The parish of Helston (Cornish: Hellys), (or more properly Helleston or Helstone), which includes the old municipal borough, is situated in the Deanery and Hundred of Kirrier (Kerrier). It is bounded on the north by the parish of Wendron, on the south by Mawgan-in-Meneage and Gunwalloe, and on the west by Sithney. There has been a settlement in this area since the Iron Age, the basis of the name being hen-lys, meaning 'ancient court'. In the Domesday Survey of 1086 it is called the 'manor of Henlistona'.
Helston is an old coinage town, and at one time the focal point of mining and trading in Cornwall. The town stands on the side of a hill, and declines towards the west terminating on th borders of a vale, through which runs the River Cober. In the middle of the main street formerly stood a Coinage Hall, with which was connected a prison, and dwelling house for the Duchy officer. Many of these buildings were emoved but the street still retains the name of Coinagehall Street. In spring every year the Furry Dance takes place. In the past this has been mistakenly called the floral dance. The towns people dressed in formal attire dance in and out of the streets and houses. It is a very sedate affair, which must be very different from the days when Wilkie Collins called it 'A sort of barbarous carnival... where even the "genteel" residents allow themselves to be infected with the general madness'.
The Borough of Helston was originally the chief town in Wendron ecclesiastical parish, but in 1865 a separate parish of Helston was created for the Borough. The Workhouse of the Helston Union used to be in Meneage Street.
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)
The Helston Folk Museum, was established in 1949. It is housed in the former Market House (built in 1837) in Market Place, Helston. The Museum contains a collection of former crafts and industries which flourished in and around Helston during the 19th and 20th centuries. It has an extensive collection of domestic items and examples of equipment pertaining to cottage industries. It also contains information about notable past residents of the area.
Index to The Book of Helston - Ancient Borough & Market Town by Reg Jenkin With Derek Carter.
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:
- 1841. The 1841 Census of Helston (HO107/139) was enumerated as part of Wendron. Enumeration Districts 1 to 4 [including Workhouses] is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
- The 1851 Census of Helston, (HO107/1912), is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- The New Zealand Society of Genealogists have compiled separate surname indexes of the 1851 Census for each Cornish registration district; Helston is listed in Volume 32. The booklets are available in Cornwall at the Cornwall Centre, (formerly known as the Cornish Studies Library), and is also available in the Cornwall FHS Library.
- 1861. The 1861 Census of Helston, (RG9/1572), is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1871. The 1871 Census of Helston, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1881. The 1881 Census of Helston, St Michael's, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- 1891. The 1891 Census of Helston, St Michael's, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project as follows:
- RG12/1839. Enumeration Districts 1 to 3.
- Anglican. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SW6527 and was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. It comprises a chancel, a rectangular body, north, south and west galleries, an organ room adjoining the chancel, a vestry and a lobby. The ceiling of the body of the church is painted in the Elizabethan style; from its centre hangs a massive chandelier of twenty-four branches donated by the EArl of Godolphin in 1763. There is a south porch and a priest's door. The church, which has two rows of windows on each side, is built of native elvan, called Clies stone, with granite dressings. The tower is 90 feet in height and built of granite ashlar; it is of three stages and contains six bells and a clock.
This church replaced an earlier building which had a spire of 90 feet in height. This was struck by lightning in 1727 and continued to be in a ruinous condition in 1753. It was rebuilt by the Earl of Godolphin from the designs of Mr Bland, an architect of Truro. The result was a typical 'town church' of the period which would have looked at home in a smart London suburb. A central altar was installed on a massive re-ordering of the church in 1971.
On 14th January 1865, the following notice appeared in provincial papers:
Whereas by an order of Her Majesty in Council, made the 20th day of November 1845, the parish of Wendron was divided into two distinct and separate parishes, named respectively, the parish of St Michael's, Wendron and the parish of Helston.
And whereas, owing to the resignation of Helston by the Rev. G B Boraston, on the 5th day of January 1865, the said order in council will immediately take effect.
Be it known that from henceforth it will be necessary for all persons who reside within the limits of the new parish of Helston to have their banns of marriage published in the parish church of Helston, and also to resort thither for the celebration of marriage in case that both of the parties are actually living in the new parish of Helston.
N.B. The new parish of Helston now formed, will be bounded by the road leading from Coverack Bridge to the lane leading down to Roselydden, thence by Rose in the Bush and Wheal Widden mine to the lane called Rowe's, and along the said lane till it reaches the turnpike road leading from Helston to Falmouth, thence down Crasken Lane by Pollard Bottom to the stream at Mellangoose.
The parish of Helston will therefore comprise the village or hamlets of Trelubis, Lowertown, Upper Roselydden and Lower Trenethick, Nansloe, Pencoose, Pentire and Degibna.
Thomas D Millner, curate of St Michael's Wendron
Thomas P Tyacke, John Grigg, Churchwardens.
- Roman Catholics. In the 1920's a Mass centre was opened at Helston and for several years Mass was offered each Sunday in various hotels and halls in the town. When the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm came to the district it became important to find a site for a permanent Mass centre, and in 1953, a plot of land of three quarters of an acre was acquired for a church building at RNAS Culdrose, in the development area; the chapel at Culdrose is dedicated to The Holy Redeemer. The first Mass was celebrated at its opening on Easter Sunday 1955.
- Non-Conformists. In Coinagehall Street is the Wesleyan Methodist chapel which is still in use at the beginning of the 21st century. The Bible Christians also once had a chapel in Meneage Street. There were also chapels for the Wesleyan Association Methodists, Bible Christians and Baptists. The Bible Christian Chapel at Lowertown,in the Cober Valley, about a mile and a half from Helston, was formally opened in 1839.
- LDS Church Records.
- The LDS Church batch numbers for Helston are: C053371, C024941/2, E024942, M024942, Wesleyan Methodist Circuit C065161, Coinage Hall Street Baptist Chapel C091061. These are searchable by surname.
- The IGI coverage for this parish is 1599 - 1853.
- The Cornwall Record Office holdings: Baptisms 1599 - 1972, Burials 1598 - 1965, Marriages 1599 - 1974, Boyd's Marriage Index 1599 - 1812, Pallot's Marriage Index 1800 - 1812, Non-Conformist records 1805 - 1837.
- Cornwall Family History Society have published on-line transcripts of:
- Pre 1813 Marriages
- 1813-37 Marriages
- 1813-37 Burials.
- Baptisms 1598 to 1911 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- The OPC has produced a list, searchable by surname, for baptisms in Helston 1598 to 1904.
- The Parish Chest have published on CD, baptisms 1696 to 1841 for the parish of Helston.
- The Cornish Forefathers' Society have also published on CD, baptisms 1696 to 1812 and 1813 to 1841 for this parish which are available for purchase on Parish Chest
- The OPC of Breage has transcribed Breage Circuit: Bible Christian Births & Baptisms 1821 to 1837. Parishes mentioned include: Breage, Crowan, Gwinear, Helston, Mullion, Porthleven, St Anthony, St Hilary, St Keverne, Sithney and Wendron. These can be searched on-line.
- The Cornwall Family History Society have published transcripts of: Parish Marriages 1599 to 1837, which is available in Book, CD or downloadable .pdf file formats.
- Phillimore's marriages 1599 to 1812, and parish marriage transcripts 1572 to 1911 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- The OPC has produced a list, searchable by surname, for marriages in Helston 1572 to 1900.
- The Cornwall Family History Society have published transcripts of: Parish Burials 1813 to 1837, which is available in Book format.
- Burials 1598 to 1911 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
- The OPC has produced a list, searchable by surname, for burials in Helston 1598 to 1893.
The parish of Helston was originally in the Helston Registration District; there were sub-districts at Breage, Crowan, Helston, St Keverne and Wendron. It is now in the Kerrier Registration District. Parishes in this registration district are: Breage, Crowan, Cury, Germoe, Gunwalloe, Grade, Helston, Landewednack, Manaccan, Mawgan in Meneage, Mullion, Ruan Major, Ruan Minor, St. Anthony in Meneage, St. Keverne, St. Martin in Meneage, Sithney, Wendron.
The address of the Registration Office is: The Willows, Church Street, Helston, TR13 8NJ.
Tel: 01326 562848.
- The The ancient borough of Helston; a short history and survey is available on-line, courtesy of the Old Cornwall Society. It was published by Spencer H. Toy in 1912.
In spring every year the Furry Dance takes place in Helston; this is usually held on May 8th. In the past this has been mistakenly called the floral dance, but this is now the name by which this celebration is most widely known. The town's people, dressed in formal attire, dance in and out of the streets and houses as a sign of welcoming the Spring. The townsfolk decorate their homes and shops with flowers and branches, making a colourful spectacle. There are four dances in all: the most famous being the childrens dance at 10 a.m., where local schoolchildren dance along the streets, and the midday dance, where the town's gentry dance through the shops and streets, looking resplendent in their top hats and tails and fancy frocks. Also celebrated is the Hal-an-Tow which commemorates the slaying of the dragon by St George and where a mock battle is fought outside the town hall.
Some information about the Floral Dance in Helston is available.
- Ask for a calculation of the distance from Helston to another place.
- 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 genealogical website for Helston to assist those researching their Helston ancestry.
- Persons living in Helston but born elsewhere are known as "Strays". Strays found in Helston in the 1861 Census are available on-line at:
The Domesday Settlements of Cornwall, a study undertaken by the Cornwall Branch of the Historical Association, has identified and located settlements listed in the Exeter and Exchequer Domesday Survey of AD 1086. The following places have been identified in Helston ecclesiastical parish:
- Helston (Henlistona, Henlistone), Grid Reference 089813.
You can see the administrative areas in which Helston has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.
Graham G Matthews has produced a website describing and detailing aspects of the History of Helston.
You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SW660274 (Lat/Lon: 50.10033, -5.273375), Helston which are provided by:
- Google Maps
- StreetMap (Current Ordnance Survey maps)
- Bing (was Multimap)
- OldMaps (Old Ordnance Survey maps.)
- Old Maps Online (Other old maps.)
- National Library of Scotland (Old Ordnance Survey maps)
- Vision of Britain (Click "Historical units & statistics" for administrative areas.)
- English Jurisdictions in 1851 (Unfortunately the LDS have removed the facility to enable us to specify a starting location, you will need to search yourself on their map.)
- Magic (Geographic information) (Click + on map if it doesn't show)
- GeoHack (Links to on-line maps and location specific services.)
Apprenticeship Indentures for Helston (1747 - 1764 and 1770 - 1785) can be found in the Cornwall Record Office.
- Helston parish was part of the Helston Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief.
- The Workhouse was located in Meneage Street, Helston. It was a large building of stone with granite dressings, and was erected in 1858 from designs by the Architect Fred William Porter. It later became The Meneage Hospital, which continued until the 1990s.
The Union comprised the parishes of Breage, Crowan, Cury, Germoe, Grade, Gunwalloe, Helston, Landwednack, Manaccan, Mawgan, Mullion, Ruan-Major, Ruan-Minor, St Anthony, St Keverne, St Martin, Sithney and Wendron.
The surviving buildings have now been converted into residential accommodation.
- Overseers' Accounts (1748 to 1764), Settlement Papers (1741 to 1826) and Bastardy Bonds (1729 to 1823), are available in the Cornwall Record Office.
- The Mayors of Helston from 1295 to 1718 are available on-line, courtesy of the OPC.
- The Mayors, Assessors and Aldermen of Helston from 1835 to 1878 are also available on-line, courtesy of the OPC.