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Some interesting historic facts about the most southerly working port in mainland Britain.





About Porthleven, Cornwall...

Here are some interesting historic facts about the most southerly working port in mainland Britain.

Porthleven was once divided in to two parishes, Sithney & Breage. Breage side being on the right of the harbour looking out to sea.

The wage for an apprentice shipwright was 2 shillings (10p) per week for 12 hour days for 6 years.

The SS Titanic was seen from Porthleven in 1912 as she crossed Mount's Bay. On board were 2 men from Porthleven & 2 men from Helston. They were among the 1500 who lost their lives.

Porthleven's oldest industry was fishing. The prosperity of the village depended on a successful pilchard season. Pilchards were 5 to 10 a penny. One night 1919 a record catch of 162,000 were landed between 3 boats.

In 1884 William Bickford Smith presented Porthleven with the clock tower. It replaced the old Fisherman's Arms where a run-away soldier was shot and killed by an official. The clock tower is 72 feet high (22 meters).

The survey of 1811 shows Porthleven as having 63 dwellings mainly inhabited by fishermen and miners with a population of 220. In 1879 the population had grown to 1,259.

In 1846 Wheal Rose Mine (east of Porthleven) yielded 18 tons of silver lead at £19.5 shillings (£19.25p) a ton.

In 1885 there were 100 fishing boats in the harbour. In 1870 there were 150 boats, in 1897 there were 127 boats. In 1957 there were 2.

Pilchards arrived in the bay towards the end of August and were watched for by “huers”. They would shout “hevva” Cornish for school of fish. Women & girls employed in barrelling pilchards were paid 3d per hour (just over 1p).

Gartul, over 300 years old is the most ancient house in the village unlike Treza Cottage. This has just been completely renovated and is located in Treza Valley, an ideal retreat after a day out exploring Cornwall .

The SS Tripolitania ran aground on Loe Bar 26th Dec 1912. It was finally broken up for scrap when attempts to re-float her failed.

St Bartholomew Anglican Church was built in 1842. The Chapel in Fore Street, was built in 1883 at a cost of £3,720. The oldest part of the village is Gravesend where a large number of shipwrecked sailors were buried.

In 1798 the Mail from London containing letters for Helston & Penzance was lost by the very drunk postman. It was later found by a soldier. The first mail cart to Helston was 1804 and for Porthleven it was in April 190.

In 1912 a disastrous fire occurred in the fish store. The fire brigade arrived from Helston with their horse drawn appliance. In 1913 the harbour was receiving coal steamers, cement & brick vessels and timbe.

December 29th 1808 HMS Anson was wrecked on Loe Bar resulting in a large loss of life, the construction of Porthleven Harbour & Helston's Henry Trengrouse developing the ship to shore lifesaving rocket apparatus.

The old habit of smuggling in Mount's Bay dates back over 200 years. In the early 1800's it was estimated that 7,000 ankers of smuggled brandy was landed were successfully landed annually. An anker = 10 gallons.

A customs officer returning home to Porthleven came upon 7 or 8 horses laden with smuggled goods. The riders beat and stoned the officer. A reward of £50 was offered but never claimed.

There was a great blizzard in 1891 when snow was several feet deep and there were storms on land and sea with gale force winds.

1863 Porthleven's first lifeboat, the Agar Robartes 30 feet with 6 oars. Replaced by Charles Henry Wright, 34 feet with 10 oars. 1894/5 the new lifeboat station was built at a cost of £1,500.

The next lifeboat was John Francis White, 25 feet self righting. First shout was 29th December 1900 to Polykarp of Grinstead, in a raging storm. 1926, Dash was the last replacement lifeboat. The stationed was closed in 1929.

Porthleven Coastguard Station was built in 1866 and stored the Rocket Lifesaving Apparatus (RLA). The volunteer R.S.A. was formed in1877, The apparatus was in use for 60 years saving 104 lives.

The row of houses called Bay View Terrace stands on a site that once contained a row of houses known as Buenos Aires named after a ship of that name was wrecked and her timber used in the building.

12th December 1978 was the night of a storm that whipped up mountainous seas that swept away the harbour road from end to end. Two policeman on Panda patrol duty were swept into the harbour and drowned.

Guy Penrose Gibson spent some of his boyhood living in Porthleven. Later he was to become Wing Commander Guy Gibson V.C. famous for his part in the Dambuster raids.

Kitto's boatyard was commissioned to build two wooden vessels for the Hudson Bay Fur Trading Company. The Fort Churchill was completed in 1913 and the Fort York a year later. Charles Ziemann supervised the installation of her engines and sailed on her maiden voyage.


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