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Trail Stop No 15: 1990s
Tate St. Ives opens on the old gas works site

Having taken over the management of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1980, the Tate wanted to develop another location in St. Ives to showcase work by local artists and to display items from its existing collections.

The site of the old gas works in the town, in a prime location overlooking Porthmeor Beach, was identified as the ideal location and in 1988 architects Eldred Evans and David Shalev were asked to design the new building. They wanted to reference the former gas works in the style and shape of their design, hence the construction of the distinctive rotunda which is at the heart of the gallery.

Building work commenced in 1991, with funding from local, national and international sources. The new gallery was opened by Prince Charles (now King Charles III) in April 1993. It was an immediate success, and proved so popular that in 2015 funding was secured for a major extension to double the available space.  The newly extended Tate St. Ives reopened in October 2017.

For many years previously the gas works had been a prominent feature of the Porthmeor Beach landscape. The foundation stone was laid in 1835 and the building was operational 11 months later,  and St. Ives was for the first time able to benefit from gas lighting. The works was extended in 1933 with the construction of a tall retort building and a high pressure cylindrical gas holder which enabled gas to be delivered to Carbis Bay and Lelant.

In September 1942 St. Ives was attacked by the German Luftwaffe, with Portminster Beach being strafed with machine gun fire and the gas works being badly damaged by a direct hit from a bomb. One person died and 11 were injured in the attack.

The gas works eventually closed in 1957 and the majority of the buildings and infrastructure was demolished the following year.

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Tate St. Ives today

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The gas works in the 1930s

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The gas works in the 1930s

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