Main Births etc
For the town in Cornwall, see St Ives, Cornwall
Coordinates: 52°20′06″N 0°05′01″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 15,861 
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, of Saint Ivo (not to be confused with Ivo of Kermartin), was found buried in the town in about 1001/2. 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 and 19th centuries, St Ives was a hub of trade and navigation and the town had dozens of inns and many bawdy houses. 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 (2,460 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 at St Ives is now discouraged.

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 in 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), 60 in 1861, 48 in 1865 and 45 in 1899 (though only 5 of these made the owners living). 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 17 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 proven 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 1660.[4]

This side of St Ives' character still thrives, with many restaurants and two nightclubs. Newer additions such as The Taproom cafe bar, which opened in 2005, complement the historic taverns to keep the night-time economy of St Ives vibrant and bustling.


St Ives bridge over the River Great Ouse, by floodlight.

Statue of Oliver Cromwell in the town centre.

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. In the 18th century the bridge chapel was inexplicably used as a bawdy house and had two further storeys, now removed; this alternative use has been highlighted in the historical novel 'Not Just a Whore', by local St Ives resident K M Warwick. The bridge was rebuilt after Oliver Cromwell blew it 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. The statue presents a controversy for many people, who sometimes equate Cromwell with the devastation his policies and strategies brought to the country, whilst others approve greatly.

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, but these claims were proved to be false. Plans to dispose of the building were fought by an action group called "Action Corn Exchange".[5] The hall was saved and re-opened in the latter part of 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 Non-League football club St Ives Town F.C.which plays at Westwood Road. 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 is an active swimming club. New members are always welcome, from age 4½ upwards, whatever their swimming ability and can be slotted into (and trained up to) teaching groups, a pre-competitive group, development squads or senior/competitive squads [3]

St Ives has an 18 hole championship golf course, located 1/2 mile east of St Ives on the A1123. It opened in the summer of 2010, replacing the previous 9 hole course on westwood road. [4]


St Ives has a main secondary school, St Ivo School. Eastfield nursery and infant school, Westfield Junior school and two primary schools Thorndown, Wheatfields.


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 [5] 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 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 Guided Busway[]

The major section of the world's longest guided busway, using all new construction techniques and technology, connects St. Ives directly to Cambridge Science Park on the outskirts of Cambridge[11] along the route of what was a 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 operates from the railway station on the far side of Cambridge to Addenbrooke's Hospital and Trumpington.[12] The scheme, budgeted at £116.2 million, opened in summer 2011. The length of time that it took to construct the busway drew the ire of many local residents, who felt it was a huge waste of taxpayers money, especially after company bosses admitted it would only shave eight minutes off the standard A14 bus journey time. Furthermore, construction of the busway was beset with problems, causing delays; for example, cracks appeared in the structure allowing weeds to grow through. Contractors BAM Nuttall are being fined a significant amount of money for each day that the busway completion date was not met.[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 Felixstowe and hence to the mainland of Europe[16] This 32-kilometre (20 mi) section of road also links the northern end of the 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.

Rail and conventional Bus[]

Bus services are provided by Stagecoach in Huntingdonshire and Whippet coaches, the former also having its depot near the town. Services to Cambridge and Huntingdon are frequent (up to every 20 minutes) during the day, though less frequent in the evenings. There's also buses to Somersham/Chatteris, Ramsey and Cambourne.

Between 1847 and 1970 the town was served by St Ives railway station on the Cambridge and Huntingdon railway.[18] The line from Cambridge and the 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. A campaign to reopen the passenger rail service only ended with the ripping-up of disused track shortly before construction of the Guided Busway. Huntingdon (7 miles) is the nearest rail station. Buses using the Busway system provide direct links to both Huntingdon and Cambridge stations.


St Ives is excellent for cycling, both in town and on both sides of the river to Huntingdon. The Guided Busway comes with a cycle way providing an almost flat, straight route direct to Cambridge.

Popular culture[]

The Seven Wives pub on a summer's night

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 (or coming from) the Great Fair at St Ives.[19]

The Seven Wives pub itself is on Ramsey Road, 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 term tawdry is a St Ives derived word (vying with the rival Ely claim), basically meaning cloth that is cheap and cheerful, and was evolved directly from the St Audrey's Lane cloth market held during the mediaeval and later ages. Made from discarded inferior wool and/or other felt fibres, it was a popular source of cheap and cheerful material bought by the locals, and those further afield, who flocked to the market in their droves to buy cheap supplies for their own domestic clothing. Although the St Audrey's market petered out during centuries past, the tradition of low priced cloth, albeit of better quality, is now carried on with the modern market holders at the St Ives town centre version, which is still a draw to dress and curtain makers. We are now left with the word tawdry to denote, essentially, the inferior garb worn by the poor and not a general put-down for St Ives itself, which remains a charming and attractive small river town.

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, but not on the shire town of Cambridge itself, or on the other villages around. Of St Ives he wrote:

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. Template:Sic?
  8. ^ "SCOUTS FIGHT FOR RIGHT TO ISLAND". Emap Communications. 19 November 1995. Retrieved 6 November 2008. 
  9. ^ "Norris Museum". Norris Museum.. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  10. ^ Kirby, Andy. "St Ives Rugby Union Football Club". Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  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 978-0-9515298-0-5 
  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. 

Books about the town[]

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

External links[]

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at St Ives, Cambridgeshire. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.