About Historic St Ives

St Ives is a market town in Cambridgeshire, England and lies within the historic county boundaries of Huntingdonshire on the banks of the River Great Ouse between Huntingdon and Ely.

Previously called Slepe, its name was changed to St Ives after a body, claimed to be that of a Persian bishop, Saint Ivo, was found buried in the town.  For the past 1,000 years it has been home to some of the biggest markets in the country and in the thirteenth century it was an important trading post and still remains an important market town today.  The market is still held on a Monday and takes over the town centre, and is larger in scale on Bank Holidays at Easter, May and August.  There is also a small Friday market and a Farmers market on the first and third Saturday every month.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, St Ives was a hub of trade and navigation.  Goods and livestock were brought into the town on barges, and the livestock were  then rested in the meadows before delivery to London’s Smithfield Market.  As the railway network expanded and roads improved, the use of the River Great Ouse declined.  It is now mostly used for leisure boats and recreation.


St Ives Bridge and Chapel

St Ives Bridge, over the River Great Ouse, was built on a flint reef which lay on the bed of the river where, at this point, gave rise to a ford, which provided the foundations for the celebrated bridge and its famous chapel, the most striking of only five examples in England.  Also unusual are its two southern arches which are a different shape from the rest of the bridge, being rounded instead of slightly gothic.  They were rebuilt this way after Oliver Cromwell blew them up in the English Civil War to prevent King Charles 1’s troops approaching London from the Royalist base in Lincolnshire.     During the war and for some period afterwards, the gap was covered by a drawbridge.                              
Oliver Cromwell small

Oliver Cromwell

The town square contains one of the only four statues of Oliver Cromwell on public display in Britain.  Oliver Cromwell was born just 6 miles away in Huntingdon in 1599, became Lord Protector in 1653 and died in Whitehall in 1658.


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