This is a corporate and market town, and the most westerly one in the kingdom, being only ten miles from the Land’s End.
The town is pleasantly situated on the north-west side of the Bay, and from the temperature of the atmosphere, the mildness of the seasons, the beauty of the prospect, and the exhilarating purity of the gentle breezes which play upon the bosom of the waters, and scatter health upon the shores, have conferred on Penzance and its vicinity, a degree of celebrity, which few persons who have visited this neighbourhood, will think them injudiciously bestowed. Perhaps without exception, this town can boast of a warmer climate than any other in England; this circumstance, added to the enlivening prospect, with which it is encircled, renders this spot singularly inviting to invalids. The rains indeed which frequently fall, may operate to its disadvantage, in the estimation of those who wish constantly to walk abroad; but these rains are rather inconvenient than pernicious, as perhaps neither Italy, nor the south of France can boast a more salubrious atmosphere.
To this place many valetudinarians annually resort, and the benefits they receive, leave them in general but little reason to regret their journeys. It is not without sufficient reason that Penzance has been denominated the Montpelier of England. Its ancient name was Buriton; its present appellation signifies in Cornish, ‘the Holy Headland’. Although some think the name of Penzance, is derived from Pen, a head, and zanz, a bay, signifying the head of the Bay. The arms of the town most probably, (John the Baptist’s Head,) are taken as a quaint device, to express the name of the town.
It is one of the stannary, or coining towns, and consists of six principal streets, intersecting each other, the principal ones having the road from Marazion to the Land’s End, passing through them. There are also several rows of elegant houses, namely, the Parade, North Parade, Regent Terrace, Wellington Terrace, Cornwall Terrace, &c. and in the vicinity of the town are several pleasant walks, through shady dingles, and over swelling hills, which open to the view the numerous genteel residences that decorate the adjacent country.
The trade of Penzance, consists chiefly in timber, hemp, iron, coals, salt, flour, fruit, wine, spirits, hides, groceries, cloths, linens, and every other kind of merchandise imported; also in tin, copper, fish, oil, potatoes, &c. that are exported.
Penzance is one of those towns to which the tinners bring their tin to be ‘coined’, as it is called, that is, to be assayed and licenced by the officers of the Dutchy, who take off a piece from each block, and if they find it sufficiently pure, stamp it with the Duke’s Arms. For every hundred weight of tin so stamped, he receives four shillings; the annual revenue is about £10,000
In the town and its vicinity there are extensive woollen manufactories, also a paper mill, and coarse earthenware potteries. The pilchard fishery is carried on in this town and neighbourhood to a great extent. Tin is also formed into bars for the Mediterranean trade, and ingots for the East Indies, at Penzance.
The great variety of shipping, ships of war, merchantmen, and fishing boats, constantly lying in Mount’s Bay, form a very interesting and delightful scene.
This town originally rose from a few fishermen settling near the present quay, and building for themselves a chapel, dedicated to St. Anthony, that universal patron of fishermen. This chapel continued until within these few years, when it was rebuilt into a fish cellar:—it was only small however, but it had a statue of its Saint in a niche.— Tradition has preserved the name of the Saint, and antiquarianism has saved the statue of him: it is merely a bust made of alabaster. Thus begun, the town extended up the side of the hill, from the site of the pier to the ground now occupied by the present chapel. When it had acquired some degree of importance, a fort was built by one of the family of Tyes, in whose manor of Alwarton, the town stands
It was one of this family who obtained a market for Mousehole, in the reign of Edward I. Hence in Henry’s valor, the present chapel is thus described: ‘Burriton alias Penzance, chapel to Madern’. This name tells to every antiquarian ear, Bury or Burg, Buryton or Burgton, in every part of the Kingdom attesting their own rise as towns, from castles as their parents. Mr. Whitaker supposes, the time of the first valor in 1294, although the chapel was in existence, it was not connected with the Town, because the church of Madern, is mentioned, but no notice is taken of any chapel belonging to it.
Another account respecting the ancient History of this Town, states, that its market to be held on Wednesday, was originally granted to Alice de Lisle, then Lady of the manor of Alwarton, in 1332, together with a fair of seven days, at the festival of St. Peter. This original market was confirmed in 1404, to Thomas, Lord Berkeley, with three fairs each to be held two days. At a still subsequent period two markets were introduced, to be held on Tuesday and Thursday; but these have since been changed to Thursday and Saturday, which still continue and the market for goodness, variety and cheapness of its commodities, is certainly not to be equalled by any other in Great Britain. To the great quantity of salt mixed with the food of the hog, is to be attributed the delicacy and richness of the pork, whilst owing to the rich pasturage, the heifer beef is superior, beyond all comparison, to the Scotch; it is worthy also of notice, that during the winter, the market is filled with the greatest variety of wild fowl, woodcocks, snipes, &c. &c. which may be purchased for a few pence; although every description of fish in season, as red mullet, john dory, turbot, sole, mackarel, &c. is offered for sale every day by the Newlyn fish-women, whose delicate complexions, and the vivacity and brilliancy of whose jet black eyes, darting their rays from beneath the shade of large beaver hats, fascinate the traveller.
The present chapel, which is now ornamented with a small white-washed spire, is dedicated to St. Mary. This has been used as a chapel from time immemorial. It was enlarged in 1617, and consecrated in 1680. The font bears date 1608, the alms-box 1612, and a memorial in a pew is dated 1574. In 1680 it was endowed by John Tremenheere, Esq. with lands now let at £20. per annum; a cemetery was also enclosed and consecrated, and the limits of the town were defined to be the limits of the chapelry. The endowment has since been twice augmented by Queen Anne’s bounty. Marriages were solemnized in this chapel prior to the marriage act; but since that has passed, Madern church claims this exclusive privilege. Penzance has its own vestry, and maintains its own poor. It appears from the registers of the see of Exeter, that there were chapels here dedicated to St. Raphael, and St. Gabriel. Penzance was first incorporated in 1614; which charter was confirmed by Charles II. This corporation consists of a mayor, recorder, eight alder men, and twelve assistants.
Leland speaking of ‘Pensants’, describes it as ‘the westes market towne in all Cornwayle’, and as having ‘a little peere’, which was even then visited by ships as well as boats.
Nothing can be more evident, than that the prophetic tales which imposition invents, which ignorance propagates, and which credulity believes, are sometimes productive of calamitous effects and consequences. From time immemorial a prediction had prevailed in the old Cornish language, that a period would arrive when ‘some strangers should land on the rock of Merlin, who should burn Paul church, Penzance, and Newlyn’. Of the actual accomplishment of this prediction, Carew gives the following account:—‘On the twenty-third of July, 1595, a small squadron of Spanish gallies presented themselves upon the coast in a menacing attitude, near Mousehole, where they landed about two hundred men, and began their devastations by setting fire to some scattering houses, the church of Paul, and then Mousehole itself. Finding little or no resistance, they proceeded to Newlyn, and from thence to Penzance. Sir Francis Godolphin endeavoured to inspire the inhabitants with courage to repel these assailants; but they were so intimidated with the ancient prophecy, that they fled in all directions; supposing that it was useless to contend with the destiny that had been predicted for ages. A few only stood by Sir Francis, and the number was so inconsiderable, that he was obliged to abandon the town to the enemy: the Spaniards availing themselves of this desertion, set it on fire in different places, as they had set Newlyn on fire before, and then returned on board their gallies, intending to renew the flames on the ensuing day:—but the Cornish having recovered from their panic, and assembled in great numbers on the beach, so annoyed the Spaniards with their bullets and arrows, that they drew their gallies farther off, and availing themselves of a favourable breeze, put to sea and escaped.’ It is worthy of remark, that when the Spaniards first got on shore they actually landed on a rock called Merlin.— ‘These,’ says Camden, ‘were the only Spaniards that ever landed in England as enemies.’ This invasion is the only memorable event that occurs in the history of Penzance.
The pier was erected at the expense of the corporation, unassisted by any parliamentary grant, about fifty-four years ago. Within the last fourteen years it has received considerable improvements; whether from jealousy of what might be the effect on the trade in Mount’s Bay, in consequence of the new harbour building at Porthleven, or from a conviction of the absolute necessity for extending protection to vessels taking shelter therein, is not generally known: but whatever may be the motive, they both afford to the coasting trade several important advantages. The pier has been lengthened one hundred and fifty feet, on which a light is erected, and used at night from half flood to half ebb, and the dangerous rocks in the entrance removed. The expenses incurred by these improvements are paid by a new tariff established by an act passed in the year 1817. This pier is now nearly seven hundred feet long, being the longest in Cornwall.
About a mile from this pier lies a dangerous rock called the Gear, which is not visible after half flood tide:—upon this rock has lately been erected a pole, which is a good mark by day, for vessels entering the harbour.
A packet sails from here to the Scilly Islands, a distance of about fourteen leagues, every Friday, and returns on Tuesday, which, with a fair wind, is generally accomplished in six hours; but with contrary winds, it has sometimes exceeded two days.
The shores of Penzance presented, some few years since, an object of bold adventure to the undertakers, and of dreadful curiosity to the numerous visitors who ventured to inspect it, in the Wherry Mine.—Its situation was within the reach of the tide; and the ground though uncovered at low Water, was inundated with several feet twice in twenty-four hours. ‘Imagine,’ says Dr. Maton, ‘the descent into the mine through the sea; the miners working at the depth of seventeen fathoms below the waves; the rod of the steam engine extending from the shore to the shaft, a distance of nearly one hundred and twenty fathoms; and a great number of men momentarily menaced with an inundation of the sea, which continually drains through the roof of the mine, and roars loud enough to be distinctly heard in it.’ The adventurers in this mine were induced to sink a shaft in this place, through the representations of an old miner, who predicted the acquisition of much riches, which were actually found. It consisted in valuable tin stuff, and cobalt. But after some time, the dangerous situation of the shaft, the injuries occasioned by storms and high tides, and the declining state of the lode induced the adventurers to abandon the workings altogether, in 1798.
Not long before this mine was abandoned, the following instance of danger occurred to the before mentioned old miner. At a time when the tide was rolling its swelling waves into the bay, and many of the breakers were dashing over the mouth of the shaft, the old man was busily employed in filling a kibbal with a mass of valuable ore below; and although the other workmen had left the mine, he persisted in sending up this precious cargo before he deserted his station. The mass being larger than usual, unfortunately became entangled in the mouth of the shaft, in which it remained for some time, and actually blocked up the passage, while the tide continued to rise higher and higher every moment, and each wave deposited some water in the mine. To escape seemed utterly impossible; the poor man’s retreat was cut off, and every moment appeared big with instant death. On finding, after some ineffectual attempts to raise the mass, that it was immovably fixed, another miner descended from the summit, suspended by a rope, and broke off some of the obstructing parts; after which the remainder was secured. Another kibbal was then let down into the awful abyss, which rescued him from the horrors of his situation.
Camden, speaking of the depth of water in Mounts Bay in his days, observes— ‘a haven pretty broad opens a little above the Mount, which is denominated Mount’s Bay, from the Mount; where is a safe station for ships when the south and southeast winds blow with fury, a station six or seven fathoms deep in the middle of the ebb tide.’ At Penzance pier there are now twenty feet of water at spring tides, and fourteen at neap. It will contain more than one hundred sail of vessels in perfect safety and has a dry dock within it fit for a ship of five hundred tons. But about the middle of the Bay’s mouth, there are twenty fathoms at low water; fourteen higher up the Bay; and fifteen, or sixteen, still nearer the Mount. So much deeper is the water here at present, than it was in the days of Camden, or so inaccurate was Camden’s information about it. The pier of Penzance, during the war, was protected by a small fort, the Burryton of modern days.—But the town is too deeply embayed to tempt even a privateer to risk paying it a visit, lest the wind shifting, should prevent her retreat.
But deeply embayed as Penzance is, instances have occurred, when the wind and waves, acting in conjunction, overcame every obstacle, and bade defiance to resistance. An awful instance of this fact occurred on the night of Sunday, January 19th, 1817. The storm, during the night, increasing to a hurricane, drove the waves with such violence, as to break over the pier, above the mast heads of the vessels within, and to bear down every thing before their united fury. One vessel was sunk in the pier, another sunk and went to pieces, a third filled with water, and a fourth drove from her moorings and went on shore. Two of the four pillars on which it was intended to erect a light, were washed down, and several of the foundation stones of the pier were removed. It being a spring tide, the water rose to an unusual height; the green between Penzance and Newlyn was torn up, and the soil in several places washed away. The dry dock at Penzance was much injured: and, with timber carried off by the waves, the damage sustained by Mr. Matthews, the proprietor, exceeded £500.— On the eastern side of the town, the space between Penzance and Marazion presented a scene of devastation; in some places the turnpike road was buried with sand, and in others it was broken up by the violence of the waves; the water making a breach over it, and being in different places from three to five feet deep. At Chyandour, the lower parts of the houses were inundated; part of the bridge was washed away; and in the cellar of an innkeeper there, a number of casks of beer floated, and some of them were dashed to pieces by being driven against each other. At Newlyn and Mouse- hole on the west, and at Marazion on the east, the effects were dreadfully felt: at this latter place, and at the Mount, much damage was done: some premises were severely injured; the road between Marazion and the Mount was torn from its foundations; and stones, upwards of a ton weight, though cramped together with massy iron, were severed and removed from their positions. From Plymouth to the Land’s End, scarcely a port or cove escaped the devastations of this tempest; and in many places its effects will be transmitted to future generations.
A Geological Society was instituted here in February, 1814, on the suggestion of John Ayrton Paris Esq. M.D. late of this town, Lord de Dunstanville and the Earl of Yarmouth, are the vice-patrons; and Davies Gilbert, Esq. M. P. for Bodmin, is president. The King having kindly taken the society under his protection, as its patron, it is now denominated the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall; and reckons amongst its officers and members, many individuals of the first rank and science in the kingdom. The cabinet of minerals possesses the most complete series of specimens to be found in the county, and will be viewed by the mineralogist with sensations of respect and esteem. The alloyed tamping bar, shifting cartridge, and copper neele, were introduced into the mines of Cornwall by this society; their objects being to prevent those accidents which so frequently happen to miners, in blasting rocks with gunpowder; and has answered the purpose beyond the most sanguine expectations, as the safety instruments cannot strike fire: this alone has been the means of saving hundreds of miners from an untimely grave, or accidents worse than death. The county of Cornwall being particularly favourable to the objects of this institution, the society promises fair to advance science, and produce much practical benefit.
The Penwith Agricultural Society, holds its meetings, and distributes its rewards in this town.
In 1770, the Ladies’ Book Club was formed at Penzance: this was soon followed by the Gentlemen’s, and that by many others, tending to amusement and instruction.
Near the South Parade, are the Public News Rooms, and Library, in a neat newly built edifice, at which the most approved London and Provincial Papers daily arrive: the Library was instituted in 1818, Sir Rose Price, Bart. is President, and it consists of upwards of one hundred members, ladies and gentlemen of the town and neighbourhood.
In 1809, a Public Dispensary was instituted by the inhabitants at a general meeting, and a house taken for that purpose; the object of this humane institution is to afford advice and medicine to the industrious but afflicted poor: a physician and surgeons attend here every Tuesday and Friday, at twelve o’clock, and an apothecary at the same time, every day, with the exception of Sundays. By this society a reward of a guinea is given to any individual or boat’s crew, who can speedily rescue from the water, the body of a person recently fallen into it; and a further reward of two guineas more, if happily the apparently drowned person can be restored to life, This institution is supported by voluntary contributions.
There is also in this town, a Humane Society; a School of Industry for poor female children; with several other charitable institutions: also, branches of the Methodist, Baptist and London Missionary Societies; with a branch of the Cornwall Auxiliary Bible Society, Ladies’ Bible Society, &c.
Penzance has a Grammar School, supported by the town and corporation: and one of Mr Buller’s schools, endowed from the long annuities, was in this town.
Hot and cold sea-water bathing may now be enjoyed in perfection at Penzance, where Baths have been erected: and we trust the time is not far distant, when this place will become a favourite resort of Hygeia, and will supersede those numerous watering places, which derive their fame alone from the caprice of fashion, or popular prejudice, and which have nothing to recommend them, but the eulogiums of a herd of visitants, who cannot possibly appreciate their peculiar claims to merit. In enumerating the very many advantages this situation holds out to invalids, we must not forget to mention the numerous chalybeate springs, which rise in this neighbourhood: one of these is situated at Castle Horneck, and from the analysis of it by a medical gentleman, it appears likely to become a medicinal agent of considerable energy.
Besides the established church, Penzance has a great variety of places for religious worship. In the year 1790, a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was erected, in which Divine service was performed until the year 1814, when a new one was built, which was enlarged and embellished with a fine organ in 1826; this is now the most elegant and capacious meeting-house the county of Cornwall can afford. In 1807, a new Independent chapel was built, in which Divine service is still carried on. The Baptist chapel was built in 1789, enlarged in 1818, and was re-enlarged in 1822, at a very considerable expense. The Friends commonly called the Quakers, had a chapel erected in this town as early as 1650; their present chapel was built in 1777, in which Divine service is performed. The Jews have a synagogue, which was built in 1807; but, prior to this, they had one that was erected in 1768. The Roman Catholics in this place not being very numerous, they have no place of worship.
Among the many improvements which have recently taken place, in this town, it may not be amiss to enumerate the following:—the Gas-works situate in East Street, which were undertaken by a spirited company in 1830. Penzance, had previously been stigmatized, as being one of the last towns to embrace so modern and elegant a light; but it now has to boast of a brilliancy, equal, if not superior, to any town in the county, and it may almost vie with any in the West of England. Improvement has made a rapid stride in all parts of the town, particularly in and about the Green-Market; the aqueduct which supplies the town with water, and empties itself through a neat granite fountain, on this spot, has conferred incalculable benefit on the inhabitants at large, there being a reservoir at the head, in case of fire or drought. In Alverton Street also, there has been a new street opened to Chapel St. Clare, and the Bullock Market, conferring great advantage to Farmers and others, coming from the country west of Penzance, especially with cattle on a market-day. In this street, which is denominated Clarence Street, there is a spacious Hotel erected, which has been ably conducted for the last four years by Mr Henwood, and, from the great influx of strangers, he has found it necessary to make an addition to his house, which has been done, embracing Hot and Cold Baths, Suits of Rooms for Families, Coffee, Commercial, Billiard Rooms, &c., and has made it replete with comforts, for the Traveller or Invalid; the whole now presents an elegant frontage of about one hundred and twenty feet.
In 1779, was born at Penzance, Sir Humphry Davy, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c. a character that would reflect honor on any age or country. He was descended from an ancient and respectable family.— The early part of his education was received under Dr. Cardew of Truro, which he left in a few years to acquire the profession of a surgeon, and apothecary with Mr. Tonkin, a medical gentleman at Penzance. Here his genius for chemistry first displayed itself, in varying the experiments of the most celebrated pneumatic chemists; and adapting them to vegetables, exclusively produced on the sea shore. These were communicated to Dr. Beddoes, who, sensible of Mr. Davy’s merit, engaged his assistance at a medical establishment, then first beginning at Bristol. Mr. Davy, introduced himself to the public by a treatise ‘On the nature and relation of Light and Heat’. The credit justly acquired by this work, and by subsequent essays, added to his successful delivery of a course of Lectures at Clifton, procured for him the notice of the Royal Institution in London. In 1803, he was elected F.R.S., and, (on the proposition of the celebrated General Vallancey,) an honorary member of the Dublin Society. After giving a course of Lectures on the chemistry of agriculture, he was appointed Chemical Professor to the Board of Agriculture. In 1805, he was appointed Director to the Laboratory of the Royal Institution. His next Lectures were on Geology, after which he visited Wales and Ireland. On the death of Dr. Gray, (in 1807,) he was chosen Secretary to the Royal Society. It was about this time that he made those discoveries which will justly place his name, among the greatest his country can boast of in science: In the Bakerian Lecture, he attributes all that has been done in electro-chemical science, to the accidental discovery by Nicholson and Carlisle, of the decomposition of water, by the pile of Volta in 1800, which was followed immediately by that, of the decomposition of certain metallic solutions, and by the observation of the separation of alkali, on the negative plates of the apparatus. This doubtless was the origin, but the extension of the discovery rests with Davy. Nicholson and Carlisle, made their observations in the end of April, and Davy had entered into his experiments by July, 1800. In the September of that year, he published his first paper on Galvanic Electricity. The prize awarded Davy, by the National Institute of France, for his paper on chemical affinities, was 3000 francs. In the second Bakerian Lecture, which was read in November, 1807, Davy announced the discovery of the metallic bases, of the fixed alkalies. By means of the highest power of the Voltaic pile, he decomposed pot-ash, and obtained its base in a metallic form, which he called potassium. The discovery of sodium followed. Severe illness succeeded his discovery of potassium, and interrupted his studies. This illness excited great alarm; but a strong constitution, the best medical advice, and the great attention of his friends, restored him to health. In 1810, the Dublin Society engaged Davy, to repeat his electro-chemical lectures; and the Farming Society of Ireland, requested him to repeat six lectures, on the application of chemistry to agriculture: for the former he received 500 guineas. In 1811, he again visited the Irish metropolis, and superintended the construction of a large Voltaic battery, for the illustration of lectures, on the elements of chemical philosophy; for these and a course on geology, he received £750. On this occasion, the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, conferred on him the honorary degree of L.L.D., as a testimonial of their admiration of his eminent scientific attainments. In the following year, (1812,) the honour of knighthood was conferred upon him; and three days after he was married. In this year he published his ‘Elements of Chemical Philosophy’, immediately following this publication, were his discoveries of chloride of nitrogen, and hydro-phosphoric gas. Subsequent to these were his experiments on fluor spar. The next important event in Davy’s life, was his visit to France. After the Emperor of the French, had sternly refused a passport, to several of the most illustrious noblemen of England, it was scarcely to be expected that Sir Humphry Davy, would have been allowed to travel through France, in order to visit the extinct volcanoes of Auvergne, and afterwards to examine that, which was in a state of activity at Naples: no sooner had his discoveries been represented by the Imperial Institute to Napoleon, than with his well-known patronage of science, he immediately and unconditionally extended the required indulgence. Accompanied by Lady Davy, and Mr. Farraday, (as secretary and chemical assistant,) he went to France in a cartel, in October, 1813. It was in Paris he discovered the true nature of iodine. From France, be went to Italy: at Florence, he worked in the laboratory of the Academia del Cimento, on iodine; but more particularly on the combustion of the diamond. He specially visited Mount Vesuvius, and Pompeii, and on his return paid his respects to Volta, at Pavia. He went from thence to Switzerland, and returning through Florence, wintered at Rome, in 1814-15: on returning to England, his attention was directed to the fire-damp in the collieries: we need not run over the details of his discovery of the safety-lamp; the result has preserved much human life. It is greatly to his honour, that instead of securing for himself the advantages of his discovery by patent, (which would have given him wealth in an almost measureless extent,) he threw his discovery open to the world. The nature of his invention, directed his attention to flame, and his ‘Researches’, on that subject are highly important. No parliamentary reward followed the invention of his safety-lamp, but he was created a Baronet, in 1818, two years afterwards. He was next employed by government, to provide a chemical method for unrolling the ancient papyri: his experiments were proceeded in at Naples, but failed. In 1820, on the death of Sir Joseph Banks, he was elected President of the Royal Society. His latest investigation of importance was, the protection of ship’s copper-sheathing, on Voltaic principles. While making the experiments, he took tour to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It is well known that the plan he suggested, failed.— Dr. Riviere, of America, has since taken out a patent, for an adaptation of Davy’s plan. His health now declined, he went abroad, resigned the presidency, returned to England, wrote his ‘Salmonia’, communicated his last paper to the Royal Society, ‘On the Phenomena of Volcanoes’, and took another and final journey to Rome. He employed his latest hours, in the composition of ‘Consolations of Travel’, an extraordinary production under all the circumstances. At Rome, he had an attack of paralysis, (he had another similar seizure before,) whereon his wife and brother, (Dr. Davy,) hastened to his aid. From Rome he proceeded to Genoa, where he died on the day of his arrival, the 28th of May, 1829, in his 51st year. The citizens of Geneva, paid all becoming respect to the philosopher, honouring his remains with a public funeral, but the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, charged his widow £142, for permission to erect a tablet to his memory!
By his vigorous intellect, and scientific talents, Sir Humphry has not only exalted himself in the scale of public reputation as a chemist, but he has shone also as a poet: his interesting poem called ‘Mount’s Bay’, possesses considerable merit.
It should also be remembered that Penzance was the early residence, of Admiral Lord Exmouth.
In taking up the Stone floor of an old house near the quay, in October, 1813, the workmen discovered a human skeleton, which, apparently, had lain there a considerable time. The premises were anciently occupied as a public-house, and some aged people recollected the circumstance of a sailor, who was in the habit of frequenting it, and who had in his possession plenty of money, being suddenly missed, conjectures ran that he was murdered; but no proof being produced to that effect, the subject and enquiry dropped. This discovery of the skeleton now puts the melancholy reflection beyond a doubt, and the perpetrators of the horrid deed have long since answered for their cruelty before the Supreme Judge of all human actions, whether open or concealed. It is remarkable, that this dwelling had been long unoccupied, from a report of its being haunted.
In July, 1757, a monk or angel-fish was taken at Penzance, in a trammel-net, whose nature appeared to be between the dog-fish and the ray.—The belly was white, and the back of a dusky or brownish hue.
In no part of Cornwall, is Midsummer celebrated with more hilarity than at Penzance and its neighbourhood; for on the 23rd of June, the young people are all alert in the preparations for their favourite festival. No sooner does the tardy sun withdraw himself from the horizon, than the boys begin to assemble in several parts of the town, drawing after them trees, branches of wood and furze; all which had been accumulating week after week, from the beginning of May. Tar-barrels are presently erected on tall poles, in the market-place, on the quay, and in all of the principal streets; while pretty female children trip up and down in their best frocks, decorated with garlands, and hailing Midsummer-eve as the vigil of St John. The joyful moment arrives! the torches make their appearance! the heaped-up wood is on fire! the tar-barrels send up their intense flame! the ladies, and gentlemen parade the streets, walk in the fields or on the terraces which command the bay; from thence they behold the fishing towns, farms, and villas, vieing with each other in the number and splendour of their bonfires: the torches quickly moving along the shore, are reflected from the water; and the spectacle though of the cheerful kind, participates of the grand. In the mean time, rockets (of all descriptions,) crackers, squibs, &c., &c., resound through every street; and the screams of the ladies, on their return from the show, and their precipitate flight into the first shop, passage or house, that happens to be open, heighten the colouring and diversion of the night. Then comes the finale: no sooner are the torches burnt out, than the inhabitants of the quay quarter, (a great multitude,) male and female, young, middle-aged, and old, virtuous and vicious, sober and drunk, take hands, and forming a long line, run violently through every street, lane, and alley, crying ‘an eye, an eye, an eye!’ at last they stop suddenly and an eye to this enormous needle being opened, by the last two in the string, (whose clasped hands are elevated and arched) the thread of populace run under and through; and continue to repeat the same, till weariness dissolves the union, and sends them home to bed, which is never till past the hour of midnight. Next day, (Midsummer day) the custom is, for the country people to come to Penzance in their best clothes, about four or five o’clock in the afternoon, when they repair to the quay, and take a short trip on the water on which occasion a number of boats are employed, most of which have music on board: after one cargo is dismissed another is taken in, and till nine or ten o’clock at night, the bay exhibits a pleasant scene of sloops, sailing-boats, rowing-boats, sea-sickness, laughter, quarrelling, drum-beating, horn-blowing, &c., &c. On the quay there is a kind of wake or fair, in which fruit and confectionary are sold, and the public-houses are thronged with drinkers and dancers. Such is Midsummer in this part of Cornwall; and on the eve of the feast of St. Peter, which follows so closely upon it, the same things are acted over again.
The town of Penzance is well defended from the fury of Atlantic storms; it is large and populous; containing about 7000 inhabitants, is two hundred and eighty-three miles from London, and one hundred and nine from Exeter.