One of the hidden jewels of Penzance is historic Chapel Street where the oldest and most interesting architecture is to be found.
Unfortunately few people discover everything that Chapel Street has to offer, it is the main thoroughfare from the harbour to the town centre and runs from Queens Square in the middle of town to the top of ancient Quay Street.
St Marys Church
In many ways Chapel Street is charmingly similar to the way it was in the 17th and 18th centuries. At one end is St. Mary’s Church which was first a small chapel in the 13th century. It is generally thought that the chapel was destroyed by the Spaniards in the attack of 1595 but in the book by Peter Mound, 1000 years of Faith and Fortune – St Mary’s Penzance , this idea is refuted by the official report sent to the King of Spain by the commander of the Spanish raid that states
” In this town we burned more than four hundred houses, some outlying hamlets and three ships which were laden with wine and other goods. The mosque where they gather for their conventicles was not burned because Captain Richard Burley, an English gentleman entertained in your Majesty’s Royal Navy, said that this mosque had first been English and that Mass had been celebrated in it previously. Friar Domingo Martinez, principal chaplain of the galleys, wrote two verses in English in which he declared the reason for not burning it and his trust in God that Mass would be celebrated in it again within two years. This done our men withdrew to another town called Newlyn, burning it and all the outlying houses.”
The chapel was added to in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and the Church you see now was rebuilt in 1834. Even before the first chapel was built there was a holy well on the site which gave its name to the town – Sans (Holy) Pen (Headland).