St Ives Town Council, working with St Ives’ Archive, is about to embark upon a new heritage project to create an Archive Resource Centre in the centre of town.

Market House St Ives
The Market House, St Ives

The project’s aim is to renovate the first floor of Market House, bringing it back into community use for the first time in decades.

The St Ives Archive, now celebrating its 27th year, was for many years located at the Parish Rooms. Following the sale of the rooms five years ago, the archive has operated from the Wesley Chapel, in Carbis Bay. But it has always aspired to return to a prominent location in the town so that more people can access its wealth of important local material. The organisation is operated by local volunteers and is self-supporting from its own fundraising activities.

The town council is the owner of the Market House, a listed building, built in 1832. The first floor premises are an impressive heritage asset, retaining many original features of the old Guildhall where the mayor and Corporation met to discuss the town’s affairs.

Regular magistrates’ court hearings were also held, and the premises has the original judge’s chair and prisoner cells. Yet few people have had the opportunity to look inside. The building is in good shape, but the upstairs rooms are in need of sensitive restoration.

Market House interior

The ambition is to refurbish the upper rooms into a modern facility for reference, display, and study, with access for all. This will then be leased and operated by the archive. The project will also involve the departure of the snooker club. The council has considered this very carefully, but with the club’s dwindling membership, the community benefits of housing the archive, and the chance to restore the historic building, the difficult decision has been taken.

The project will take some time to progress — the restoration work will require listed building consent for a new access.  The council and the archive will be working closely together over the coming months to move the scheme forward and to seek grant funding for the work.

“This exciting project will bring together the archive’s local treasure trove and a building with a hidden history,” said Tony Harris, chair of St Ives Town Council’s finance and general purposes committee.

“Although the project is at an early stage, the council is fully committed to working with the archive to unlock the funds needed to restore this unique building for a very fitting use. We hope it will also ensure more local people have the chance to enjoy the history of the parish.”

Lyn Burchess, chair of St Ives Archive, added: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the archive a focus for the community it serves, and also serve the wider visiting public. We look forward to working with the town council to make this exciting vision a reality.”

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