Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history


This website includes a database of most of the pictures and artefacts in our collections.

Penlee House Gallery & Museum Collections

This website includes a database of most of the pictures and artefacts in our collections.

Fine Art

Penlee House has a permanent collection of paintings which is actively being developed through purchases, gifts, bequests and long-term loans. Some of the best-known artists are featured individually (please go to the Newlyn School page), while these and other artists' works are available to view through the Fine Art catalogue. Although each exhibition includes selected works from our collection, please note that there is no permanent display: please check what is on show before making a special journey. Prints of some images are available for sale from Bridgeman Art On Demand, and a selection of the most popular are available for mail order from our shop.


The museum has a collection of many thousands of photographs of the area from as early as 1870 up to the present day, which includes work by photographers such as Frith and Valentine, and by local photographers such as Preston, Moody, Gibson, Richards, Penhaul, etc. There are also a number of important photographic albums held within the collections, including volumes of images of the Newlyn School artists at work and play and personal albums originally owned by the Branwell family of Penlee House.

More information on local photographers

Information on early photographic processes

Social History and Decorative Arts

Founded in 1839, the museum's early collections were an eclectic mix reflecting the interests of its first donors. Since the early 20th century, however, collecting has been focussed on the fascinating social history of the far west of Cornwall, including industries such as fishing, farming, mining and tourism. A high proportion of the items are on display in the Social History gallery, but if you wish to see a specific artefact, please contact us at The Social History collections also encompass the area's unique decorative arts industries, including Crysede textiles, studio pottery and Arts and Crafts Copperwork.


Cornwall's unique landscape has been inhabited and shaped by people over many millennia. West Cornwall has a very distinctive character, recognised as an internationally important ancient landscape. It has a concentration of archaeological remains spanning the centuries from the prehistoric period through to the 19th century. The area's isolation from intensive farming or other developments has preserved entire prehistoric farms, ritual sites, burial mounds and medieval farms. Although Penwith is rich in stone remains, the high acidity of the soil means that most metals and organic materials disintegrate over time and few such artefacts remain. The Archaeology Gallery includes a representative selection of items from local archaeological sites covering each of the main periods. The full collection can be searched here, but unfortunately we have little data regarding a large proportion of our collections and not all items have yet been photographed.

In addition to Penlee House's own collection, the archaeology gallery currently includes the spectacular 'Penwith Lunula' on loan from the British Museum, London. For more information, please click here to download a PDF.

Natural History

The Natural History collections date back to Penlee House's origins as the museum for Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society, who collected examples of both local and exotic flora and fauna. Although much of the collection is rarely on display, we are grateful to naturalist Paul Semmens for photographing and classifying the items we hold, all of which are available to search here.