Memories of Lelant: 1930s onwards by Mary Wills

Mary Wills

You might also like to read Shops and businesses in Lelant in the 1930s


My early memories

I was born in Lelant in 1927 when the village was either the gentry or working class (farm labourers and servants). At that time the village was very poor but everyone was very friendly; a happy village.

My mother was born in Lelant but her parents came from the Truro area. My father came from St Ives and was in the Merchant Navy for twenty three years.

My grandfather, Richard Coulam, was well known in Lelant and around the parish, coming to Lelant as village postman when he retired from the Navy as chief petty officer instructor. He was also a photographer, taking views for picture postcards and family groups. He also developed his own photographs. Once every year he had to go to Trevethoe House and take a photograph of Mrs Tyringham feeding the swans who came to the front steps at the same time every day.

My very early memories are being taken for walks by my grandfather around the lanes and on the towans and beach. When my grandfather had a lot of photographs to process I was stood on a stool in my grandmother's wash house to wash the photos from one pan of water to another and the water was changed several times. I also spent a lot of time with my grandfather in the garden having my own plot to grow radishes and lettuce.

My father was in the Merchant Navy and seamen did not in those days have paid leave. If they left the ship to come home they had to go on the dole and wait until the shipping company offered them another ship. Because of this my mother and I would travel to seaports around the country to spend time with him on board ship. It depended what cargo was to be unloaded and then reloaded as to the amount of time we spent with him. At one time the ship was laid up with several others in the River Fal during the shipping slump of the 1930s and mother and I were on board ship for six months. I was the only child on board any of the ships so I did get spoilt by the crew and other wives that were there. I always felt very privileged that I was able to travel around the country when other children in the village did not go out of the village except perhaps to Penzance or St Ives once a year or to go on a Sunday School outing.

Being an only child until I was seven, my mother had a lot of time to spend with me. In the summer we spent most days on the beach. Looking back it seems there was sunshine every day. In the winter I was taught how to knit and sew. Before I went to school I knitted myself a jumper to wear to school. We could play around the village as there were only a few cars and I don't think any of us got up to any mischief. One lunch time a week Daphne Glasson, whose father was the stationmaster at Lelant, had to take a pasty to her father for his dinner and my mother made pasties the same day. I would go with her and we would eat our pasties, wrapped in geaseproof paper in our hands, going to the station and back. In those days the main meal of the day was always at lunchtime.

In the winter months most villagers walked on the beach and picked up driftwood for the fire. My mother and I would do this quite often. When the War started Lelant beach was covered in pit props to stop anything landing on the beach. When this was being done there was plenty of wood trimming from the props to be picked up.

On the day of George V and Queen Mary's Jubilee, Lelant Band led a procession from Lelant Village Hall to the Park at Trevethoe House. There were sports and a tea. We were all presented with a commemorative mug by Mrs Tyringham.

I was in the church choir when I was ten. We sang for several weddings. One in particular was Rosamunde Scott's (Pilcher), the authoress. When I was twelve I was confirmed by the bishop of Truro.

In my childhood the food we had was homemade and most vegetables we had were grown in the garden. The vegetables used for dinners were what were in season as well as dried peas and haricot beans. These had to be soaked over night in bicarbonate of soda. Tinned vegetables were expensive and there was nothing frozen.

If anyone grew a lot of runner beans these would be sliced, put in a stone jar and covered with salt before being used. They had to be well washed. Surplus eggs were turned into a big stone pot filled with isinglass and used for cooking in the winter. Butter was always put in a stone jar in salt during the summer; it was cheaper then than in the winter. Shallots were grown for pickling.

Breakfast was tea, bread and butter, and jam.

Dinners varied. I list below the different types of meals and there were always potatoes and vegetables.

On Sunday there was always a roast dinner. We never had a cooked breakfast but would have bacon, egg, and fried mashed potato for dinner. Pasties once a week. Stew. Rabbit pie. Stewed tripe and onions. Leek pie. Homemade fishcakes with ling. Quite cheap: a whole fish would cost nine old pence. Sometimes ling steamed with white sauce. Beef and potato pie. Sausage and mash. Bubble and squeak with cold meat. Fried liver and onions. Roast heart. Steamed steak-and-kidney-pudding. Beef casserole. Cottage pie. Dried fish which you had to soak to get rid of the salt. I think this was cod which came from Iceland. It made nice fishcakes. Broth or pea soup during the winter. Chicken or duck was only available at Christmas time.

The sweet after dinner was either a milk pudding or steamed syrup pudding. Suet pudding with sultanas. Roast apple and custard. Steamed apple dumpling. Egg custard.

At tea time we always had a savory and sweet together with cakes. The toast was done on an open fire. Toast and scrambled eggs. Boiled egg and bread and butter. Salad in season. Cucumber sandwiches. Cheese on toast. Marinated pilchards when in season which mother did herself. Banana custard. Jelly. Blancmange. Tart (apple, blackcurrant, blackberry, date). Pancakes. Junket.

Before bed we had a cup of milk and a piece of cake.

My mother had a baking day every week using a Cornish slab. She would make cakes and bread rolls. She always made blackberry jelly and apple jelly in the season.

My schooldays from 1932-1936 at Lelant

My first teacher was Miss Eileen Edwards. When she left Miss Noy came as infant teacher. I was then in Miss Carvolth's class until she retired and Miss Harper came as headmistress.

The school began with assembly when we sang two hymns and had a scripture reading and prayers. On special days in the church calendar we went to church instead. We were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and singing. When Miss Harper came to the school we were then taught sewing, embroidery, dressmaking, and using a sewing machine. I made myself a dressing gown when I was seven.

We had physical education and games. Once a week the vicar would come and take us for religious education. Other subjects we did occasionally were first aid and practising for our sketches in the village hall at Christmas. In the summer we had nature walks around the lanes and fields, studying the flora and fauna. We had to write about what we had seen when we were back in class. In the summer we also had sports day in the field where Church Close is now built. Just before Christmas we had an exhibition for our craft work and received prizes, the judges being members of the school governors. Mrs Tyringham came occasionally to talk to us on several subjects, mostly behaviour and our future lives. On Armistice Day we went to the cenotaph for a remembrance service.

I started to learn to play the piano when I was six and there was one other girl in school who was also learning, Daphne Glasson. When we could play, we then played the hymns once a week for assembly.

We had a bottle of milk each morning play time.

I left Lelant School when I was nine and attended Hayle Grammar School for Girls.

During the week when the weather was dry mother met me from school and we went for a walk. On Saturdays during school term we went to the beach in summer.

Housework and washing

On Sunday there was roast dinner and milk puddings. After the meal the china and cutlery were washed but my grandmother would not wash any of the cooking pots and pans. They were put to soak in the washhouse until Monday. Sunday tea time china and cutlery were washed. The dishes were washed on the kitchen table with a bowl of water and a tray for draining them.

Monday was wash day. There was a copper built in the washhouse. Sticks and coal were used to boil the water and the white clothes were then rinsed in a galvanised bath, on top of the table, with buckets of water poured over them. The clothes that did not need boiling were washed in a galvanised bath on another table. There was no sink but a tap over a drain so all the water had to be put into buckets to fill the baths.

The washed white clothes were put in a bath of bluing water by the mangle and then put through the mangle. Pillow cases and tablecloths were put in a bowl of starch and rung out by hand.

If any of the clothes needed extra cleaning they used a scrubbing board of galvanised ribs on a wood frame. Mostly used was Puritan soap which was a hard block. When soap powder was introduced I can remember Persil and Oxydol. All clothes were dried outside on clothes lines. As much as possible was ironed on Mondays with a flat iron or box and heater. The flat iron was heated on top of the Cornish range and the heater for the box was put in the fire. It was quite a dirty job, you had to be careful you wiped any soot and coal dust from the irons.

After the washing was finished the washhouse floor was scrubbed and lime was washed around the boiler and the tap.

The only cleaning things available were a brush, broom, dustpan and handbrush, and scrubbing brush. The kitchen floor was washed several times a week. This had to be done on hands and knees. All the floors were covered in lino in my mother's and grandmother's houses with a few small rugs. Some houses had bare concrete floors.

Everyone lived in their kitchens. The front rooms were only used on special occasions. Every week the house was cleaned right through from top to bottom. On Fridays the Cornish slab was cleaned with black lead (Zebo) and the brasses polished before the fire was started. The windows were washed and the front and back step were scrubbed and the backyard washed down.

Shops and businesses


General grocery store, haberdashery, paraffin, fruit, vegetables, homemade ice cream in the summer.

Vegetables used to be displayed outside. When the cows were being taken in for milking, everyone rushed outside to bring them in before the cows could eat them.

There were one or two chairs beside the counter for customers to sit on while being served. Most items such as sugar, dried fruit, rice, sago, biscuits were loose and had to be weighed. Pieces of blue paper were used, folded, and made into a packet, and then the top folded over. It never fell apart. Small items such as sweets were put in a cone-shaped bag which was folded around the hand and twisted at the end. Butter and lard were cut from a block. The butter was shaped into a round or oblong shape and a special design placed on the top. Cheese was in a large round block and cut into the size you wanted. The cheese was wrapped in muslin and this was peeled off the cheese. Nothing was kept in any refrigerator.

Bacon was sliced to the thickness required. Vinegar was sold from a barrel, you had to take a jug to put it in. Tinned and packet goods were stacked on shelves and a long pole with a hook on the end was used to get them down. Potatoes were sold by the stone. Carrots and parsnips by the pound; turnips, cabbage, and broccoli by price each. The only crisps you could get were Smiths with a little bag of salt and they were sometimes brought as a special treat.

You could not buy milk or meat in the grocery shop, only ham. Candles were sold by the pound, salt was in a block and you had to crush it yourself. This was mostly done by a rolling pin with the salt between two pieces of paper. Ice cream was homemade by the shopkeeper in the summer.

I remember when Lyons icecream first came into the local shop. The icecream was in a round about one inch thick, wrapped around with cardboard which was peeled off and the icecream put into a cone.

Pepper was sold loose by the ounce. Also yeast. Saffron was sold by the pinch and put in a piece of paper. Furniss of Truro made a large selection of boiled sweets. These were 2d old money. Cadbury's chocolate was always in the shop and a few other sweets.

There wasn't the selection of bleach, disinfectants, and cleaning things about in those days. They have come on the market only since the 1939 War. You could buy Brasso, blacklead, and furniture polish (sold in tins). And bottles of cough mixture.

Bananas were sold by the pound and on Saturday afternoon were sold off cheap. The soap powders I remember were Oxydol and the hand soap was Puritan. The Puritan soap was sold in a cardboard carton, two blocks of soap in each. If you saved the cartons you could get a cup and saucer.

[Fur and Feathers, adjoining Hillside House, Tyringham Road.]


General grocery.[Japonica Cottage, Tyringham Road.]


Cobbler. His workshop was in their garden behind Olds' butchers shop, approached by a passage alongside Olds's shop.


Butcher [Roseleigh, Tyringham Road]. His slaughterhouse was beside the farm buildings in Church Road [now called the Stable Barn, the building on the far left, south side of the farm]. He was also a farmer in the centre of Lelant. He used to deliver meat to the country area of Lelant Downs and Trencrom with a high trap and a cob horse.

Nothing was already cut up. You asked for what you wanted and it was cut off and weighed. Butchers only sold meat and nothing else in those days.

Mrs Olds used to make cream. She had a dairy where you could buy the separated milk for 1d (one penny, old money) per pint. Most people used this for milk puddings. This was at the Old Farmhouse.


Sweet shop and a few groceries [Crossway Cottage, Tyringham Road; the shop was to the left of the door]. She also owned the beach cafe on the ferry beach [now a private house on the right going down the steps to the beach].


At the top of Station Hill there was a coal yard supplying coal to Lelant and district. Rebuilt after the fire and used as a store for broccoli transport, a furniture store.[Now 10 and 11 Station Hill]


Butcher. [Now 11 Station Hill]

Post office

I remember Mrs Southcott running this in the two rooms in Trecott in Fore Street. Inside the post office was the only public telephone in Lelant. Not many homes had telephones so there were a lot of telegrams. My grandfather, Richard Coulam, was a postman for many years doing the deliveries from Lelant Post Office for the rural area from Trevethoe to Rose an Grouse, on to the bottom of Canonstown Hill, across country to Trencrom, Bowl Rock, Lelant Downs. This was all done with a bicycle. When he retired he used to help out if any of the postmen were away. He also emptied the post boxes at the Golf Links, Brewery Hill and at the bottom of Lelant near the Chapel. The post came on the train and was sorted at the post office; and after collection the post was stamped with the Lelant stamp and bagged and sent on the train. (I have cancelled the postage stamps when I was a little girl.)

At the back of the post office was a shed which was used as a doctor's surgery for one morning a week. You got there through the gate at the left of the house.

After this post office closed Mr Bannister used it to make perfume which he sold in the shop. Then it was a hairdressers.

At the post office you could buy stamps, pen holders, pencils, nibs, toilet soap, picture postcards, writing pads, and envelopes. Telegrams were sent and received.


Butchers shop [Now the shop by the village hall in Fore Street opposite the post offuce]. His speciality was tripe and dripping. The place he cut up his meat before he brought it to the shop was in a small building opposite the school [the small building is now the garage of The Ship in Church Road].

Harry Edmonds

Attached to left of the meat cutting-up place was a workshop where Harry Edmonds, builder and carpenter, kept his building material and made coffins [Bickleigh built on this site]. He was the builder/undertaker in Lelant, employing six men. Many repairs and extensions were done by him. Gordon Hurrell took over the business, and he built many new properties in Lelant.


Not really a shop, just sold a few vegetables [Fairacre Cottage, Church Road].


A painter and decorator [Whitewebs, Tyringham Road]. The house to the left was the paint store.

Sandow Grocery/Lloyds Bank

This was a general grocery shop run by Sandow, then House, then Phillips, then Tonks [The Old Bank House, Fore Street]. Peter and Ruth Tonks also took over the post office here, eventually moving it to the purpose-built shop at Ivy Mount which is still the post office today. The door to the grocery shop is now a window and the bay window to the left was the grocery shop with the post office at the back of it.

One day a week Lloyds Bank used a room in this grocery [Old Bank House] as a bank office. The way in was through the present main door and to room on the right.

[There was also a branch of Barclays Bank: see Shops and businesses in Lelant in the 1930s.]


A corner shop selling general groceries [Boundy's House, Lower Lelant]. The present large window was the shop, the window presently to the right of this was the shop door, and the present frosted window was not there but was a wall with a post box.

Harry's Garage

Palmer Harry and Edgar Harry were two of the best mechanics in the area.

Griggs Forge

A blacksmiths run by Lashbrook and then Roskilly.

Lelant railway station

The entrance to the station was through the projecting door at the northern end of the station house. The booking office was to the left and the waiting room to the right. The garden at the southern end was part of the platform. The garden at the northern end was where Willie Edmonds collected parcels from the train. Willie Edmonds, a part-time postman, had a pony and wagon and delivered all the parcels that came to the Station and also collected anything that needed to be sent away.

Shaw Baker's nursery

Next to the school in Church Road [April Cottage]. He used to grow plants, flowers, and salad produce, especially tomatoes. He made various garden ornaments with cement such as seagulls, rabbits, and so on. He was a very good caracaturist. The nursery stretched down Brewery Hill to the houses at Riverside and behind the school.

Misses Rosewarne

They taught dressmaking in the right hand, northwest side of Hampton Court. They charged 2/6d a week for the lessons.


This was a garage/workshop and it used to charge batteries and accumulators for wireless sets. [Now part of 9 Tyringham Row, Oates coaches.]

St Neot's Maternity Home

Run by Nurse Honeychurch for many years. Nurse Honeychurch gave a cot to St Michael's Hospital children's ward in memory of her maternity home.

Door to door deliveries


Delivered milk to the door from a milk churn with half-pint and pint dippers. Firstly they delivered with a pony and trap, and then a motorbike and sidecar with the milk churn fixed on a flat platform, and after this witha van and milk bottles, the milk being bottle in their own dairy in Carbis Bay [now Becks chip shop].


Delivered homemade bread in a pony and covered trap. Came from Hayle.


Delivered homemade bread, Cornish splits and cakes. They used a van. Came from Hayle.


Delivered vegetables on a flat-backed lorry. You could buy any quantity you needed.


Delivered coal.


Elm Farm

This was run by William Toms. He had a dairy herd and grew daffodils, employing many workers picking and bunching flowers which were sent away by train. In later years greenhouses were erected and freesias and tomatoes grown. The farm was then owned by Mr Andrewartha.

Trendreath Farm

This was run by Mr Toms for flower growing and is now built on. It stretched into the present Trendreath Close.

Towan Farm

This was owned by Mr Alfred Olds and later Walter Olds. Cattle and crops. He also used the glebe fields owned by the church near the old vicarage.

Trenoweth Farm

A dairy and crops farm owned by Mr Taylor.

Higher Trenoweth Farm

This was a small dairy farm run by Mr Pearce and in later years was incorporated into Trenoweth Farm.

Gonwin Farm

Dairy and crops. The Royal Cornwall Show was in their fields several times.

Trevethoe Farm

Owned by Mr Tyringham, it was rented by the Rogers family. A dairy farm with crops, including a fruit orchard.

Splattenridden Farm

Owned by Charles Paul Richards. Dairy and crops and, in recent years, strawberries.

Abbey Farm

Owned by the Paul family. Dairy and flowers.[Behind Abbey Spring Cottage.]



Golf was a sport for the gentry until after the 1939/45 War. The local village lads used to work as caddies.


There was a good cricket team playing in the fields behind the fish and chip shop [Longstone Hill, Carbis Bay] on land belonging to Gonwin Farm.


In a field off Strawberry Lane there used to be a tennis court. There was also one on land belonging to Bickington House stretching up Brewery Hill and now built on.


There was a Lelant carnival for a few years after the Second World War.

Village Hall

There used to be a Lelant Village Band. They practised and kept their instruments in the Hall.

Several variety concerts were given in the Hall, including a concert every Christmas by the village school.

There were ballet and tap dancing classes here run by Mrs Mainwaring.

Other events in the Hall were jumble sales, dances, whist drives, parties, craft fairs, the Women's Institute, and the Lelant Produce Society events.

Mrs Lawry-Cole, who lived at Pentre in Station Hill, gave the children of the village a Christmas Party in the Hall, with Mr Frank Vibert as conjuror, and every child had a present from Father Christmas.

Evacuees of World War II

I don't really remember much about them but I remember them arriving and being in the village hall. Everyone from the village was there and the children were handed out like parcels. People were asked how many they were taking and then the children were handed over quite unfeelingly. The children seemed to be quite poor and looked very tired and dirty from their train journey.