September 08, 2020
Smeaton’s Pier is an iconic symbol of St Ives. It must have been painted and photographed more than almost any other pier in the UK. It is far prettier and more interesting than its name suggests!
It was named after the pier engineer in charge who was called John Smeaton. It was built between 1767 and 1770 and interestingly has a reservoir at its base. This fills up at high tide, helping to reduce the wave action into the harbour.
The original pier was only 120 ft in length and stopped at the old, small lighthouse. This lighthouse is no longer in use.
In 1864 there were grand plans to expand the harbour. The fishing fleet at this time was huge and there was a need for more room. New Pier was built, mainly made from wood (it is sometimes called Wood Pier). The planners must have underestimated the power of the sea in St Ives Bay as it only lasted for 20 years. All that is left now are the rows of supporting timber stumps which can be seen at low tide.
Smeaton’s Pier was lengthened by another 300ft in the 1890s which is when the current lighthouse was built.
The 3 arches under the pier were also added to help circulate the seawater and prevent the build up of sand in the harbour.
Smeaton’s Pier is a still working pier for the local fishermen. Please take good care when walking along it as there is often fishing tackle around.
The harbour office is usually open most days and displays lots of information in the window.
On the seaward side of the pier is The Cintra Anchor.
This anchor, recovered from the seabed in May 1959, came from the “Cintra”, one of four ships wrecked in St Ives Bay in the Great Gale of 18th November 1893. Due to the severity of the gale, the lifeboat could not be launches. Crews of two vessels were rescued by Breeches Buoy from Carbis Bay beach. Seven of Cintra’s crew of twelve drowned. The other five were rescued by Breeches Buoy from Carbis Bay beach and Carrack Gladden cliffs.
The plaque was installed by local residents & friends of St Ives with the support of the Town Council in 2003.
Further along the pier is a plaque dedicated to the people of St Ives for their support and hospitality to all those Army and Royal Marine Commandos who were billeted in the town and trained in the surrounding area between 1943 – 1950.
St Leonard’s Chapel is a tiny little chapel situated at the entrance to Smeaton’s Pier.
It has been there since medieval times. It is where the fishermen used to pray before setting out to sea. Apparently, in “the olden days” a proportion of the fishermans’ catch had to be paid to the chapel friar on their safe return.
On the side of Saint Leonard’s Chapel is a plaque commemorating the record breaking passage made by the St Ives Lugger Lloyd SS5. Scarborough to St Ives, 600 miles in 50 hours in 1902.
On the seaward side of Smeaton’s Pier there is New Pier harbour wall. This is a lovely place to stop and sit or even do a spot of crabbing. At high tide there is often a seal or two in the water here looking for fishermens bait! At low tide you can walk down onto Breakwater Beach. This is a lovely bit of beach for dog walking all year round (only at low tide though).
In 2016 work was done to refurbish the seating area on Smeaton’s Pier. The old shelter, benches and railings were very tatty and almost falling down in some places. Work has now been completed and it is a really lovely, sheltered place to stop and sea gaze.
I especially like the engravings on the benches.
The Leach Pottery held a community event whereby you could go along to the Leach Pottery and design your own tile. The tiles have been collated into a lovely mural that hangs on the wall here.
As part of the refurbishment, the new lighthouse (which had been looking rather shabby for years) was given a nice new coat of white paint in 2016. Lots of people were up in arms about it, saying it was getting rid of it’s “character”. I think it looks lovely – and the rusty bits are already starting to come back!
Toilets: there are toilets on Smeaton’s Pier which are open year round.
Car Park: there is car parking right on Smeaton’s Pier. It’s a small car park but there are usually spaces in Winter (there were plenty when I went there today at 11am Wednesday 25th Jan).
Food & Drink: there is The Pier Coffee Bar just before you get to Smeaton’s Pier. It serves extremely good coffee. There are lots of other eating & drinking establishments along The Wharf, just a stones throw away from the pier.
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