Bustling market town that had 64 pubs at one time

The Old Riverport area in St Ives. 

The Old Riverport area in St Ives. - Credit: HUNTS POST

St Ives lies five miles east of Huntingdon and 12 miles north-west of Cambridge and has a population of 16,384, according to the 2011 Census. 

The town name is featured in the anonymous nursery rhyme - As I was going to St Ives - which talks about a man with seven wives and seven sacks, although some claim this refers to St Ives, in Cornwall.

St Ives has always been an bustling market town and over the years there have been a large number of pubs in and around the town to support the trade from those buying and selling their wares. In fact, in 1838, records show there were 64, but by 1962, just 16 remained, including The Seven Wives, in Ramsey Road, which opened in that year. The oldest is thought to be The Dolphin, currently a hotel, and the White Hart which is pre-1720.

The town is also well known of its unusual bridge, which incorporates a chapel. Its two southern arches are a different shape from the rest of the bridge, being rounded instead of slightly gothic. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, the chapel was given to the prior to live in. The lords of the manor of St Ives changed hands several times, as did the chapel. 

During this period, it was in turn - a private house, a doctors surgery and a pub, called Little Hell. The pub had a reputation for rowdy behaviour, and it is believed the landlord kept pigs in the basement. The additional two storeys, added in the 17th Century. were removed in 1930, due to damage to the foundations. 

The town square contains a statue of Oliver Cromwell erected in 1901. It is one of four statues of Cromwell on public display in Britain, the others being in Parliament Square, outside Wythenshawe Hall and in Warrington.

The Norris Museum holds a great deal of local history, including a number of books written by its former curator, Bob Burn-Murdoch. Mr Burn-Murdoch retired in December 2012 after 30 years' service to the museum, which was founded by Herbert Norris, who left his lifetime's collection of Huntingdonshire relics to the people of St Ives when he died in 1931.

The museum underwent £1.5m refurbishment and expansion after receiving a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and reopened in August, 2017.