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Historic studios saved with £600,000 funding

For more than 200 years the timber-framed structure has been battered by Atlantic gales and the shifting sands of the beach, and the building needs urgent intervention to preserve it from loss.

The renovation project will repair the Porthmeor Studios and Cellars, giving them a sustainable future, whilst preserving the buildings important heritage features.

Recent research has brought to light the fascinating techniques and materials used to build Porthmeor Studios – including methods borrowed from the mining industry, and incorporating recycled ship timbers.

The HLF award will also support a package of education and outreach activities, giving more people the chance to learn about the history of the building itself, alongside the stories of the artists and fishermen who worked there. One of the fishermen’s cellars will also be opened to the public and will use a collection of historic fishing gear to tell the story of this important local industry.

Simon Timms, Chair of Heritage Lottery Fund South West Committee, said:

"Porthmeor studios have been at the heart of St Ives industrial and cultural heritage for the last 100 years, by both telling the important story of Cornwall’s fishing industry and by providing an inspiration to many internationally influential artists. This project provides a fantastic opportunity for us to preserve this precious asset and ensure that it can be enjoyed by local people, visitors and artists both now and far into the future."

Chris Hibbert, Manager of the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, comments

"This is such good news, and is a very exciting time for the Porthmeor Studios project. These awards from the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage form a major part of the funding for the project, and recognition of the historic importance of this unique building. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will also allow the Trust to tell the fascinating story of this building, and the part it has played in the arts and fishing heritage of St Ives."

Andrew Vines, English Heritage Regional Director in the South West said:

"I am very pleased to announce a further grant for the conservation and repair of Porthmeor artists’ studios. This special building epitomises the connection between the town, its artistic tradition and the fishing industry, and symbolises so much that is special about the South West. It was recently upgraded to grade II* in recognition of both the historic and cultural significance of the fishing lofts and internationally important artists studios. In total, we have given £250,000 towards this vital repair project, including funding structural repairs to ensure that this building’s historic uses of fishing and painting can continue into the future."

In 1801 the people of St Ives built a wall to protect their town from being engulfed by sand. On Porthmeor beach this wall enabled the fishermen to create cellars and net lofts to process their large catches of pilchards and store their boats and nets. From the 1880s famous artists from around the world began using the lofts as studios, attracted by the extraordinary light their position afforded.

The artists started to arrive in the 1880s, and built their studios on top of the fishermen’s cellars. Since then, Porthmeor has provided workspace for several internationally important artists, including Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon and Patrick Heron. In the 1930s the St Ives painting school opened in the building.

To this day 12 boats work out of Porthmeor and the fishermen use the cellars for repairing and setting their nets and storage of lobster pots, as artists continue to work in the studios – as they have done for over a century

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