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July 25, 2018

Knill’s Monument – An Obelisk With A Legacy & A View!

Knill’s Monument is the spire on top of the hill overlooking St Ives. You have probably seen it and wondered what on earth it is about!

So What Is Knill’s Monument?

Knill’s Monument is a 15 meter high, granite, pyramid shaped obelisk on top of Worvas or Cock Hill.

John Knill was the slightly eccentric mayor of St Ives and collector of customs in St Ives from 1762 – 1782.

He built Knill’s Monument in 1767 as a memorial to himself! He originally intended to use it as his mausoleum (there is a vault inside it), but he ended up being buried in London.

The monument has Knill’s painted coat of arms on one side, with the Latin Nil Desperandum (Never Despair). Also inscribed are the words of Johannes Knill 1782, Resurgam (I shall arise), and, in English, I know that my Redeemer liveth.

The Knill’s Monument Ceremony

John Knill left money in his will for the monuments’ upkeep. He also left £25 for a celebration to take place every 5 years on the 25th July. His will detailed exactly how the ceremony should take place and how the £25 should be spent.

  • £10 on a dinner at The George & Dragon Inn in Market Place, St Ives (sadly no longer there) for the Mayor of St Ives, The Vicar, The Customs Officer plus 2 guests each.
  • £5 to be split between 10 young girls who have to be the daughters of either fishermen, tinners, or seamen.
  • £1 to the fiddler
  • £2 to two widows
  • £5 to the man and wife, widower or widow who shall raise the greatest family of legitimate children who have reached the age of ten years.
  • £1 for white ribbon for breast knots.
  • £1 to be set aside for a vellum book for the Clerk to the Trustees to record the proceedings.

The day starts at The Guildhall in St Ives where the £25 is distributed. Then, the 10 young girls all dressed in white, along the the officals, fiddler and widows, all walk in procession with music from the market house to the monument. At noon, the whole party should dance around the upper step, hand in hand, singing the hundredth psalm (All people that on earth do dwell).

This 200 year old ceremony is still carried out and is very lighthearted and sociable. A good crowd always comes out to watch it.

The next Knill Ceremony will be in 2021 on July 25th.

Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve

Knill’s Monument is part of the Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve, a beautiful 40 acre public open space with woods, heathland and lots of native species. Read more about Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve Here >>




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