The earliest recorded population of St Ives is from the Domesday Book, completed in 1086. At that time a small hamlet called Slepe, using an estimate the population was about 300. A plain English text translation of the Domesday entry is as follows.
In about 1002 there was the miraculous discovery of a stone coffin by a ploughman working in the fields to the east of Slepe. Miraculous, because the remains were those of St Ivo, supposedly a Persian bishop who had come to Slepe as a missionary. 

Or so the story goes. In fact, the remains were Roman. Slepe had passed into the ownership of Ramsey Abbey. The Abbot of Ramsey was quick to spot an opportunity. An increase in pilgrim traffic and their donations would be no bad thing, hence the 'miraculous' discovery. A priory was built near where the coffin was discovered.

In 1010 King Henry I issued a Royal Charter granting the right to hold a fair in Slepe. Amendments to the charter changed the right from an annual to a weekly fair.
The structure of the town centre shows how the fair was set up. A wide street was laid out between Slepe and the priory to accommodate market stalls. Over time more permanent structures were built along the street, with lanes running off towards the river on the south and roads to the north, all to aid transport of goods.
In 1801, the first date of reliable population figures, the population had climbed to just under 3,000. In 1961 it had only risen to slightly above 4,000.  It was from the 1960s onwards, as housing estates were raised to the north of the town, that the population increased markedly. Fortunately, St Ives centre still retains the feel of a village.

View information below about the development of St Ives through maps.

1728 Pettis map

Map of uncertain date


1899 OS map


1902 OS map

1946 OS map

1956 OS map

1960 OS map

Large scale 1902 OS map

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