Posted by: marymarthatours | January 5, 2014

St. Ives–so much to see, so little time

St. Ives, Char, CCASA2.0

St. Ives, Cornwall

Martha has been hard at work on her part of the planning for the Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour coming up in April 2014.  One of the ‘extras’ that we like to provide on our tours is information about the cities and towns where our travelers will have some free time to explore on their own.  For those locations, we prepare a page with a map and a list of places of potential interest to see or visit.  Martha enjoys doing the research and preparing the information sheet, and I find and add a map of the town center to the page.

Recently, Martha sent me the Information Sheet for St. Ives, the town on the west coast of Cornwall where we will have some free time on the upcoming tour.  I’m looking forward to taking our group there, but, as so often happens, there just won’t be enough time to see everything that St. Ives has to offer.

St. Ives, Charles Musselwhite, CCASAw.0

Artist at work, St. Ives, Cornwall

St. Ives, near the southwest tip of Cornwall, was once a fishing village and a center for the tin mining industry.  With the coming of rail transportation, tourists began flocking to this charming little town to enjoy its five sandy beaches and quaint harbor-side shops.  But it was the arrival of the artists that brought a special spark to the community.  Starting with J.M.W. Turner in 1811 and right through to today, artists have found the scenery – the sea, sky, boats, cliffs, beaches – and especially the quality of the light at St. Ives to be irresistible. 

Today’s thriving artist colony owes its beginning to the friendship of Cornish artist Alfred Wallis with Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, who met in 1928.  In addition to painters, other artists settled in St. Ives.  Bernard Leach, known as the ‘father of British studio pottery’, had already set up the Leach Pottery in 1920.  And in 1939, Barbara Hepworth, later Dame Barbara, settled in St. Ives with her then-husband artist Ben Nicholson.  Many of Hepworth’s iconic pieces were created at her Trewyn Studio in St. Ives, where she lived and worked after her divorce from Nicholson.  Before Hepworth died in a studio fire in 1975, she left instructions that the studio should be kept “as closely as possible as it has been in my lifetime”.  The studio and its garden are now maintained by the Tate St. Ives Gallery.

Hepworth_workshop, SideLong, CCA2.0    Hepworth Gdn, Rowena Ford, CCASA2.0

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden, St. Ives

Since this is primarily a garden tour, I would suspect that many of our group may want to start off at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden.  It’s only a small garden, but it contains a number of Hepworth’s dramatic sculptures.  Hepworth created this small garden herself.  It includes her now-abandoned workshop and a garden path that leads one through trees and shrubs, discovering both large and small sculptures along the way.

Hepworth Gdn, Graham Rogers, CCASA2.5    Hepworth Gdn3, Sarah Charlesworth, CCASA2.0

Barbara Hepworth sculptures in the garden at her Trewyn Studio

When we can bring ourselves to leave the Hepworth Garden, it will be just a short walk downhill to the Tate St. Ives.  This regional branch of the Tate Gallery, featuring modern art and artists from the southwest of England, was opened in 1993.  It perches above Porthmeor Beach, and I understand there is a fabulous view from either the indoor or outdoor areas of the rooftop café.  I’ll bet some of our group members will want to have their lunch there.

Tate St. Ives, OLU, CCASA2.0

Tate St. Ives Gallery

Others may want to just wander the narrow, hilly streets of St. Ives.  They’ll find lots of art galleries and craft shops to investigate as well as places for a quick lunch or a take-away.  I already know that when we leave St. Ives, everyone – including the two tour leaders – will be saying, “I wish we could have spent more time there”.

(By Mary)

Photo credits:  top photo of St. Ives, copyright Char and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license;  St. Ives artist, copyright Charles Musselwhite and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license;  Hepworth workshop, copyright SideLong and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license;  overview of Hepworth Garden, copyright Rowena Ford and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license;  Blue Sculpture, copyright Graham Rogers and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license;  Sculpture with roses, copyright Sarah Charlesworth and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license;  Tate St. Ives, copyright OLU and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license




  1. I’m looking forward to every minute. But, you’re right, there’s never enough time.

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