Welcome to Penzance Harbour
Penzance Harbour consists of a Wet Dock with a hydraulic ram and gate, a drying Harbour, Albert Pier, West Pier, North Pier, Lighthouse Pier and South Pier together with a lighthouse. Penzance harbour has Harbour Orders dating from 1883 to 2009.
The harbour is the mainland terminal for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company for their freight and passenger services to and from the Isles of Scilly. The company also offers commercial ship repairs from the dry dock. Another company, Penwith Marine Services, specialise in marine engineering, primarily for the fishing industry, is located on the West Quay. There are facilities for recreational craft including a public slipway, parking and up to 240 drying moorings together with visiting yacht berths for a further 50 vessels.
There are fish landings in the port and the main cargo handled in the Wet Dock consists of supplies and freight to and from the Isles of Scilly.
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.
The pier at this time may have been up to 85m long and probably survives within the fabric of the existing pier. In 1745-6, following years of remedial repairs, the existing pier was repaired, rebuilt and extended by Penzance Corporation.
The earliest significant extension to the length and alignment of the pier was carried out in 1764-68 to provide deeper water and increased landing facilities for the increasingly busy and prosperous port.
In the period between 1812 and 1840 a number of relatively small scale, but significant, works were completed including the provision of: mooring posts; bollards; capstans; a light; protective timber baulking; new paving; a crane; new access road; protective wall and quay.
The final extension to the South Pier was built between 1853 and 1855 on a third alignment. This length of pier was built using the same ashlar bond facing techniques at the nearby listed Albert Pier completed in 1845.
Between 1882 and 1884 the western part of the southern pier was incorporated into a wet dock, created by adding a new pier to the north, widening the existing South Pier and inserting gates between. After 1884 the South Pier changed very little and work seems to have included mainly repairs and renewals.
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.
When the metal mining industry declined in the latter years of the 19th Century, the harbour continued operating as an important commercial port handling a variety of products including: china clay; cement, potatoes; coal; artificial manure and flowers before finally succumbing to the impact of road transport in the mid 20th Century.
Photo credits – Greg Martin Cornwall Live / Channel Images / Droneman