Helstonia – Two More Coinagehall Street Hostelries
The Seven Stars Inn – AKA Fitzsimmons Arms
From its inception until c.1982 the house was known as the Seven Stars Inn. For a 25 year period during the 1980s, ‘90s and into the present century the house was known by the sign of the Fitzsimmons Arms. In the middle ages the Seven Stars was a religious sign, representing the seven stars in the crown of the Virgin Mary. The inn almost certainly took its name in honour of the medieval Chapel of Our Lady, built c. 1283, which stood in the middle of what in earlier times was called Lady Street, and is now Coinagehall Street.
Although parts of the building and its rear ranges are somewhat older, the first recorded mention of such an inn dates from 1818 when a pre-sale property survey was advertised to take place “…in the house of Henry Penberthy, known by the sign of the Seven Stars.” Henry Penberthy appears in various directories as an Auctioneer & Valuer and was a member of a prominent Helston family.
By 1820 proprietorship of the house had passed to John Lenderyou, who kept the inn for twenty years. In July 1840 the West Briton announced: “Eligible Public House to be let in Helston – To let by tender for a term of 7 to 14 years with possession at Michaelmas next all that Inn or Public House in the Coinage-hall Street in the borough of Helston known by the name of the Seven Stars Inn – now and for 20 years past in the occupation of Mr. Lenderyou the proprietor, who has hitherto carried on an extensive and lucrative trade therein but is now about to retire from business…” The advertisement also offered for rent 27 acres of farm land on Helston Downs, including, if desired, the crops then in the ground.
The inn was taken by George Dobb who was to remain tenant/licensee for at least eight years. The inn was advertised To Let in 1847 and again in 1848. Prospective tenants were referred to either Mr. Dobb or Mr. Lenderyou, now apparently keeping the Seven Stars, Truro, an indication that the announcement of his retirement may have been premature. During Mr. Dobb’s tenure at the Seven Stars he and his wife saw the birth of a daughter in 1841 and, sadly, the death of a [the same?] daughter in 1844. The 1847 advertisement gives the following description of the property: “…Seven Stars Inn situate in Coinage-hall Street…together with the Brew House and Yard adjoining (in which is a pump of excellent water) and behind is a large range of stabling, a Carriage House, piggeries and other requisite buildings. The inn is of recent construction replete with every convenience, in excellent repair, has a carriage entrance in front and from its central commanding situation cannot fail to secure a good and lucrative business.” The reference to the inn’s being of “recent construction” is puzzling. Much of the building certainly appears to pre-date the 1840s, although the main frontage appears to be of a more modern period. The re-fronting of inns was not uncommon – see, for example, this website’s account of Helston’s Red Lion Inn, Church Street – and a good deal depends on what was meant by “recent”, which here may refer to such a re-fronting. A notable feature of the present Seven Stars frontage are the two upper story bow windows with their unusual angled side-panel lights.
By 1853 the inn was in the possession of Henry Hendy, in which year his wife gave birth to a daughter, The inn was again advertised To Let in 1854, although Mr. and Mrs. Hendy were still there in 1855 when Mrs. Hendy had a son. The next landlord, John Tucker, seems to have taken the house the following year, and remained until at least 1859 when is wife gave birth to a son.
By 1863, in which year his wife died, the Seven Stars was in the hands of Richard Thomas. It appears that Mr. Thomas had acquired the inn on a leasehold-for-life, as witness the following announcement in the West Briton: “DESIRABLE INN & PREMISES IN HELSTON – To be sold by auction on Wednesday the 26th day of September inst at Four O’Clock in the afternoon at the Angel Inn, in the borough of Helston by Mr. Kerby for the remainder of a term of 99 years, determinable on the death of one healthy life, aged about 42 years…” Mr. Thomas also offered for sale an insurance policy on his life worth £500 at an annual premium of £16 19s 7d. The same advertisement appeared two years later, the only difference being that the auction was to be held “on the premises”, the “healthy life” was now 44 years, and Mr. Thomas’s solicitors were no longer Messrs Grylls, Hill & Hill, but rather Mr. J. Plomer.
It is unclear as to who held the freehold of the inn prior to the mid-19th century but the evidence suggests that at this time or shortly afterwards the Seven Stars Inn was acquired by Mr. Thomas Davey, who for several decades operated an extensive omnibus service. Mr. Davey’s conveyances plied between Helston, Redruth, Camborne, Penzance and The Lizard. It seems probable that Mr. Davey used the inn’s stabling and carriage house for his business, although in 1873 his commercial carrier wagons were listed as leaving from the nearby Prince’s Arms. He also appears to have let the inn to a succession of licensees, a number of whom had troubles – directly or indirectly – with the police and borough magistrates. The West Briton for 20th June 1872 carried the following: “Petty Sessions – Zachariah Williams, land lord of the Seven Stars Inn, Helston, was summoned by P.C. [John] Wedlock for keeping his house open for the sale of beer during divine service on Sunday the 9th inst. The officer deposed that he found a man in one of the defendant’s drinking rooms at 11:30am; he was the worse for liquor and a pint measure containing beer was on the table before him. On visiting the house again in the afternoon, the officer saw the same man. He was then very much the worse for liquor. Defendant made a long rambling statement in his defence which the Mayor (H. Rogers) said no person of common sense would believe, and the Mayor further said the magistrates were determined to put down Sunday drinking. Fined 10s, including costs.”
William Henry Mi[t?]chell – previously a tea dealer – kept the inn briefly, c. 1873, being also listed as an omnibus operator before becoming a retail wine & spirit merchant with premises in Market Place. [See possible connection with the Beehive following.]
In September 1875 the house was taken by William Prince Smith and his wife. Less than six months into their tenure the inn witnessed a notorious case of alleged infanticide. [For a complete account of this episode the reader is referred to the post “Two Lawmen of the Old (Cornish) West – Part Two”, featuring the redoubtable P.C. John Wedlock, and as included in the Local History Category of this website.]
As if P.C. Wedlock hadn’t had enough trouble with the Seven Stars, a bare four months after the grisly episode of the unfortunate dead and mutilated infant, the following appeared in the West Briton: “ASSAULTING A POLICEMAN – At Helston borough sessions… George Jeffrey, labourer, was charged with assaulting P.C. Wedlock…” It appears that despite an extension of hours until 1:00am due to the previous day’s Whitsun Fair, the defendant was still drinking at 1:15 when P.C. Wedlock attempted to clear the house. On the pavement outside “…defendant struck him [Wedlock] three times in the face and his wife caught him by the throat and nearly strangled him.” Jeffrey’s behaviour seems to have been an aberration as “…the Mayor said the offence was a serious one, but in consideration of the defendant’s good character, the fine would be mitigated to 10s and costs 21s.”
The next licensee was Henry Guest, who, along with his wife, also had his tribulations. In June of 1880 Mr. Guest was forced to file for bankruptcy with declared liabilities estimated at £300. Despite this he was still in possession of the inn early the following year when P.C. Wedlock summoned him “…for keeping his house open for the sale of intoxicating liquors during prohibited hours.” In the event, the magistrates agreed with the defence that the police had failed to prove their case and dismissed the summons. A more serious incident occurred later the same year when four drunken stonemasons assaulted Mrs. Guest, smashed up the premises and then proceeded to run riot through the town. On this occasion the ubiquitous P.C. Wedlock was not on the scene (he may have been taking a prisoner to Bodmin) leaving only acting-constable William Pappin, aged 70, who was unequal to quelling four vigorous young drunken hooligans single-handedly. Eventually they were overpowered by numerous citizens, three being locked up, the fourth escaping. Two of the four, having previous “form” as long as one’s proverbial arm, were sentenced to two months hard labour.
At about this time the owner may have decided that enough of such ructions were sufficient and the pub seems to have calmed down somewhat. In March 1885 the compiler of the West Briton’s Helston & District Notes favoured the proprietor with this rather Methodist commendation: “Talking of public houses reminds one of a good example. The Seven Stars Inn has got into the hands of Mr. Thomas Davey, the owner, and he has closed it for Sunday traffic. Well done, Mr. Davey; who’ll be next? The following year Mr. Davey disposed of the inn entirely, selling it to the Falmouth brewery of W. & E.C. Carne, who advertised the inn To Let in March 1886. The next recorded licensee was John Homer Prisk, 78 years of age, who had been a noted Helston publican for nearly 50 years; having previously kept the Horse & Jockey, Bell and Prince’s Arms. Mr. Prisk in younger life had been a journeyman cordwainer but upon coming into a legacy of some £2,000 entered the licensed trade. His tenure at the Seven Stars lasted only a few months as in August 1886 he died suddenly while on a day trip to Helford. He may have been succeeded by William White, who died at the inn in 1888. From c.1893 through c. 1923 the directories name Mrs. Margaret Stevens as licensee, although Mrs. Margaret White (relict of Mr. White) died at the Seven Stars in 1895. Mr. and Mrs. Hartley Harris – named as “…of the Seven Stars, Helston” – saw the birth of a son at the inn in 1901.
It seems likely that at some time shortly before or after the 1914-’18 War ownership of the Seven Stars passed from the Carne interests to that of the Redruth Brewery, owned by J. Devenish & Co. of Weymouth.
John Enos Townsend was listed as licensee in 1926. He was followed by Patrick J. Murray, a Royal Navy pensioner with rather a reputation for irascibility. Apparently on St. Patrick’s Day Mr. Murray would shut his house to all but a select few – presumably Irish – friends. It has also been said that during his tenure – c.1930 through 1951 – the inn was not noted for its scrupulous hygiene. Mr. Murray was succeeded by Charles and May Hannaford who kept the house until c. 1974. The Hannafords were followed by Jack and Jan Hocking (c.1975-’80). The Hockings were succeeded as licensees by Mr. and Mrs. Tony Baker. Mr. Baker was a keen boxing enthusiast and it was he, seemingly, who changed the name of the pub to the Fitzsimmons Arms in honour of the Helston-born champion prize fighter Bob Fitzsimmons. [An account of Bob Fitzsimmons’s father, James – for 20 years a Helston borough constable – is given in the previously-mentioned “Two Lawmen of the Old (Cornish) West – Part One”.] The Baker’s successors were Patrick and Margaret Moynihan, who remained until the inn’s acquisition by the firm of Greenhalls in the early 1990s. (Freehold of the Seven Stars is now held by the Scottish & Newcastle Group.) Mrs. Moynihan continued later as landlady of the St. Aubyns Inn, Praze-an-Beeble. More recent licensees have included Bob Sanders and Dave Slade, John Nesbit – during whose tenure the inn reverted to its original name – and the present congenial and industrious licensees, Neil Barku and Jodie Phillips.
Also known by several names, most recently Riley’s Irish Bar
“Certainly this sometimes related to beekeeping but it also is related to wax chandlers. It is a general symbol of business and hard work. Some pubs include an inscription on the sign:
‘Within this hive we’re all alive
Good liquor makes us funny:
If you are dry, step in and try
The flavour of our honey.”
[Quoted from Pub Signs – Paul Corballis. Lennard 1988]
There is little or no documented evidence that the Beehive existed as an ordinary licensed public house between 1830 and c.1960s. The building housing the present bar and the adjacent building formerly occupied by, among others, the electrical goods firm EDS and at present the B’gorgeous beauty salon (Nos. 4 & 6 Coinagehall Street) have generally been divided between several firms of Drapers & Outfitters and those variously described as Wine & Spirit Merchants and Spirit Vaults, traditionally know as The Beehive Tap and/or Carne’s Tap. The following are individuals and families thought or known to have been involved in these businesses.
Humphrey Symons is listed in the c.1790s Universal British Directory entry for Helston as a Licensed Victualler.
A document dating from 1814 held by the Cornwall Record Office names William Symons as a Spirit Merchant of Helston. The 1822-’23 Pigot’s Directory lists William Symons as a Spirit Merchant of Coinage-hall Street. The same directory for 1830 names the Beehive as a public house, William Symons Licensee. The 1840 Pigot’s Directory again names William Symons as Wine & Spirit Merchant of Coinage-hall Street.
The 1841 Census lists Alice Symons, aged 45, as proprietor of Wine & Spirit Vaults of Coinage-hall Street. Among others present during the Census was William Symons, aged 20, listed as a watchmaker at the same address. The premises of Ralph Michell, Linen & Woollen Draper, were next door. Alice Symons is named as Spirit Dealer in the directories of 1844 and 1847. By 1852 she had moved her business to Meneage Street.
Also in 1847, Ralph Michell appears as Wine & Spirit Merchant, Linen & Woollen Draper, and Agent to the Scottish Equitable Life Insurance Company, all in Coinage-hall Street. The 1851 Census had Mr. Michell as Linen & Woollen Draper, and the 1861 Census as a Draper & Tailor. The 1862 directory lists R. Michell & Son.
The 1871 Census records William Michell, aged 54, as Linen & Woolen Draper, Tea Dealer and Wine & Spirit Merchant. Kelly’s Directory for 1873 names William Michell (sometimes misspelled as Mitchell) as Wine & Spirit Merchant. In the same year Ralph Michell is listed as a Private Resident (presumably retired from business) with no address given. William Michell receives the same listing in Kelly’s Directory of 1878.
The most likely entry for the address(es) in the 1881 Census is that of William Dale, Draper & Outfitter, employing 7 female assistants, 5 female and 2 male apprentices & 2 men. Also resident were Mr. Dale’s wife, 5 sons, 1 daughter and 1 servant.
The 1883 Kelly’s lists John Winn, Wine & Spirit Merchant (late Michell’s) of Coinagehall Street.
At some time in the mid-1880s the Beehive business and premises – like the Seven Stars – were acquired by W. & E.C. Carne; Brewers, Wine & Spirit Dealers, Ship Agents and General Traders of Falmouth. The period saw similar acquisitions of free house properties by a number of local and regional breweries. The Carne Brewery, it may be noted, also bought the King’s Head, Falmouth from its long-term owners, the Thomas family, c.1883-’84. From 1889 the Carne business in Helston is listed as being in Market Place – despite having numbered addresses in Coinagehall Street buildings at this end of the street, facing the Guildhall, were often said to be in Market Place. The manager of the Beehive premises in 1889 was George Gregor. The notable window visible above the front door of the building naming W. & E.C. Carne Wine & Spirit Merchants would date from this period. The window is Listed.
The 1891 Census records Lucy Winn, aged 43, Draper’s wife as resident at the No. 4 premises, along with a Boarder/Milliner’s Assistant and a General Domestic Servant.
The 1893, 1897 and 1902 Kelly’s Directories list Reginald Truscott as Carne’s manager. The West Briton of 26th July 1894 records: “The Beehive Spirit Vault License was transferred from Welsh to Reginald Truscott.” The 1901 Census lists Reginald Augustus Truscott, aged 34, as Head of a Household at 6 Coinagehall Street, including his wife, Millicent Emma, aged 33; and a daughter, Clarice Ruby, aged 1. His occupation is given as Manager, Spirit Stores, and his birthplace as Falmouth. The West Briton of 12th March 1903 reported: “Mr. R. Truscott, of the Beehive Tap, Coinagehall Street, asked the bench to reconsider their decision at the last licensing sessions requiring him to close up the side door of the taproom – the Mayor said the Bench by a majority had decided to adhere to their decision. The business had been well-conducted. The side door in question must only be used to bring stock in when required.”
By 1906 Mr. Truscott had been succeeded as Carne’s Helston manager by Alex R. Laishbrook. This is intriguing as the King’s Head, W. & E.C. Carne’s Falmouth house, had been managed for 20 years by a Richard Henry Lashbrooke – being known, in fact, as Lashbrooke’s King’s Head Hotel. Despite the (not unusual) discrepancy in spelling it seems probable that these two Carne managers were related.
In 1911 Mr. Edwin Upex [see initial entry in the Local History Category of this website] moved his boot and shoe business from No. 20 Church Street to the building at No. 4 Coinagehall Street, adjacent to the Beehive Tap. Subsequently Mr. Upex operated an electrical goods business on the same premises.
The W. & E.C. Carne brewing, wine & spirit interests and licensed estate (including the nearby Seven Stars) were acquired at some time before, during or shortly after the Great War by J.A. Devenish of Weymouth. Listings for the Beehive from 1919 through 1939 merely name J.A. Devenish & Co., Market Place.
It is said that historically the Beehive was distinctive in having a license that permitted the off-sales of spirits but allowed consumption only of beer, cider and wine on the premises. At the time of the abolition of limited licenses at the end of the 1950s it is thought that only two other houses in Britain held similar licenses.
There is undoubtedly a considerable amount to be learned about the post World War II history of both the Beehive and the Seven Stars through their various incarnations and name-changes from the personal recollections of local people. It is interesting and suggestive to note that Mr. William Dalton, the founder and first Curator of the Helston Folk Museum, was a landlord of the Beehive.
In its incarnation as Riley’s Irish Bar the pub and its building were put up for sale in August 2015. In September 2016 the pub happily reopened as the Beehive under the proprietorship of Neal Hicks, formerly of the Lord Rodney.
Note: As with other accounts of public houses that appear on this website an invaluable research tool has been the index of Cornish inns and public houses compiled by the late Mr. H. L. Douch, sometime Secretary of the Royal Cornwall Society and author of the book Old Cornish Inns. The index is held by the Courtney Library at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.