Penwith Hundred is one of the ten Hundreds of Cornwall, occupying the westernmost end of the county, and extending beyond the granite moorland known as Penwith after which it is named. It is bounded to the north-east by Powdershire; and to the south-east by Kerrier. It is the most populous of the hundreds, with a population of 116,347 in 2011.
This was a unique hundred as the only one franchised to a private owner. The other hundreds have always depended directly on the Duchy of Cornwall but Penwith, when hundreds had important functions, belonged to the Arundells of Lanherne, who sold those rights to the Hawkins family in 1813 and in turn the Hawkinses sold the rights in the hundred it to the Paynters in 1832. The Lordship of Penwith came with a great number of rights over the entire hundred, which included: rights to try certain cases of trespass, trespass on the law, debt and detinue, to appoint a jailor for the detention of persons apprehended, to receive high-rent from the lords of the principal manors and to claim the regalia of the navigable rivers and havens, the profits of the royal gold and silver mines, and all wrecks, escheats, deodands, treasure trove, waifs, estrays, goods of felons and droits of admiralty happening within the hundred.
The institutions of the Penwith hundred were originally centred in the parish of Gwithian and were moved to Penzance in 1771 (or earlier) following large successive inundations of in-blown sand. There are records of a number of institutions attached to the Penwith Hundred including a Hundred Gaol (maintained for civil debtors), a Hundred Pound for stray animals and a Hundred Court.
The ancient parishes of the Penwith hundred are:
- Catalogue Reference for 'Arundell of Lanherne and Trerice' – National Archives
- Pool, P. A. S. (1974) The History of the Borough and Town of Penzance. Corporation of Penzance ISBN 0905375009
- Priestland, Gerald & Sylvia: West of Hayle River (1980, 1992 ed as Priestland's Cornwall)
- Priestland, Gerald: Postscript: with Love to Penwith; two essays in Cornish history; with a foreword by Sylvia Priestland (Patten Press, 1992) ISBN 1-872229-02-6
|Hundreds of Cornwall