Fast becoming Cornwall’s latest artistic hub, it’s no wonder why so many are flocking to the riverside town of Penryn. A blend of historic architecture mixed with contemporary development it is a place of creativity, art, and food.
From the omissible clock tower in the high street down to the riverside shops and restaurants, the town of Penryn rises and falls in its cobbled steep hills and tiny backstreets. Bestriding two creeks, Penryn was once known for trading in Cornwall’s sought-after minerals and granite. It was an international hub of stone, metal and industrial produce. The mixture of architecture, from Jacobean to Georgian, makes the high street picturesque to wander through, yet you’ll also find a mixture of contemporary new builds that have paved the way for Penryn’s status as a hub for art, craft and entrepreneurialism.
Once claimed as ‘Britain’s Greenest Building’ by The Guardian and boasting an innovate design structure that makes the complex sustainable, economically and environmentally friendly, Jubilee Wharf is an award-winning development that plays home to food, arts, craft and independent businesses. Amongst this riverside focus, amidst the quirky barges each more characteristic than the last, the green-living development is a place for wellness and community. From the tasty food at Muddy Beach to the workshops at Brickworks Pottery, the sense of community is a breath of fresh air and has set the pace for Penryn’s growing creative society.
Moored alongside Jubilee Wharf you’ll find The Brain of Brian, an unusually named but very special barge that plays office to Robotmother, the company responsible for theJubilee Wharf known today. Founded and set up by Andrew Marston, he and his Development Director, Caroline Cox, have been working hard for the last 12 years towards further advancing Penryn’s creative enterprises.
“Penryn has always been creative,” Andrew says, “but the last decade is has definitely come to the surface! I think people are looking locally for the creative sparkle in their lives, whether it is from handmade clothes, new art, a customer bicycle or a studio to do their own making. Similarly, there are many who have launched a creative career here, marketing themselves all over the country and sometimes the world, who choose Penryn because it celebrates and embraces individuality.”
Jubilee Wharf’s success became a pinnacle for other start up business’ and creative enterprises to set up shop in Penryn. Across the road you’ll find Seabourne, an independent fish monger lured to Penryn by Jubilee Wharf’s reputation, and most recently you’ll find Grays Wharf, the latest contemporary art development to be born in Penryn. Further along you’ll come across Origin Coffee’s latest café, TheWarehouse, where they serve their signature roasts in an effortlessly cool, contemporary café, complete with geometric designs and hanging succulents and smooth deliciously brewed coffee. Their menu is a collaboration of flavours and culture. From Moroccan lunch delights with Levantine twists, to French pastries, Cornish classics and wholesome breakfasts.
“The range of enterprises in the town never ceases to amaze me,” describes Caroline. “All of them have a style of their own, and perhaps a quirk that is peculiar to Penryn. Jubilee Wharf and our sister project next door, Jubilee Warehouse, are home to over 40 business, with a further 24 organisations/individuals running a variety of classes in Zedshed.
“Gray’s Wharf is suchan exciting addition to Commercial Road in Penryn – continuing the creative hub of Jubilee Wharf & Jubilee Warehouse. It was recently opened by our former tenant Hannah Woodman to offer a more basic artist workspace in the area than we currently provide. Having worked at Jubilee Warehouse for four years, Hannah moved on to her own space, but has managed to keep in the area she liked so much.”
Continue walking and you’ll find yet more family run businesses some which have been around for nearly one hundred years. Sully’s Framing, a colourful framing shop full of art and prints was opened twenty years ago by Pete Hambrook but the name and family history goes back much further, to 1921 when Gilbert Barrows Sully opened Sully’s Art Depot in Falmouth. A Sully continued to run the family business, until Pete, Gilbert’s great, great, great grandson opened a picture frame shop in Penryn and proudly adopted the Sully’s name.
Pop into another small family business Just Delights, established the same year as Jubilee Wharf, and you’ll find a wide range of beautiful, contemporary homeware, gifts and cards. And not to mention, at this time of year, a Santa’s Grotto of festive decorations, lights and trees that are enough to make anyone start feeling the Christmas spirit.
“You can grab a stylish bargain from Retro Chic and Cornwall Hospice Care” Caroline adds, “and down the road is The Fish Factory, Skinflint with their amazing lights and The Boathouse Chandler.”
Wander up the somewhat steep hill into Penryn’s ancient town centre and you’ll find a range of independent shops, cafes and boutiques, their fronts all uniquely decorated, their windows all styled with precision and flare. For over 800 years, Penryn’s town centre has seen many business’ come and go but now see a range of artists, makers and crafters taking up shop and adding a dash of vibrancy.
There are labyrinths of lanes, woodlands and beautiful walks that will showcase some of the stunning scenery seen around the river. From Enys Gardens, famous for their 30 acres of unspoilt, open meadows, and a spring show of breath-taking bluebells, to the Flicka Foundation, a donkey sanctuary founded in 1995 that provides a safe home for over 100 donkeys and horses along with many other animals that all rest, enjoy and thrive in this safe haven that is open and welcome to visitors.
“Penryn has so much going for it and going on all the time,” Andrew exclaims, “including the annual Penryn Arts Festival and the extraordinary Ordinalia. All this and a great dentist too!”
Whilst Kemeneth, Penryn’s annual community heritage party that takes place each October, is taking a break this year, you can expect to find all thing Cornish Ordinalia – a celebration of medieval plays written primarily in Middle Cornish, returning in 2019 for a fantastically packed two days.
“Jubilee Wharf will beholding our Christmas Fair on the 15th and 16th of December,” Caroline says, “We’ve already got all our stalls booked up and are looking forward to this year’s fair with the chance to get quality, good value gifts whilst actually enjoying yourselves. The café will be open and there will be entertainments in the courtyard so that all the family will look forward to coming this Christmas.”
As Penryn celebrates its 802nd birthday this year, it’s amazing to see how this deeply rooted Cornish town has adapted to keep up with its local markets. On a crisp, sunny day when the river is gleaming, and the shops are open it is a satisfying delight to stroll around Penryn sampling all it has to offer. Not too busy, not too quiet and whether you’re looking to try something new, taste some different or experience something unique, Penryn is definitely somewhere to explore this winter.
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