Helston Borough and other Cornish documents

Item date: Late 18th century
Grant Value: £2,000 [Smaller Libraries Fund]
Item cost: £2,500
Item date acquired: 2018
Item institution: Cornwall Record Office - Kresen Kernow
Town/City: Redruth
County: Cornwall

The Cornwall Record Office was offered, early in 2018, via David Lay’s Penzance Auction House, a collection of three boxes of Cornish archive material mainly relating to the Borough of Helston and other adjacent parishes.

The contents of the papers included a very large bundle of Helston apprentice indentures dating from 1791-1824, Sacrament certificates of 1727-1783, removal orders from 1787-1809, two bundles of settlement depositions and other papers 1791-1826, Helston Borough indentures of return from 1847-1868 and a miscellaneous bundle of Borough documents for the period c1780-1820. Other documents included a Helston Borough rental of 1686, street sweeping contracts 1812-1822, mining papers from the Basset and Grylls tin mine, dating from c1860-1880 and ale house licences of 1889. There was also a great deal of other local material, including a bundle of 25 deeds relating to the parish of St Keverne in the 18th and 19th centuries, with many more archival paper and parchment items, including a notebook of 1768-1769 for local gentlemen John Plomer who was appointed as town clerk of Helston in July 1785.

The provenance of the papers was almost certainly from one of the historic Helston firms of solicitors, either from the long established Grylls, Hill and Hill of the Great Office, Cross Street, Helston or Reginald Rogers and Son who had offices in both Helston and Falmouth. Both firms in the course of their existence had business interface with the Helston Borough administration. It is known that much local archive material passed, in the mid-20th century, to local solicitor Jocelyn Ratcliffe who lived  near Falmouth.

The Cornwall Record Office already held the Helston Borough archive, as well as the Argal manor collection but the former was conspicuously light on Poor Law and settlement papers and this was because that content had, at same point in the past, been separated off from the Borough archives, as represented in the documents which were offered to the Record Office. The Office was very keen to acquire this collection to augment what was already a very extensive Borough archive and to provide a much better resource for the study of the family and social history of this key Cornish town which received its first charter in 1336. When listed the apprenticeship and settlement papers would be an important resource for family and local historians of the 18th and 19th centuries and the listing process would also make an excellent volunteer project with community involvement. The Cornwall Record Office did not want to see this document collection broken up and sold off piecemeal to private individuals and dealers, thereby losing its archival integrity and accessibility and was very grateful for the opportunity provided by the Penzance Auction House to acquire it in total by private treaty without going under the hammer at auction, thereby risking dispersal.

The Cornwall Record Office is very grateful to the Friends for their prompt and very generous grant which has ensured that this collection will remain in the public domain.    

Alehouse licences.
Alehouse licences.
John Plomer's account book.
John Plomer's account book.
1686 borough rental, inside pages.
1686 borough rental, inside pages. Images Courtesy of Kresen Kernow.