St. Ives

St. Ives

Porth La

Seaside town of the year 2007


St. Ives Town Council


The town is a popular destination incorporating a traditional fishing harbour and a popular holiday centre year round. The magnificent resort is famed for its safe beaches, the azure blue sea of the bay, its tiny cobbled streets and hidden corners waiting to be explored. The town lies about six miles north of Penzance and eight miles west of Camborne on the north Cornwall coast It is approached by the A3074 road from Hayle. The population of the town was 11,226 at the 2011 census.

It has everything that a seaside resort could wish for: good beaches, views across the bay, a picturesque harbour town huddling in a glorious position, a branch line railway journey from St. Erth and still something of a fishing industry, to save it from becoming the victim of its charms.

St. Ives is a world famous art centre attracting artists because of the good natural light and is dotted with art galleries and studios, including the Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum at the Trewyn Studio and garden which were her former home. In 1928, the Cornish artist Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood met at St. Ives and laid the foundation for the artists' colony. In 1939, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo all settled in St. Ives, attracted by its beauty.

During the Spanish Armada of 1597 two Spanish ships, a bark and a pinnace had made their way to St. Ives to seek shelter from the storm which had dispersed the Spanish fleet. They were captured by the English warship 'Warspite' of Sir Walter Raleigh leaking from the same storm. The information given by the prisoners was vital on learning the Armada's objectives.

The oldest church in St. Ives is the parish church, which was begun in 1434 and boasts one of the tallest towers in Cornwall. The church bears an unusual dedication to a trio of Saints; Andrew, Peter, and Ia. The origin of St. Ives is attributed in legend to the arrival of the Irish Saint Ia, in the 5th century, she reputedly embarked upon her mission by crossing the Irish Sea in a leaf! The holy well of St. Ia's is opposite Porthmeor Beach on the corner of Porthmeor Hill and Beach Road.

A Royal Charter was granted to St. Ives in 1639.

Tregenna Castle was built as a twelve bedroom private home for a wealthy Cornishman with a love for the sea. Samuel Stephens Esquire commissioned the build of the house from local granite, and the four castellated turrets and original glazed skylight with the family coat of arms can still be seen today. The house remained in the family until it was sold by their final heir, John Stephens, to a family of local bankers, the Bolithos, in 1871. The hotel saw further developments throughout the early 1900's. The West Wing was completed in 1932 around the same time a certain guest was 'touring' and stayed at the hotel - Hitler's Ambassador, Herr Von Ribbentrop. It's said that he later sent a message back which stated that on no account was St. Ives to be bombed as he wished to live in Tregenna when 'they' had won the war. In 1992, the current owner took possession and once again it became a family-owned estate and hotel.

John Knill built himself a mausoleum in 1782. It is also known as the Knill Steeple or Knill Monument. This mausoleum is a triangular pyramid of granite some 50 feet high on Worvas Hill close to Carbis Bay high above St. Ives. This obelisk was sited on the summit of Worvas hill, with the intention that he should be buried in a vault within it, but his body was interred elsewhere. In his will, Knill left money for the upkeep of his monument and for celebrations to take place every five years on the Feast of Saint James, 25th July. He directed that every five years, £25 should be expended, including on a dinner for St. Ives officials, and that ten young girls dressed in white should walk in procession with music, from the market house to the monument, around which the whole party was to dance.

The Sloop Inn, which lies on the wharf was a fisherman's pub for many centuries and is dated to "circa 1312", making it one of the oldest inns in Cornwall. The town was the site of a particularly notable atrocity during the Prayer Book rebellion of 1549.

From medieval times fishing was important at St. Ives; it was the most important fishing port on the north coast. The pier was built by John Smeaton in 1770 but has been lengthened at a later date. The octagonal lookout with a cupola belongs to Smeaton's design.

In earlier times a considerable industry was based on pilchard fishing and coastal trade, although fishing craft still operate from here the harbour is very popular with private pleasure boats.

Life revolves around the harbour and the fishing trade helped it grow to prosperity. Much of that atmosphere is retained in the narrow alleyways and cottages of Downalong area.

Enjoy walks around this delightful town with its Mediterranean atmosphere or follow the Coastal Footpath around "The Island" with its chapel up on the hill and across Porthmeor out to Clodgy Point, or stroll towards Carbis Bay across the wooded hillside.

St. Ives during the summer months is a blaze of colour. Radiating from the harbour, its maze of narrow cobbled streets are filled with flowers - not particularly surprising for a town which regularly wins the 'Britain in Bloom' competition. A mild climate, warmed by the gulf stream and almost frost-free winters makes it possible to grow plants and shrubs normally native to semi-tropical countries hundreds of miles further south.

On the 31st January 1938 the SS 'Alba' ran aground and sank on the rocks off St. Ives.

Seven crewmen died in the St. Ives lifeboat tragedy of 1939. In the early hours of 23rd January 1939 there was a Force 10 storm blowing with gusts up to 100 miles per hour. The lifeboat 'John and Sara Eliza Stych' was launched to search for a ship reported in trouble off Cape Cornwall. It rounded The Island where it met the full force of the storm as it headed westwards. It capsized three times and drifted across the bay when its propeller was fouled. The first time it turned over four men were lost; the second time one more; the third time left only one man alive. He scrambled ashore when the boat was wrecked on rocks near Godrevy Point.

The first lifeboat was stationed in the town in 1840. In 1867 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution built a boathouse at Porthgwidden beach. It proved to be a difficult site to launch from and it was replaced by a building in Fore Street. In 1911 a new boathouse was built on the Quay, and then in 1993 a larger station was built at the landward end of the West Pier. St. Ives Lifeboat station has had a remarkable history of bravery with over 55 awards for gallantry being presented. Over its 165-year history it has also seen tragedy with seven crew losing their lives saving others at sea.

In 1952, the Royal Navy warship HMS 'Wave' ran aground near the town. The ship was later salvaged, repaired and returned to service. A propeller believed to be from HMS 'Wave' was washed ashore in 2008.

The Troika pottery was set-up by Leslie Illsley, Jan Thompson and Benny Sirota. It was based at the Wheal Dream site in St. Ives from 1962 to 1970, when it moved to Fragden Place in Newlyn. Benny Sirota left in 1980, and with declining sales, the business closed in 1983.

The modern seaside resort developed as a result of the arrival of the St. Ives Bay railway branch line from St. Erth, part of the Great Western Railway in 1877. With it came a new generation of Victorian seaside holiday-makers. Much of the town was built during the latter part of the 19th century.

In 1993, a branch of the Tate Gallery, the Tate St. Ives, opened. The Tate has owned the Barbara Hepworth Museum and her sculpture garden since 1980, as well as her Palais de Danse studio since 2015. The town attracted artists from overseas such as Maurice Sumray who moved from London in 1968, and Piet Mondrian, and continues to do so today with younger artists such as Michael Polat, who took up residence there from his native Germany in 1999.

A Park-and-Ride facility for visitors to St. Ives ran from Lelant Saltings railway station, which opened on 27th May 1978 specifically for this purpose. This was replaced with a new larger set-up at St. Erth in 2019.

Also for visitors are boat trips go to Seal Island, just west of town, to see the seal colony.

The town's Tourist Information Centre is at The Guildhall, Street-an-Pol, TR26 2DS.

The local leisure centre is in Trenwith Burrows, TR26 1HB.

Art Galleries

Anima Mundi Gallery

Art Space Gallery

Belgrave Gallery

Blue Harbour Gallery

New Craftsman Gallery

Ocean Gallery

Penwith Gallery

Porthminster Gallery

St. Ives Gallery

Salt House Gallery

Sloop Studios

Tate Gallery

The Plumbline Gallery

Whistlefish Gallery


Potteries in St. Ives


Porthmeor beach is a Blue Flag Atlantic Ocean surfing beach with surf school, fine golden sand, good sunbathing by day and spectacular sunsets. During the summer, trained lifeguards ensure the bathing is as safe as possible. There are restaurant and cafe facilities right on the beach; toilets and beach huts on the terrace behind.

Porthgwidden beach is a delightful small sandy cove and sun-trap with safe bathing, beach huts for hire and handy toilets. The brilliant white terrace houses the relaxed Porthgwidden Cafe and there's a kiosk for coffee and snacks. Porthgwidden is an ideal beach to catch the morning sun and stay all day.

The tidal, sandy bottomed harbour is still a working port where you can watch the local fishermen landing their daily fresh catches of locally caught seafood. It's also a very sheltered beach, a perfect sun-trap in the heart of town. There are toilets in the Sloop car park and behind the Lifeboat station on West Pier. All facilities surround you here.

Sheltered Porthminster beach boasts almost half a mile of golden sands with calm sea conditions ideal for families. Porthminster has restaurant and cafe facilities, a scenic cliff walk to Carbis Bay on the Coastal Footpath, a putting green, beach huts for hire, toilets and level access to the town centre. The St. Ives branch line railway station is at the top of the steps.

Notable Residents

Reverend Thomas Tregosse (c.1600 in St. Ives - c.1670) Puritan minister who was silenced for being a Nonconformist.

Jonathan Oannes Toup (1713 in St. Ives – 1785) English philologist, classical scholar and critic.

John Knill (1733 in Callington – 1811) slightly eccentric mayor of St. Ives and Collector of Customs at St. Ives from 17621782.

James Halse (1769–1838) English lawyer, wealthy businessman and Tory (later Conservative) politician. Settled in St. Ives 1790.

John Baragwanath (1817 in St. Ives – 1885) miner and politician in Australia, member of Victorian Legislative Assembly.

Richard Short (1841 in St. Ives – 1919) was a Cornish artist, the Museum of Wales holds five of his works.

Sir Edward Hain (1851 in St. Ives – 1917) shipping owner, MP for St. Ives as a Liberal Unionist 1900, and as a Liberal 1904.

John Noble Barlow (1861–1917) English artist, predominantly as a landscape and seascape painter, lived in St. Ives from 1892.

William Williams (1877 in Cornwall – 1906) was the last person executed in Minnesota USA. The circumstances of his execution helped lead to the abolition of capital punishment in Minnesota.

Warwick Ward (1891 in St. Ives – 1967) English actor and film producer, appearing in 64 films between 1919 and 1933 and produced 19 films between 1931 and 1958.

Fleur Bennett (1968 in St. Ives) British television actress, known as "Fleurpops" when she was a child.

Anthony Frost (1951 in St. Ives) English painter noted for his abstract works consisting of brightly coloured prints and collages.

Andrew Henry George (1958 in Mullion) British Liberal Democrat politician and MP for St. Ives from 1997 to 2015.

Fink, aka Fin Greenall (1972 in St. Ives), English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and DJ.

Jennifer Gretton, Baroness Gretton (1943 in St. Ives) the current Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire.

Percy Lane Oliver OBE (1878-1944) from St. Ives was the founder of the first voluntary blood donor service in 1921.

Mick Paynter (1948 in Redruth), Grand Bard of Cornwall, retired civil servant, trade union activist, and poet has always lived in St. Ives.

Mabel Florence Lethbridge OBE (1900–1968) In the Great War she was a munitions factory worker and was severely injured when a shell she was packing exploded. She is the youngest person receive an OBE. Lived in St. Ives from 1945 as a writer.

Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth DBE (1903–1975) English Modernism artist and sculptor. Lived and worked in St. Ives from 1949.

Sven Berlin (1911–1999) English painter, fiction writer and sculptor, lived and worked in St. Ives from 1938 to 1953.

George Walter Selwyn Lloyd (1913 in St. Ives – 1998) was a British composer, of part Welsh, part American ancestry.

Margaret Mellis (1914–2009) British artist, one of the early members and last survivors of the group of modernist artists in St. Ives.

Bryan Herbert Wynter (1915–1975) one of the St. Ives group of painters, work mainly abstract, drawing upon nature.

George Peter Lanyon (1918 in St. Ives – 1964) a Cornish painter of landscapes leaning heavily towards abstract art.

Patrick Heron (1920 – 1999) British abstract and figurative artist, lived in Zennor.

William Marshall (1923 in St. Ives – 2007) English studio potter joined the Leach Pottery.

Walter Bryan Pearce (1929 in St. Ives – 2007) British painter. He was recognised as one of the UK's leading naïve artists.

Sir John William Frederic Nott KCB (born 1932) former British Conservative Party MP for St. Ives from 1966 to 1983, Secretary of State for Defence during the Falkland war, now lives on his farm at St. Erth.

David Anthony Harris (born 1937) British Conservative Party MP for St. Ives from 1983 to 1997.

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English novelist, spent much of her childhood here with her family between 1882 and 1894.

Molly Hocking (2000-) Winner of the eighth series of The Voice in 2019, was born in St. Ives.


St. Ives Town Trail is a gentle stroll of about two miles around the waterfront and back through its narrow cobbled streets, taking in some of the features from its extensive maritime history as well as the haunts of the artists who made it famous as a cultural hotspot from the end of the nineteenth century.

Another short but steep walk is up to Knill's Monument high above St. Ives. The Monument is a fifty feet tall granite obelisk high up on Worvas Hill in Steeple Woods. The imposing monument was commissioned in 1782 by eccentric local mayor John Knill, who intended it to become his mausoleum. Unfortunately, John Knill died and was buried in London, so never got to make full use of his spectacular mausoleum. The views from the top of Worvas Hill are breathtaking. To get there, strike out eastwards to Carbis Bay. Look out for the Cornish Arms, which is about a mile from the town centre. Take the road next to the pub, Steeple Lane, and carry on along this for half a mile.

The coast path to Zennor This is a six mile walk for the stout-hearted and stout-booted only. One of the most spectacular stretches of the South West Coast Path, if you only get chance to walk a few miles of the 630-mile path, pick this section. Take the coast path from Porthmeor Beach, and strike out towards Zennor. After some reviving refreshment, head back the way you came, or follow the inland path back to St. Ives. This is known as the 'Coffin Path', the route of many local villagers' final journeys to St. Senara's church (the road wasn't built until the early 1800's). Alternatively, there is a bus service into St. Ives.

St. Michael's Way is a twelve mile path running from Lelant near St. Ives to Marazion, home of St Michael's Mount. It was established in 1994, based on research into possible old overland routes taken by pilgrims and traders to avoid the dangerous seas around Land's End. The Way goes around Trencrom Hill, a Neolithic hill fort: divert up the hill for amazing views over both Penwithian coasts and across towards Trevose Head and St. Austell


St. Ives Feast Day (St. Ia Day) - the first Monday after February 3rd.

St. Ives May Day Festival - early May

St. Ives Food and Drink Festival - mid May

St. Ives Literature Festival - mid May

Cornwall Art Fair - end of May.

John Knill Ceremony - 25th July.

St. Ives September Festival - mid September.

St. Ives Shanty Shout - third week in November.

St. Ives Christmas Lights Switch-On - mid December.

St. Ives Boxing Day Swim.


Cafes in St. Ives


Pubs in St. Ives

Tate Gallery       Barbara Hepworth Museum       Barnes Museum of Cinematography       Cornwall's Beaches

St. Erth       St. Ives Museum       St. Ives Society of Artists       The Tinners Way       Cornish Lifeboat Stations       St. Ives Lighthouse

Cornish Art Galleries       Leach Pottery       Penwith Society of Art       Hayle       Zennor       The Coastal Footpath