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Helston in Cornwall County England History and Geography

HELSTON, or HELLESTON, a borough, market town, and chapelry, in the parish of WENDRON, possessing separate jurisdiction, but locally in the hundred of Kerrier, county of CORNWALL, 61 miles (S.W.) from Launceston, and 274 (W.S.W.) from London, containing 2671 inhabitants. This is a place of considerable antiquity, and was one of the original stannary towns, though but little tin is coined here at present. When Domesday-book was compiled it formed part of the royal demesne, and King John granted a charter to the burgesses for the foundation of a guild, which was confirmed by Edward III., who gave the privilege of holding a market and fairs. The town stands on the great road from Plymouth to the Land's End, on the declivity of a hill, to the east of the little river Cober; and it comprises four principal streets arranged in the form of a cross, with a handsome market-house and town-hall near the centre: at the end of the street which takes its name from the building is situated old Coinage-hall. The streets are all paved, and lighted with gas, and a stream of water flows through them, affording an abundant supply to the inhabitants, and giving a neat and agreeable aspect to the place. In the neighbourhood are mines of tin, lead, and copper, which are very productive, especially the famous tin mine of Huel Vor, about three miles westward from the town, the works extending more than a mile and a half under ground. Five large steam-engines are used to pump the water out of the mine, and several smaller ones for raising the ore and other purposes: there are likewise four large stamping-mills worked by steam; and the operations of roasting and smelting are carried on upon the spot. The expense of working this mine has been estimated at 5000 a month, notwithstanding which, the proprietors are said to have obtained a clear profit of 10,000 in three months. Markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday; and there are fairs on the Saturdays before Mid-Lent Sunday and Palm Sunday, on Whit-Monday, July 20th, September 9th, October 28th, and the first, second, and third Saturdays before Christmas-eve.

Notwithstanding the grant of many previous charters, Helston was not made a corporate town till the reign of Elizabeth, who vested the government in a mayor and four aldermen, who constituted the common council, and were to choose twenty-four assistants; and this charter was confirmed by Charles I., who appointed the mayor for the current year to be also recorder, and the mayor for the preceding year to be a justice of the peace within the borough, with power to hold quarter sessions. This charter being forfeited, in consequence of some electioneering intrigues, a new one was obtained in 1774, under which the corporation consists of a mayor and four aldermen, with an indeterminate number of freemen. There is a common gaol within the borough, under the jurisdiction of the mayor and aldermen; but it consists of only a single room, capable of holding only four prisoners, and committals seldom take place. The petty sessions for the west division of the hundred of Kerrier are held here on the first Saturday in every month. The borough has sent members to parliament ever since the 26th of Edward I.: the right of election is vested in the corporation, and the mayor is the returning officer: the patronage of the borough belongs to the Duke of Leeds.

The living is a perpetual curacy, with the vicarage of Wendron, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Cornwall. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a handsome edifice, with a lofty pinnacled tower, standing on an eminence to the north of the town: it was rebuilt in 1762, at the expense of 6000, the benefaction of the Earl of Godolphin. Here are places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists. A National school has been established in the town; also a dispensary for the sick poor not receiving parochial relief. In 1704, Charles Godolphin, Esq. gave land producing a considerable income, in trust to the mayor and commonalty 'for the education and maintenance of poor scholars, relief of decayed virtuous gentlemen, redemption of prisoners, and apprenticing poor children.' Here was anciently a castle, of which some vestiges existed when Leland visited the town, in the reign of Henry VIII.; the site is now a bowling-green. At the village of St. John, adjoining Helston, was a priory, or hospital, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was 14. 7. 4. Near this town is Loo Pool, one of the most considerable lakes in the county, formed by an accumulation of the waters of the river, confined by a sand-bank thrown up by the waves of the sea, through which an opening is made occasionally to drain the lake. This town has from time immemorial been noted for a popular festival, held annually on the 8th of May, called 'the Furrey,' supposed to have been derived from the Roman Floralia, or games in honour of the goddess Flora: on this occasion persons parade the streets with garlands of flowers, and all ranks partake of the pleasures of dancing and various rural amusements.

From Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England 1831, courtesy of Databases 4 Sale

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