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Porthleven /ˌpɔːrθˈlɛvən/ is a town, civil parish and fishing port near Helston in Cornwall, United Kingdom It is the most southerly port on the island of Great Britain,1 and was originally developed as a harbour of refuge, when this part of the Cornish coastline was recognised as a black spot for wrecks in days of sail Nearby Loe Bar was particularly infamous, with swimmers and surfers being warned off the area to this day Porthleven has many large areas of social and council housing An electoral ward called Porthleven and Helston South also exists The population at the 2011 census was 3,0592


  • 1 History and geography
    • 11 Protected areas
    • 12 Methleigh
  • 2 Beach area
  • 3 Sport and leisure
  • 4 Twinning
  • 5 Notable residents
  • 6 Gallery
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

History and geographyedit

Discover Porthleven – an online museum – was created in 2015 as an ongoing community project Its aim is to record all Porthleven's history Large amounts of images and text are being received from around the world as well as from local residents Once up to date it is hoped to start recording history in the making as tomorrow makes today history The museum also has a large pictorial display at Out of the Blue Porthleven

An index of archives can be accessed on the home page Everything is being created in volumes of e-books Individuals can create their own log in details and submit their own history3

Historically and for local government purposes, Porthleven was included within the town boundaries of nearby Helston After years of growth, it now has its own town council Its population recorded by the United Kingdom Census 2001 was 3,1904 Including tourists and surfers would swell that number considerably

Until 1844 Porthleven was within the parish of Sithney; the parish church of St Bartholomew was built in 1842 The name Porthleven is probably connected with St Elwen or Elwyn, whose chapel here existed before 1270 It was rebuilt c 1510 but was destroyed in 1549 There were also chapels at Higher Penrose and Lanner Veor the latter founded in 1377 and a holy well at Venton-Vedna5

Porthleven has exploited its location and exposure to powerful swells to become one of the best-known and highly regarded surfing spots in Britain Waves, often exceeding 66 feet 20 m, break on the shallow reef that was shaped by blasting the harbour Due to the prevailing westerly winds it was very easy for a ship under sail to get trapped in the bay and be cast up on the rocks at the small fishing coves of Mullion, Kynance and the Lizard

Porthleven's most recognisable building is the Bickford-Smith Institute next to the pier and harbour entrance With a tower about 70 feet 20 metres high, it looks like a church but currently is used as a snooker club and houses the town council offices It featured along with various other scenes from the town as the incident room in an episode of the TV detective series Wycliffe A picture of the building against a large breaking wave sometimes appears in the background of BBC UK weather forecasts, particularly when windy conditions and rough seas are expected

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Porthleven in 1863 A boat house was built at Breageside from where the boat was taken to the water on a carriage A new boat house on the west side of the harbour entrance was opened in 1894 with a slipway to make launching easier The station was closed in 1929 as the neighbouring stations at The Lizard and Penlee had been equipped with motor lifeboats that could cover the whole of Mount's Bay The slipway was dismantled and the boat house was used as a store for a while but has since become the Shipwreck Centre museum6

Protected areasedit

Porthleven lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB Almost a third of Cornwall has AONB designation, with the same status and protection as a National Park

There are four Sites of Special Scientific Interest SSSI sites close to Porthleven Three of them, Porthleven Cliffs SSSI, Porthleven Cliffs East SSSI and Wheal Penrose SSSI are also Geological Conservation Review GCR sites The ″Giant’s Rock″, within Porthleven Cliffs SSSI, is an erratic of unknown origin and unknown mode of transport to its present site near the entrance of Porthleven harbour The Wheal Penrose SSSI is a disused lead mine 550 yards 500 m to the south with "good examples of typical lead zone mineralisation"789 The fourth Loe Pool SSSI is Cornwall's largest natural lake formed by a barrier beach, known as Loe Bar, which dams the River Cober10


Methleigh was the site of a fair and annual market from the year 10661112

After the Norman Conquest the Bishop of Exeter held the manor of Methleigh but the Earl of Cornwall possessed the fair At the time of the Domesday Survey there were 15 acres 61 ha of arable land, 40 acres 16 ha of pasture and 60 acres 24 ha of underwood The population consisted of 15 villeins, 4 smallholders and 3 serfs13

Beach areaedit

Porthleven beach lies to the east of the town adjacent to the harbour and near Porthleven village centre RNLI lifeguards patrol it during the holiday season14 The beach is separated from the harbour by a granite pier, which stands in front of the Porthleven institute and clock tower When the tide is out it is possible to walk in an easterly direction along Porthleven beach for approximately three miles There is also a coastal path with views of the beach below

Sport and leisureedit

Surfing is very popular at Porthleven and nearby Praa Sands Porthleven has been described as "Cornwall's best reefbreak"15 Kayaking is also popular due to the slipway from within the harbour and access via surrounding beaches

Porthleven Bowling Club is based at Gala Park, Methleigh Parc in Helston It is affiliated to Bowls Cornwall and Bowls England The club was founded in 1959 and has lawn bowling and short-mat bowls facilities There are in-house competitions for men and women The club competes against other clubs and individuals within West Cornwall, Cornwall and nationally The website is wwwporthlevenbowlingclubcouk

Porthleven has a Non-League football club Porthleven FC who play at Gala Parc

The restaurateur Rick Stein has a restaurant in the town16


Porthleven is twinned with Guisseny Gwiseni in Brittany, France17

Notable residentsedit

Porthleven was the birthplace of the Victorian theologian and religious writer Pender Hodge Cudlip and of David Jewell, a prominent British independent school headmaster during the late 20th century18

Porthleven was the home town of the Dambusters' Commanding Officer, Guy Gibson, and there is a road named in his memory Former motor racing driver Chris Craft, who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race for over a decade, including a third-placed finish in 1976, as well as two races in Formula One, was born in Porthleven


Part of Porthleven's boat building history


  1. ^ "Cornwall Online - The Lizard Peninsula Guide" Lizard-peninsulacouk Archived from the original on 2 May 2016 Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  2. ^ "Porthleven and Helston South - UK Census Data 2011" Ukcensusdatacom Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  3. ^ "Porthleven Museum Archives" Porthlevenmuseumorguk Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  4. ^ "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 25 May 2006 Retrieved 2006-01-19 
  5. ^ Cornish Church Guide 1925 Truro: Blackford; p 185
  6. ^ Leach, Nicholas 2006 2000 Cornwall's Lifeboat Heritage Chacewater: Twelveheads Press pp 37–38 ISBN 0-906294-43-6 
  7. ^ "Porthleven Cliff" PDF Natural England 27 June 1986 Archived from the original PDF on 24 October 2012 Retrieved 27 October 2011 
  8. ^ "Porthleven Cliffs East" PDF Natural England 1990 Archived from the original PDF on 24 October 2012 Retrieved 27 October 2011 
  9. ^ "Wheal Penrose SSSI" PDF Natural England 1993 Archived from the original PDF on 2 January 2014 Retrieved 27 October 2011 
  10. ^ "Loe Pool" PDF Natural England 1986 Retrieved 28 October 2011 
  11. ^ "Cornwall | British History Online" British-historyacuk Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  12. ^ "Parishes: Botus-Fleming - St Burian | British History Online" British-historyacuk 2016-10-14 Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  13. ^ Thorn, C, et al, eds 1979 Cornwall Domesday Book; 10 Chichester: Phillimore; entry 2,2
  14. ^ "Porthleven Beach" Rnliorg Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  15. ^ "Porthleven Spot Guide - Surf Forecast and Report" Magicseaweedcom Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  16. ^ "Rick Stein's restaurant in Porthleven" Ricksteincom 2015-09-01 Retrieved 2016-10-19 
  17. ^ "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 3 October 2011 Retrieved 2008-05-07 
  18. ^ Bates, Stephen 13 July 2006 "Obituary: David Jewell" The Guardian 

External linksedit

  • Porthleven at DMOZ
  • Porthleven Old Cornwall Society
  • Porthleven Online
  • Cornwall Record Office Online Catalogue for Porthleven
  • Methleigh; Vision of Britain
  • Porthleven at DMOZ

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