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Cornish: Porthleven
Porthleven Harbour - geograph.org.uk - 218946.jpg
Porthleven Harbour
Porthleven is located in Cornwall
 Porthleven shown within Cornwall
Population 3,190 (2001)
OS grid reference SW6225
Civil parish Porthleven
Unitary authority Cornwall
Ceremonial county Cornwall
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HELSTON
Postcode district TR13
Dialling code 01326
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Cornwall
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament St Ives
List of places

Coordinates: 50°05′02″N 5°18′54″W / 50.084°N 5.315°W / 50.084; -5.315

Porthleven is a town, civil parish and fishing port near Helston in Cornwall, England, 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.

History and geography[edit]

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 3,190.[2]

Including tourists and surfers would swell that number considerably. 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 6.6 feet (2.0 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.

Arguably, 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 museum.[3]

Protected areas[edit]

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".[4][5][6] The fourth Loe Pool SSSI is Cornwall's largest natural lake formed by a barrier beach, known as Loe Bar, which dams the River Cober.[7]


Methleigh was the site of a fair and annual market from the year 1066.[8][9]

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 (6.1 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 serfs.[10]

Sport and leisure[edit]

Porthleven Bowling Club are based at Gala Park, Methleigh Parc in Helston. They are 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 ladies and the club competes against other clubs and individuals within West Cornwall, Cornwall and nationally. The clubs website is www.porthlevenbowlingclub.co.uk

Porthleven has a Non-League football club Porthleven F.C. who play at Gala Parc

It was announced in October 2014, that the celebrity chef Rick Stein is to open a restaurant in Porthleven.[11]


Porthleven is twinned with Guisseny (Gwiseni) in Brittany, France.[12]

Notable residents[edit]

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 century.[13]

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.



  1. ^ Cornwall Online - The Lizard Peninsula Guide
  2. ^ Cornwall County Council - Districts - Kerrier - Parish Population Statistics - 2001
  3. ^ Leach, Nicholas (2006) [2000]. Cornwall's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater: Twelveheads Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 0-906294-43-6. 
  4. ^ "Porthleven Cliff". Natural England. 27 June 1986. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Porthleven Cliffs East". Natural England. 1990. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Wheal Penrose SSSI". Natural England. 1993. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Loe Pool". Natural England. 1986. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Samantha Letters, "Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516: Cornwall"
  9. ^ "Breage" in: Lysons Magna Britannia; Cornwall
  10. ^ Thorn, C., et al., eds. (1979) Cornwall. (Domesday Book; 10.) Chichester: Phillimore; entry 2,2
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Porthleven Sithney Guisseny Twinning Association
  13. ^ Bates, Stephen (13 July 2006). "Obituary: David Jewell". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]