Helston tends to be remembered for its associations with the outbreak of the 1549 Prayer Book rebellion. But this was not the first time that the town had featured in Cornwall’s rebellious past since in 1497 its recent MP, William Antron, became one of the key leaders in the first uprising of that year. Antron, who was apparently born in 1440, was a member of a local family that had been Lords of the Manor of Antron or Antrenon in the parish of Sithney for generations. In the 1300s his ancestors were well established at nearby Helston holding the post of town Reeve or Mayor and representing the borough in the House of Commons. In 1491 Antron was clearly following in their footsteps when he also became the local MP and like Richard Flamank, the father of Thomas, had been involved in the collection of taxes earlier in his career in the late 1460s. It is worth speculating how far he played a pivotal role in the forging of the leadership of the rebellion by bringing Flamank together with An Gof. In terms of social status Antron was similar to Flamank and both men had been MPs at Westminster in the 1491-92 parliament. From a geographical perspective, however, Antron may have already known An Gof before the rebellion since they both lived in the same locality and that part of Cornwall covering Helston to Glasney and Penryn, where Antron also had property, appears to have been the epicentre of the initial rebellion.
Antron’s fate at the end of the march to London is not referred to by many writers in the same way as the other rebel leaders. But the reality was that he was also executed and then attainted in 1503/4 so that his family temporarily lost their estates and it was not until 1512 that Richard, his son and heir, was finally able to claim back his ancestral land. In 1997 Andrew George referred to Antron in his maiden speech in the House of Commons as one of his ‘predecessors’ since Helston over time had become part of the much larger constituency of St Ives. George’s comments were in the context of his own tribute to the marchers of 1997 who commemorated the struggle of their ancestors. It is therefore appropriate that we remember Antron since a dedication to Cornwall’s national interest that he stood for should surely be regarded as the key priority for any Cornish MP at Westminster both in the past and present.
Written by Dr Garry Tregidga, translated by Victoria Edwards and Clive Baker and filmed by Victoria Edwards.