Saturday, September 17, 2011

Penzance (without the Pirates) - September 5, 2010

 Penzance, or "holy headland" in the Cornish language, is a reference to the location of the chapel of St. Anthony that stood over a thousand years ago on the headland to the west of what became Penzance Harbour. The town is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and was granted various Royal Charters from 1512 onwards and finally incorporated in 1614. With a population of 21,000 the town's location gives it a temperate climate, warmer than most of the rest of Britain except, of course, when we were in town. We spent the night parked behind the seawall huddled against howling winds and heavy rain at unseasonably low temperatures.
Being at the far west of Cornwall, Penzance and the surrounding villages were sacked many times by foreign fleets. In July 1595, seven years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, a Spanish force under Don Carlos de Amesquita landed troops in Cornwall. The force seized supplies, raided and burned Penzance, looted surrounding villages, held a mass and sailed way, all before the cavalry arrived.
Sadly, before buildings were listed and preserved for historical importance, Penzance tore down much of its old town and replaced it with second-rate commercial structures, the net effect of which has greatly diminished the quality of the area.
Penzance was the birthplace of Sir Humphry Davy, President of the Royal Society who invented the process of electrolysis, isolated sodium, discovered laughing gas and proved, in conjuction with Michael Faraday, that diamonds are made of pure carbon. Today he is possibly best known as the inventor of the Miner's Safety Lamp, known as the Davy Lamp. Davy had discovered that a flame enclosed inside a fine mesh cannot ignite firedamp (methane). The screen acts as a flame arrestor though which air, and any methane present, can pass freely enough to support combustion, but the holes are too fine to allow a flame to propagate through them and ignite any methane outside.
A few more pictures are here.

No comments: