Porthleven lies in the Hundred and Deanery of Kerrier. The name itself is taken
from two Cornish words, Porth, meaning Port, and Elvan, which was the name of
the Celtic Saint who came to shore in the 5th century, and along with others
began preaching Christianity in the region. There is a village called St Elvan,
which lies in the Parish of Sithney, just over a mile from Porthleven on the
Sithney road. Indeed, until 1846, Porthleven itself was part of the Parish of
Sithney. When Porthleven was formed into a parish in its own right in 1846, it
was split between the Parishes of Sithney & Breage, and as such took land
During the Middle Ages, Porthleven was fairly unimportant, as there was no harbour and the River Cober was passable all the way inland to Helston, though today the Cober is little more than a shallow stream in most places.
|It is highly unusual to find a Cornish Harbour which faces
south-west, as the prevailing winds blow straight inland, and as such,
Porthlevenís development as a port was always severely hampered. It is probably
why it never became a major trading port but remained a fishing and boat
building port, industries which still continue today.
It was only because Porthleven offered the only refuge for boats and ships in distress from the storms that regularly lash its shores along this windy coastline, that Porthleven ever grew to become its own parish. Otherwise, it is likely it would have remained a very small fishing inlet.
|Photos courtesy of Steve Beazley www.kammneves.co.uk
The harbour itself was constructed in 1825, and as explained above was extremely problematical, to say the least, to achieve. Even though a large fishing fleet for Mackerel & Pilchards soon started fishing off the coast, Porthelven remained a dangerous and difficult harbour to access. The port was taken over in the 1850ís by Harvey & Co, a Hayle based firm, and they made major improvements to the harbour, leaving the massively-built harbour that we can see today.
Porthleven grew a great boat-building and fishing industry, but has never been able to overcome its main problem of facing south-west - you only have to watch the sea as a gale sets in to see why.
Follow this link to my transcriptions of Porthleven Parish Records
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