Knill Steeple – works completed

Conserving Knill’s Monument, St Ives, Cornwall

After more than 230 years of being ravaged by rain and wind on top of Worvas Hill, Knill’s Monument has been restored to its former glory by World Monuments Fund Britain in partnership with St Ives Town Council.

© Tobi Carver

© Tobi Carver

Over the last two years WMF Britain has worked on a conservation project to secure the future of this historic memorial to former Mayor of St Ives John Knill, and in November 2013 completed a six-month programme of on-site repair work to the Grade II* listed granite obelisk.

The project has been warmly welcomed by the local community, with Mayor of St Ives, Councillor Colin Nicholls commenting:  “The Knill Steeple is a local landmark which serves as a monument to John Knill, and also marks the strong traditions that the St Ives community is proud to uphold. Set in the Steeple Woodland, it is enjoyed by walkers and it is only right that the monument has been restored in this way.” St Ives Town Clerk, Louise Dowe adds: “We consider ourselves to be really fortunate that the World Monuments Fund team did a fantastic job in co-ordinating the project and making it happen”.

In 2012 local architect Jeremy Chadburn was commissioned to undertake a condition survey of the ailing structure, and found the pinnacle at risk of collapse. On-site repair work began in July 2013. First damaged pointing and vegetation was removed, allowing the obelisk to be completely repointed in lime mortar. The commemorative shield on the face of the monument was then carefully restored.

© Jeremy Chadburn - Shield before restoration

© Jeremy Chadburn – Shield before restoration

Exeter firm McNeilage Conservation analysed the heraldic shield that features Knill’s coat of arms and the Latin motto NIL DESPERANDUM (never despair). To everyone’s surprise, this revealed that the lion, text and crosses were in fact bronze, with one cross having been replaced in wood at some point.

pic: Tobi Carver/World Monuments Fund Britain

pic: Tobi Carver/World Monuments Fund Britain

Local blacksmith Garry Johnson then cast replacement metal crosses and the missing letter ‘M’ whilst the conservators repaired the swag over the shield, repainted the original red and stone colour scheme and reinstated the gilding.

WMFB’s Project Manager, Melissa Marshall says: “It has been a rewarding experience securing the future of a monument that is so valued and enjoyed by the local community, and the support of the Town Council has helped make this a really successful project”.

The WMFB have compiled a short film about the renovation works – view the short film here.

The project was financially supported by St Ives Town Council, The Paul Mellon Estate, The Tanner Trust and many other kind individuals, trusts and foundations. Over the coming year, WMF Britain hopes to secure funding for interpretation at the site, in time for the next Knill celebration in 2016.

pic: Tobi Carver/World Monuments Fund Britain

pic: Tobi Carver/World Monuments Fund Britain