According to the thirteenth century "Life of St. Gwinear", the Irish missionaries who landed at Hayle made their way to a place called "Conetconia". This is almost certainly a version of "Conerton", the name of a powerful manor centred on present-day Gwithian but with boundaries extending to Phillack, Hayle and beyond.
"Conarditon" is mentioned in the Domesday Survey of about 1066. It was considered the most important of the twenty or so manors in the far west of Cornwall and the subdivision or HUNDRED now known as the "Hundred of Penwith" was once called the "Hundred of Conerton". Of the seven Cornish hundreds it seems to have preserved the greatest independence from the Crown. The name may be Irish in origin, possibly derived from the noun "conairl" ("a haven"), to refer to the sheltered harbour at Hayle.
Conerton was apparently quite a considerable settlement with its own chapel of St. Gothian. The present churchtown of Gwithian grew up alongside in the thirteenth century; by this time Conerton was already being threatened by the blowing sands which finally engulfed it. In about 1540 John Leland referred to: " ...sumtyme a great toun now gone 2 paroche chichis yet seen a good deale several one from the other ... "
The remains of St. Gothian's chapel and its graveyard were exposed by digging in 1827 but have since been reburied in the sand. The most interesting monument of Conerton to have survived is a circular enclosure south-east of the church; this is the "Hundred Pound" where stray cattle were impounded until a fine was paid for their release.
The first recorded owner of "Conarditone" was Brictric son of Alfgar, a Saxon nobleman. He was sent by Edward the Confessor as an ambassador to the court of Baldwin, Count of Flanders. The story goes that the Count's daughter, Matilda, fell in love with Brictric, but being refused she afterwards married William I, (William the Conqueror).
In the thirteenth century Conerton Manor passed to the Arundell family, and remained in their possession until 1608 when the Lordship and Manor ware purchased by Sir Christopher Hawkins, a partner in the Cornish Copper Company.
During the years of Arundell control, estates or BARTONS were established in the area to provide homes for younger Arundell sons and dowries for daughters. Gradually, the estates became independent of their overlord so that when Christopher Hawkins bought the Manor of Conerton they were not included in the purchase.
Among the estates were BODRIGGY, PULSACK, TRELISSICK, TREVASSACK, and PENPOL, bordering the estuary and including land now occupied by the modern town of Hayle. Their names still survive, attached to the old manor houses and farms which have outlived the estates.
Penpol House and Estate
Penpol or Penpoll in the Parish of Phillack was one of the most important estates within the area of the present town.
Records of the estate go back in 1584 when it belonged to the Godolphin family and was on lease to the family of James Nicholls Esq.
In 1639 a quarter part of the estate was sold by Francis Godolphin to Anthony Moneychurch of St. Erth. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1732, Penpol was in the hands of the Rt. Hon. Henry Robartes, Earl of Radnor, who granted a 99 year least to the local merchant, John Curnow,
On Curnow’s death in 1760 his daughter Jane, and her husband Richard Oke Millett, a partner in the Cornish Copper Company, continued to live at the house. The lease was renewed, and in 1788 the Millett family purchased the estate, then consisting of 27 fields, a quay together with adjoining wastrel on the south side of the Hayle River, and 2/3rds of a second quay.
Penpol was inherited by Richard Millett's son John and subsequently in 1848, passed to the youngest son of John's second marriage, Hannibal Curnow Millett. He never resided at Penpol and on his death the estate was inherited by his half-brother Dr. Richard Oke Millett. This gentleman gained notoriety when he was accused by his brother-in-law, Dr. Edmonds, of poisoning his half brother, Jacob Millett, by mixing aconite with horseradish sauce served with beef for dinner. At the subsequent inquest and trial, Richard Millett was found not guilty and acquitted with minimal damages. He never lived at Penpol again and on his death in 1898 the property passed to his sister's children.
In 1890 Christopher Ellis took out a 21-year lease on the house, with ten acres of land and two fields. The estate was bought from the Millett family by Dr. Mudge in 1898 who eventually sold the freehold to Colonel John Ellis in 1921.