History of St Ives

St Ives settlement first began to develop on the area just inland of The Island, bounded by Porthmeor Beach and Harbour Beach.

c.400 St Ia arrived from Ireland

1312 The Sloop Inn is believed to date from this year

1434 The Church of St Ia was dedicated. Until this time the Church of St Uny at Lelant was the parish Church for the people of St Ives.

1490 St Ives was granted a charter to hold a market.
c.1490 Building started on the first pier. The Island displayed a light for shipping.

1497 The pretender to the throne, Perkin Warbeck, is said to have landed at St Ives.

1549 The Prayer Book Rebellion. John Payne, Portreeve (Harbour Master) was hung on the gallows by order of the Provost Marshal, Sir Anthony Kingstonbuilt at Market Place. A memorial to John Payne can be seen on the wall of St Ia Church.

1558 St Ives became a Borough and was represented in parliament by two MPs.

1597 During the Spanish Armada two Spanish ships, a bark and a pinnace sailed to St Ives to seek shelter from a storm. They were captured by Sir Walter Raleigh 's warship Warspite.

1639 The first Mayor of the Borough of St Ives is appointed.

1640 Sir Francis Basset of Tehidy presented a 'Loving Cup' to the Borough of St Ives. It is inscribed:

'If any discord 'twixt my friends arise
Within the borough of belov'd St. Ives,
It is desirèd this my cup of love
To everie one a peace-maker may prove.
Then am I blest to have given a legacie,
So like my harte, unto posteritie.'

1640s Civil War. St Ives was one of few places that supported the Parliamentarians until the rising was brought to an end by Sir Richard Grenville.

1647 Plague hits St Ives.

1743 - 1789 John Wesley visited St Ives.

1767 - 1770 Smeaton's Pier was built.

1800 Congregational chapel built. higher up the valley, and a of 1800.

1828 Portuguese refugees arrived in St Ives on the Dutch ship, Enterprize after escaping civil war in Portugal.

1831 Methodist chapel built in Fore Street.

c.1831 Lighthouse built on Smeaton's Pier. Now known as the 'old lighthouse'

1832 The Reform Act was enacted and St Ives was reduced to having one MP. The rounded building on Market Place was built. This building housed the Borough Council until 1940.

1837 First of Edward Hain's ships in operation - a sailing brigantine.

1840 First lifeboat stationed at St Ives.

1845 A second Methodist chapel was built.

1851 Edward Hain born in St Ives. Later to become Sir Edward Hain, the shipping magnate who owned Hain Line.

1867 The Royal National Lifeboat Institution built a lifeboat house at Porthgwidden beach. The site was not a good launching point so a new boathouse was built in Fore Street.

1854 SS Nile wrecked on The Stones. A millstone from the vessel stands near the lifeboat station.

1858 A Royal Commission advised that St Ives harbour should become a harbour of refuge.

1864 - 1865 The Wood Pier, proposed by the Royal Commission, was constructed. This new pier was destroyed by the sea within twenty years of its construction.

1864 - 1882 St Ives had its own Customs House.

1870 Pilchard seining was such an important industry for St Ives that there were 285 companies in operation along the St Ives coast during this period.

1877 The St Ives Branch line was opened bringing an influx of tourists to St Ives.

1878 The Hain Line's first steamer was launched on 19th November 1878 and named Trewidden in honour of the Bolitho estate outside Penzance.

1880s Artists' colony established in St Ives

1884 Sir Edward Hain elected Mayor of St Ives.

1890 Smeaton's Pier was extended with the addition of Victoria Pier. A new lighthouse was built on the seaward end of the pier.

1894 West Pier built

Late 1800s to early 1900s Many new houses built in St Ives.

1892 Treloyhan Manor built for Sir Edward Hain.

1900 Sir Edward Hain represented St Ives in parliament as a Liberal Unionist

1909 The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart and St Ia was built.

1911 A new lifeboat house was built on the Quay.

1917 Death of Sir Edward Hain.

1920 Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada set up the Leach Pottery.

1935 The last coal ship visited St Ives.

1939 A lifeboat disaster took the lives of seven lifeboatmen. Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo settled in St Ives.

1952 The Royal Navy warship HMS Wave ran aground near St Ives.

1974 St Ives Town Council established.

1993 The Tate St Ives opened.

1994 New RNLI lifeboat house built.

Lysons History of Cornwall, published in 1814, described St Ives as:

"... a market and borough-town in the hundred and deanery of Penwith is situated on the shore of the Bristol Channel, eight miles north-north-east from Penzance; seven north from Marazion; thirteen north-west from Helston; fourteen west from Redruth; and 277 from London.

This town, called in ancient records Porth-Ia, is said to have taken its name from St. Hya or Ia, an Irish saint, who came over into Cornwall in company with St. Breaca and others, and was buried in the church at this place [*g]

The market of St. Ives was originally granted by King Edward I, in 1295, to William Bottreaux, to be held on Thursday, within his manor of La Nanth. The same charter granted two fairs; one at the purification, the other at the assumption of the Virgin Mary. Hick’s manuscript makes mention of a market granted by King Henry VII. [*j] The charter of Charles the First grants two weekly markets at this town, Wednesday and Saturday; but the Wednesday market has of late been supplied with scarcely any commodities except vegetables. The same charter grants four fairs, May 10, July 20, September 26, December 3d, and the following day to each. Of late years there has been only one fair (the last Saturday in November), an that chiefly for shoes, sweatmeats, &c. &c.

Leland's description of St Ives

Leland, speaking of St. Ives, says, “most part of the houses in the peninsula be sore opressid or over covered with sandes that the stormy windes and rages castith up there. This calamite hath continuid ther litle above 20 yeres.” “The best part of the toun now standith in the south part of the Peninsula, toward another hille for defence from the sandes.” [*k]

Norden's description of St Ives

Norden describes the haven of St Ives as much annoyed with sandes, and insufficient to receive ships of any burden. “The town and port of St Ives,” says Carew, “are both of mean plight; yet with their best meanes (and often to good and necessarie purpose) succouring distressed shipping. Order hath been taken,” he adds, “and attempts made for bettering the road with a peere; but eyther want or slacknesse, or impossibilitie, hitherto withhold the effect: the whiles plentie of fish is here taken and sold verie cheap.”

In Holinshed’s Chronicle is the following mention of a light-house or block-house near St. Ives. On “a little byland cape or peninsula, called Pendinas, the compas not above a mile, standeth a Pharos or light for ships that sail by those coasts in the night. There is also a block-house and a peer on the east side thereof, but the peer is sore choked with sand, as is the whole coast from St. Ies unto St. Carantokes.” There is still a battery on the eastern side, and the old pharos, which still exists, is used for depositing government stores. A new and comodious pier was constructed under the direction of Mr. Smeaton, between the years 1766 and 1770. [*l]


St Ives is now a place of considerable trade, and has an extensive pilchard-fishery. The principal export, except fish, is copper-ore; the imports are coals, salt, timber, iron, leather, groceries, &c. The principal trade is carried on at Hayle, three miles from the town, which is within the port of St. Ives. In the year 1705, the town of St. Ives contained 240 houses; according to the last return to parliament, in 1811, it contained 712 houses, 3281 inhabitants.

Corporation Charter

Sir Francis Basset, of Tehidy, who was member for St Ives, procured from King Charles, in the year 1639, a charter of incorporation for this town, under which the body-corporate consisted of a mayor, twelve capital burgesses, and twenty-four inferior burgesses: a subsequent charter was granted by King James II. in 1685, under which the body-corporate consists of a mayor, recorder, town-clerk, ten aldermen, and twelve common-council-men. Four of these are justices of the peace, and hold a sessions. It appears that before the incorporation, the chief officer of this town was called the mayor or portreeve, and it is said that one Payne, who held that office in the reign of Edward VI. was executed by order of Sir Anthony Kingston, for being concerned in Arundell’s rebellion [*m]. Sir Francis Basset abovementioned, gave to the corporation of St Ives a drinking-cup, on which is the following inscription:—

If any discord ’twixt my friends arise,
Within the borough of beloved St. Ives,
It is desyred that this my cupp of love,
To everie one a peace-maker may prove;
Then am I blest, to have given a legacie
So like my harte unto posteritie.

Francis Basset, Ao. 1640

St Ives has sent members to parliament ever since the reign of Philip and Mary. The borough extends over the whole parish, and all householders paying scot and lot, being about 340 in number, are entitled to vote.

The principal villages in the parish of St Ives are Aire, Batavellan, Bovallen, Carrackdues, Corva, Hellesvean, Hellesveor, Penbeagle, Treloyhan, Trenwith, and Trowan.


The manor of Porth-Ia Prior, which belonged to the priory of Tywardreth, being situated partly in the parish and partly in St. Anthony in Meneage, and in other parishes, was one of those annexed to the duchy of Cornwall in lieu of the honor of Wallingford. Another manor of Porth-Ia was successively in the families of Hele, and of Robartes, Earl of Radnor, and was purchased, together with the manor of Dynas-Ia, and that of Lelant and Trevellow, of Vere Hunt, Esq., representative of the Robartes family, by the grandfather of Samuel Stephens, Esq., the present proprietor.

On the manor of Lelant and Trevellow is Tregenna castle, the seat of Mr. Stephens, built by his father, on an elevated site which commands a fine sea-view. On the summit of a lofty hill, about a mile from this house, is a pyramid, erected by the late John Knill, Esq., a bencher of Gray’s-Inn, some time collector of the port of St. Ives, and afterwards secretary to Lord Hobart, when Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. On one side of the pyramid, which he intended for the place of his burial [*n], is inscribed “Johannes Knill;” on another, “Resurgam;” on a third, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Mr. Knill, who died in 1811, directed that at the end of every five years, and old woman, and ten girls under fourteen years of age, dressed in white, should walk in procession, with music, from the market-house at St. Ives, to the pyramid, round which they should dance, singing the hundredth psalm; and for the purpose of keeping up this custom, he gave some freehold-lands, which are vested in the officiating minister, the mayor of St. Ives, and the collector of that port for the time being, who are allowed ten pounds for a dinner.

The manor of St. Ives, and Trelyan or Treloyhan, in St Ives, which, from the circumstance of having the great tithes attached to it, we suppose to have belonged to the College of Crediton in Devonshire, was many years in the family of Praed, of whome it was purchased in or about the year 1807, by Sir Christopher Hawkins, Bart. The manor of Ludgvan-Lees has an extensive jurisdiction in this parish: Leland, indeed, speaks of its Lords and Lords of St Ives. “The Lord Brooke was Lord of St. Ives, now Blunt, Lord Montjoy, and Lord Pawlet [*o].”

The manor and barton of Trenwith, which was anciently the name of a district including the whole parish of Lelant, belonged in the reign of Edward the Confessor to Abbot Sitricius; when the Survey of Domesday was taken, to the Earl of Cornwall: John de Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt, had a grant of it, and it continued in the noble family of Beaufort till the attainder of Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, in 1471. The manor appears to have been long ago annihilated: the barton became the property of a family who are said to have taken the name of Trenwith, in or about the reign of Henry VIII., and became extinct in the male line by the death of Mr. Thomas Trenwith, lieutenant in the navy, in the year 1796. The barton is now the property and residence of their representative Mr. William Lander.

Churches and Chapels

The church of St Ives was built as a chapel to Lelant, by virtue of a bull from pope Alexander I., bearing date 1410; it was consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter, on the 3d of February 1434.[*p] St. Ives is a daughter-church to Lelant. The great tithes which belonged to the college of Crediton in Devonshire, are vested in Sir Christopher Hawkins, Bart., by purchase from the Praeds [*q]. The Bishop of Exeter is patron of the vicarage. Within the memory of man were the remains of a chapel near the Quay [*r]. There were chapels also formerly at Brunian [*s] and Higher-Tregenna: the foundations of the latter are still visible. In Holinshed’s Chronicle is mention of a chapel of St. Nicholas, on the very point of a peninsula called Pendinas, which had belonged of late to Lord Brooke, and mentioned in the Liber regis. It must have been appurtenant to the manor of Ludgvan-Lees.

The Rev. Jonathan Toup, rector of St. Martin’s, near Looe, the learned annotator on Suidas, and editor of Longinus, was born at St. Ives, where his father, of the same name, was lecturer. He was baptised January 5th, 1713-4. The plague was very fatal at St Ives in the year 1647, in which year 535 persons are said to have died, between Easter and the middle of October [*t]. The following remarkable entries appear in the churchwardens accounts at this place.

Paid for horses to carry the Prince of Mount-Lebanon and his retinue 1 10 0

To the Greek Bishop, by order of the Mayor 1 11 6

Mrs. Cheston Hext, widow, in the year 1649, founded an alms-house for six poor people, and gave the sum of 50l., out of the interest of which, 20s. per annum was to be given to the priest of the parish, and the remainder to the poor [*u]. There is no trace of the alms-house.

A grammar-school, for the instruction of youth, by a master and usher, was founded in this town by King Charles’s charter, in 1639; the Bishop of Exeter, with the mayor and capital burgesses of St Ives, having been appointed governors. This school has not been kept up for many years past.

[*g] William of Worcester’s Itinerary.

[*h] Rot. Cart. 24 Edw I.

[*j] Extracts taken by Dr. Cardew. The manuscript itself could not be procured. (See p.5.).

[*k] Itin. III. 21. [see Leland]

[*l] Dr. Borlase.

[*m] Dr. Borlase’s MSS.

[*n] He was buried in London, where he died.

[*o] See the account of Ludgvan.

[*p] Extract from Hicks’s MS.

[*q] They had before belonged to the Earls of Suffolk.

[*r] Dr. Borlase says, that in the month of June 1770, a chapel called St. Leonard’s, not far south of the pier, then turned into a smith’s shop. This chapel, nevertheless, might have been that of St. Ante als Ansa, prope ripam maris, in which was a gild or fraternity, as appears by the registers of the See of Exeter, anno 1495. (Borlase’s Collections.)

[*s] Ibid.

[*t] Extracts from Hicks’s MS.

[*u] Ibid.

From William Hals' History of Cornwall published in 1750, written in the 1730s.

S. Ives is situate in the hundred of Penwith and hath upon the east and north the Irish Sea, south Lelant, west Tywednick; as for the modern name, it is taken from the tutelar guardian of the Church, which, as Mr. Camden tells us, upon what authority I know not, was one Iia, an Irish woman that preached the Gospel here. In the Domesday Tax, the 20th of William I. 1087, both the town and parish were taxed under the jurisdiction of Ludduham, now Lugian-lese manor, still extant here, formerly pertaining to the King or Earl of Cornwall, now to the Duke of Bolton, of whom the town of S. Ives’ privileges are held; and the same manor is held, as I take it, of the Earl of Cornwall’s Castle of Lancaster under certain rents.

In the Inquisition of the Bishops of Lincoln and Winchester into the value of the Cornish benefices 1294, “ecolesia de Lelant in decanatu de Penwith,” is only taxad xxil xviiis iiiid without mention either of S. Ives or Tywednick, probably at that time they were neither erected or endowed; in Wolsey’s Inquisition 1521, Ewny juxta Lelant and S. Ives are rated together £22. 11. 10½. S. Ewny, that is to say Tywednike, and S. Ives being consolidated in their mother church Lelant, did pass in presentation with it; the patronage in the Bishop of Exeter, who endowed them; the incumbent Hawkins, now Polkinhorn, the rectory in possession of Pitz; and the parish rated at 4s per pound Land Tax 1696, £158. 13. 4.

This town, as Mr. Camden saith, was formerly called Pendenis or Pendunes, the head fort, fortress, or fortified place; probably from the little island here, containing about six acres of ground, on which there stands the ruins of a little old fortification and a chapel betwixt which island and the bending shore, or sea cliff stands an indifferent safe road for ships to lie at anchor with some winds, which gives opportunity of trade and merchandize to the townsmen, whose town is situate thereon, and also for fishing, whereby they have much enriched themselves of late years.

The manor of Ludduham, formerly comprehending the parishes of Ludduham, Lelant, Tywednick, and S. Ives, now so many districts, is a lordship of great antiquity, and was privileged with the jurisdiction of a court leet before the Norman Conquest, for under that name it was then taxed, as aforesaid, though it is now transnominated to Luggyan Lese; in which stands the borough of S. Ives, which claims the privileges thereof by prescription and tenure, all which are confirmed by a charter of incorporation from King Charles I. afterwards by another from King James II. by the name of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses, which consists of a Mayor, ten Aldermen, and eleven Common Councilmen; the Members of Parliament elected by free men, alias scot and lot men free there, who sign the indenture; the arms of which borough is a cluster and branch of grapes or pomegranates; and the precept on the writs for electing Members of Parliament from the sheriff, or removing any action at law depending in the court leet of S. Ives, the writ must be thus directed: Preposita et Burgensibus Burgi sui de S. Ives in Corn. Cornub. salutem.

The chief inhabitants of this town are, Mr. Hitchins, Mr. Beer, Mr. Stephens, Mr. Hickes; in which town is held a market weekly on Saturdays, and a fair annually on Saturday before Advent Sunday.
Sir Francis Basset procured their first charter of incorporation, who, being a Burgess, gave a silver cup of £5 value to this corporation for ever, with this inscription,

If any discord doth arise,
Within the borough of S. Ives,
‘Tis my desire this cup of love,
An instrument of peace may prove.

Trenwith in this parish, was the voke lands of a considerable manor, privileged with a court leet before the Norman Conquest, that heretofore extended itself over divers parishes; for by that name it was taxed in Domesday book, 20 William I. 1087, from which place was transnominated an ancient family of gentlemen, now in possession thereof, from that of Bayliff now to Trenwith, who have flourished here in good fame and reputation beyond the memory of man since Henry VIII. The present possessor Is Thomas Trenwith, Gent. that married Lanyon; and giveth for his arms, Argent, on a bead cotised Sable, three roses of the Field.

The lands of Trenwith were of old pertaining to the Earls or Kings of Cornwall, afterwards to the Kings of England; and were held by the tenure of Knight service by such as possessed them, if not from King Arthur’s days, yet from William the Conqueror’s, who, in imitation of him, gave bartons, manors, fields, large territories of land to his favourites, under the tenures of villeinage and Knight service ia capite by means of which Knight service those tenants were obliged to do him any necessary service, either in wars or to his royal person, for the performing whereof he took their oaths in public courts both of homage and fealty; and by reason of this tenure he disposed of the bodies of their heirs in marriage as he listed, and retained in his custody and wardship their whole inheritance till they accomplished the age of twenty-one years; and by those examples other men of great possessions did the like. Those lands of Trenwith tempore Henry IV. were held by that tenure in capite by Edmund Plantagenet, alias Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset, grandchild of John Duke of Lancaster, 21 Henry VI. 1442, consisting of four Knights’ fees, 3 Henry IV. He was slain at the battle of S. Alban’s 1450, on the part of Henry VI, against Richard Duke of York; as also was his son Henry on the same part after the battle of Hexham, and his brother Edmund after Tewkesbury 1471, beheaded by King Edward IV. and his whole estate confiscated to the Crown; from whence Baliff now Trenwith, purchased part of those lands, which still pays high rent to the Kings of England. In like manner Humphry Plantagenet, fourth son of King Henry IV. held by the same tenure in Conerton, Binerton, Drineck, and Ludgian, four Knights’ fees of land in those places. He was impeached of treason at the parliament held at S. Edmund’s Bury in Suffolk; afterwards murdered; and those and all other his lands confiscated.

From Thomas Tonkin's Natural History of Cornwall, 1739

This church is a vicarage, valued in the King’s books, together with Lelant and Towednack, with which it passeth in presentation, at £22 11 10½; the collation in the Bishop of Exeter; the late incumbent Mr. Hawkins, now Polkinhorne. The sheaf in possession of Edward Noseworthy, Esq.

The town of S. Ives, in Mr. Carew’s days, was of small value or consequence for wealth, buildings, or inhabitants; although it now be much altered in these particulars, and equals several other corporations. Of old it hath been privileged by the Earls of Cornwall with the jurisdiction of a Court Leet, and with sending two Members to parliament; also with fairs and a weekly market.

On the island, or peninsula, north of S. Ives, standeth the ruins of an old chapel, wherein God was duly worshipped by our ancestors the Britons, before the church of S. Ives was erected or endowed; betwixt which island and the shore is an indifferent roadstead with some winds for ships to lie at anchor.

This town is particularly famous for the art of catching fish; in which trade or occupation of late they have been attended with good success, to the great advancement of their wealth and reputation. The chief inhabitants of which place were Mr. Hitchins, Mr. Trevilion, Mr. Beare, &c. In this port his majesty hath his Custom House, collector, surveyor, comptroller, and waiters, both for sea and land.

Trenwith, in this parish, is the seat of an old family of gentlemen, from thence denominated de Trenwith.

In the spring of 1804, during the Napoleonic Wars, HMS Hazard was stationed off St Ives to protect vessels against French privateers who preyed on them while they sheltered in St Ives Bay.

Mayors of St Ives

Town Mayors of St Ives

2018 Councillor Suzanne Tanner
2017 Councillor Suzanne Tanner
2016 Councillor Linda J Taylor
2015 Councillor Linda J Taylor
2014 Councillor Linda J Taylor
2013 Councillor Colin C Nicholls
2012 Councillor Ron Tulley
2011 Councillor Ron Tulley
2010 Councillor Yvonne Watson
2009 Councillor Yvonne Watson
2008 Councillor Colin E Sanger
2007 Councillor Bill Fry
2006 Councillor Bill Fry
2005 Councillor Susan Holland
2004 Councillor Harry R G Isaacs
2003 Councillor Harry R G Isaacs
2002 Councillor Joan Tanner
2001 Councillor Joan H Symons
2000 Councillor Michael Peters
1999 Councillor Christopher S Cocklin
1998 Councillor J Richard W Kirkby
1997 Councillor Kathleen R F Matthews
1996 Councillor Joan H Symons
1995 Councillor William T Trevorrow
1994 Councillor Betty Berriman
1993 Councillor Shirley A Beck
1992 Councillor William J Thomas
1991 Councillor E Beryl James
1990 Councillor Brian Portman
1989 Councillor Michael Peters
1988 Councillor Michael Peters
1987 Councillor Michael Peters
1986 Councillor Michael Peters
1985 Councillor Michael Peters
1984 Councillor John B Thomas
1983 Councillor Betty Hicks
1982 Councillor E Beryl James
1981 Councillor G E Terry Tonkin
1980 Councillor William J Thomas
1979 Councillor E Beryl James
1978 Councillor Michael Peters
1977 Councillor T Alan Harvey
1976 Councillor Dorvil G T Jones
1975 Councillor Oakley Eddy
1974 Councillor Oakley Eddy



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