The St Ives Fishermen’s Lodges are a bit of a mystery, as the fishermen managed very well without them for centuries. Then, within a very few years in the early twentieth century, five lodges were erected and apparently filled with members. They appear to be unique to St Ives.
The lodges are meeting places. Members pay a small annual fee. Practically all fishermen belonged to lodges, which were all-male preserves. Here they did a lot of the waiting about – which went with the job – keeping an eye on the boat, mustering before going to sea, waiting for the tide or for the weather to improve.
Notices to mariners were sent to the Lodges from the Customs House. Some men spent nearly all day at the lodge, and wives sometimes complained that their husbands spent more time at the lodge than at home. Flags were flown when local people marry – traditionally paid for with a bag of coal – and at half-mast when they die.
Inside, the lodges are old-fashioned attractive places: a coal stove in the centre, lockers around the walls, photographs of old St Ives and its fishing boats cover the walls. The swear box is a solemn reminder. Here members keep up-to-date with local news, retell old stories and indulge in various wind-ups and leg pulls.
The lodges were built just before the St Ives fisheries went into sharp decline. From 1900, the Lowestoft and Yarmouth steam drifters began to arrive at Newlyn for their westward voyage mackerel drifting. Within a few years, these vessels put the local St Ives and Mounts Bay mackerel boats out of business. Between 1904 and 1912, the numbers of larger luggers in St Ives halved, and in 1912, one hundred St Ives fishermen were prosecuted as they were unable to pay their rates.
Three lodges were opened in October 1901 – the Shamrock and Shore Shelter on the 12th and the Rose on the 19th. The Shamrock was opened by Councillor W. Faull. At that time, the Rose was near the entrance to Court Cocking. Its opening must have been a lengthy business, as it was opened by Mr E. H. Best and there were speeches by W. Herbert, J. Hollow, W. Badcock and L. M. Grier. The One and All Lodge opened in June 1904. It was on the sand near the bottom of Bethesda Hill. The Bay View Lodge was at the top of the old Rampers pier, under the vantage point known as the Castle.
When the Wharf Road was built, the Rose and Shore Shelters were re-sited to their present position opposite Fore Street Methodist Church. These new lodges were paid for by a generous bequest of £300 from Sir Edward Hain in 1918.
The One and All was the first to go. The sand underneath was washed away and it collapsed into the Harbour in November 1931. The Bay View was on a very exposed site. It was wrecked by severe storms in the winter of 1978. The Rose, Shore Shelter and Shamrock survive. They are still run by and for their members, but their use has diversified. The Rose and Shore Shelters were used by former St Ives MP Andrew George for his surgeries. They continue to be used by the Pilot Gig Club, the Jumbo Association and for classes in the Cornish language.