St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives (Cornish: Porth Ia, meaning "St Ia's cove") is a seaside town, civil parish and port in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town lies north of Penzance and west of Camborne on the coast of the Celtic Sea. In former times, it was commercially dependent on fishing. The decline in fishing, however, caused a shift in commercial emphasis, and the town is now primarily a popular seaside resort, notably achieving the title of Best UK Seaside Town from the British Travel Awards in both 2010 and 2011. St Ives was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1639. St Ives has become renowned for its number of artists. It was named best seaside town of 2007 by The Guardian newspaper.

Early history  John Payne memorial, St Ives

The origin of St Ives is attributed in legend to the arrival of the Irish saint Ia of Cornwall, in the 5th century. The parish church bears her name, and the name St Ives derives from it.[1][2]

 Looking over St Ives Rocky landscape

The Sloop Inn, which lies on the wharf was a fisherman's pub for many centuries and is dated to "circa 1312", making it one of the oldest inns in Cornwall.[3][4] The town was the site of a particularly notable atrocity during the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. The English provost marshal, Anthony Kingston, came to St Ives and invited the portreeve, John Payne, to lunch at an inn. He asked the portreeve to have the gallows erected during the course of the lunch. Afterwards the portreeve and the Provost Marshal walked down to the gallows; the Provost Marshal then ordered the portreeve to mount the gallows. The portreeve was then hanged for being a "busy rebel".[5][6]

The seal of St Ives is Argent, an ivy branch overspreading the whole field Vert, with the legend Sigillum Burgi St Ives in Com. Cornub. 1690.[7]

During the Spanish Armada of 1597, two Spanish ships, a bark and a pinnace, had made their way to St Ives to seek shelter from the storm which had dispersed the Spanish fleet. They were captured by the English warship Warspite of Sir Walter Raleigh leaking from the same storm.[8] The information given by the prisoners was vital to learning the Armada's objectives.[9]

Later history  St Ives Harbour Beach (2011) by local artist Walter Scott (1974- )

Pedn Olva Mine, a former copper mine, at Pedn Olva Point adit, operated in St Ives before 1911, when the engine house on Pedn Olva Point was demolished, now the site of the Pedn Olva Hotel.[10][11]

The modern seaside resort developed as a result of the arrival of the St Ives Bay branch line from St Erth, part of the Great Western Railway in 1877.[12][13] With it came a new generation of Victorian seaside holidaymakers. Much of the town was built during the latter part of the 19th century. The railway, which winds along the cliffs and bays, survived the Beeching cuts and has become a tourist attraction itself.[14]

In 1952, the Royal Navy warship[15] HMS Wave ran aground near the town.[16] The ship was later salvaged, repaired and returned to service.[17] A propeller believed to be from HMS Wave was washed ashore in 2008.[18]

In 1999, the town was the first landfall of the solar eclipse of 11 August 1999. The Tate St Ives displayed an exhibition called As Dark as Light, with art by Yuko Shiraishi, Garry Fabian Miller and local schoolchildren, to celebrate the event.[19] A live BBC programme with the astronomer Patrick Moore was clouded out and the eclipse was missed.[20]

Fishing  Photochrom of St Ives, 1895 St Ives Fishing Fleet Cornish Fishermen, The Quay, St Ives by Christopher Wood, 1928

From medieval times fishing was important at St Ives; it was one of the most important fishing ports on the north Cornish coast. The original pier's construction date is unknown but the first reference to St Ives having a pier was in 1478 in William Worcester's 'Itinerary'.[21] The pier was re-built by John Smeaton between 1766 and 1770 after falling into disrepair.[21] It was lengthened at a later date.[22] The octagonal lookout with a cupola belongs to Smeaton's design.[23]

A. K. Hamilton Jenkin describes how the St Ives fisherman strictly observed Sunday as a day of rest.[24] St Ives was a very busy fishing port and seining was the usual method of fishing. Seining was carried out by a set of three boats of different sizes, the largest two carrying seine nets of different sizes. The total number of crew was seventeen or eighteen. However this came to an end in 1924. In the decade 1747–1756 the total number of pilchards dispatched from the four principal Cornish ports of Falmouth, Fowey, Penzance, and St Ives averaged 30,000 hogsheads annually (making a total of 900 million fish). Much greater catches were achieved in 1790 and 1796. In 1847 the exports of pilchards from Cornwall amounted to 40,883 hogsheads or 122 million fish while the greatest number ever taken in one seine was 5,600 hogsheads at St Ives in 1868.[25] The bulk of the catch was exported to Italy: for example, in 1830, 6,400 hogsheads were sent to Mediterranean ports. From 1829 to 1838, the yearly average for this trade was 9,000 hogsheads.[26]

While commercial fishing is much reduced, the harbour is still in use, often for recreational boating, tourist fishing and day trips to the nearby seal colonies on the Carrack Rocks and other locations along the coast. Recently, a class of Victorian fishing boat unique to St Ives, known as a "jumbo," has been replicated by boatbuilder Jonny Nance to celebrate the town's maritime heritage. Today's jumbos are operated by the St Ives Jumbo Association.[27]

Lifeboat  Lifeboat station in the harbour

The first lifeboat was stationed in the town in 1840.[28] In 1867 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) built a boathouse at Porthgwidden beach. It proved to be a difficult site to launch from, and in 1867 it was replaced by a building in Fore Street. In 1911 a new boathouse was built on the Quay, and then in 1993 a larger station was built at the landward end of the West Pier.[29] Since its inception in 1839, thirty eight RNLI medals have been awarded to rescuers from St Ives, 18 silver medals and 20 bronze.[28]

Seven crewmen died in the St Ives lifeboat tragedy of 1939.[28] In the early hours of 23 January 1939 there was a Force 10 storm blowing with gusts up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). The lifeboat John and Sara Eliza Stych was launched at 3 o'clock to search for a ship reported in trouble off Cape Cornwall. It rounded the Island where it met the full force of the storm as it headed westwards. It capsized three times and drifted across St Ives Bay when its propeller was fouled. The first time it turned over four men were lost; the second time one more; the third time left only one man alive.[28] He scrambled ashore when the boat was wrecked on rocks near Godrevy Point.[30]


On 28 July 2007 there was a suspected sighting of a great white shark. The chairman of the Shark Trust said that "it was impossible to make a conclusive identification and that it could have also been either a Mako or a Porbeagle shark". Coastguards dismissed the claims as "scaremongering".[31] On 14 June 2011 there was a suspected sighting of an oceanic whitetip shark; the Shark Trust said that the chances of the species being in British waters were "very small".[32] On 18 July 2017 a suspected blue shark was spotted close to the harbour.[33] On 16 July 2018, another blue shark was spotted in the harbour, prompting the Shark Trust to ask people to "give it plenty of space".[34][35]

^ Lewis, Samuel (1848), "Ives, St. – Ixworth-Thorpe", A Topographical Dictionary of England, British History Online, pp. 30–33, retrieved 25 March 2012 ^ Mills, A. D. (1996). The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names. Parragon Book Service Ltd and Magpie Books. p. 282. ^ Gillilan, Lesley (2009). Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Crimson Publishing. p. 290. ISBN 978-1854584243. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ Fodor's 1992 Affordable Great Britain. Fodor's Travel Publications. 1992. p. 162. ISBN 067902140X. Retrieved 31 March 2019. the sloop inn 1312. ^ "Sir Anthony Kingston, MP". Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ "The Prayer Book Conflict timeline". Cornwall Forever. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ Pascoe, W. H. (1979). A Cornish Armory. Padstow, Cornwall: Lodenek Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-902899-76-6. ^ Wallace, Willard Mosher (1959). Sir Walter Raleigh. Princeton University Press. p. 155. ^ Edwards, Edward (1868). The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh: Letters Volume 2. Macmillan & Company. pp. 186–88. ^ "Pedn Olva Mine". Retrieved 22 June 2021. ^ "Pedn Olva Mine (Pednolver Mine; North Wheal Providence), St Ives, Cornwall, England, UK". Hudson Institute of Mineralogy. Retrieved 22 June 2021. An old copper mine, which probably was first worked in the 18th century, when an adit was driven westwards under St Ives town from Pedn Olva Point. In 1822-23, the driving of the adit was resumed, and a shaft and several winzes were sunk. At a distance of 95 fms from its mouth, the adit intersected with a lode that was believed to be one of the St Ives Consols lode. In 1859, the North Wheal Providence Mining Company was formed to work the property, and "Old Wheal Trenwith", the eastern section of Wheal Trenwith, was included with the sett. An engine shaft was sunk, and a cross-cut was commenced from adit level to connect with the Wheal Trenwith lode, but this was still not completed when the company ran out of money in 1861. In 1862, a limited company was formed to work the property, but this was started to wind up in 1863 and liquidated until 1873. When the working of Wheal Trenwith was resumed by St Ives Consolidated Mines, the Pedn Olva adit was explored, but no further development was carried out. The engine house, which once stood on top of the cliff at Pedn Olva Point, was demolished in the early 20th century. Its staircase was incorporated in the Pednolva Hotel, which now occupies its site. ^ "St Ives Branchline Opens". Penwith Local History Group. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ "Trains to St Ives". Trainline. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ McKie, Robin (2 March 2013). "How Beeching got it wrong about Britain's railways". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ "Historian recreates drama and danger of minesweeper crew's close call". This is Cornwall. 30 November 2010. ^ "HMS 'Wave' Ashore at St Ives, 1952 –National Maritime Museum". ^ "Veterans attend commemoration of HMS Wave rescue". ^ "Remembering HMS Wave". UK: BBC. 4 February 2008. ^ "Designs on the eclipse". BBC News. UK: BBC. 29 July 1999. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ Moore, John (11 August 1999). "Report on Total Solar Eclipse as seen from St Ives". Retrieved 29 March 2012. ^ a b Noall, Cyril (1977). The Book of St Ives. Barracuda Books Limited. p. 59. ISBN 0860230376. ^ "History of St Ives". Into Cornwall. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ Pevsner, N.(1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed. Penguin; p. 181 ^ A. K. Hamilton Jenkin (1932) Cornish Seafarers; chapter on fishing ^ Victoria History of Cornwall, vol. I, p. 584 ^ Jenkin (1932) Cornish Seafarers; chapter on fishing ^ "St Ives Jumbo Association – Home". 12 June 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2016. ^ a b c d "St Ives: station history". RNLI. Retrieved 31 March 2019. ^ Leach, Nicholas (2006) [2000]. Cornwall's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater: Twelveheads Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-906294-43-7. ^ Bray, Lena; Bray, Donald (1992) [1981]. St Ives Heritage (2nd ed.). Devoran: Landfall Publications. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-1-873443-06-4. ^ "Great White sighting 'possible'". BBC News. UK: BBC. 28 July 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2009. ^ "St Ives harbourmaster told of two 'shark sightings'". BBC News. UK: BBC. 14 June 2011. ^ Gainey, Tom (18 July 2017). "Shock as shark spotted close to St Ives harbour". This is Cornwall. Retrieved 31 July 2017. ^ Rossiter, Keith (16 July 2018). "People warned to stay out of the water after blue shark is spotted". cornwalllive. ^ "Watch a rare shark swimming in St Ives harbour". Pirate FM. 17 July 2018. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020.
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