The parish of
Courtesy of Christine Parker
|Porthleven - Port
© Charles Winpenny
|Porthleven - Storm
© Charles Winpenny
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 took land from both.
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,
Porthleven’s development as a port was always severely hampered. That 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 it ever grew to become its own parish.
Otherwise, it is likely it would have remained a very small fishing inlet.
The harbour itself was constructed in 1825, and as
explained above, that 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 1850’s by Harvey & Co, a Hayle based firm, and
they made major improvements to the harbour, leaving the massive sea walls 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.
The Online Parish Clerk (Genealogy) for Porthleven is Damien Willey,
who can be contacted at
Please visit my
which has transcriptions of parish records, as well as many other
relevant items. For further information, please contact me at the
Contact details for the current town council can be found
Contact details for the church can be found by searching
Information can be found at
COCP (Cornwall Online Census Project) which is complete for
1841 to 1891
and has been verified, FreeCen at Rootsweb, which has a very good search engine and
information from COCP, as well as GenUKI, which has more reference information and alternate resources.
For Parish Register information, please see our online searchable database
(C-PROP), GenUKI and the LDS website, Library section. The C-PROP parish coverage
For information, see the University of
Leicester's website of Historical Directories
1886-1921, Sithney Porthleven Board School
1916-1918, Porthleven Council School
For more information regarding history, population, etc., visit
For a zoomable and printable map of Cornwall please visit
Cornwall Council’s mapping website. To see the Parish
boundaries, click on the Layers Tab for Government Boundaries.
For maps and satellite
To enjoy a "walk" around this parish, search for Porthleven at
drag the person icon from above the zoom commands and place it at a
specific location on the map.
Sithney & Helston.