With a Grade II listing, Red Sails is one of our many properties of historical notability. The quaint, three-storey cottage was previously built for fishermen and their families, showing how life and work were so closely intertwined, and is dated back to the first half of the 19th century. It contains many of the original features and is steeped in the history of St Ives!
The Fisherman’s Workspace
As we mentioned, Red Sails Cottage was originally designed to accommodate fishermen and their craft. A cellar on the ground floor was the designated ‘workspace’ where pilchards were cured, whilst the two upper storeys were where the family would live, with direct access from a set of external stone stairs that still remain! The stepped ‘corbelled’ wall also remains in the cellar and was used to help pilchard curing, along with the now blocked ‘fish slide’, where the fish would’ve been brought into the cellar. The property is full of little details that are full of interest and tell the story of how the fishermen of St Ives worked and lived.
Other Notable Features
Aside from the fish-related features, the property also includes some great little areas that whisper of lives so very different to ours. For example, the splay on the front left wall where the bottom is cut away to around six foot would’ve protected the cottage from the wheels of passing carts, as would the stones attached to the splay. We definitely wouldn’t have to consider that when building nowadays! There’s also original granite gutters outside of the property, and a ‘coffin drop’ in the main bedroom (an area of removable floor where a coffin could be moved downstairs). When walking on the original floorboards upstairs, it’s hard not to consider how many lives have touched this property.
Those who lived in the property previously not only shape the story of the cottage, but of St Ives itself, and show how it developed and changed over time as the people it attracted were so varied. The first recorded dweller was Edward Hain, a fisherman who rented the property from Henry Lewis Stephens in 1840. John and Edward Hain later bought the property for £75 (wouldn’t that be nice now!). After this, there came Edward Toman the Younger, who was also a fisherman and bought the property for £220. He was the last known fisherman to live in the cottage, where he resided until his death in 1952.
There were many changes in ownership over the next few decades, but the most notable is Mrs Knight, an artist who bought the property in 2002. Mrs Knight is one of many artists attracted to the light and beauty of St Ives, and shows how professions have changed drastically over time – what once would’ve been a place full of fishermen is now full of artists, and Red Sails has been home to both. When the current owners bought the property a few years after Mrs Knight’s death, the walls were still lined with her drawings and paintings, reflecting within the cottage’s walls the overwhelming beauty of St Ives.