Originally built in the early 1800s as a pilchard cellar, it once included a cooperage for making barrels and a cobbled floor associated with bulking and pressing the pilchards. The recent renovations also uncovered several large pressing stones that would have been used in this process.
The complex was all redeveloped in the 1890s to incorporate recent developments in processing the pilchards. Instead of bulking the pilchards (pilchards and salt carefully stacked in alternate layers) in the open air, large concrete tanks were built for the pilchards and brine, and screw presses replaced the traditional pressing beams and stones. Cellar 1 includes six tanks, each over 2m deep, with a further four in Cellar 4.
Also of significant interest was the use of building materials and construction techniques in this 1890s renovation, which borrowed much from the mining industry. It was unusual to find concrete (used for some walls and the pilchard tanks) in an urban setting, though it was frequently used in mine buildings; the cast iron rising mains which were used to pump water from the mines are here supporting the studios above; and most spectacular are the 16m long timber beams supporting the ceiling which span the whole cellar and which were once destined to become pump rods for the mine engines. There is also evidence of recycled ships’ timbers and spars in the cellars.
This remodelling of the cellars for the pilchard industry was part of a larger project which included constructing artists’ studios on the floors above. Cellar 1 was therefore redeveloped for fishermen with artists above, and borrowing materials and techniques from both mines and shipbuilding. It clearly embraces the industrial heritage of St Ives.
Cellar 1 is used by working fishermen to store gear, and particularly in the winter months to repair their fishing gear and set nets. One corner has been set aside to show the cobbled floor and site archaeology for visitors, and the large central space is available for both fishermen and the Trust, and used for training and staging fishing related plays and performances for schools and the public.