Although probably existing as a settlement since the 6th century, Helston was first `chartered` by King John in 1201. During its early years it was know as “HENLYS”or “HELLYS” which means `the old court` in Cornish. However, under the Saxon`s the “ton” was added and it was still known as “HENLISTON” when entered in the Domesday Book in 1086.
Helston is perhaps most famous for the 'Furry' or Floral Dance held on the 8th May, unless this falls on a Sunday or Monday when it takes place on the preceding Saturday). On Flora Day the streets are thronged with thousands of visitors and there’s a carnival atmosphere all day and into the night.
The bustling market town hosts a mixture of Georgian and Victorian architecture. An outstanding feature at the end of Coinagehall Street is The Monument, which was built in 1834 in the memory of Humphry Millet Grylls, a local banker and solicitor whose actions kept open the local tin mine and saved 1200 jobs.
Also on Coinagehall Street is the Blue Anchor, originally a rest house for monks, which became a tavern in the 15th century. This is possibly the oldest private brewery in the country, selling the strong local brew, Spingo. Further up the street, is one of the oldest buildings in Helston, the Angel Hotel, former town house of the Godolphin family who represented Helston in Parliament for many years.
Helston Flora Day
What’s it all about?
The origins of this famous celebration dance are more than likely pre-Christian and connected to ancient spring festivals that take place all over Europe. Nowadays the festival’s original purpose of ushering in a prosperous harvest expresses itself in a lively, colourful celebration that involves the whole town. A great family day out.
The town is decked out with bluebells, gorse and laurel leaves gathered from the surrounding countryside. Dancing begins at 7.00am with gentlemen wearing shirts and ties and the ladies in light summer dresses. Not long after the Hal-an-Tow, a boisterous mummers’ play featuring scenes of St George slaying the Dragon begins cheered on by a crowd dressed in Lincoln green and Elizabethan robes. The children of the town dance at 10.00am wearing flowers and lily of the valley and at midday the formal dance of the day begins with men wearing morning dress and the ladies decked out in magnificent ball gowns and hats that could be the envy of Ascot. To round off the day of dancing, the Evening Dance starts from the Guildhall at 5pm.
How can you take part?
You'll probably have to park outside the town and walk in as thousands of visitors pack the streets all day to watch the dances. During the day the main street and down towards the boating lake buzzes with many stalls selling local souvenirs, Cornish crafts and food and a big fairground and there's a carnival atmosphere from dawn to well into the night.
Taking part in the dancing is by invitation only by applying to the Flora Day Association. The event is held every year on May 8th unless that day falls on a Sunday or Monday, when it is held on the preceding Saturday.
Helston Flora Day