The Turks Head is reputed to date from 1233 when, during the crusades, the Turks invaded Penzance, from Jerusalem. At that time the Turks were excommunicated by Pope Calixtus.
It was the first Inn, in England, to be named ‘The Turks Head’, others adopting the name in future times. Alterations were made during the 16th Century when part of the building was burnt down during the Spanish Invasion. The original building had a courtyard at the front (this is now the main bar).
During the 17th Century, the old cellar, which is now the dining room, was used by naval ratings. There was a smugglers tunnel leading directly to the harbour. The tunnel is still under the property and can be found to the right of the building, the whole of which used to be part of the Turks Head. The tunnel came in to the diner then up a shaft, arriving to the right of what is now the main bar, and then on to the first floor, where priests were hidden in the ‘Priest Holes’. These are still in existence. The second floor was a fisherman’s loft, with two large net doors leading onto the original courtyard. At the rear of the building there used to be both a Band Hall and a Cell for locking up drunks and undesirables.
In the 19th Century, the Landlord of the Turks Head was a Mr Holloway, the son of a pill manufacturer. His son, Thomas Holloway, moved to London and founded the Royal Holloway College. Built for the purpose of educating woman, the college was in memory of his wife who died before it was complete. He also founded Holloway Sanatorium for the middle class insane, now known as Crossland House, Virginia Park Surrey.