I have mentioned my 4th great grandmother Alice Rutter previously in Were Liquor Licenses required in early 19th Century Cornwall?

I know that she and her husband William Symons were wine/spirit merchants/dealers but Alice's occupation in the 1841 Census (below) at Coinage Hall Street, Helston, Cornwall, has a word after Wine & Spirit that I cannot make out - it looks to me like Vaults? If that is correct does anyone know precisely what Wine and Spirit Vaults may have been?

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2 Answers 2


I think I may have found most of my answer in a blog posting entitled HELSTONIA: Two More Coinagehall Street Hostelries which mentions the same census record and the Wine & Spirit Vaults of Coinage-hall Street, as well as several other sources that I was unaware of and will need to follow up:

Humphrey Symons is listed in the c.1790s Universal British Directory entry for Helston as a Licensed Victualler.

A document dating from 1814 held by the Cornwall Record Office names William Symons as a Spirit Merchant of Helston. The 1822-’23 Pigot’s Directory lists William Symons as a Spirit Merchant of Coinage-hall Street. The same directory for 1830 names the Beehive as a public house, William Symons Licensee. The 1840 Pigot’s Directory again names William Symons as Wine & Spirit Merchant of Coinage-hall Street.

The 1841 Census lists Alice Symons, aged 45, as proprietor of Wine & Spirit Vaults of Coinage-hall Street. Among others present during the Census was William Symons, aged 20, listed as a watchmaker at the same address. The premises of Ralph Michell, Linen & Woollen Draper, were next door. Alice Symons is named as Spirit Dealer in the directories of 1844 and 1847. By 1852 she had moved her business to Meneage Street.

I am still keen to see and very willing to accept an answer that can tell me how the Wine & Spirit Vaults might differ from other types of Wine & Spirit premises.

  • 2
    I suspect the difference was not between WSVs and other Winws&Sprities premises, but between WSVs and Public houses service beer. books.google.co.uk/… may be of interest
    – user104
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 11:32
  • @ColeValleyGirl that does look interesting - sounds like there was quite some animosity between them
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 11:44
  • "Vaults" is a standard part of a names for licensed premises in the UK - e.g. "Ye Olde Vaults". The Oxford English Dictionary gives one meaning of the word as "An enclosed space covered with an arched roof; esp. a lower or underground apartment or portion of a building constructed in this form ... A place of this kind used as a cellar or storeroom for provisions or liquors." I suggest, therefore, that "Vaults" is possibly a proper name. Whether the Vaults in question has a vault below is moot.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 13:11
  • @AdrianB38, the modern-day licensed premises with Vaults in the name (leaving aside trendy renaming recently) seem to have started life as Wine and Spirits Vaults (i.e. licensed to sell wine and spirits but not ale/beer) and only later metamorphosed into fully licensed premised that kept their original name.
    – user104
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 9:23
  • Thanks for that @ColeValleyGirl - seems like my relatives were not up-market enough for me to need to follow up the history of a "Vaults". The Red Lion was as good as it got for mine (grin). (And that ended up as a farm house).
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 13:39

I'm reading Herman Melville's novel "Redburn," and in ch. 40 ('Placards, Brass-Jewelers, Truck Horses, and Steamers'), the narrator says, "I was astonished at the multitude of gilded balls in these streets, emblematic of their calling. They were generally next neighbors to the gilded grapes over the spirit-vaults; and no doubt, mutually to facilitate business operations, some of these establishments have connecting doors inside, so as to play their customers into each other's hands. I often saw sailors in a state of intoxication rushing from a spirit-vault into a pawn-broker's; stripping off their boots, hats, jackets, and neckerchiefs, and sometimes even their pantaloons on the spot, and offering to pawn them for a song. Of course such applications were never refused." It's interesting that your citation is from the 1841 census, because "Redburn" was published in 1849, and the scene described is in Liverpool, England. From this I would say that "vault" is a generic term, although I suppose the name of the business could contain the word "vault." Being curious about spirit-vaults, I googled it and came upon your question/comment.

  • 1
    Your reading seems to support that wine and spirits would not only be bought but also consumed at my ancestors' business.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 22:33

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