The rise of the Lemons

Ever wondered how Lemon Street in Truro got its name?

As well as adding to the wealth of established families, mining financed the rise of new families. Even before the 1780s, the Lemons had shown in spectacular fashion how Cornwall’s mines could provide a route into the landed class. In 1774 William Lemon’s election as one of Cornwall’s two ‘county’ Members of Parliament broke the hold of the traditional Cornish parliamentary gentry. Yet Lemon’s grandfather, also named William, had come from a somewhat obscure ‘humble’ background. This had not prevented him getting a basic education and becoming an office clerk and then the manager of a tin smelting works near Penzance. William Lemon, later dubbed ‘The Great Mr Lemon’ nevertheless owed his rise to traditional means as well as intelligence. In 1724 he married and his wife – Isabella Vibert – brought with her sufficient capital for Lemon to invest in the tin mine Wheal Fortune between Marazion and Helston. This aptly named mine then made him his fortune, with over £10,000 in profits (more than £2 million nowadays). He then moved to Truro and from there invested in the Gwennap copper mines just as they were beginning to boom. Luck and marriage were clearly important components in his rise. Twice mayor of Truro, he bought his country estate at Carclew in 1749. His grandson William was in contrast educated at Oxford, did his Grand Tour of Europe and became an MP, to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from other gentry.

from The Real World of Poldark, chapter 2
The Lemons relaxing at their country house of Carclew in the 1840s. This estate to the south of Truro was bought in 1749 by William Lemon who completed the building. It was largely destroyed by fire in 1934.
Lemon Street in Truro was constructed between 1790 and 1810, with a new bridge and street cut through into Boscawen Street in1798.

2 thoughts on “The rise of the Lemons

  1. Interesting to know the story of Lemon St! Are you sure the photo doesn’t show servants? The woman on the left looks dressed as such. My great grandparents acquired servants for a giddy period in Manchester (I know, 100 years later) and took great pride (i imagine) in photographing their servants to show they had “arrived”. And the photos look rather like this.

    My own grandparents nearly died on Lemon Street. It is part of family lore. They were parked in a car when a lorry’s brakes failed and the lorry mounted the car. My grandfather shouted at his wife to get out, but she said “If we’re going to die we’re going to die together”. Luckily they were eventually extracted and managed to live long lives. I always think of this story when on Lemon Street.


  2. William lemon was my 8 x grandfather…. very proud of his achievements, the pics are correct and not servants regards Gary Hughes


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