.

The Battle of Fishguard was a military invasion of Great Britain by Revolutionary France during the War of the First Coalition. The brief campaign, on 22–24 February 1797, is the most recent landing on British soil by a hostile foreign force, and thus is often referred to as the "last invasion of mainland Britain".

A legendary heroine, Jemima Nicholas, is reported to have tricked the French invaders into surrender by telling local women to dress in the cloaks and high black steeple-crowned hats of soldiers. The British commander marshalled them into an approximation of military formation and they marched up and down hill till dusk, making the French commander think his soldiers were outnumbered. Nicholas is also said to have single-handedly captured twelve French soldiers and escorted them to town where she locked them inside St. Mary's church.

From the harbour mouth it is possible to get one of the best views of St. Michael's Mount.

More Art Deco.

Another side alley, this time what caught my eye was the scaffolding on a building in the distance which only covers the upper storey. This is an unusual sight and I presume it is done because of the narrowness of the street, enabling vehicles to pass underneath.

My favourite photo of the post because of the strange mix of designs and names and styles. As well as a Chinese Takeaway and restaurant above and food shop downstairs, there is the oldest Cornish Pasty maker in the world next door, and all of it rolled up into another Art Deco building of some great character.

My favourite bit of this sign is the height restriction for children. You cannot be too careful today, there are many pensioners who identify as teenagers.

Height under 140cm or 4'7"

The Grade 2 listed White Lion Hotel, has a history of supplying various alcoholic beverages.

There are currently 134 White Lion pubs in Britain. Most 'White Lion' inns date from the time of Edward IV. There are 537 Red Lion pubs and incredibly there are 18 called Revolución de Cuba which I am presuming must be some sort of corporate chain of pubs. There are also Blue Boars and White Bears and Dog and Partridges a plenty.

Original description.

Pool & Son, Family Wine and Spirit Merchants, Green Market, Penzance: “Pool’s Bar is known to-day as one of the most reliable places for first class spirits in the town…. Messrs. Pool & Son are local agents for… Barclay’s London porter… [and] Roger’s Bristol ales and stout… They import and bottle Dublin stout and Burton ales…” (

Dublin stout, better known today as Guinness.

I don't dislike this 70's? building if you can look beyond it's lack of maintenance and care. I suspect it is yet another part of our late 20th century heritage due for demolition.

There are over 400 listed buildings for Penzance and adjoining Newlyn, the fishing port. This a remarkable number of buildings of historic interest for such a small town.

The grade 2 listed London Inn. (Only 23 of those surprisingly)

Early C19. Granite rubble. Slate hipped roof. 3 storeys. Causeway Head elevation, 2nd floor 2 windows one blocked, ground and 1st floors one window. Sashes with glazing bars. To left semi-circular headed doorway with blocked fanlight.

This is the market building of 1837 showing the West end and dome. It has to be one of the grandest bank buildings around.

Architect Harris of Bristol. Large building of granite ashlar. 2 storeys.

Crowned by lead-covered dome and octagonal lantern, the drum with alternating twin Tuscan columns and semi-circular headed windows, and entablature with heavy cornice.

West end, central pedimented entrance, curved corner bays set back

with giant engaged columns, entablature, raised pediment at centre with clock.

Below is a fascinating if misleading piece of history. Market Jew Street Penzance. My first thought was that it had literally been named after a famous local character at Penzance Market maybe a couple of hundred years ago. The first Jewish Synagogue in Penzance was built in 1768.

Jews first came to Penzance from the Rhineland area of Germany and from Holland in the early part of the 18th century, possibly around the 1720s, and at least by the 1740s. The size of the Jewish population of the town at this time is unknown, and, because the first synagogue was not built until 1768, their arrangements for worship would most likely have taken place in private houses. Because settlement would not have been viable without a separate Jewish burial ground, steps must have been taken to secure a plot for this purpose very early on. The earliest graves are thought to date from the early 18th century. (Penleehouse,

Having told you all of that, I now have to disabuse you of the notion that Market Jew Street had anything to do with Jewish market traders.

The name Market Jew comes from the Cornish language Marghas Yow, meaning Thursday Market, the name of a nearby village now Marazion, to which Market Jew Street leads.

On the left is the actual market building in front of which is a statue of Humphrey Davy, who was born in the town in 1778.

Sir Humphry Davy, was a Cornish chemist and inventor who invented the Davy lamp and a very early form of arc lamp. He is also remembered for isolating, by using electricity, a series of elements for the first time: potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium, magnesium and boron the following year, as well as for discovering the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. Davy also studied the forces involved in these separations, inventing the new field of electrochemistry. (Wikipedia)

These two doors are here because they caught my eye, which is reason enough.

In part four, yes there is a part four, after all this was a two day trip and this is my trigger finger we are using here, I will feature Mousehole, not what you think, and Truro.

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