St Ives set to mark non-conformist history

ST IVES wants to extend its range of heritage plaques to mark the town’s long non-conformist history.

ST IVES wants to extend its range of heritage plaques to mark the town’s long non-conformist history.

The town council, backed by St Ives Civic Society wants to put plaques on the 19th century Free Church, in Market Hill, and on the former Independent Chapel, which subsequently became the church hall, in Free Church Passage.

The Independent Chapel was built in 1811 on the site of a 17th century meeting house. It was replaced for worship purposes when the Free Church was completed in 1864.

The plaque proposed for the church includes the legend “Dissent emerging from the shadows,” marking the repeal of laws that had previously restricted civic office to Anglicans.

The town council says the free Church, one of the town’s most prominent landmarks, is of great importance to the town’s non-conformist tradition.

“Its architecture was a deliberate statement of the wealth and importance of its congregation,” the application for listed building consent says.

Most Read

“The quotation on the proposed plaque is ascribed to Bateman Brown, son of [Houghton Quaker philanthropist and founder of Houghton Chapel] Potto Brown, who paid much of the cost of construction.”

The chapel in Free Church Passage replaced a meeting house of 1691 that stood on the same site.

When no longer needed as a church hall – the Free Church was converted into a two-storey building in the 1970s in a project part-funded by the Manpower Services Commission to provide temporary work for long-term unemployed tradesmen – the former Independent Chapel became a shop.

The proposed plaque would be above part of the front wall, which includes bricks inscribed with the initials of members of the congregation who helped to pay for the 1864 conversion.

The town council also wants to put up two ‘interpretation boards’ in Market Road and The Waits, near the Norris Museum.

The board in the market area would explain the commercial importance of the town’s several livestock markets, which continued to function until the 1970s – the cattle market (now a car park and bus station), the smaller, adjacent sheep market (which has also kept its name) and the bullock market (now The Broadway).

The board planned for The Waits would explain the town’s river links and the streets links with another non-conformist tradition, Methodism, including the visit of the movement’s founder John Wesley in 1774. The early-20th century Methodist Chapel is also in The Waits.