ST. IVES, a parish and small market town in the hundred of Hurstingstone, county Hunts, 6 miles east of Huntingdon, and 59 north of London by road, or 72 by the Great Eastern railway, on which it is a station. The Great Northern railway also has a station at Huntingdon for St. Ives; and there is a wharf on the river Ouse, by means of which navigation considerable business is done. In the Saxon times this place was called Slepe, which name is retained by one of the two manors comprehended in the parish, and by that appellation is mentioned in Domesday Book. Its more modern name is derived from Ivo, or St. Ives, a Persian ecclesiastic, who is said to have visited England as a missionary in the 6th century, and to have been buried here. Over his grave a Benedictine priory was erected in 1017 by Earl Edelmar, as a cell to Ramsey Abbey, which, having been burnt in 1207, was rebuilt and continued till the Dissolution, when the site was granted to Sir Thomas Audley. The priory barn and dovecote, with some fragments of the building, are still standing, but present no remarkable features.
It received charters from Henry I. and Edward I., conferring on the town the privilege of holding markets and fairs, and was for some time the residence of Oliver Cromwell, who occupied Slepe Hall, recently taken down to make room for a number of new houses, which now occupy its site. In the parish book, now in the possession of the vicar, Cromwell's signature appears as chairman of a vestry meeting. A considerable part of the town was consumed by fire in 1689, so that the houses are generally modern. The streets are well paved and lighted, but the lower parts of the town, built close on the bank of the Ouse, are liable to inundation by the flooding of that river, which, in 1823, swept away a considerable quantity of property. Over the river is a stone bridge of six arches, said to have been built by the abbots of Ramsey. The approach to the bridge on the south is by a causeway raised on arches to admit the passage of the waters in the time of floods; and over one of the arches, near the centre of the bridge, is an ancient building, originally intended for a chapel, but now used as a public-house. There are no manufactures, but a considerable business is done in agricultural produce, and there are large establishments for brewing and malting.
The town is governed by commissioners, appointed under a local Act, obtained in 1846, and by a high constable under the Duke of Manchester, who is lord of the manor. In 1851 the population was 3,522, and in 1861, 3,321, showing a decrease in the decennial period of 201. Petty sessions are held every Monday by the county magistrates. It is the head of a Poorlaw Union, embracing 18 parishes in Hunts and 6 in Cambridge, but the union poorhouse is situated in the adjoining parish of Hemingford Grey, about half a mile from the town; St. Ives is also the head of a superintendent registry, but is included within the Huntingdon new County Court district.
The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely, with the chapelries of Old Hurst and Woodhurst annexed. The church, originally built by Abbot Ednoth in the reign of King Edgar, was burnt in 1207, but was rebuilt. The present structure, dedicated to All Saints, occupies the same site, close to the river, but is no older than the 15th century, and has a tower and spire at the west end. There are places of worship belonging to the Independents, Wesleyans, Baptists, Primitive Methodists, and Society of Friends. The National school, built in 1845, is in the Elizabethan style of architecture, situated at the east end of the sheep market. There are also a Dissenters' school, conducted on the system of the British and Foreign Society, and a small National school at the village of Woodhurst, about 3½ miles north of St. Ives. The parochial charities produce about £90 per annum. Roger de St. Ives, an Austin monk, and Pratt, author of "Gleanings," were born here. Market day is Monday, when much business is done in corn, cattle, sheep, and pigs. There are two large fairs held annually, on Whit Monday and on the 11th of October, for cattle, sheep, second-hand clothing, and haberdashery. At the Michaelmas fair much cheese is also disposed of
by Colin Hinson ©2013