Cornwall & The South: Pt 24 – Helston

Leaving Lizard Point behind us, we arrived in the small town of Helston…


Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England

Date: 07/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Helston Guildhall, H.M.S. Anson Guns, Site of Helston Castle, Grylls Monument, St Michael’s Church, The Godolphin Club, Helston Methodist Church, Helston Museum, Helston Drill Hall, Museum, The Blue Anchor etc

We found a small car park just outside the main town centre, and found our way to “Coinage Hall Street”, the main thoroughfare through the centre of town where you will find the vast majority of Helstons major landmarks.

We started at the magnificent Guildhall, completed in 1839 to designs by George Wightwick (1802 – 1872, Welsh Architect from Plymouth). The building is still in use for Civic Duties, and includes a Council Chamber for the Town Council, and a Mayor’s Parlour. The ground floor was also originally the Corn Exchange.

Round the side of the building stand two well preserved K6 Red Telephone Boxes, designed for King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960, London Architect). They are a typically British landmark, and behind them you can see down Church Street behind the Guildhall towards the Tower of St Michael’s.

Following Church Street to the rear of the Guildhall, you will find the Market Square, which contains Helston Museum (shown on the right). It inhabits what was once the towns joint Market Hall, and Drill Hall (where Soldiers could perform their military drills).

The second picture is a view looking down the side of the Museum. The Market Hall section is in the foreground on the left, and dates back to 1838. The architect for the project was W Penberthy from Bristol.

The building in the background, which has a small tower with a bell in the centre, is the Drill Hall, completed a year later in 1839.

Helston 4

Outside the Museum in the centre of the square, directly to the rear of the Guildhall is the iconic Cannon salvaged from the H.M.S Anson. The Anson was a Royal Naval ship launched in 1781 from the dockyards at Plymouth, with a full complement of 64 guns.

The ship sailed the high seas until 1807, when a storm forced her onto the rocks at Loe Bar, as she attempted to navigate back into the port of Falmouth. A monument to the ship stands at Loe Bar, in memory of the vast majority of the crew who went down with their ship.

Many ships throughout history have been named Anson, with the most recent being H.M.S Anson (S123), a nuclear submarine currently under construction by BAE Systems.

Helston 6

Overlooking the town, as we spotted earlier, is the Church of St Michael’s, whose Tower rises high above many of the other local buildings.

Designed by Thomas Edwards, the Church was consecrated in 1761, replacing its earlier incarnation which fell victim to a large fire in 1729.

I mentioned earlier that George Wightwick designed the Guildhall in the 1830’s, and indeed he also undertook a full restoration of the Church at the same time.

Returning to Coinage Hall Street, we kept going North away from the Guildhall, to find the “Godolphin Club”, a fine Granite Ashlar edifice. Originally built by George Wightwick in 1834 as a Public School, by the end of the 1880’s it had become the towns Public Rooms.

It included such areas as a Billiards Room, a Meeting Hall and a Members Club. A similar set up remains today, with various events, entertainment, clubs and games available inside.

Looking back along Coinage Hall Street, you can see that most of the town itself is very historic looking, with small Ashlar Houses, old looking shop fronts and a medieval street layout.

Helston 9

The road opens out as you reach the Southern end of Coinage Hall Street, back past the Guildhall and down the hill which the town centre sits on. All of the buildings here are listed, however a few in particular stood out…

1) Helston Methodist Church: The Methodist Church was completed in 1888, and sits alongside a small Chapel which was the original place of worship on the site. The Chapel was converted into a Sunday School when the new Church was finished.

2) The Blue Anchor: This charming local Inn was built in the 18th century, and features a genuine thatched roof, which makes it unique amongst the other buildings on the road.

Helston 12

Finally, to complete our journey around the town, we reached the end of Coinage Hall Street, where you will find the “Grylls Monument”.

Yet another fine addition by Mr Wightwick, this elegant gateway commemorates Humphry Millet Grylls (1789 – 1834) who is most well known for using his significant influence in the area to stop the closure of the Wheal Vor Copper & Tin Mines, a major employer for the town, in 1830.

Behind the Gateway lies the Helston Bowling Green, which is supposedly the site of Helston Castle, which has long since gone.

Helston is an interesting, historic town which packs in more history on one street that many other whole towns. The architecture is also well co-ordinated, thanks to the efforts of Mr Wightwick.

We had just one more stop in Cornwall before we moved to Hampshire for the final week of our holiday, the village of Minions…


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