St Ives
Cambridgeshire

Click Oliver Cromwell (who once lived here) to go to contents list.


A personal view
by Philip Grosset




Oddities of St Ives
Handwritten notice, seen in a local shop window one Christmas:
As from today,we will cease trading. We would like to congratulate the owner, Mr ***** ******* , for effectively putting us out of work 2 days before Christmas. Nice one, *****. We haven't received any wages for the last 2 days and on top of that, we have suffered the publics complaints & sneers about the lack of stock for over 10 months... all thanks to you, ***** *******. We are both extremely pleased to finally be able to say to you:
"SHOVE THIS STINKING SHOP AND RUN IT YOURSELF".
On a lighter note, thank you to all our customers and we would like to wish you all a "Very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year"


A sign that used, I am told, to be in one of the alleys off Merryland: URINATORS WILL BE CLAMPED!


Here's another notice, seen in the window of a (since disappeared) cobbler's shop on The Broadway:
CONTRARY to the rumours being circulated throughout the length and breadth of this pleasant land by wishful thinkers, GEORGE, chief of the Loadsa Cobblers, is NOT retiring in the immediate future. (Indeed people who know him say that he is the least retiring person of their acquaintance!) He will continue to slave away, repairing shoes, cutting keys, talent spotting and enlivening the days of his regular customers with a merry quip, for many moons to come.
You Have Been Warned!!!

"Thieves that survive will be prosecuted" Notice
A shop window in The Broadway.

A notice in the church of St Mary Magdalene in the village of Hilton.
A poster in a window in Station Road. It turned out to be at a vet's - and only referred to cats.
Oliver Cromwell's statue outside the Free Church shows him with a sword on one side and a Bible on the other. It was a previous vicar of All Saints (Father David Moore) who suggested that the book really only contained the addresses of his mistresses. He said this to the Lord Lieutenant's wife, just after a Civic Service in the Parish Church, while her husband was standing by the statue, and she had her camera at the ready. She said, "How wonderful to see Cromwell with the Good Book in his hand!" - and that was his reply. Her look, he says, almost sent him to the Tower of London.
Potto Brown (1817-1871) was a wealthy miller who rented Houghton Mill and subsequently built the mill at St Ives. A strong personaliPotto Brownty and stern disciplinarian, he was an active nonconformist and lay preacher. He was a generous philanthropist, who built the chapel in Houghton (in the yard of which he is buried), funded local schools, and set up allotments for the poor. He prayed daily that he might be "acute in business, successful at market and able to make money."
Potto Brown used to take the ledgers listing money owed him to chapel, and then read out the names of all his debtors, praying for God's help to get the debts repaid. This embarrassed his debtors, who, it is said, tended to pay up just before the service!
He made the major contribution towards the cost of building the new
Free Church in St Ives (1864), but then stayed away from the opening ceremony. His £3000 had paid for the basic building, but he didn't really approve of the steeple and what he thought was unnecessary decoration, so he left other people to contribute the extra £2000 required. The story that he deliberately arranged for the spire to be a few feet higher than that of the parish church is untrue, as it isn't!
He did not like having his photograph taken, but that's him on the right. The memorial bust (top right), erected in 1879 in the centre of Houghton, was the work of a local farmer, who had never done anything artistic before, but who was guided by an existing pencil sketch.
I don't suppose that Potto (that was his grandmother's name) Brown would have been at all amused to find himself listed here under Oddities! But, if you go to see his statue today, you'll find another oddity: he's been painted green - the work of vandals years ago. Perhaps they too should have had their names read out in church ....

There's a photo of the Free Church in the 1880s with the sheep market in front of it.
Bateman Brown
On the right: Pottos's son, Bateman Brown, taking part in a "club run" in April 1902. His driver, Woods, is behind him.
You never know what's around the next corner in St Ives. This historic chapel was erected in 1839. The word "particular" means that members believe that Jesus did not die to save everyone, but only certain particular people chosen by God (including, they hope, the Strict and Particular Baptists).
What's odd about these attractive-looking houses and apartments in White Hart Lane, completed in 2002?
Look at the door. There is no door knob or letterbox. The reason is that the doors (and the chimneys) are dummies, just intended to add to the appearance of the place.
Old Chequer public house
This unusual brickwork on the first floor of what was once the Chequer public house on The Quay explains how the 18th century pub got its name.
It is often worth looking up above the first floor of the shops. This old symbol for a chemist's is above the Lloyds Pharmacy frontage.
Tits and Tellys
The new name for Heffers Electrical and the adjoining Lady Jayne's Lingerie in Crown Street? Unfortunately the new sign was only there for April Fools' Day 2009.
Path This path from Westwood Road up north to the children's playground takes the form of a reversed S curve. There are many of these in St Ives. They mark ploughed strips laid down by Saxons. They turn off left at each end so as to allow the plough to circle back to reach the adjoining strip. For more about this, see The Shaping of St Ives by Bob Burn-Murdoch, from the Norris Museum.
St Ives has never lacked attractions. If you had come to see the Menagerie on April 8th 1880, the main attraction would have been a Great Spotted Faced Man-Devil, "caught in the backwoods of Huntingdonshire about three years ago".
Spotted in a shop window in September 2013.


Go on to MORE ODDITIES OF ST IVES


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OLD PHOTOGRAPHS
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OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
ST IVES IN THE SUMMER
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ODDITIES OF ST IVES
UNUSUAL PHOTOS
EATING PLACES
FURTHER AFIELD
NEWS FROM ST IVES
CHRISTMAS MARKET
FLOODS
SNOW:JAN 2003
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WHAT YOU SAY
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