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St Ives, Cornwall

Historical Description

Ives, St, a bay, a seaport and market-town, a municipal borough, and a parish in Cornwall. The bay commences at the mouth of the river Hayle, adjacent to the town of Hay Ie; expands suddenly into half-moon form. with exposure to the NNW; measures about 4¼ miles across the entrance, between St Ives Head on the W and Godrevy Head and Island on the E; measures about 2½ miles from Hayle bar to a line drawn across the entrance; has anchorage, outside St Ives pier, in 6 fathoms; is swept by spring tides rising 20 feet 10 inches, by neap tides rising 15 feet 8 inches; lies all exposed, except at St Ives harbour, to N winds; and suffers impediment from moving sands. The view from the mouth of Hayle river is very beautiful. The sides of the bay, as seen there, have the form of two crescents; and they curve round in sandy shore, overhung by cliffs, and terminate picturesquely in the promontory heads of St Ives and Godrevy. The harbour in it for St Ives town is a recess on the S side of St Ives promontory, bounded on the S by Pednolver Point, but in former times was much choked with drifting sands brought in by NW winds. A small old pier ran into the harbour at the middle of the N side, but was very much exposed, and has disappeared. A commodious pier on the same side, but farther to the E, was constructed in 1767 by Smeaton, and has such direction as to give important shelter. By an Order in Council (1886), the works and property of St Ives harbour were vested in the Corporation, who were authorized to borrow, £32, 000 for the purposes of construction. Most of this money was spent in lengthening the pier originally built in 1767. There is also a pier on wood piles, erected in 1864-66, but this is now much decayed. A short arm, known as the-west pier, was completed in 1894 at a cost of, £8000. It is well built of granite, starting from the N side of the-churchyard. The main purpose of its erection was to check the scour of the tide, which, since the extension of Smeaton's pier, has done much injury to the fishing fleet. A lighthouse is on Godrevy Island.

The town stands contiguous to the harbour, at the terminus of the St Ives branch of the West Cornwall section of the G.W.R., 319 miles from London and 4 NW of Hayle. It is said to have derived its name from St la or Ya. The v crept in by assimilation to St Ives in Huntington or St Ive, Liskeard, which derived their name from a man named Ivo,. said to have been a Persian bishop. The original town stood on the promontory eastward of the present town, and is believed, from substructures and ruined walls found beneath the sand, to have been overwhelmed by sand-drifts. The place was known at Domesday as part of Luddnham or Luggyanlese. Even the modern town is described by Leiand as, in his time, " sorely oppressed or over-covered with sands," and it lost nearly a third of its inhabitants in 1647 by ravages of plague, but it has escaped all visitations of cholera. A ship in 1780, with 250 Hessian troops on boaro, sailing to America, became crippled offCharlestown, was driven thence in distress by a W wind, and came right into St Ives harbour. Jonathan Toup, the editor of Longinus, was a native; The town, as seen from the neighbourhood, particularly in the approach from Hayle, looks very picturesque, and has been thought, as to both its own appearance and that of its environs, to resemble a Greek village. Nor does it really want a sort of Greek-like character; and, though improved and extending, it is very irregularly built, and consists chiefly of narrow streets or rather lanes; but of late years good modern houses and private villas have sprung up, and several terraces have been built. The shores and sea-board near it abound with objects interesting to naturalists, and the lands adjacent swell and bristle with rugged rock-strewn hills. A logan stone is on a summit of one of these hills, called Eosewall, situated to the SW. A granite pyramidal spire or triangular-base, erected in 1782 by the eccentric John Knill, Esq., and originally intended by him as a mausoleum for himself, crowns another eminence 545 feet high, situated to the S. Tregenna, a castellated edifice of 1774, stands at the N foot of that hill, and has a fine prospect of the bay. At one time it was a private residence, but has been converted into a hotel. The town has a post, money order, and telegraph office designated St Ives, two banks, two chief inns, a town-hall, a custom-house, a coastguard station, a church, and several dissenting chapels. The branch railway to it leaves the main Cornwall line at St Erth Road station, is about 4 miles long, and was opened in 1877. The church stands close to the-beach, is of the time of Henry V. and Henry VI., has a tower 90 feet high, was restored in 1859 and previous years, and contains a curious font, much excellent carved oak, and many ancient mural monuments. The tower was restored and re-pointed in 1872, and in 1887 the whole building was re-roofed; in the churchyard there is an octagonal cross, with a square panelled head carved with representations of the Crucifixion and other subjects. A market is held on Saturday. Shipbuilding, pilchard fishing, sail and netting manufacture are carried on. There are extensive fishery and curing houses for pilchards, mackerel, and herring, which last seems likely to surpass the others. The pilchard fishing yields some thousands of hogsheads a year, and makes large exports to the Mediterranean. There were several copper and tin mines in the neighbourhood, but they are all closed. The town is a borough by prescription, was first chartered by Charles I., is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, sent two members to Parliament prior to the Act of 1832, and after that only one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it was deprived of independent representation, and merged in the parliamentary division known as the St Ives or Western Division of Cornwall. The municipal borough and civil parish are co-extensive. Acreage, 1889; population of the civil parish, 6094; of the ecclesiastical, 4679.

The parish includes Halsetown, technically known as a Peel parish, which was constituted in 1846, and is a separate charge. The parochial living is a vicarage in the diocese of Troro; gross value, £280 with residence. Patron, the Vicar of Leiant.

St Ives Parliamentary Division, or Westwn Cornwall, was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 50, 187. The division includes the following:-West Penwith-Buryan (St), Gulval, Hilary (St), Just (St, in Pen-with), Levan (St), Ludgvan, Madron (part of), Marazion, Michael's Mount (St), Morvah, Paul, Penzance (part of), Per-ranuthnoe, Sancreed, Scilly Islands, Sennen, Towednack, Zennor; East Penwith (part of)-Uny Leiant, St Erth; St Ives, municipal borough; Penzance, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCornwall 
Ecclesiastical parishSt. Ives St. Andrew 
Poor Law unionPenzance 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The Phillimore transcript of Marriages at St Ives 1653-1812, Cornwall is available to browse online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for St Ives from the following:


Online maps of St Ives are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtTR26
Post TownSt. Ives