As one of the six tenancies celebrating 100 years, it seems only fitting to celebrate this historic pub in all its glory. While much has changed in 100 years, a perfectly poured pint and warm welcome are still assured – it’s a must-visit while in the local vicinity.
St Austell Brewery's plan to expand
In 1922, Hester Parnall (appointed director of Walter Hicks & Co Ltd in 1911) purchased eight licensed properties belonging to the Wadebridge-based ‘wine, spirit, ale, hop, and cigar merchants’, Coombes & Son. The acquisition, costing £6,500, signalled the early ambitions of the brewery to expand the business.
It’s not entirely clear when the inn was built, however, it is often claimed that it was originally built as a boarding house for the masons completing work on the local church. There is much also unknown surrounding the namesake of the pub – John Jervis (1785 – 1823) was an admiral in the Royal Navy, an MP, and titled 1st Earl of St Vincent in 1797, though he had no significant Cornish connections.
Constructed of rendered stone and cob with hipped ends and end stacks, the double-depth building appears to date back to the mid-18th century, though there are features from both the 18th and 19th century throughout. It appears the inn was originally a residential property, rather than purpose-built like many other pubs at the time.
The inn served a busy village community that thrived from trading off the land and water; the main occupations of the 1,174 inhabitants were listed as farmers, agricultural labourers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, bargemen, sailors, miners, coopers, builders, shoemakers, dressmakers, and food suppliers such as butchers.
The ‘dwelling house’ was owned in the 19th century by the Molesworth family of Pencarrow. The earliest publicans were William and Elizabeth Pengelly who, in 1841, lived in the building with their daughter Catherine and a servant, James Griffin. By 1851, William was working in the local copper mines and the inn was being run by Anthony Knight, who lived with his wife Mary Ann and their two young children.
Anthony was listed as a ‘carpenter and innkeeper’ and retained one live-in servant, presumably employed to help with the day-to-day running of the business.
From dwelling house to inn
The blacksmith, John Moore from St Mabyn, took the lease from Mr J Foale in 1858. In 1868, the lease noted that the dwelling house had “some years been converted into an inn or public house now called or known by the name or sign of ‘The Earl of St Vincent’”.
John lived with his wife Rebecca, a dressmaker, and their two daughters – they remained at the inn until 1892, with innkeeping listed as John’s sole occupation. The inn was then sold for £495 to Coombes & Son of Wadebridge, who had a small portfolio of public houses in the local area.
Kept in the family
In August 1922, after the demise of Coombes & Son, Walter Hicks & Co purchased the property for £700. The licensee at the time of transfer was Ambrose Matthews R.S.O who died the same year, and the license subsequently passed first to his wife Catherine, and then to their daughter Kathleen Paul.
For reasons unknown, Mr Matthews’ license enforced a 9pm closing which became a burden for his daughter who challenged the situation with the brewery in 1928, 1939, and again in 1947. The brewery was initially reluctant to support the request because of the cost implications, however her request to close at 10pm was finally approved by the local magistrates in 1947.
Kathleen lived rent-free at the pub until 1952 when electricity was first installed – her rent thereafter was charged at £26 per year, having cost the brewery £63 to connect the pub to the mains.
Upon her death in 1966, the license was taken over by her daughter Barbara Paul until 1989 – hence, the pub stayed in the same family between 1892 and 1989 before it was passed to Mr E J and Mrs A C Conolly.
Fancy learning more about our history?
Delve into our past with a fantastic day out in Cornwall. As one of the oldest businesses in the region, discover our rich history and get a glimpse into how our top-quality pints are produced.
Offering an interactive experience, tours of the historic family brewery, a newly refurbished shop stocked with our premium beers, and an array of gifts – a visit to the St Austell Brewery is certainly not one to be missed.
If you don't have time for one of our two tours, you can still enjoy our visitor centre where you'll delve into the history of the brewery. Take the taste test with a pint or two from our on-site bar, the Hicks bar, and tuck into delicious dishes from our menu.