The ceremony was first held in 1801, overseen by John Knill himself and follows the form set out in his Will of 1797. Knill was a slightly eccentric former mayor who built his own memorial, a 15-metre granite obelisk known as Knill’s steeple, sited on the summit of Worvas hill. It was intended to be his Mausoleum but he died in London. On one side of the steeple, the painted coat of arms of Knill, with the Latin Nil Desperandum (Never Despair) is inscribed and on another, the words of Johannes Knill 1782, Resurgam (I shall arise), and, in English, I know that my Redeemer liveth.
In addition to the steeple, John Knill specified that a celebration took place every five years on St James Day (25 July). He appointed three Trustees (the Customs Officer, Vicar and Mayor) to ensure that the memorial ceremony be carried out. The Will calls for a fiddler to lead 10 dancing maids, accompanied by two widows of fishermen, seamen or tinners from the Town to the Monument. The party were then to process around the Knill Steeple, before singing the hundredth psalm. The Trustees fulfilled their duty by ensuring that the ceremony, organised on behalf of the Trustees by St Ives Town Council, took place in accordance with his wishes.
He also required that the fiddler, girls and the widows be rewarded with a token payment and lunch and that the participants were to wear white knot ribbons.
The John Knill Ceremony has taken place on the quinquennial year ever since and was last celebrated in the Summer of 2021. The local community have helped to preserve this old St Ives ceremony for over 200 years, presided over by the Knill Trustees (The Town Mayor, Customs Officer and the Vicar).
Fully Accessible – flat access and lifts available.
Partially Accessible – Some slopes, steps and rough ground.
Not Accessible – Steps, rough ground and steep access. Not suitable for persons in a wheelchair.