For a town of its size, St Ives has a surprising number of churches and chapels of varying sizes and denominations, from the fine Anglican parish church of St Ia to the diminutive chapel of St Nicholas perched on top of the Island. Three of these are Methodist churches with St Ives having a strong tradition in Methodism following the numerous visits of John Wesley, the movement’s founder, in the eighteenth century.
The town of St Ives – Porth Ia – means the ‘cove of St Ia’ and it is little surprise that the town’s first church should be dedicated to this Irish missionary. Built around 550 years ago, the parish church is an attractive and fascinating building. The church and many of its contents provide a history not only of the church, but of local industry and culture. The tower is of Zennor granite and stands at nearly 90 feet tall making it visible from any point in the town. Inside is a vaulted wagon roof, some fine stained glass windows and richly carved sandstone and wood. One of the most celebrated objects is the Madonna and Child sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth, carved in memory of her son Paul who was killed whilst serving with the RAF in 1953. Outside, at the base of the tower is a 15th century cross, possibly relocated from an earlier church.
St Ives has a further Anglican church, St John’s in the Fields, which dates back to 1858. St John’s was built as the parish church for the village of Halsetown and as the name suggests it was originally set in the middle of a field. However, over the years it has been absorbed into the outskirts of St Ives. The church is clearly visible from the top of the Stennack as one enters St Ives from the Penzance or North Coast road.
St John’s in-the-Fields is committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the faith of the Church with everyone, as well as serving the communities of St Ives and Halsetown.
Methodism in the town dates back as early as 1743, Charles Wesley arriving on the 16th of July. Several chapels were built, despite much early opposition, which was often hostile.
Today, there are three active churches, while the former Wesleyan chapel is now home of a theatre for young people. Bible Christian on St Peter’s Street, The United Church at the foot of Bedford Road and Fore Street Methodist Church (FSMC) all extend a warm welcome. Please take a look at the websites for all details of events and services. If you are in St Ives for your holidays or if you live locally we will be delighted to see you.
Amongst St Ives’ curiosities are the two tiny chapels of St Leonard and St Nicholas. Both were built to serve the seafarers of the town with St Leonard looking after the fishermen and St Nicholas watching over the sailors from high up on the Island. St Leonard is located at the landward end of Smeaton’s Pier and dates back to medieval times. It was where fishermen would pray before going to sea and it is said that a proportion of their catch would be paid to the chaplain on their safe return. The single room chapel is now home to a collection of model fishing boats and a memorial to local fishermen lost at sea.
Set at the top of Skidden and Tregenna Hill is the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart and St Ia, which was built in 1909.
Towednack Church is in a beautiful rural location just to the west of St Ives. The church dates from the thirteenth Century and is believed to have been built on the site of a place of earlier Christian worship. It was used for the marriage and burial services in the BBC series Poldark (first series), and in the film Penmarric.
Towednack is the last church in which services were conducted in the Cornish language. Legend has it that once the tower had reached its present height, subsequent building work carried out during the day was destroyed by the Devil during the night. In due course the frustrated stonemasons gave up. Hence there are no pinnacles, a feature that makes it unique in Penwith.
Towednack Church is a beautiful church to experience a truly Cornish Sunday service and makes a stunning wedding venue. It is open to visitors every day. Click here for details.