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In the earth, the air, the soul...
Discover St Ives' past and how tradition continues to play an important part in the town today.

St Ives was isolated for much of its existence except by sea. However, the town really began to open up to the outside world in 1877 when the Great Western Railway began running its Broad Gauge trains on the new branch line. Not only did this increase accessibility to the rest of Cornwall for the town's residents but the railway quickly enabled St Ives to establish itself as a popular holiday destination by rail - a popularity which continues to this day. In 2007 St Ives was awarded the accolade of "Seaside Town of the Year" as voted for by Guardian readers.

st ives info
st ives info

Today St Ives is easy to reach and there's a wealth of ancient culture to be explored in the landscape, the stones, the wells and even ceremonies such as the Midsummer Eve Bonfire, Mayor Choosing, Hurling of the Silver Ball on Feast Monday and, every five years, the John Knill commemoration dating back to 1801. This is still a land apart - look around you.

Town History, Customs and Traditions


st ives enters recorded history with the arrival of St. Ia or Hya, the Irish princess who introduced Christianity to this area in the 5th Century.
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The legend tells how St. Ia, a Virgin Saint of noble birth went to the seashore to depart for Cornwall from her native Ireland along with other Saints. Finding that they had gone without her, fearing that she was too young for such a hazardous journey, she was grief stricken and began to pray.

As she prayed she noticed a little leaf floating on the water and touched it with a rod to see if it would sink. Lo, as she looked it grew bigger and bigger. She saw that God sent it to her and, trusting to Him, she embarked upon the leaf and was straightaway wafted across the Channel, reaching her destination before the others.

The legend goes on to say that she founded an oratory in a clearing of a wood on the site of the existing Parish Church that is dedicated to her. This 15th Centaury church has the rare distinction of having three church wardens, said to have originated as: one for the vicar, one for the seafarers and one for the miners and land workers.

The town of St Ives was granted its charter by King Edward I in 1295 and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

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Above: St. Ia patroness and name Saint of st ives. The statue is the work of Faust Lang, woodcarver, whose family has long been associated with the Oberammergau Passion Play. On finding a thick piece of Austrain Oak timber washed ashore in st ives Bay he conceived the idea of modelling a statue which he presented to the Catholic Church, Tregenna Hill, st ives.

Interestingly, during construction of the new lifeboat station adjacent to the Parish Church, the contractors excavated a peat bog, which is surprising when one considers the excavations were in st ives Harbour.

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In 1549 during the Prayer Book Revolution the Provost Marshall came to st ives and invited the Mayor, Mr John Payne, to lunch at the old George and Dragon. He asked the Mayor to have the gallows erected during lunch. After lunch the Mayor and the Provost Marshall walked down to the gallows, the Provost Marshall ordered the Mayor to get up on the gallows whereupon the Mayor was hanged for being a Roman Catholic.

The importance of the town grew with the development of the Harbour and many ships plied between st ives and every part of the world. Arthur Guinness, the brewer, used to sell beer to a Captain Sampson who brought the beer back as deck cargo and sold draught Guinness to his regulars in his pub on Skidden Hill, now a hotel. In the early days of St Ives, boats were built on the harbour foreshore by local craftsmen.

St Ives had its own shipping company in the form of The Hain Line. The company was formed in 1878 and had its headquarters in st ives. The Hain Line combined with the Norge Company and others to become part of the P&O family in 1917 but continued to operate under its own name and colours up until 1964.

The Tin Industry also created its fair share of shipping business which no doubt led to the harbour being listed in 1830 as 'A Most Important Harbour'.

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Many famous people have lived in st ives from time to time; Turner, Whistler, Henry Moore, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach and Virginia Woolf.

Henry Irving lived in the nearby village of Halsetown. These are just a few of the famous people who found the magic that is st ives. This historic town and landscape is waiting to be discovered.

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