Pentre House is a 19th Century (circa 1867), mainly Granite built, property. Situated in a commanding position on the hillside to the east of Porthleven Harbour the house enjoys uninterrupted views of the Mounts Bay coastline from the Lizard to the east and to Newlyn and Mousehole to the west & beyond to the Atlantic.
Pentre House and Cottage was part of the Penrose Estate and was built for the local schoolmaster (it is next door to the 'Old School' that is dated 1867). Pentre later became the doctor's home and many local residents recall the cottage in the grounds being used as the surgery.
The actual date of construction is unknown but the house probably dates from about the same time as the school that is circa 1867. However on August 7th 1877 the house was leased by John Jope Rogers [1816-1880] (the then Squire of Penrose) to George Bowden (a Master Mariner). Whilst the dwelling is at that time unnamed George and his wife Mary Jane moved in with their son George along with Mary James the widowed mother of Mary Jane.¹
In 1885 a new lease was made between John Peverell Rogers [1846-1928] (the eldest son of John Jope who became Squire upon the death of his father) and Mary Jane Bowden (now widow of George) for a term of 60 years and an annual rent of £1/10s (£1.50).
Thirty-nine years later (in 1924), the remaining lease was transferred to Jessie Rowe (a widow of Wellington Road Porthleven) for the consideration of £115. That lease was dated June 21st, but by September 9th that year Jessie Rowe had successfully negotiated the purchase of the Freehold from the Squire for the sum of £600. Prior to this conveyance the property had remained unnamed (only being known as a dwelling house) and was also stated to be in Peverell Road. However this conveyance shows the property as being in Peverell Terrace and named as "Pentre". It would appear therefore that Peverell Road was split into Peverell Road and Peverell Terrace at around this time and that the house had been named "Pentre" by Jessie Rowe upon her taking up the lease.
Succeeding the first General Practitioner (Dr Edward Rundle who began practicing in the village in 1883), in 1911 Dr Chatterton Eric Elliston [1882-1960] (after whom Elliston Gardens in Porthleven is named), became assistant to the second local GP, the Irish born Dr. Henry William Spaight [1878-]. Dr Elliston had recently married, Manx born (at Kirk-Onchan), Elizabeth Gwladys Cadman³ [4th January 1882-1963] at Loughborough, Leicestershire circa March 1910. The married couple had moved to Cranmere, Kettering, Northamptonshire where he joined a practice. They are both found resident there on the 1911 census (taken April 2nd) before moving to Porthleven that year.
The then 29 year old doctor, who was born at Ipswich, Suffolk in June 1882, (but studied in Edinburgh°), came from a line of medical practitioners. His father was the physician and surgeon William Alfred Elliston and both his grandfather William and uncle George were medical practitioners. He was the youngest of this distinguished family of nine siblings (though Paul had died aged 6) amongst whom were the brothers; William Rowley Elliston OBE, a Major, barrister, Recorder for Yarmouth and one-time Mayor of Ipswich, Sidney Robert Elliston a Clergyman who became Canon Elliston of Ely Cathedral, Guy Elliston the Financial Secretary of the BMA who tragically died of pneumonia in 1918 and Sir George Sampson Elliston KGStJ MC MA, a publisher and also a barrister, who became Conservative M.P. for Blackburn in 1931, retaining the seat until his retirement in 1946 was forced by the incoming Labour government.²
During the First World War (1914-18), both doctors left Porthleven to serve the Country in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Dr Spaight left in 1914 and, although surviving the hostilities as a Captain, was never to return to Porthleven. Leaving behind his wife and three year old daughter Elizabeth, Dr Elliston saw active service in Italy, entering the Theatre of War on the 11th of January 1918, first as a Lieutenant and later Captain. (During renovations we found Dr Elliston's RAMC badge in a clump of dirt under the staircase - an amazing find considering it might have lain there for over 80 years.) After hostilities ceased Captain Dr Elliston (like multitudes of others, now awarded the Victory Medal) returned to an enthusiastic welcome in Porthleven and remained to become its sole medical practitioner. He and his wife Elizabeth were at that time resident on Breageside (the other side of the harbour) where he then held his local practice.
Dr Elliston acquired Pentre in a conveyance from Jessie Rowe [b1859] on April 8th 1926 for £850. The property had been occupied by a Miss Gillett since Jessie Rowe acquired the lease but was upon conveyance unoccupied.
Jessie Rowe was a clever lady, she had purchased the remaining 21 year lease for £115, sublet the property to Miss Gillett, acquired the Freehold for £600 and just 22 months later sold to Dr Elliston; making nearly 19% on her capital investment and almost certainly enough to buy another property outright.
At this time only the house and the associated land was included in the Freehold. But in 1926 Dr Elliston acquired (for the princely sum of £10) in a conveyance from the Squire the Freehold of the corner plot of land opposite Pentre. This land was then occupied by Gilbert Curnow who no doubt used it as an allotment.
In 1929 electricity finally arrived in Porthleven (at the chemist in Fore Street). Evidently this was quickly extended as reviewing wayleave rights for electricity supply has revealed an agreement dated November 26th 1929 whereupon Dr Elliston granted the West Cornwall Electricity Supply Company the rights to install an electricity supply pole with lamp on his parcel of land opposite Pentre. The Agreement shows Dr Elliston's signature and that of his Witness, E J Ellis, a widow and his resident housemaid.
The Schedule yearly rental fees for the wayleave were as follows:
(one shilling being 5 pence today)
|Stay||6d||(sixpence [half a shilling] being 2.5 pence today)|
|Underground Cables (per 100 yards)||1/-|
So the total annual fees due were at least three shillings (or 15p). At that time one shilling was a good week's wages so these days the annual wayleave fee of about £5 doesn't bear comparison.
It was not until 1945, shortly before his retirement, that Dr Elliston purchased the rest of the available land opposite Pentre House. We understand that Dr Elliston became aware of the potential for a Fish & Chip shop to be operated on the land opposite Pentre and this encouraged him to acquire it even though he was near to retirement. The Squire was apparently quietly pleased that Dr Elliston agreed to the transaction. So in a complex conveyance dated 24th May 1945, Dr Elliston acquired this land (for the princely sum of £25) from John Lionel Rogers [1880-1961] the then Squire of Penrose (the eldest son of John Peverell who succeeded his father upon his death in 1928) and John Percival Rogers a solicitor and trustee of the Penrose Estate. This land was at that time occupied by the eighty-nine year old John Quick Tregembo resident of the house "Kenwyn" that backed onto the land. He was previously the local coal delivery merchant and at one time Town Crier and Lamplighter (his locally famous photograph adorns an 1892 postcard, copies of which can be found in books on local history). There were no buildings on this land then and therefore it might reasonably be assumed that the land was used as a vegetable growing allotment since, by the 30's, Johnny Tregembo had well retired from delivering coal.
The conveyance was complicated by the fact that John Peverell Rogers had died bequeathing most of his estate to his wife Maria but, sadly, Maria predeceased him by just over two months leaving the Squire's estate subject to probate and trustees. The probate was completed in March 1929, six months after John Peverell's passing, and was followed by three separate indentures declaring the trustees; all of which had to be stated within the conveyance.
Apart from the surgery at his Practice at 38 Coinagehall Street, Helston, the cottage in the grounds of Pentre House was used as Dr Elliston's surgery. It was he who added the waiting room that is now the cottage bathroom. Not having a bell or other device he would stamp his feet in the surgery, now the lounge, making sufficient noise to signal that it was time for his next patient. He was an avid pipe smoker and the surgery was filled with the pungent aroma of a rather unusual tobacco. Mixing his own medicines, in what is now the cottage bedroom, the tough but kindly Dr Elliston would occasionally offer powders that had the placebo effect on those whose visits were deemed unnecessary and too often.
Like his father, Dr Elliston trained as a surgeon, but it is evident that his love of Porthleven and its people was such that he preferred to remain here and attend the often desperate needs of the locals rather than forge an eminent position for himself elsewhere. In an age when there was no free health service he always attended patients' needs irrespective of their ability to pay. He never took from the poor!
Dr Elliston finally retired from practice in 1946 aged 64. His tenure in Porthleven had spanned some 35 years except for the war period. Dr Elliston reluctantly left Porthleven to spend his retirement with his wife Elizabeth on the Isle of Man where, being from a long line of wealthy Sheffield cutlers & IOM landowners and farmers (her grandfather was a major subscriber to the Isle of Man Bank) they had property. They lived at Eyrebrook, Crosby and both died and are buried on the Isle Of Man. Dr Elliston died at Noble's Hospital, Douglas, on October 24th 1960 aged 78 and was buried in the Parish of Marown on the 26th; and his wife Elizabeth was buried in the same Parish on the 28th June 1963 aged 81. Please see the entries at http://www.lawsons.ca/burials/e_index.html (Site by Brian Lawson).
Dr George Reeves succeeded Dr Elliston upon the latter's retirement and acquired Pentre along with the two parcels of land opposite in a conveyance dated March 11th 1946. This being the first time that the three Freeholds had been conveyed in whole. The garages were built for Dr Reeves on the land opposite Pentre in 1955 and later in 63 (due to fire damage the garages have been rebuilt in 2003).
Since both practices lasted over 30 years the house and cottage had been known as the doctors' from 1926 through to the mid 70's. Dr Reeves passed away on the 4th May 1976 and the property was sold by his wife Peggy in October 1977. The house then transferred through various ownerships until we acquired the property, in a sadly neglected state, in 2002.
The name Pentre means "Home on the Headland". We are advised that the correct pronunciation is as one would say "Pen Tray". The name is derived from the two Cornish words Pen meaning headland and Tre meaning hamlet. The house has certainly been named "Pentre" since the 1920's and, interestingly, the wayleave Agreement (see above) shows Pentre perhaps more correctly written as "Pen Tre" in both Dr Elliston's handwriting and that of his housemaid. Since the learned Dr Elliston evidently preferred to write the house name as two separate words we have reinstated his preference on the house nameplate in his honour.
Please see Pentre Cottage - History for some further information.
Please also see Pentre House - Renovation for some further information.
Please see Dr Elliston - Anecdotes on the Pentre Cottage history page.
Please also see Dr Elliston, Porthleven's 'Beloved Doctor' by the late W. F. Ivey (formerly Helston & Lizard Peninsula Publicity Officer for Kerrier District Council); © the late W.F. Ivey & Graham G Matthews. On this page is a photograph of Dr Elliston wearing the RAMC badge (that I found) on his left lapel.