The Ancient Settlement

The earliest human settlements

People have probably lived in the place we now call St Ives for as long as there have been people in England. The Stone-age hunters came to England approximately 300,000 years ago. There were settlements in the area during the Bronze and Iron ages and the Romans built a villa here.

However, the history of the present town really begins in Saxon times. They settled in the area after the collapse of the Roman empire, probably around the year 500 AD. They founded a small settlement called "Slepe", which is an old Saxon word meaning "muddy". No evidence of this settlement has been found and the first definitive date in the history of St Ives is 986. In that year the local Saxon landowner, Mannesonne, died and left his property to Ramsey Abbey, a Benedictine monastery about 10 miles away. Slepe, which later became named St Ives, remained Ramsey Abbey property for the next 500 years or so.

A saxon peasant discovered a stone coffin containing human remains. The local smith then had a series of visions in which a figure appeared claiming to be Bishop Ivo. Abbot Eadnoth of Ramsey was convinced that the stone coffin contained the remains of the Persian Bishop St Ivo, who was said to have visited in the 6th century. He renamed the village of Slepe as St Ives. He immediately drew up plans for a shrine to be built on the spot where the stone coffin had been found. The Priory was built around 1017AD and a fragment of a stone wall which was part of a barn in the priory still stands in Priory road St Ives.

Copyright 2003 David Bartlett