Building » St Ives – Sacred Heart and St Ia

St Ives – Sacred Heart and St Ia

Tregenna Hill, St Ives, Cornwall

An early twentieth century church in French thirteenth century Gothic style by Scoles & Raymond, who built widely in the southwest. The church and contemporary presbytery are strong townscape features in the St Ives Conservation Area. The interior is conventional and rather old-fashioned for its date, but contains some furnishings of note, particularly the high altar. On the outside wall is a bronze plaque by Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, commemorating the death of the mayor of St Ives during the Western Rising of 1549.

The church is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Ia, who gives her name to the town. St Ia appears to have been one of a group of Irish missionaries who came to Cornwall in the fifth century AD. She built an oratory in St Ives, said to be on the site of the present Anglican parish church. She was martyred with several other missionaries on the orders of Theodoric, a local chieftain, and her relics were placed in the oratory she had founded. When the parish church was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, her relics were translated to the new building.

St Ives was the scene of one of the many bloody episodes in Devon and Cornwall commonly known as the Western Rising of 1549. That year parliament passed the Act of Uniformity, which enforced the use of services in English using the Book of Common Prayer instead of the old Latin Mass.In west Cornwall few people spoke English, and St Ives was one of many towns that refused to cooperate. In response, the Provost Marshall came to St Ives and invited John Payne, the Catholic mayor, to lunch at the George and Dragon. After lunch, Payne was hanged. In 1949, the 400th anniversary of the rising, a bronze memorial plaque by Fr Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey was fixed to the external wall of the present church.

During the  eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Catholic practice in St Ives died away. However, in 1901 a site in Street-an-Pol, once used as a shop and warehouse, was bought by a wealthy convert who then presented it to the Canons Regular of the Lateran for the establishment of a mission. The first Mass was celebrated on 16 February 1902. With a growing congregation, it became necessary to build a larger and more worthy church, and a site was secured at the top of Skidden Hill facing Tregenna Hill. Here a church and presbytery were built from designs by Scoles & Raymond, opening on 24 September 1908.

In 1913 a single bell was given to the church. It was replaced in 1954 by electronic bells. The church was consecrated on 8 May 1946.


The church consists of a continuous nave and narrower chancel, north aisle and southwest belfry turret. The presbytery is attached to the north. It is built of Castle granite with grey Penryn granite dressings. The roof is of concrete tiles, presumably replacing slates.  The attached presbytery is built of similar materials.

The church is designed in the thirteenth century French Gothic style generally favoured by Canon Scoles. The most visible public view is of the south wall of the nave, which is of four bays, with paired trefoil windows in plate tracery openings and cinquefoil circular windows in the arches, all under a continuous hood mould. In the narrower chancel there are two high circular cinquefoil windows. The east wall is built close up against a neighbouring building, but its gable rises higher and is provided with a high-level septfoil circular window.

A polygonal stair turret marks the southwest corner, a prominent feature in the townscape. Its upper third belfry stage is faced in grey granite, with a lancet window with louvres on each face; above this is a cornice and a polygonal spirelet. Adjoining this, the west door has an entrance of carved granite with roll mouldings and attached colonettes, and in the tympanum a Bath stone representation of St Ia, holding a model of her church (the present Anglican parish church). Above the doorway are three stepped lancet windows with trefoil heads, a trefoil ventilation opening in the gable, and a stone cross on the gable. Adjoining the church entrance to the left is the projecting front elevation of the presbytery, with a side entrance under a pointed arch with dripmould. The main elevation of the presbytery faces towards Tregenna Terrace and is a powerful design, the windows with granite mullions, transoms and chamfered surrounds, and a central doorway also with a granite surround. Unfortunately the windows have been replaced in uPVC.

The main entrance leads into a small narthex or lobby below the western organ gallery. This contains an octagonal carved granite font, doubling up as a holy water stoup. The main body of the church consists of a nave with four-bay arcade giving onto the north aisle and a tall chancel arch giving onto a square-ended chancel of two bays.  The internal stonework appears to be of Bath stone; the nave arcades and chancel arch have octagonal pillars or attached shafts with moulded capitals and arcades. The roofs of the nave and aisle are canted, with plaster panels and wooden ribs, while that of the chancel is more sophisticated, rising up from slender stone wall shafts to a boarded ridge and furrow pattern. The original stone high altar has been brought forward and separated from its gradine and reredos. It has a central carved roundel of the pelican in her piety, with stubby polished granite columns at the corners. The reredos is richly carved with angels and a Gothic canopy providing the setting for Exposition. Below this is a red alabaster gradine with a fine set of candlesticks and a central alabaster tabernacle with brass door. The altar looks like the work of Boulton of Cheltenham, used elsewhere by Canon Scoles. There is a recessed stone piscina on the south side of the sanctuary. Flanking the chancel arch to the south is a stone pulpit, with carved figures of saints under arcading, and to the north a statue of the Sacred Heart mounted on a pedestal. In the north aisle there is a Lady altar, with a statue of the crowned Virgin and Child under a high pinnacled canopy.

The seating consists of fairly plain pine pews. There is a later organ gallery at the west end, its underside enclosed to form the entrance lobby. Stained glass in the west window depicts the Sacred Heart flanked by St Augustine and St Monica and is signed by Jones & Willis, a major Birmingham-based manufacturer of church furnishings. There is also stained glass in the east window, depicting Mary Immaculate and installed in 1908, and in some of the north aisle windows (artists and makers not identified). There is a good set of Stations of the Cross, high relief polychrome figures in stone (or reconstituted stone) Gothic frames.

Outside the church, inserted in the middle of the south wall, is a bronze plaque commemorating the martyrdom of John Payne, by Fr Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, 1949.

Heritage Details

Architect: Scoles & Raymond

Original Date: 1908

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed