Penzance and Mounts Bay

About this time (i.e. after the Armada), raids by Spaniards were common, and in July, 1595, Hanibal Vyvyan reported the burning of Penzance, Newlyn, Mousehole, Poole Church and Church Town, and other villages adjoining, without resistance. Spaniards were pillaging and taking boats between the Lizard and St. Michael's Mount in the first part of the l600’s.

About the beginning of the 17th Century, probably, came the terrible Turkish, Algerian, or Barbary pirates. These came from a greater distance than the others, and consequently in larger ships, which were fully armed, so that the official records often refer to them as "Turkish men-of-war". Although these Barbary pirates (They are often also referred to as "Rovers of Gallee") penetrated far into the English Channel, raiding the coast, or preying on local shipping, their course brought them first to the Lands End and the Lizard, and as they could there prey on ocean- going vessels, they were always especially active in this area.

In 1640 there were many references to Barbary pirates on the Cornish coast. In one case they took three barks "in the open view of Penzance", took three other ships the same night at Mousehole and the Land's End, while three other vessels were pursued and escaped, one after eight hours' fighting. Many other vessels were seen deserted on the seas. In another account there are reported to be sixty "Turkish men-of-war" on the coast. In a third, sixty men, women and children were taken from about Penzance. In 1656 seven boats and forty two fishermen were taken by Turks (actually Algerian pirates) between Falmouth and the Lizard.

Meagre as are the facts which appear to be available in connection with pirate raids enough can be found to show that the whole coast was in continual apprehension of piracy, that Helford was a constant haunt of pirates, and that Penzance itself is the subject of one of the most distressing of these outrages. However the Mayors that controlled commerce in the south western towns were dependant on income from their local pirate and took a percentage from the sale of smuggled goods sold to their townsfolk. The mayor of Penzance received £40 in his year of office in 1776.

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