Helstonia – Pentire, No. 5 Church Street
I have been unable to find any documentation that would date this house precisely. However, a comparative examination of their respective frontages leads me to believe that the building is contemporaneous with the Andrew Hall, the former Helston Church of England National School that is dated 1828. In fact the similarities in architectural style and materials lead me to think that the two buildings may have had a common designer/builder. In view of one salient occupant of 5 Church Street for over 40 years, the similarity between the two buildings is apt.
Having assumed that the building dates from circa 1830, an examination of town directories dating from 1830 and census returns from 1841,’51 and ‘61 does not give any definite indication as to the identities of individual residents. In looking for a private resident who fits the later profile of solidly middle-class status one finds several possibilities but none that can be confirmed. The most likely, considering some later residents and their connections might be Mrs. Mary Ellis. She is listed as a private resident in Kelly’s Directory of 1856 and – more suggestively – as Mrs. Mary Kendall Ellis in Slater’s Directory of 1852-’53.
The first resident of whom I’m fairly certain is John Kendall who appears with his family and household in the census of 1871. Mr. Kendall is listed as a Bank Cashier and was almost certainly a member of the Kendall family who were prominent in the professional, commercial and political life of Helston for several generations. In 1871 John Kendall was 31 years old and lived with his wife Ellen, 34, sons, John, 4, Charles, 2 and daughter Helen, 1. The household also included Rachel Pryor, 66, Eliza Pascoe, 27 and Honor Scholar, 19, all described as Domestic Servants. The apparently genteel arrangements of this household may have been disturbed when the bank where Mr. Kendall was employed – along with many others – went bust during the financial panic of the mid-1870s. [ Plus ca change.]
It is in the 1881 census that we encounter the first evidence of the remarkable 40-plus year residency of Thomas Taylor and his family. Mr. Taylor was originally from Wolborough, Devon. In 1881 he was listed as 48 years old (although this does not jibe with later census listings, nor with Mr. Taylor’s age given when he died) and is described as a Teacher Trained & Certified. His wife, ten years younger and similarly described was from Holsworthy, also in Devon. Living with them were their daughters Alice K., 18, a Draper’s Assistant; Ellen M., 14, Scholar; and Charlotte M., 12 also a Scholar. Elizabeth Pearce, 27, was employed as a Domestic Servant – General. As Mr. Taylor was retired by 1901 but was later said to have been headmaster of Helston National School for 40 years, it may be assumed that he and his wife had apparently come to Cornwall from their native Devon some years before their residence at 5 Church Street. Their eldest daughter was born at Breage and the two younger girls in Helston. Mr. Taylor continues to be listed as a private resident in Church Street (sometimes the house number is given, sometimes not) in town directories from 1883 through 1923. The census of 1891 (giving the head of household’s age as 55 and employment as Schoolmaster Certified) indicates that the Taylor daughters had moved away – or at least were not present when the enumerator called – and that of 1901 refers to Mr. Taylor, 65, as a Retired Schoolmaster. In 1881 Mr. Taylor was elected as a Helston Borough Councillor and in 1898 he was made an Alderman. On several occasions he declined the office of Mayor. Mr. Taylor Thomas continued to be prominent in Helston life after his retirement, serving in various semi-public capacities, including that of Secretary of the Helston Public Rooms Company housed in the Godolphin Hall built in 1888-’89 and for many years up to the present day home of the Godolphin Club. Mr. Taylor was also a prominent Freemason being Past Master of the Loyal & True 318 Helston lodge of which he was also the long-standing secretary. He also held the rank of Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden Past Master of Lodge St. Michael Mark, Master Masons.*
The following Death Notice appeared in the West Briton of June 13th 1923: “TAYLOR – on June 12th at 3 Church Street, Helston, Cornwall, Alderman Thomas Taylor, 87. Funeral Service at Helston Parish Church on Saturday June 16th at 2:00pm. No flowers by special request.” The fact that Mr. Taylor, in his capacities both as schoolmaster and elected official and as Freemason, was a prominent individual in Helston life is attested – despite his instruction that there should be no public procession following his death – by the attendance at his funeral service of virtually all the Great & Good of Helston and environs: the published list – after immediate family mourners including his daughters – being headed by Col. Sir Courtney Vyvyan and including the entirety of borough councillors, aldermen and officers. Mr. Taylor was buried in Helston Cemetary.
By 1926 and through at least 1930, the house was occupied by Mrs. Angove. I assume this to be the widow of Josiah Angove who for many years carried on business next door at No. 3, being variously described as Tin Plate Worker, Whitesmith and Dealer in China & Glass. I’m not quite sure why Mr. Taylor was said to have died in the house next door to his own but assume either a degree of neighbourliness or a newspaper misprint. I was told several years ago that Mrs. Angove’s daughter was alive and resident in Wendron Street.
The last two occupants of No. 5 to be listed in the pre-World War II Kelly’s Directories are: 1935, A.R. Cunnack and, 1939, Mrs. Cunnack. The Cunnack family, of course, feature largely in Helston annals, particularly in connection with the old tannery on the site of the present British Legion Club. Other Cunnacks appear as booksellers and several served at various times as Helston borough councillors and aldermen.
In the absence of documentation (particularly the property’s deeds) I have been unable to trace the freehold ownership of 5 Church Street, although it seems likely that Thomas Taylor would have held it at some time: 40-plus years is a long time to be paying rent. There is a possibility that the property was at one time part of the Penrose Estate, or owned individually by members of the Rogers family. There may also have been a connection with the Ellis & Co. Brewery. The brewery, founded in 1803, was originally located at the corner of Church Street and what later became Penrose Road. When that site was acquired for the building of the United Methodist Church circa 1838** the brewery moved to a location further east along the lane that borders the north gable of 5 Church Street. Pigot’s Directory of 1823 lists a John Ellis as landlord of The Helston Arms. This inn, as the “Helston Armes”, is noted in “An Account of the Taverns, Brandy Shoppes and Alehouses in this borough” dating from no later than 1732 and names William Remfrey as landlord. The house was sometimes called The Black Rock.*** In Pigot’s Directory of 1830 the landlord is named as John Kendall, very possibly father – or other relation – of John Kendall the bank cashier. Other records indicate that the inn may have belonged to the Ellis brewery until it ceased trading in the early 1890s. The Helston Arms was closed sometime between 1919 and 1923, possibly by compulsory order with compensation paid.
No. 5 Church Street is presently used for social accommodation under the auspices of Cornwall County Council.
Even as such documents go the Land Registry Entry for 5 Church Street is singularly uninformative as to the history of the building.
*The Helston Museum holds a copy of a photograph of Thomas Taylor in full Masonic regalia.
**See Helstonia chapter concerning another Helston schoolmaster, William Clifton Odger.
***See Appendix B of H.L. Douch’s Old Cornish Inns.