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The History of the Old Vicarage

Portrait of Mr. Robert Hichens

A Generous Benefactor

In 1857 Mr. Robert Hichens, a wealthy London businessman with strong family ties to St. Ives and equally strong religious beliefs, purchased 40 acres of land, known as the Jenning's land, for £180. He gave this land, together with £1,000 towards building costs, for the construction of a new church called St. John's in the Fields. He also contributed £800 for the construction of the associated Vicarage and a further £1,000 to provide an endowment for the incumbent Vicar.

The Church was to serve Halsetown, a village constructed in 1832 by his late brother-in-law Mr. James Halse to house his tin mine workers. The Church and Vicarage however are a mile distant from the town they were intended to serve; all the land near Halsetown was owned by Nonconformists, who refused to sell any to the Anglicans. Thus the Vicarage came to be closer to St. Ives than to Halsetown!

A portrait of Mr. Hichens still hangs over the broad front stairway. There has been some damage to the painting and for many years it was believed that this was caused in the late 1960's when the Vicarage was left empty, however a returning relative of a former maid recently revealed that it happened during a huge storm which blew open the main landing windows and lifted the portrait off the wall, impaling it on the stair railing finial below.

Architect's plan of the ground floor dated 1859

A Grand Design

Both St. John's in the Fields' Church and the Vicarage were built by W. F. May Construction, of silvery granite and with a slate roof.

Construction of the church was commenced in 1857 and completed in 1858. The final design for the Vicarage, also by renowned local architect Jas P. St. Aubyn, was completed in 1859 and the property was constructed shortly thereafter.

The original plan of the ground floor now hangs in the back hallway and clearly shows the Gig house which was never constructed.

Painting of the Vicarage as it looked in the 19th Century, with St. John's Church in the background

Accommodation for a large family

Rev. William Hinton Drake (to 1874)
The first Vicar of Halsetown was Rev. Drake, M.A. of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He had nine children, which may go a long way to explaining the size of the Vicarage! Rev. Drake was unhappy with the annual stipend of £180 in 1868. In attempting to establish this and secure additional funds he found himself accused of neglecting the church and his duties and an appointment to a church in the North of England followed in 1874.

Rev. W. W. Garrett (1874 - 1876)
It was the innovative Rev. Garrett who replaced candles with the oil lamps which remained the light source for almost the next 100 years.

Rev. Richard Edward Coles (1876 - 1886)

Rev. Henry J. Bartlett (1886 - 1892)

Early twentieth century photo of Rev. R. E. Griffin & Family outside the Vicarage

Rev. Richard Edward Griffin (1892 - 1915)
Rev. Griffin is pictured here with Charlotte, Ia and Laura the donkey outside the Vicarage, 1898.

Rev. T. C. F. Barfett (1916 - 1968)
Although in 1909 the stipend for the Vicar had been transferred from the modest sum provided by the Hichens family to be funded directly by Truro Cathedral, the considerable size of the Vicarage was still to cause difficulties. The post of Perpetual Curate at the Vicarage became vacant again in 1915 and was offered to two Priests, at least one of whom declined due to the considerable upkeep of the property. This didn't seem to concern Rev. Barfett however, who took up the post in 1916.

In 1968, following the death of Rev. Barfett, the boundaries of the Halsetown parish were revised and the future of the Vicarage reviewed in earnest. It was decided that a new vicarage would be built as the old one required considerable renovation and was finally considered too large for a Vicar to heat and maintain. The old Vicarage was left empty.

From Halsetown Vicarage to St. Ives Hotel

The old Vicarage was abandoned temporarily whilst new owners were sought and was even occupied by squatters for a short while until being sold for £7,500 to Mr. & Mrs. Sykes who were seeking to expand on their success with a guest house in Carbis Bay.

Thus the Old Vicarage Hotel came into being in 1970. The property was completely renovated, including the installation of full central heating and complete redecoration but the charm and features of the late 19th Century were skilfully retained. Despite recent surrounding residential development as St. Ives grew to encompass the Old Vicarage, the secluded and peaceful wooded grounds provide ample parking and a buffer from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Award-winning breakfast

Since 2005 the Old Vicarage has received an AA Eggcup Quality Breakfast Award every year for the quality of the ingredients used and the care and attention with which it is cooked and presented.

AA 4 Star Guest House Award

From Hotel to Guest House

In 2006, under new national accreditation standards and following recent redecoration and refurbishment, particularly of the bedrooms, the Old Vicarage Hotel became a Guest House and received a 4 Star National Quality Standard Award.

In 2009 the Old Vicarage was awarded a license to hold Weddings and Civil Partnership Ceremonies.

Great granddaughter of Rev. R. E. Griffin visits the Vicarage

A Visit with History

We recently had the pleasure of a visit by the Rev. R. E. Griffin's great-granddaughter, great-great-granddaughter and her father. They are pictured here in front of the Conservatory 120 years after their ancestor, with Gandalf the cat standing in for Laura the donkey.