Walk - Penzance Town Trail
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Penzance Railway Station follow Station road past Sullivan’s Diner onto Wharf Road. Walk down Wharf Road with the car park to your left. Pass the old lifeboat house to cross the Abbey Basin on the Ross Bridge walkway and continue to the old Trinity House Depot. Carry on to the Dolphin Inn and cross the road again to walk along the inner harbour. If you detour along the pier, return to this point and carry on around the bend to cross Battery Road to the Jubilee Pool.
Penzance was the first Cornish port to have a lifeboat, bought for 150 guineas in 1803, but nine years later, having never been used, it was sold to pay off a debt. Later in the century, the harbour grew busier and a new lifeboat house was built with a brand new lifeboat to go with it.
Launching the boat turned out to be difficult from this site, requiring a team of horses to drag it around two sharp corners to Abbey Slip, where the deep mud at low tide compounded the problem. Consequently the lifeboat was moved to Newlyn in 1908, with reserve boats remaining at Penzance.
The swing bridge, which opens to admit ships to a dry dock built in 1814, was named after local MP and banker, Charles Campbell Ross, in 1881. It was designed as a link between the harbour piers and the railway.
It is said that in the sixteenth century Plymouth-born Admiral Sir John Hawkins often used the Dolphin Inn as his headquarters during the long hostilities between Britain and Spain. In the seventeenth century, George Jeffreys, the infamous 'Hanging Judge' also based himself in the inn when he tried and summarily condemned many of Monmouth's followers after the Westcountry Rebellion of 1685. Workmen restoring the building early in the twentieth century found a secret hideaway, and another hidden room was later discovered in the roof. The Inn is said to be the place where tobacco was first smoked in England. The Inn is also reputed to have its own ghost: a bearded sea captain with a tricorne hat.
Flanking the harbour in the sixteenth century was a small fort, or barbican, built by Henry VIII to protect the harbour from French and Spanish fleets. Its large bronze cannon was nonetheless carried off in a Spanish raid in 1595. During the Napoleonic Wars, a battery of 30 pounders was installed on Battery Rocks, below the present-day war memorial, to protect the bay.
The Jubilee Pool was opened in 1935 to celebrate the Jubilee of King George V. A recent major refurbishment programme has restored it to its former glory as one of the few Art Deco lidos in existence. It was built over Cribben Zawn, a rocky cove once used by smugglers and by press-gangs 'recruiting' for Nelson's navy.
Across the road from the Jubilee Pool is another Art Deco landmark, the Yacht Inn, built to resemble the bridge of a luxury liner. This replaces a much older Yacht Inn, which was the haunt of seaweed gatherers.
- Crossing Battery Road from the Jubilee Pool, follow the wall alongside the car park, turning right towards St Mary's Church and go through into the churchyard. (NB The churchyard is not suitable for visitors with mobility difficulties who should carry on around the churchyard along Under Chapel yard, and rejoin the walk on Chapel Street).
The nearby St Anthony's Gardens are named after the ancient chapel which once stood on the Holy Headland ('Pen Sans' in Cornish) by the Barbican. This was a fishermen's chapel and may date from as far back as the sixth century.
The parish church of St Mary's stands on the site of a medieval chapel, demolished in the 1830s. On its southern side is St Anthony's Cross, thought to be twelfth century and moved here from St Anthony's Chapel in 1850. In the north west corner of the churchyard is a large cholera pit, the mass grave of victims of the epidemic which swept through West Penwith in 1832.
Leave St Mary’s churchyard via the main gate onto Chapel Street and turn left to continue up Chapel Street and to Voundervour Lane.
On Chapel Street there is the eighteenth-century red-brick house of Maria Brontë, mother of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell.
- Turn left on Voundervour Lane to Regent Square. Cross the road here and head left towards the sea.
- Turn right on to St Mary's Terrace and then left into Morrab Gardens. Walk through the gardens to come out on Morrab Road.
- On Morrab Road turn left and cross the road to carry on towards the Promenade. At the bottom of the road cross again and turn right to take the steps to the Promenade. Turn right here to walk towards Newlyn.
- After the second shelter take the steps up to the main road and cross at the traffic island. Continue along the right-hand side of Alexandra Road.
- Turn right into Trewithen Road and then right into Penlee Park.
- Coming out of the park, turn left along Morrab Road to St John's Hall.
The granite façade of St John's Hall, built in 1864-7, came from Lamorna quarry, just down the coast. The rest of the building was constructed of 'Downs Stone', largely taken from the embankment around the Iron Age hillfort of Chun Castle, on the hills to the north west of the town. The hall was the largest granite Italianate style building in Britain. Its top step, measuring some 5.75m x 1m, is one of the biggest pieces of granite ever quarried.
- From St John's Hall head towards the town centre, turning left to walk to the top of Clarence Street.
Clarence Street is said to run along one of the oldest trackways in Penzance. It led up to the church in Madron. At the top of the street is a granite drinking 'chute', whose water was drawn from a stream that began near the Madron Wishing Well.
- Cross the road and walk around the car park, turning right down Causewayhead.
Causewayhead was one of the busiest shopping streets in Penzance. Tailors and bootmakers rubbed shoulders with butchers and paper hangers. There was an anchor foundry and assorted stables, piggeries and rag and bone stores. The street was the place where the town's 'caunsed' (paved) streets turned into the country road to Madron, hence its name.
- At the bottom of Causewayhead turn left towards the town centre, with the Market House on your right. Passing the Humphry Davy statue on your right, carry on to the pedestrian crossing. Cross the road and turn right to head back up to the top of the street.
Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner's cherished 'Davy Lamp', was born in 1778 just a few doors away from the present day site of his statue. A classical scholar and professor of chemistry, he also discovered the elements potassium, sodium and chlorine.
- Immediately after the Star Hotel turn left into New Street and then right into Princes Street, turning left onto Chapel Street beyond. Walk down Chapel Street, passing St Mary's Church to turn left after the Admiral Benbow and continue down Abbey Street, turning down Abbey Slip to come out back on Wharf Road, from where you can retrace your steps to the start of the walk.