As I Was Going to St. Ives

St Ives Bridge is a 15th century bridge crossing the River Great Ouse. It is one of only 4 bridges in England with a built-in chapel; the other 3 are in Rotherham, Wakefield and Bradford-upon-Avon. The structure not only served as a chapel but was at different times a tollhouse, an inn, a notorious public house, and a doctor's surgery house.

St. Ives is a small little-known town in Cambridgeshire which I’m sure not many of you have either visited or seen pictures of, as I have not until last night. But I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it. The name St. Ives has been popularized in the famous riddle or song.

St. Ives is not much of a photographic town either and not many landmarks to speak of, but there’s a bridge there that intrigued me and I wanted to give it a shot. It is the second bridge with a built-in chapel that I’ve visited this year; I believe there are only 4 of its kind here in England. The other bridge I’ve visited was in Bradford-upon-Avon.

Turns out, upon arriving there last night, the bridge in St. Ives was not lit because of some construction going on, so it was one of those nights where you’d keep your fingers crossed hoping that long exposure will be good enough. My photos did not turn out too badly considering how dark it was, but it might warrant another visit in the future.

Today I was getting myself informed about this place by doing research and I came upon that familiar song, which of course I had been singing repeatedly last night as I was going to St. Ives. In case some of you are not familiar with it, the song goes like this:

“As I was going to St Ives / I met a man with seven wives / Each wife had seven sacks / Each sack had seven cats / Each cat had seven kits / Kits, cats, sacks, wives / How many were going to St Ives?”

That is believed to be the original song, which is actually a nursery rhyme and a riddle, first printed in 1730. Originally, the number used was 9 instead of 7, then later modified with a modern version printed in 1825.

The Sesame Street version which I am more familiar with is more amusing. It starts out with a boy muppet singing the riddle to a girl muppet, ending the song with the usual “How many were going to St. Ives?” He then tells her the answer is 1 because the man in the riddle is the only one going to St. Ives and the kits, cats, sacks and wives were all going the other way. Then the girl asks the boy, “How many were going the other way?” which of course stumps the boy. And then she gives him the mathematical answer: “1 man + 7 wives + 49 sacks + 343 cats + 2,401 kittens = 2,801.” So that’s 2,801 going the other way!

The town square of St. Ives with a church and a statue of Oliver Cromwell. There are a few places in England called St. Ives. It was generally thought that the song/riddle referred to St. Ives in Cornwall but some also believed it to be St. Ives in Cambridgeshire because of it being an ancient market town.

Shops along the town square.

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4 responses

  1. Thank God they are all going the other way !, otherwise they’ll spoil the quietness
    of this beautiful small town ! I thought the shop was an aquarium at the first glance
    of your third picture , the blue light bubbles on the Christmas tree matched perfectly !
    Merry Christmas and a joyful new year !!

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