History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Helston is a lovely old town, one of the five "stannage towns" of Cornwall, where tin was brought to be weighed, taxed, and stamped before it was allowed to be sold. The prosperity that the tin industry brought to Helston is remembered in the name of Coinagehall Street (coigne being the name for the corner of a tin ingot that was cut off to be assayed for quality).
Centuries ago Helston was a thriving port, but in the medieval period the mouth of the Cober River began to silt up, creating the shingle bank called Loe Bar, which effectively closed off Helston and made the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. The banks of the lake are blessed with a variety of attractive walking paths, making this a popular spot for day trips.
Helston Folk Museum is situated behind the Guildhall. The museum is crammed with memorabilia tracing the history of the town from as far back as the bronze Age.
In May the town hosts Flora Day, a festival believed to have originated in the pre-Christian era. The town is decorated in green boughs, hazel, and local bluebells, which flourish wild in the area. Traditional dances and general revelry last all day, interspersed with more typical modern fair booths and amusements.
THE FURRY DANCE
Students of Cornish folklore are well acquainted with Helston! It is the scene of the annual "Furry Dance", held each year as a part of Flora Day. The dance begins as a stately procession with gentlemen in coat and tails, ladies in their finest dresses, and children clad all in white. The procession takes a circuitous route, even passing through shops, homes, and private gardens as it wends its way through town. Revelers sing the "Furry Song", which makes reference to Robin Hood and Little John, St. George and the Dragon, St. Michael, and Aunt Mary Moses. In some versions there are also rude references to the French!
The dance is believed to be a remnant of a pagan celebration of Spring, and local legends say that the dance was also used to frighten away the devil! The name "furry" is believed to originate with the Latin "feria", which means holiday, or the Cornish word fer, for fair or festival. The Furry Dance is generally held on May 8.
RNAS Culdrose is situated just south of Helston. Culdrose is the largest helicoptor base in Europe, and is the site for the annual air show in July. Another nearby attraction is Poldark Mine, where you can go down into an authentic Cornish mine and view a recreation of a miner's village.
Address: Helston, Cornwall, England
Attraction Type: Town
OS: SW661 281
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Poldark Mine - 2.6 miles (Family Attraction)
Godolphin - 4 miles (Historic House)
Halliggye Fogou - 4.1 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Mullion, St Mellanus Church - 5.7 miles (Historic Church)
Trebah Garden - 6.6 miles (Garden)
Glendurgan Gardens - 6.7 miles (Garden)
Carn Brea Neolithic Settlement - 7.9 miles (Prehistoric Site)
East Pool Mine - 8.3 miles (Historic Building)
Nearest Accommodation to Helston: