HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
The building at 3 Penrose Road in Helston was erected in three stages: 1897, 1905 and 1913. The first part of the building was a two-storey, double-fronted detached building erected in 1897 on the site of the old Grammar School garden, with funds provided by the eminent Cornish philanthropist John Passmore Edwards. It was built originally as a Science and Arts School.
In 1905 this building became part of Cornwall’s first secondary school. Known as Helston County School, it was housed in the original Passmore Edwards Science and Arts School and in an extension built in 1905 in the same architectural style and using the same building materials. As the school grew a further extension was added in 1913. The boys entrance was in Penrose Road and girls came in through a side entrance in Wendron Street. The school was made up of scholarship and fee-paying pupils and was reminiscent of the old Grammar School, which had closed in the late 1880s. Between 1925 and 1930 two plots and two cottages on Wendron Street were bought by the County Education Committee to provide greater playground space (this is now a car park) and a substantial granite entrance was constructed, part of which still remains.
There were two big changes in the building’s subsequent history – the first in 1939 and the second in 1960. In February 1939 a new Helston County School opened on Church Hill and all pupils moved from Penrose Road to this new building. Later this became known as Helston County Grammar School and then Helston Grammar School.
In April 1940, several months after the County School pupils had transferred to Church Hill, Helston Council School pupils moved into the Penrose Road building. Their school building had been situated between Shute Hill and Godolphin Road and was a Poor Law Institution before 1856, at which point it was bought by the Methodists to become Helston Wesleyan Day School. In 1903 it was taken over by the local authority and named Helston Council School. This establishment, which provided elementary education for pupils from infants to fourteen-year-olds, moved en bloc to Penrose Road. After the passing of the 1944 Education Act, Helston Council School became a secondary school only, known as Helston Secondary Modern School and later as Helston County Secondary School.
In the 1950s the building was seriously overcrowded, with some classes having to be held in the Epworth Hall and in the basement of the nearby Church Street Methodist Chapel (the preserved lower walls of this building at the bottom of Penrose Road now enclose a parking lot) while the Drill Hall (now part of Helston Museum) served as a gymnasium and assembly hall.
The situation was eased in January 1960 with the opening of the new Gwealhellis County Secondary School, also on Church Hill, which was to accommodate pupils from Helston, Porthleven and areas north and east of Helston. Following the ‘decapitation’ of country schools, all children over eleven years of age would attend school at Helston (some were already there by choice). Those from the Lizard peninsula (sometimes referred to as ‘South Country’) went to Helston County Secondary School, which also came to be known as the ‘Green School’.
The term ‘Green School’ was used as a way of distinguishing the Penrose Road school from other senior schools in the town, because of its uniform of dark green and grey. In 1972 Comprehensive Education came to Helston, with much building in the Gwealhellis area, and pupils from Penrose Road moved to this new Comprehensive School complex, which also included the Grammar School. The Penrose Road building then ceased to be a school.
From September 1978 the Penrose Road building was used as a community centre, but it was boarded up in the early months of 2011 and finally sold by Helston Town Council in August 2012. CAST has managed the building since that time.
The history of 3 Penrose Road as a school was constructed with the generous advice of Betty Pascoe, who was both a pupil and a teacher in the building.