HELSTON, a market town and municipal borough in the Truro parliamentary division of Cornwall, England, n m. by road W.S.W. of Falmouth, on a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 3088. It is pleasantly situated on rising ground above the small river Cober, which, a little below the town, expands into a picturesque estuary called Looe Pool, the water being banked up by the formation of Looe Bar at the mouth. Formerly, when floods resulted from this obstruction, the townsfolk of Helston acquired the right of clearing a passage through it by presenting leathern purses containing three halfpence to the lord of the manor. The mining industry on which the town formerly depended is extinct, but the district is agricultural and dairy farming is carried on, while the town has flour mills, tanneries and iron foundries. As Helston has the nearest railway station to the Lizard, with its magnificent coast-scenery, there is a considerable tourist traffic in summer. Some trade passes through the small port of Porthleven, 3 m. S.W., where the harbour admits vessels of 500 tons. On the 8th of May a holiday is still observed in Helston and known as Flora or Furry day. It has been regarded as a survival of the Roman Floralia, but its origin is believed by some to be Celtic. Flowers and branches were gathered, and dancing took place in the streets and through the houses, all being thrown open, while a pageant was also given and a special ancient folk-song chanted. This ceremony, after being almost forgotten, has been revived in modern times. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 309 acres.
Helston (Henliston, Haliston, Helleston), the capital of the Meneage district of Cornwall, was held by Earl Harold in the time of the Confessor and by King William at the Domesday Survey. At the latter date besides seventy-three villeins, bordars and serfs there were forty cenisarii, a species of unfree tenants who rendered their custom in the form of beer. King John (1201) constituted Helleston a free borough, established a gild merchant, and granted the burgesses freedom from toll and other similar dues throughout the realm, and the cognizance of all pleas within the borough except crown pleas. Richard, king of the Romans (1260), extended the boundaries of the borough and granted permission for the erection of an additional mill. Edward I. (1304) granted the pesage of tin, and Edward III. a Saturday market and four fairs. Of these the Saturday market and a fair on the feast of SS. Simon and Jude are still held, also iive other fairs of uncertain origin. In 1585 Elizabeth granted a charter of incorporation under the name of the mayor and commonalty of Helston. This was confirmed in 1641, when it was also provided that the mayor and recorder should be ipso facto justices of the peace. From 1294 to 1832 Helston returned two members to parliament. In 1774 the number of electors (which by usage had been restricted to the mayor, aldermen and freemen elected by them) had dwindled to six, and in 1790 to one person only, whose return of two members, however, was rejected and that of the general body of the freemen accepted. In 1832 Helston lost one of its members, and in 1885 it lost the other and became merged in the county.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)