Porthleven, (Cornish: Porthleven), is in the Hundred and Deanery of Kerrier. The name is a compound of two words: 'porth' and 'elvan'. The word porth in the Cornish language meand port and elvan is the Celtic Saint who came to these shores in the 5th century along with many others to preach the Christian faith. St Elvan was about one and a half miles from Porthleven on the road to Sithney and there is still an area to the north of Porthlevan called St Elvan.
As a village, Porthleven was not important in the Middle Ages. There was no harbour there and the River Cober was navigable as far as Helston. Porthleven was bisected by the parish boundaries of Breage and Sithney, and the modern parish - formed in 1846 - took land from both. The facilities at the harbour were improved early in the 19th century and was completed in 1818 but it was never became very important as a trading port. It remained principally a fishing and boat-building port, which it continues today; it is the most southerly harbour in Britain.
Most parish and church description(s) on these pages are from Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall by J Polsue (Truro, 1867 - 1873)
Census information for this parish (1841 - 1901) is held in the Cornwall Record Office. The Cornwall Family History Society offers a census search service for its members.
Specific census information for this parish is available as follows:
1841. In the 1841 Census, Porthleven was enumerated as part of Sithney parish.
1851. The 1851 Census of Sithney (HO107/1912), Enumeration Districts 1a, 1b, 1c, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project. [District 1b includes Porthleven, but page 2 is missing]..
1861. The 1861 Census of Porthleven is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
Anglican. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SW6225 and was dedicated to St Bartholomew the Apostle. The church of St Bartholomew is a plain building of stone, with granite facings, in the Norman style, erected in 1842, and opened August 3rd in that year; it consists of chancel, nave, vestry and a turret containing one bell: several windows are stained: in 1891 the church was thoroughly restored at a cost of over £2,000, from plans prepared by Mr. G. Fellowes Prynne F.R.I.B.A. and a beautiful baptestry added by Capt. J.P. Rogers R.A. in memory to his father, John Jope Rogers Esq: there sittings for 300 persons. The register dates from the year 1842.
The earliest reference to St Elvan is found in the registers of the Bishops of Exeter in 1257 - 1280 when a chapel dedicated to St Elvan in the parish of Sithney, is found. In 1270, the Bishop "assigned to the vicar of Sithney and his successors the hay-tithe of Ventonvedna and St Elvan, the tithe of beans and peas growing in the gardens and place where the priest used to dwell." The chapel of St Elvan remained for many years but was finally destroyed, perhaps at the Reformation. The Christian inhabitants of Porthleven then had to make the three-mile trek to Sithney for their worship, and this continued until 1842.
The Anglicans built the new church in the parish which opened in 1842 to counter the inroads made by the Methodists; it was served for the time being by Assistant Curates attached to Sithney Church. In the early days after 1842, the Church of St Bartholomew served as a 'Chapel-of-ease' to the Mother Church at Sithney. However an Order in Council, dated 7th October 1844 allowed Marriages, Baptisms, Churchings and Burials to be solemnised at the Chapel of St Bartholmew, and the independent parish was born. Adjoining the church is a burial ground.
Non-Conformists. The Methodists made great inroads in Porthleven in the early 19th century, and the first Chapel was built around 1800. This quickly proved too small and a larger one was built in 1840 which, in turn, was replaced in 1883. The Bible Christians also built a chapel in the village in 1830, which was replaced in 1863.
The OPC of Breage has transcribed Breage Circuit: Bible Christian Births & Baptisms 1821 to 1837. Parishes mentioned include: Breage, Crowan, Gwinear, Helston, Mullion, Porthleven, St Anthony, St Hilary, St Keverne, Sithney and Wendron. These can be searched on-line.
Church marriages 1847 to 1901 are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (Fore Street) marriages 1900 to 1914, are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
The OPC has listed marriages at Porthleven, which are on-line as follows: