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St. Ives in 1841

SAINT IVES, a municipal and parliamentary borough county of Cornwall, on the northern coast of the county, near its western extremity, 277 miles from London, by Basingstoke, Andover, Salisbury, Dorchester, Exeter, Launceston, Bodmin, Redruth, and St. Erth.

St. Ives was originally called St. Iie's, from Iia, 'a woman of great sanctity, who came hither from Ireland, about the year 460.' In the early part of the sixteenth century it appears to have suffered much from the encroachment of the sand on the coast. Leland thus describes the situation of the town and the injury sustained by it from this cause :- ‘The place that the chief of the toun hath, and partely dooth stond yn, is a very peninsula, and is extendid into the se of Severn as a cape. Moste parte of the houses in the peninsula be sore oppressid or over-coverid with sandes that the stormy windes and rages castith up there. This calamite hath continuid ther litle above twenty yeres.' At the present time a range of sandy downs, covered with a thin turf, and affording pasturage to sheep, extends along the coast north-eastward from St. Ives nearly to Padstow. Beneath these downs, which are in some places a mile broad and fifty or sixty yards above the level of the sea, is found a vegetable soil, with regular enclosures and remains of houses.

The town stands, as described by Leland, partly on a peninsula or headland at the north-western extremity of St. Ives Bay, extending inland along the roads to Penzance and to Redruth. The municipal borough is co-extensive with the parish and includes an area of 1,850 statute acres, with a population, in 1831, of 4,776 ; there were 924 inhabited houses, 41 uninhabited, and 37 building. The houses on the Redruth road are well built and roofed with slate. In other parts they are inferior, and the streets are generally narrow and uneven, neither lighted nor regularly paved.

The general appearance of the town is mean. There are a town-hall and a market-house, rebuilt in 1832, and a small gaol, with two apartments or cells, on the staircase of the town-hall. The church is a spacious building, with a lofty tower ; and there are one or two Methodist meeting-houses. There is a pier, built above half a century ago by subscription, and a building, formerly a lighthouse, now used for keeping government stores. A breakwater was commenced, at an expense of £5,000, but has never been finished. A battery defends the approach by sea.

The chief business of the place is connected with the mines or pilchard fisheries of the neighbourhood. Some ship-building and rope and sail making are carried on. The exports are chiefly pilchards, of which large quantities are cured and sent to Italy and other countries on the shores of the Mediterranean, and tin and copper ore, which are sent to Bristol. There are on the streams near the town several flour-mills and mills for preparing the ores. There are two weekly markets, one of them inconsiderable, and two (anciently four) yearly fairs.

St. Ives was a corporate town in the reign of Philip and Mary, when it first sent representatives to parliament, but the only charter is one of James II, in 1685. Under the Municipal Reform Act the boundary of the borough remained unaltered ; but a more contracted one has been recommended by the boundary commissioners, excluding the rural districts of the parish. The corporation consists of four aldermen and twelve councillors, and the borough has a commission of the peace. The Court of Record for the borough, granted by the charter, has not been used in modern times. Petty-sessions are held weekly, and quarter-sessions. By the Parliamentary Reform Act the number of representatives was reduced to one. By the Boundary Act the parishes of Lelant and Towednack, adjacent to the borough, were added to it for parliamentary purposes. The number of voters on the register in 1834-5, was 599 ; in 1835-6, 504.

The living is a perpetual curacy, of the clear yearly value of £103, in the archdeaconry of Cornwall and diocese of Exeter.

There were in the parish, in 1833, twelve infant or dame schools, with 145 males and 169 females ; seven other day-schools, with 147 males and 110 females ; and three Sunday schools, with 264 males and 305 females.