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Coordinates: 52°20′06″N 0°05′01″W / 52.3350°N 0.0837°W / 52.3350; -0.0837

St. Ives
UK StIves Cambridgeshire.jpg
St. Ives is located in Cambridgeshire
St. Ives

 St. Ives shown within Cambridgeshire
Population 15,860 
OS grid reference TL305725
District Huntingdonshire
Shire county Cambridgeshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ST. IVES
Postcode district PE27
Dialling code 01480
Police Cambridgeshire
Fire Cambridgeshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Huntingdon
List of places: UK • England • Cambridgeshire

St Ives is a market town in Cambridgeshire, England, around 24 kilometres (15 mi) north-west of the city of Cambridge and 110 kilometres (68 mi) 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, 80 kilometres (50 mi) 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.

The river Great Ouse at St Ives flooded in 1947, and some parts suffered seriously again at Easter 1998[1] and in January 2003.[2] Extensive flood protection works were carried out on both sides of the river in 2006/2007 at a cost of nearly £9 million. 500 metres (1,600 ft) of brick-clad steel-piling was put into place to protect the town, most noticeably at the Waits where a pleasing plaza has also been created. A further 750 metres (2,500 ft) on the other side of the river protects Hemingford Grey, reducing the yearly risk of flooding from 10% to 1%.[3] Building on the flood plain is now discouraged at St Ives, as everywhere else.

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.


The Monday market takes over the town centre, and is larger in scale on Bank Holidays in May and August. There is a Friday market, and a Farmers Market on the first and third Saturday every month. The Michaelmas Fair takes over for 3 days on the second Monday in October, and there is a Carnival [1] and [2], the biggest public gathering in Huntingdonshire.

As an important market town, St Ives always needed large numbers of pubs, 64 in 1838 (1 for every 55 inhabitants) and 60 in 1861. However, as livestock sales diminished, so did the need for large numbers of pubs, falling to a low point of 16 in 1962. In that year the "Seven Wives" on Ramsey Road was opened and, with some openings and closings since, there are 18 today. The oldest (in the sense of there having been one on the same site, with the same name) is the Dolphin, over 400 years old. Next oldest comes the White Hart, which is pre-1720. The Nelsons Head and Golden Lion are at least this old too, but they've not kept the same name and used to be called the Three Tuns and the Red Lion respectively. The existence of pubs on the site of the Robin Hood goes back at least as far too, except that it used to be two pubs back then — the Angel and the Swan. The claim of the Royal Oak to date from 1502 cannot be proved since, while a portion at the back is 17th century (making it physically the oldest portion of any pub in St Ives), the pub name has to be more recent. The reference is to Charles II's famous escape from Cromwell's Roundheads, and Charles was restored to the throne in 1680.[4] This side of St Ives' character still thrives, with many restaurants and at least three busy nightclubs.


St Ives Bridge

St Ives Bridge is most unusual in incorporating a chapel, the most striking of only five examples in England. Also unusual are its two southern arches which are a different shape from the rest of the bridge, being rounded instead of slightly gothic. They were rebuilt this way 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 by a drawbridge. The town square contains one of the four statues of Cromwell on public display in Britain, the others being in Parliament Square, outside Wythenshawe Hall and in Warrington.

Statue of Oliver Cromwell, town centre

Corn Exchange

The Grade II listed St Ives Corn Exchange was built in the centre of town in 1858, and is hence the same age as Stanley House, now home to the Town Council. In 2001, serious structural problems were discovered and the Corn Exchange was closed on safety grounds. Plans to dispose of the building were fought by an action group called "Action Corn Exchange".[5] The hall was saved and is to be re-opened in 2010.[6]

Holt Island

The eastern or town end of Holt Island is nature reserve and the western end, opposite the parish church, is a facility for the Scouts. The scout portion contains what was, before the opening of the Leisure Centre, the town's outdoor town swimming pool. The pool was dug in 1913 and closed to the public in 1949.[7] It is now used by the scouts for canoeing, rappelling and the mooring of a small narrowboat. In November 1995, the island was the locus of a significant law-suit and a break-away Scouting Association was prevented from using and developing a claim to it.[8]


The Norris Museum holds a deal of local history, including a number of books written by its curator, Bob Burn-Murdoch.[9]



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.[10] and a football club, St Ives Rangers. The St Ives Rowing Club was once captained by John Goldie and has had a number of members who have competed at Olympic and Commonwealth championships.


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

All Saints Church (Church of England) on Church Street has been in the town since 970. The second oldest church building, which dominates the town's market place, is The Free Church (United Reformed). The church was built in 1864, but was modernised in 1980, moving the worship area upstairs. The Church of the Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic) on Needingworth Road is a Pugin design moved from Cambridge and opened in 1902, the hall at the back was added c.2001. The current Methodist Church [3] on The Waits opened in 1905. Crossways Church (Assembly of God) meet at Crossways Christian Centre on Ramsey Road. St Ives Christian Fellowship (Partnership) meet at Thorndown Junior School on Hill Rise. The Bridge Church (New Frontiers) meet at Westfield Junior School on Ramsey Road. St Ives Evangelical Christian Church (Independent) meet at the Burleigh Hill Community Centre, off Constable Road.


St Ives has a main secondary school, St Ivo School, and three primary schools Thorndown, Wheatfields and Westfield.


St Ives experienced town planning at a very early date, giving it a spacious Town Centre. Portions of this open space between Merryland and Crown Street were lost to market stalls that turned into permanent buildings. Some of the shops in the town centre are still to the same layout as in Medieval times, one rod in width, the standard length for floor and roof joists. The lanes along the north side of town are believed to follow the layout of the narrow medieval fields, and are slightly S-shaped because of the way ploughs turned at each end. Similar field boundaries can be seen in Warners Park.


2009 Busway

The major section of the world's longest busway, using all new construction techniques and technology, will connect St Ives directly to Cambridge Science Park on the outskirts of Cambridge.[11] along the route of the disused railway line. The same buses continue into the centre of Cambridge along regular roads in one direction and continue to Huntingdon in the other direction. A shorter section of the same busway system will operate from the railway station on the far side of Cambridge to Addenbrooke's Hospital and Trumpington.[12] The scheme, budgeted at £116.2 million, is now scheduled to open in 'spring 2010'.[13]

The St Ives Park & Ride on Meadow Lane is part of the scheme and will open at the same time.[14] A "Green Update" newsletter came out in Winter 2007 with news on conservation work including protection of the Great Crested Newt.[15]


St Ives is just off the A14 road on a particularly congested section of the route from the UK's second city, Birmingham, to the port of Felixtowe and hence to Europe[16] This 32-kilometre (20 mi) section of road is also what links the northern end of M11 (Cambridge and region) to the M1 and the whole of the North of England and Scotland. A new by-pass is planned for St Ives and Huntingdon, leaving the existing alignment near Swavesey and passing to the south of both market towns.[17] A northern bypass has been under discussion for even longer but is not anticipated any time soon.

Public transport

Bus services are provided mostly by Stagecoach Group and Whippet coaches, the latter of which has its depot near the town. Services to Cambridge and Huntingdon are generally frequent (every 20 minutes or so) during the day, though less frequent at evenings and weekends.

Between 1847 and 1970 the town was served by St Ives railway station on the Cambridge and Huntingdon railway.[18] The line and station almost survived the 1963 to 1973 Beeching Axe, but were lost to passenger service in the final stages of the process. Some sections continued to be used for freight until 1993.


St Ives is said to be one of the few places in the country from which one can cycle North, South, East and West. The Guided Busway (due to open in spring 2010) will have a cycle way alongside which will make pedalling the 32 kilometres (20 mi) to Cambridge, on a car-free way, a viable option for many people for the first time.

Popular culture

The name "St Ives" is world-famous partly because of the anonymous nursery rhyme/riddle "As I was going to St Ives". While sometimes claimed to be St Ives, Cornwall, the man with seven wives, each with seven sacks containing seven cats etc may have been on his way to the Great Fair at St Ives.[19]

The Seven Wives pub on a summer's night

The "Seven Wives" pub itself is on the main road, St Audreys Lane, where it runs to the north of the town centre. However, this is a modern pub with no connection to the ancient rhyme other than the name.[20]

The famous war poet Rupert Brooke lived at Grantchester some 32 kilometres (20 mi) away in the same county. In his famous poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester" he heaped praise on his own village, while writing quite unflattering things about the shire town Cambridge, and other villages around. Of St Ives he said

Strong men have blanched and shot their wives, rather than send them to St Ives[21]


  1. ^ Floods Easter 1998 "River Great Ouse reaches highest level since 1947". Floods Easter 1998. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  2. ^ Floods January 2003 "River Great Ouse once again reaches close to 1947 levels". Floods January 2003. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  3. ^ "£8.8m flood defence scheme opened". BBC News. 22 June 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  4. ^ Burn-Murdoch, Bob (16 October 2008), The Pubs of St Ives (3rd ed.), Friends of the Norris Museum  
  5. ^ "St Ives Corn Exchange - Supplementary Information to the ACE Report issued February 2007". Action Corn Excange. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  6. ^ "Ray of hope in fight to save corn exchange". Cambridge News. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  7. ^ "St Ives a new Millenium". St Ives Photo Publication Group (Inchcape): pp. 8–9. 2002.  
  8. ^ "SCOUTS FIGHT FOR RIGHT TO ISLAND". Emap Communications. 19 November 1995. Retrieved 6 November 2008.  
  9. ^ Norris Museum.
  10. ^ St Ives Rugby Union Football Club
  11. ^ "Secretary Of State Celebrates Start Of Works On Guided Busway". Cambridgeshire County Council. 5 March 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  12. ^ "The Busway Network". Cambridgeshire County Council. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  13. ^ "Cambridgeshire Guided Busway - Information about the scheme". Cambridgeshire County Council. 10 January 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  14. ^ "Guided Busway Update". Cambridgeshire County Council. October 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  15. ^ "Guided Busway Green Update - Winter 2007". cambridgeshire County Council. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  16. ^ "Trafficmaster/RAC Foundation Congestion report: Volume 2". Trafficmaster plc and RAC Foundation for Motoring. p. 9. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  17. ^ "Ellington to Fen Ditton Improvemebt". Highways Agency. November 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2009.  
  18. ^ Catford, Nick. "Station Name:ST. IVES (Huntingdonshire)". Retrieved 29 October 2008.  
  19. ^ Hudson, Noel (1989), St Ives, Slepe by the Ouse, St Ives Town Council, p. 131, ISBN 978-0951529805  
  20. ^ Indeed in the earliest recorded English version of the riddle, of 1730, there were nine wives. See main article.
  21. ^ Brooke, Rupert (May 1912). The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. Café des Westerns, Berlin. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  

External links

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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