It has not always been St Ives; a Saxon hamlet called Slepe surrounded the site of the present church. A later priory of St Ivo to the east became a centre of pilgrimage, so the market was established there and the new settlement of St Ives grew up. Thus the parish church is on the outskirts of the present town (no longer sleepy), with a memorable setting on the N bank of the Ouse. It is a late medieval structure, finished off by a rather slender mid-15th c. tower in the Perp. style, whose spire had to be rebuilt in 1918 after an aircraft crashed into it.

When you step inside the door, the oldest thing in sight is a late Norman octagonal font with intersecting arches, but it is two other features of the interior, both due to Sir Ninian Comper, that stamp themselves on your memory.

His work here was kicked-started by the Revd A. S. Barnes, who paid for the screen and loft during his short incumbency (1891-3), the same decade in which Comper was also engaged on screens at Egmanton (ND Nov. 2006) and Cantley (ND July 2008). Here the integration of the organ case and rood group is managed well (though the original placing of the organist on the nave side of the loft rapidly proved unsatisfactory). Comper originally provided an ‘English’ high altar; now somewhat baroquised, that is now in the S (Sacred Heart) chapel.

Comper found that the late 15th c. building campaign had left stone brackets for statues on the piers of the nave and in 1897 he provided new statues in a rather fleshy style, clearly influenced by late medieval South German examples, SS Nicholas and Margaret; SS Mary Magdalene and Laurence; SS Stephen and Andrew; SS George and Agnes; SS Thomas of Canterbury and John Baptist. A real innovation this, at a time when it was rare for a parish church to have even one statue of a saint.

In medieval wills, people regularly commended their souls to Almighty God, to Our Lady Saint Mary, and to all the holy company of heaven. Do you?

Map reference TL310716

Simon Cotton