St Ives, Cambridgeshire

St Ives, Cambridgeshire

infobox UK place
country = England
official_name= St. Ives
latitude= 52.3350
longitude= -0.0837
population= 15,860
shire_district= Huntingdonshire
shire_county = Cambridgeshire
region= East of England
constituency_westminster= Huntingdon
post_town= ST IVES
postcode_district = PE27
postcode_area= PE
dial_code= 01480
os_grid_reference= TL305725
St Ives is a market town in Cambridgeshire, England, around 24 km north-west of the city of Cambridge and 110 km north of London. It lies within the historic county boundaries of Huntingdonshire.


Previously called Slepe, its name was changed to St Ives after the body, claimed to be that of a Persian bishop, Saint Ivo (not to be confused with Ivo of Kermartin), was found buried in the town. For the past 1,000 years it has been home to some of the biggest markets in the country, and in the thirteenth century it was an important entrepôt, and remains an important market in East Anglia.

Built on the banks of the wide River Great Ouse between Huntingdon and Ely, St Ives has a famous chapel on its bridge. In the Anglo-Saxon era, St Ives's position on the river Great Ouse was strategic, as it controlled the last natural crossing point or ford on the river, 50 miles from the sea. The flint reef in the bed of the river at this point gave rise to a ford, which then provided the foundations for the celebrated bridge.

During the 18th century and 19th century, St Ives was a hub of trade and navigation. Goods were brought into the town on barges, and livestock rested on the last fattening grounds before delivery to London's Smithfield Market. As the railway network expanded and roads improved, the use of the River Great Ouse declined. It is now mostly used for leisure boats [] and recreation [] .

Original historical documents relating to St Ives, including the original parish church registers, local government records, maps and photographs, are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office, Huntingdon.

Places of interest

The [ Monday market] takes over the spacious town centre, and is particularly extensive on Bank Holidays (May and August). There is a Friday market, and a Farmers Market on the 1st and 3rd Saturday every month.

The Michaelmas Fair takes over for 3 days on the second Monday in October, and there is Carnival [] and [] , the biggest public gathering in Huntingdonshire.

The trading importance of St Ives meant that it was very well provided with pubs, 66 in 1860 and 11 today. This side of its character still thrives, with many restaurants and at least three busy nightclubs.

The [ Norris Museum] holds a deal of local history, including a number of books written by its curator, Bob Burn-Murdoch. His occasional tours of the town are a treat, showing, amongst other things, how nearly every building on Market Hill has been a pub at one time or another.

There are ten places of worship, including a mosque and an Islamic Community Centre, a Roman Catholic church [] and Church of England All Saints church [] .

The town square has an [ imposing statue] of Oliver Cromwell - the only other one being in Parliament Square. It also has a pub of that name, the only one in the country.

Communal facilities

St Ives has a main secondary school (St Ivo), 3 primary schools [ (Thorndown] , Wheatfields and Westfield [] ), a fire station [] , a police station, a bus station and 2 Post Offices.

There is an indoor recreation centre adjacent to the Burgess Hall and an outdoor recreation centre at the top end of the town. Both have football grounds, and the Colts also play football in Warners Park over the winter. The original swimming pool, fed by the river, is in the middle of Holt Island and is now used for canoeing practice and other activities.

St Ives also has a [ Rugby club] on Somersham Road. The rugby union club's junior side has been particularly successful, bringing home the first County Championship trophy in 2003. This success has not been carried through to the senior side however, the main reason being that many of the most talented youth players leave to join other more successful clubs in the area or go to university.

St Ives Rangers football club are also a very successful club in the area, especially the u14s.

t Ives's bridge with chapel

St Ives Bridge is most unusual in having a chapel upon it, the most striking of only around 5 in England. It is notable in another way - as can clearly be seen from the Quay, the two southern arches are a different shape from the rest of the bridge, rounded in form instead of being slightly gothic (pointed). They were rebuilt in this shape after Oliver Cromwell blew them up in the English Civil War to prevent King Charles I's troops approaching London from the Royalist base in Lincolnshire. During the war and for some period afterwards, the gap was covered with a drawbridge.

Guided Busway

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway is a £110 million project being built to link St Ives to Cambridge along the trackbed of the disused railway. The railway to St Ives closed to passenger in the 1960s under the Beeching axe, though freight continued to be carried along some sections until early in the 1990s.

The 16 mile long concrete track will take slightly modified buses and become the longest such guided bus route in the world. The smooth and level access track alongside will make cycling the route practical for many people for the first time. The old rails between Longstanton and Cambridge have been lifted, ground-breaking started in January 2007 (avoiding the disturbance of bird nests during the season). The old railway bridge just outside the town has been removed and the St Ives Park & Ride on Meadow Lane is scheduled to be ready September 2008. []

The L-shaped concrete sections are cast to a very high accuracy, leading to a ride smoother than the best railway carriage. Casting the concrete sections is being done on site at Longstanton, and the first moulding was produced in June 2007. A 1.5km test section was laid between July 2007 and December 2007. Construction of the Longstanton to St Ives section begins March 2008 for completion in Winter 2008/2009.

The guided bus leaving St Ives will stop at Swavesey, Oakington, Histon, [ Arbury Park] , the Regional College, Science Park, [ Cambridge Railway Station] , Addenbrooke's Hospital and [ Trumpington Park & Ride] . Three operators, Stagecoach, [ Huntingdon and District] , and [ Whippet Coaches] have committed to buying new buses and running commercial services on the scheme. The guided buses arriving from Cambridge will leave the concrete trackway at St Ives and continue to Huntingdon and Hinchingbrooke along regular roads. Major improvements have been budgeted for section of road, though the total expenditure has been cut from £18 million to £8 million.

The project has been visited by transport planners and local officials from Madrid, Linz (Austria), Livorno (Italy) and Voloz (Greece). The busway scheme is part of Transurban, a European project.

Corn Exchange

In 2001, serious structural problems were discovered with the Corn Exchange and it had to be closed on safety grounds. The 143 year old building, located in the centre of the town, had previously entertained local arts, theatrical and musical groups, as well as markets and fairs. After a thorough and protracted analysis of the options, St Ives Town Council decided in May 2007 to dispose of the building, on the grounds that restoration costs were unaffordable from public funds.

The sale was opposed by [| 'ACE'] (Action Corn Exchange) who proposed a solution that they felt would allow the local community and the Council to work together to obtain grant funding and donations to keep the building open. The Council's view, however, was that ACE's proposed restoration costs of £1.26m were unachievable in the light of a £1.5m - £1.6m cost suggested by their advisors, and made the decision to sell the building.

The 2007/2008 Mayor, Cllr Deborah Reynolds, made a statement outlining the Council's position. [ [ Corn Exchange statement] by the Mayor. St Ives Town Crier, 23 May 2007.]

In late 2007 it became apparent that the Corn Exchange could potentially be brought back into use in a matter of months, for a relatively modest cost. A Councillor recently stated that "even if the building proved to be non-viable as a council facility in future its value to St Ives Town Council would be greater if it was repaired than left in its current dilapidated state.". [ [ Ray of hope in fight to save corn exchange] Cambridge News 21 Nov 2007.] The Town Council is hoping to move forward with proposals put forward by Mr Mike Purchas, a local businessman, and it is possible that the Hall could be open again late in 2008.

Flooding and pictures

St Ives has sometimes flooded, most recently at Easter 1998 [ [| Floods Easter 1998] ] and in January 2003. [ [| Floods January 2003] ] Extensive flood protection works were carried out on both sides of the river in 2006/2007 at a cost of nearly £9million. 500m of brick-clad steel-piling was put into place to protect the town, most noticeably at the Waits. A further 750m on the other side of the river protects Hemingford Grey, reducing the yearly risk of flooding from 10% to 1%. [ [ £8.8m flood defence scheme opened] - 22 June 2007.] Building on the flood plain is now discouraged at St Ives, as everywhere else.

Popular culture

The name "St Ives" is famous for the anonymous nursery rhyme/riddle "As I was going to St Ives", though it is sometimes claimed for a fishing village in Cornwall. There is no real doubt that the man who had the bizarre encounter with someone with seven wives each humping her feline baggage was on his way to the great St Ives fair. [St Ives, Slepe by the Ouse, Noel Hudson, 1989, p.131]

The famous war-poet, Rupert Brooke (d 1915), lived in Grantchester some 20 miles away and heaped praise on his own village, while writing quite unflattering things about Cambridge and other places roundabout. Of St Ives he said "Strong men have blanched and shot their wives, rather than send them to St Ives".


St.Ives is rich in trees both planted and wild. Many tree species thrive. Deciduous species here include: White willow ("Salix Alba"), Golden Willow ("Salix Alba var. Vitellina"), Grey Willow ("Salix Cinerea"), Golden Weeping Willow ("Salix x Chromysoma"), Osier ("Salix viminalis"), Elder ("Sambucus Nigra"), Hawthorn ("Crataegus monogyna"), Blackthorn ("Prunus spinosa"), Silver Birch ("Betula Pubescens"), Alder ("Alnus Glutinosa"), English Elm ("Ulmus procera"), Wych Elm ("Ulmus glabra"), European Holly ("Ilex Aquifolium"), Common Whitebeam ("Sorbus aria"), Lombardy Poplar ("Populus nigra var.Italica"), Sycamore ("Acer pseudoplatanus"), European Beech ("Fagus sylvatica"), Crab Apple ("Malus sylvestris") and European Rowan ("Sorbus aucuparia").Coniferous trees growing here include Scots Pine ("Pinus sylvestris"), Corsican Pine ("Pinus nigra subsp.laricio"), Coast Redwood ("Sequoia sempervirens"), Atlas Cedar ("Cedrus Atlantica") and European Yew ("Taxus Baccata"). Some species may not be named but may be added soon.


External links

* [ St Ives at British Towns]
* [ St Ives by David Bartlett]
* [ St Ives by Philip Grosset]
* [ St Ives Weather Station]
* [ St Ives Town Council web-site]
* [ Population figures]
* [ Thorndown Community (Schools, Playgroup, Kids Club)]
* [ Pavilion Playgroup]
* [ St. Ives Youth Theatre]
* [ St Ives Corn Exchange]

Books on the town

"St Ives, Slepe by the Ouse", by Noel Hudson. Black Bear Press, 1989, ISBN 0 9515298 0 3

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