Paul Allen's grandfather at work on one
of the net machines. 1950's.
From right to left: Seine House, Barc
House and Little Tamerisk. circa 1960's.
1924 Price list. Telegrams only and not until 1933 did they get
a telephone - Porthleven 22
The family have been living in Porthleven for over 300 years
and the family run business has been operating hereabouts for over
130 years. Prior to netting our descendants have been fishermen, fish
jousters, lead miners and labourers to name a few. A few have even emigrated
to the USA.
originally started sometime in the 1870’s by Oliver Allen with his wife
Priscilla. They were the great great grand parents of the present Paul Allen, selling nets –
mostly horticultural and sports. Sadly Oliver Allen died at only 52 leaving
Priscilla and her sons to run the business. Details are sketchy but some years
after Priscilla had passed away. There was a family dispute away travelling
with the brothers. Bad enough that William Oliver Allen came home and decided
to set up on his own with the help of his wife Laura.
They both worked hard and the business grew
prospered well in the 20th century. He would set off on his bicycle
and ride into Helston to catch the train for up country. Then cycling
around the estates for orders for the business. At a peak employing up to 30 people in the
factory and about 100 outworkers. Hand making nets or working on the net
looms. Their Customers included Buckingham Palace, Royal Gardens of Windsor,
Royal Botanic Gardens, Baron de Rothschild, Duke of Devonshire and Longleat
House, as well as many of the local estates and individuals.
In the 1950’s we
seeing a demand for holiday letting the first property was let to visitors.
By the 1960’s with a down turn in the net trade from cheap imports, two flats were commissioned
(present Loe Bar Flats) This was followed by the gradual removal of the net
machines and into the mid 1970’s the conversion of the other buildings. The
last ones converted, were the Net Loft Flats in 1989.
We still carry on
with a variety netting and tarpaulin work when required. Though on a smaller scale it is just as
interesting. From football and tennis nets,
climbing nets, props for films and the theatre. The making
and repairing of tarpaulins, trailer covers, small mizzen sails and anything
we can make with our sewing machines.
Below here are all the properties
and their previous use
2 net machines
downstairs and working loft upstairs
4 net machines
Loft Bottom & Top
Cottage demolished and rebuilt as factory in 1933
downstairs and working net loft upstairs.
(reputed to be the site of the actual Porthleven Customs House)
and tar store
Net dipping and
Thatch cottage demolished
and house built 1933 for family
Loe Bar Flats
Built in the Garden of Netloft top & Bottom
The majority of the nets were made on the machines
and from cotton. When finished were taken to Barc House and treated.
Firstly dipped in a treatment of boiling cutch and this drained off
and then dipped in tar and this drained off. They were then loaded up
and taken a 1/4 mile up to the net drying ground on Loe Bar Road.
Originally this was the job of a donkey and cart and then a small 3
wheeled petrol powered truck. We still have our truck and donkey
harness just in case.
porthleven-history has a few more of
our old photos - people, business and Porthleven related.