Town Charter Information

King James I.  Town Charter 1614

Penzance’s significance as town probably began when it was granted a Royal Market by Henry IV in 1404.  Henry VIII in 1512 granted the right to charge harbour dues and King James I granted the town the status of a Borough in 1614. 

The King James I Charter, defined the bounds of the town by an artificial line formed by a half-mile circle, measured from the market cross in the Greenmarket. This cross can now be seen outside Penlee House.

The granting of Borough status made the town independent of the County Courts, a right held until County Councils came into being in 1888. 

Other privileges included owning land and property; imposing fines for breaking bylaws; holding a civil court with jurisdiction over cases not exceeding £50; and providing a prison. 

The Charter also confirmed the harbour rights given earlier in 1512 and granted two weekly markets to be held on Tuesdays and Thursday; 

The Crown was paid a perpetual rent of five marks (£3 6s 8d) in acknowledgment of the rights granted by the Charter, which was paid until 1832, but there was no grant of Parliamentary representation.

Within a year the new Borough bought a substantial degree of freedom from the Manor of Alverton then known as “Alverton and Penzance” for £34 plus a perpetual annuity of £1 which was last paid in 1936. 

A market-house and Guildhall were built, and together with the rights bought in 1615, provided almost all the borough income for more than two centuries.

The original charter document is still held by the Town.