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Penryn ( , from Pen-ryn meaning 'promontory') is a town in Cornwallmarker, Englandmarker, UKmarker on the Penryn River. Although now the area is largely dominated by Falmouthmarker, in the medieval period it was an important harbour in its own right, exporting granite and tin. There are 7,166 (2001 census) people living in Penryn. Penryn is twinned with Audierne in Brittany, Francemarker. The town has a station on the Maritime Line from Truromarker to Falmouthmarker.


Penryn is one of Cornwall's most ancient towns, with a wealth of charm, character and history. These lands appear in Domesday Book under the name of Trelivel. Penryn was founded in 1216 by the Bishop of Exeter. The borough was enfranchised and its Charter of Incorporation was made in 1236. The contents of this Charter were embodied in a confirmation by Bishop Walter Bronescombe in the year 1259. In 1265, a religious college, called Glasney Collegemarker was built in Penryn for the Bishop of Exeter to develop the church's inflence in the far west of the diocese. In 1374, the chapel of St Thomas (sometimes called St Mary's) was opened. Standing at the head of the Penryn River, Penryn occupies a sheltered position and was a port of some significance in the 15th century. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and the disestablishing of the Roman Catholic church, Glasney was dissolved and demolished in 1548 during the brief reign of Edward VI, the first Protestant Duke of Cornwall afterwards King of England. The dissolution of Glasney College helped trigger the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. The loss of Glasney and the defeat of the 1549 rebellion proved to be a turning point in the history of the town from which Penryn has, arguably, never recovered.

By the mid 17th century the port was thriving with the trade in Cornish fish, tin and copper. However Penryn lost its custom house and market rights to the new town of Falmouth as a direct result of supporting the wrong side in the English Civil War (1642-48). The Killigrews of Arwenack were more skilful turncoats, and as their new town grew so the older port of Penryn declined from the 17th century right up to today.

From 1554, Penryn held a parliamentary constituency, which became Penryn and Falmouth in 1832. The constituency was abolished in 1950, with Penryn becoming part of the Falmouth and Cambornemarker constituency. It received a royal charter as a borough in 1621, mainly in a bid by the crown to cure the town of piracy. At least three mayors of Penryn were convicted of piracy between 1550 and 1650.

Penryn was the home of Thomas Pellow (born circa 1704) who spent 23 years as a white slave in Moroccomarker. Pellow's story is told in his autobiography, "The History of the Long Captivity and Adventures of Thomas Pellow" (1740) and in Giles Milton's recent novel White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves, 2007.

In the early 19th century, granite works were established by the river and large quantities of the stone were shipped from its quays for construction projects both within the UK and abroad.

The A39 road (which begins in the West Country and is some 200 miles long) once passed through Penryn towards the end of its route in nearby Falmouth, but in 1994 was diverted around the town when the Penryn Bypass was opened, incorporating a stretch of new road along with upgrading to an existing road.

Present day Penryn

Market Street, looking south.
Today, Penryn is a bustling town and has managed to retain an enormous amount of its heritage. With a large proportion of its buildings dating back to Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian times, the town has been designated as an important Conservation area, and has more listed buildings than any other town in Cornwall. The local museum is housed in the Town Hall and brings the history to life. The town is in the parish of St Gluviasmarker. Penryn has a small but active Rotary Club dedicated to working with and for the local community.


Railway viaduct
Penryn railway stationmarker was opened by the Cornwall Railway on 24 August 1863. It is towards the north west end of the town and is served by regular trains from Truromarker to Falmouthmarker on the Maritime Line.


Higher education

In 2004, the Tremough Campus was completed, creating the hub of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project. It provides a new home for the Institute of Cornish Studies and the University of Exetermarker's world-renowned Camborne School of Minesmarker, which has moved from Cambornemarker, where it has been for over a century. The Campus also houses departments of University College Falmouthmarker, which is based in the centre of Falmouthmarker. In 2007 phase 2 was completed, which includes increased student accommodation and new teaching areas.


There are currently three schools in Penryn:



  • Roddis, Roland, Penryn, The History of an Ancient Cornish Borough, 1964
  • Warmington, Ernie, Penryn: People, Places, Postcards, Photographs, 1998, Published by author, reprinted 2007
  • Warmington, Ernie, Around Penryn (Images of England series), Stoud: Tempus Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-7524-2098-4
  • Warmington, Ernie, Penryn Revisited, Stroud: Tempus Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7524-4607-3

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