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Mousehole 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.
Mousehole, along with Marazion, was until the 16th century one of the principal ports of Mount's Bay. Before its decline as a major commercial centre, Mousehole also had a number of fairs and markets, including the charter for a market on Tuesdays, with a fair for three days at the festival of St Barnabas, granted to Henry de Tyes in 1292. Mousehole, like many communities in Mount's Bay, fell within the authority of the Manor of Alverton; all early charters, fairs etc. associated with Mousehole are associated with this manorial estate.
Mousehole, like Penzance, Newlyn and Paul, was destroyed in the 1595 raid on Mount's Bay by Spaniard Carlos de Amésquita, the only surviving building being the 'Keigwin Arms', a local pub. Outside the Keigwin Arms (now a private residence) is a plaque with the wording "Squire Jenkyn Keigwin was killed here 23 July 1595 defending this house against the Spaniards".
Although a lifeboat had been available in Mount's Bay for many years, a new lifeboat station at Penlee Point, on the outskirts of the village, was opened in 1913. On 19 December 1981 the entire lifeboat crew of eight was lost during an attempted rescue in hurricane-force winds. The lifeboat was moved to Newlyn in 1983 but continues to be known as the 'Penlee Lifeboat'.
Mousehole hosts a vibrant variety of festivals and community activities. It is known for its Christmas illuminations. Since 1981, every 19 December the lights have been turned off in memory of the victims of the lifeboat disaster. Tom Bawcock's Eve is a unique celebration held on 23 December each year to celebrate the ending of a famine in the 16th century by local resident Tom Bawcock. This festival is the inspiration behind the book The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and the associated television productions. This festival is also the origin of 'Star Gazey Pie', a mixed fish, egg and potato pie with fish heads protruding through the pastry. Mousehole also holds a small maritime festival every two years called 'Sea, Salt and Sail'.
Mousehole was part of the ancient parish of Paul, and from 1866 part of the civil parish of Paul. In 1894 Mousehole became part of Paul Urban District. The urban district was abolished in 1934 and Mousehole was absorbed into the municipal borough of Penzance. Penzance Municipal Borough was itself abolished in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, and Mousehole became part of the new Penwith District. The former borough was unparished until 1980. The unparished area was formed into a civil parish in 1980, and the new Penzance parish council elected to call itself a town council. Penwith District was abolished in 2009, and Mousehole now falls under the unitary Cornwall Council.
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Penwith is believed to be the last part of Cornwall where the Cornish language was spoken as the community language. Dolly Pentreath, the last recorded speaker (but arguably not the very last) is often reported as being from Mousehole and there is a memorial to her in the village. In fact, she was from Paul (the parish of Paul historically included Mousehole).
A year after Dolly Pentreath died in 1777, Daines Barrington received a letter, written in Cornish and accompanied by an English translation, from a fisherman in Mousehole named William Bodinar stating that he knew of five people who could speak Cornish in that village alone. Barrington also speaks of a John Nancarrow from Marazion who was a native speaker and survived into the 1790s.
The artist Jack Pender (1918–1998) was born in Mousehole and spent most of his career there.
The Mousehole Cat, a children's book written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley, is also set in Mousehole and based on the legend of Tom Bawcock and the continuing tradition of Tom Bawcock's Eve.
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