Town Charter Information

King James I.  Town Charter 1614

The reason for Penzance's relative success probably stems from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries when Henry IV of England granted the town a Royal Market 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 has been moved many times since, but 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; which replaced a single market previously held on Wednesdays.

Seven fairs were granted (or confirmed):

Corpus Christi, the Sunday after Whitson - still held
The Thursday before St Andrew's Day (30 November)
St Peter's Day (1 August); first granted in 1332
St Bartholomew's Day (24 August); originally granted to Mousehole but now obsolete probably due to the Spanish Raid of 1595
St Mary the Virgin's Day (8 September); granted in 1404
The Conception of St Mary the Virgin's Day (8 September); granted in 1404
St Peter's Day in Cathedra (22 February); granted in 1404

The Crown was paid a perpetual rent of five marks (3 6s 8d) in acknowledment 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 than 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 southern arm of the pier was built in 1766 and extended in 1785, to add to the first pier of which was built in 1512.

During the English Civil War Penzance was sacked by the Parliamentarian forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax apparently for the kindness shown to Lord Goring and Lord Hopton's troops during the conflict.

Further Civic improvements included the construction in 1759 of a reservoir which supplied water to public pumps in the streets.

Penzance has a long-standing association with the local parish of Madron. Madron Church was in fact the centre of most religious activity in the town until 1871, when St. Mary's Church (prior to this period a Chapel of ease) was granted parish status by church authorities.

The Original, King James I, charter document is still held by the Town.