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:


Church History

  • 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.

Church Records


Civil Registration

The parish of Porthleven is in the Kerrier Registration District, and has been since its creation.

The address of the Registration Office is: The Willows, Church Street, Helston, TR13 8NJ.
Tel: 01326 562848.


Description & Travel

You can see pictures of Porthleven which are provided by:





  • OPC Assistance.
    • The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme operates a service to help family historians; the OPC page for this parish is available on-line, from where the OPC can be contacted by email.
    • The OPC has produced a website for Porthleven to help those researching in that parish.
  • Strays.Persons living in a parish but born elsewhere are known as "Strays". Strays found in Sithney/Porthleven in the 1861 Census are available on-line.


You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SW636262 (Lat/Lon: 50.0886, -5.306294), Porthleven which are provided by:


Poor Houses, Poor Law

Porthleven parish became part of the Helston Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief on its creation in 1846.



Porthleven parish was created in 1846 from the parishes of Sithney and Breage. Its population before this date is included under Sithney. Porthleven is generally enumerated with Sithney.

  • Population in 1851 - 1012 persons
  • Population in 1861 - 1259 persons
  • Population in 1871 - 1562 persons
  • Population in 1881 - 1873 persons
  • Population in 1891 - 1891 persons
  • Population in 1901 - 1974 persons
  • Population in 1911 - 1667 persons
  • Population in 1921 - 2002 persons
  • Population in 1931 - 1976 persons
  • Population in 1951 - 2098 persons
  • Population in 1961 - 2241 persons
  • Population in 1971 - 3024 persons
  • Population in 1981 - 3175 persons
  • Population in 1991 - 3145 persons
  • Population in 2001 - 3190 persons
  • Population in 2011 - 3094 persons


Sithney/Porthleven Board School Admissions - 1886-1921 are on-line, courtesy of the OPC. These give dates of birth.



The Porthleven Old Cornwall Society News Page is on-line.



The parish comprises 1749 acres of land.