In my last post I promised to tell you the colourful history of two of Helston's old inns. The Blue Anchor, here on the left, has what is perhaps the oldest private brewery in the country situated at the back next to the skittle alley. The inn was originally a monk's rest house. In the C15th it became a tavern and the monks' honey mead evolved into the now famous (or notorious!) Spingo ales available in three strengths. It's not certain what part the ales played in the inn's lurid history. But in 1717 the landlord died of stab wounds after trying to break up an argument. In 1791, two soldiers, Ben Willoughby and John Taylor got into a fight. While trying to break it up the landlord had his skull fractured with a bayonet, for which Willoughby was hanged at Bodmin. In 1828 a man died after falling into the well, then in 1849 landlord James Judd was found hanged in the skittle alley.
Higher up the street is The Angel Hotel, built in the C16 and at one time the Godolphin family's town house. Supposedly named in honour of the Archangel Michael - the parish church is St Michael's - and an inn/hotel since the mid 1700s, it has also seen service as an excise office, a temporary gaol for smugglers, and a post house from which mail was collected for carriage to Falmouth and Truro. With cock-fighting a major attraction, it was a venue for society balls and meetings; justices dined here following bench sittings at the courtroom above the old market house; and Coinage officials stayed there. The most dramatic event in its long history occurred late one Thursday night in the spring of 1975. Sent to bed by the landlord after a bitter argument, the barman, ex-navy and a heavy drinker, returned to the bar brandishing an automatic and firing indiscriminately. As he tried to protect the barmaids, the landlord took five bullets in the chest and died on his way to hospital. The barman was charged with manslaughter and served seven years in prison. After he was released he married and ran a pub in Devon with his wife named as licensee. Nowadays the locally brewed ales are appreciated by partisan crowds on Pub Quiz nights, skittle and darts competitions, beer festivals, thirsty folk singers and the occasional daring tourist.
Jane Jackson. www.janejackson.net