ST IVES: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1932.
"ST IVES, the borough of St. Ives is of modern date having obtained its incorporation in 1874. It represents the ancient township of Slepe which, late in the 10th century was given by Aethelstan Mannesone (or Mauvessone) to his daughter Alfwen with the remainder, failing her heirs, to the Abbey of Ramsey. Ramsey Abbey thus obtained Slepe, including the neighbouring townships of Woodhurst and Old Hurst, which were included in the Soke of Slepe.
The original settlement was near the present church on the northern bank of the River Ouse, and which is mentoned in 1086. However, the bridge across the River Ouse, which existed as early as 1107, concentrated the traffic at its northern head and became the centre of local trade. A large market place grew up where the ancient traffic flowed because the traffic was complelled to pass through the town.
Outside this small closely-knit community, lay the meadows and common fields to the north covering rather less than the present parish which was enhanced in 1876 by additions from Fen Stanton and Hemingford Grey. More than half this area (viz: 1400 acres) was inclosed by an Act of Parliament in 1801. The low-lying meadows and ozier beds have always been liable to floods.
A greater part of the town was destroyed by fire in 1680, and another fire occurred nine years later. Numerous coaching Inns were built to accommodate travellers who had passed via the bridge. Wharves were also built to accommodate river traffic. Many traders settled in St Ives mostly concerned with cloth, wool and hides; these were supplemented by tailors.
Like most riverside towns, St Ives has its bridgehead at the south-east end of the bridge, originally for protection and for the collection of tolls. The bridge was originally of wood to 1384, being frequently repaired with ash and oak from the Ramsey Manors. By 1414 the present stone bridge was built of Barnack stone. In 1645, at the end of the Civil War, one arch was demolished and replaced by a drawbridge, but the stone bridge was restored in 1716. On the middle pier on the south-east side, is the chapel of St Ledger or St Lawrence, the altar of which was consecrated in 1426."