What St. Ives looked like in the Late 19th Century

In the late 19th century, St. Ives was a vibrant, bustling seaside town. The mainstay of the local economy was its fishing industry, with the harbor teeming with boats returning with their daily catch. The town’s narrow streets echoed with the sounds of market vendors selling fresh fish, the cries of seagulls, and the chatter of townsfolk going about their daily business.

The Fishing Industry

The sea was the lifeblood of St. Ives. Every morning, fishermen would set sail in their boats, known as “luggers,” heading out into the Atlantic. These brave men would battle the waves, hauling in nets full of pilchards, mackerel, and herring. The women, known as ‘fishwives,’ played a significant role too. They were responsible for cleaning and preserving the fish, often using traditional methods of salting and smoking. The work was hard, but the sense of community was strong.

The Arrival of the Railways

A significant turning point for St. Ives came in 1877 with the arrival of the Great Western Railway. Suddenly, this secluded coastal town was connected to the rest of England, and it wasn’t long before tourists began to discover its charms. The town quickly became a popular destination for holidaymakers, drawn by the beautiful beaches, the fresh sea air, and the charm of the traditional Cornish lifestyle.

The Birth of an Art Colony

St. Ives didn’t just attract tourists; it also became a magnet for artists. The unique quality of light, the rugged coastal landscapes, and the simple beauty of the town itself lured painters from all over the country. By the late 19th century, an art colony had formed in St. Ives, putting it firmly on the map as a center for the arts. Renowned painters like Julius Olsson and Louis Grier were among the many artists who set up their studios in the town, capturing the life and landscapes of St. Ives in their works.

By the close of the 19th century, St. Ives had transformed from a humble fishing village into a thriving tourist destination and artistic hub. Yet, despite the changes, it managed to retain its unique charm and character. It was a town that had successfully straddled the old and the new, creating a rich tapestry of life that continues to enchant visitors to this day.

Below are some fascinating historical photos of St. Ives from the late 19th Century.

#2 A busy scene in the harbour showing the seine boats offloading their catch of pilchards, which were then taken by horse and cart to the fish cellars for processing, St. Ives, Cornwall

#4 A group of pilchard processing workers outside a fish cellar or “fish palace” somewhere in the back streets of St. Ives, Cornwall

#5 A view across the harbour showing Smeaton’s Pier and lighthouse, St. Ives, Cornwall

#6 A view from the east showing Porthminster beach, Pedn-Olva mine engine house and the harbour, St. Ives, Cornwall

#7 A view looking down Barnoon Hill toward the town. The entrance to Ayr Lane can be seen on the right, St. Ives, Cornwall

#8 A view looks up Bunkers Hill from Fore Street. On the wall can be seen rays that have been pegged out to dry in the sun. When salted this was known locally as “toe-rag”, St. Ives, Cornwall

#9 A view mid-way along Fore Street, just opposite the former premises of Woolworths, St. Ives, Cornwall

#10 A view of a seine boat off-loading fish into a horse-drawn cart, St. Ives, Cornwall

#12 A view of Carbis Bay (Carrack Gladden) before very much development is in evidence. The first hotels have appeared though and beach hunt/tents can be seen on the beach itself, St. Ives, Cornwall

#13 A view of Smeaton’s Pier at high water. The Pedn Olva mine engine house can be clearly seen as well as the Malakoff (the disused engine house was used an artists studio for a period), St. Ives, Cornwall

#14 A view of Smeaton’s Pier at low tide with a couple of local lads, St. Ives, Cornwall

#15 A view of the “town beach” adjacent to Smeaton’s Pier. Boat repairs/maintenance were often carried out here, St. Ives, Cornwall

#16 A view of the activity around the slipway, with the barrels awaiting their turn to be packed with fish and then transported away on waiting carts, St. Ives, Cornwall

#17 A view of the boat-filled harbour and foresand showing the bustling activity connected with the fishing industry, St. Ives, Cornwall

#18 A view of the Digey with donkey cart. Hicks Court, with its famous granite arch is just off to the left, St. Ives, Cornwall

#21 A view of the Parish Church of St. Ia and its sturdy granite tower. To the left is the Star Inn (long since demolished), St. Ives, Cornwall

#23 A view of the town and harbour. The track at the station appears to be broad gauge, the St. Erth branch line was the very last broad gauge line to be built, St. Ives, Cornwall

#25 A view of the town from where the bus station is now located, St. Ives, Cornwall

#26 A view of the town taken from where the large car park is now situated, St. Ives, Cornwall

#28 A view of the well known granite arch that leads into Hicks Court from the Digey, St. Ives, Cornwall

#29 A view of the wharf with some fisherman occupied with a task at a crude bench/table, St. Ives, Cornwall

#30 Much activity in the harbour with the arrival and unloading of a seine boat, St. Ives, Cornwall

#31 Somewhere in the maze of streets ‘Downalong’. The occupier of the building on the right is A.J. Pazolt (Alfred Joseph Pazolt). He was a marine artist, St. Ives, Cornwall

#33 The great flood of 1894. A view looking south east up ‘The Terrace’, St. Ives, Cornwall

#34 The great flood of November 1894. Looking down Tregenna Hill toward Tregenna Place, St. Ives, Cornwall

#35 The great flood of November 1894. Taken from the Royal Square looking west up the Stennack, St. Ives, Cornwall

#36 The old manor house of the Stephens family located in Tregenna Place. It was also the shipping office of the Hain Steamship company at one time, St. Ives, Cornwall

#37 The wharf near the slipway. The Sloop Inn is clearly visible off to the right and also the premises that would later become Hart’s Ice Cream Parlour, St. Ives, Cornwall

#40 Virgin Street, with the locals posed outside of their dwellings, St. Ives, Cornwall

Avatar of Kevin Clark

Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *