7 things you probably didn't know about St Ives

St Ives Harbour. Getty Images/iStockphoto

St Ives Harbour. Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

St Ives is one of the most famous towns in the South West and is home to around 11 000 people year-round. Its history is vast and not without surprises.

Without further ado, here are seven facts about the town and parish that you may not have known. 

1. The name and origin of St Ives is believed to have been inspired by Saint Ia who journeyed there in the 5th century. She was said to have been an Irish Princess and was carried to the shores of Cornwall by a single leaf after praying to God. St Ia's Church in St Ives was erected over where she was buried and she is often known as Ia of Cornwall.

2. People have been living in the area that is now St Ives since at least the Stone Age. There is also the highest concentration of Stone and Bronze Age sites in Western Europe there, with many fascinating discoveries happening over the years. Zennor Quoit is one of the most famous of such sites and is a ruined megalithic burial chamber just a short drive out of the town.

A stone slab lies on a diagonal resting on more slabs to make a small chamber

Zennor Quoit near St Ives - Credit: Allan Harris Photography

3. Before becoming a popular tourist town, St Ives was mainly known as a port and fishing village. During the invasion of the Spanish Armada, two Spanish boats were swept into port during a storm, only to be capture by Sir Walter Raleigh himself and his warship, Warpsite, that was also seeking shelter in the bay. 

4. Many superstitions were trusted in by locals even as late as the 1930s. One of the longest lasting was to encourage luck upon a newly baptised baby. Either Kimbly or Cheeld’s Fuggan (types of baked goods) were taken out by relatives and given to the first person of the opposite gender to the baby that they met on the way back from the church.

St Ives harbour and other places to visit in Cornwall in 2021

St Ives harbour remains on of Cornwall's favourite spots - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

5. St Ives is home to many myths and legends too. Fishermen believed it was severe bad luck to whistle at night and would only count how many fish they had caught using an old chant in the Cornish language in case they encouraged mischievous spirits or bad luck. There are also many stories of a giant called Blunderbore who wrought havoc on travellers to the town along with his brother Rebecks.

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6. St Ives has been a popular spot for artists and other creatives since the early 1800s. JMW Turner famously attempted to capture the unique pinkish hue of the light in his landscapes. More recently, modern artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach, and Ben Nicolson lived and worked around the area. Hepworth's home was renovated as a museum and is well worth a visit with a stunning garden and breath taking views. The actress Susan Penhaligon was also raised in St Ives and later went on to shine in roles for series like Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976) and sitcom A Fine Romance (1981).

7. Wildlife is abundant in St Ives although the most common bird species is the pesky seagull (so watch out for your ice cream!). Aquatic wildlife can be rather varied with plenty of seals and even occasionally dolphins spotted in the harbour and off the beaches. But did you know on July 28th, 2007 there was a suspected sighting of a great white shark? Seven years later, a boat was reportedly attacked by another, thought to be an oceanic whitetip shark too.

Tate Gallery St Ives

Tate Gallery St Ives - Credit: Archant