Featured 10 May 2016 Print
Knill Monument, St Ives, Cornwall. About 1920.
The "Knill Ceremony", showing little girls standing at the base of the monument together with an old lady. John Knill was born in Callington on 1st January 1733 and worked as a collector of Customs in St Ives between 1762 and 1782, where he also became mayor in 1767. He was regarded as being slightly eccentric. In that same year, 1767, he decided to build a 50 foot, three sided, pyramid style granite structure on Worvas Hill just to the south of St Ives, to be known as Knill's Steeple. It was erected as his intended burial place. The monument bears on one side the painted coat of arms of Knill, with the Latin "Resurgam" (I shall arise) and, in English, "I know that my redeemer liveth". In his will he left detailed instructions for ceremonies to be carried out in his memory every five years on St James Day, July 25th at the Steeple, including dancing for fifteen minutes to the tune of "All people that on earth due dwell" by ten young girls under the age of 10, and who traditionally have to be daughters of either fishermen, tinners or seamen. They are accompanied by two widows, the Mayor, the Customs Officer and a Master of Ceremonies. In his will John left money for the upkeep of the monument and for celebrations to take place. The first ceremony, in which John Knill participated, took place in 1801. He died in his chambers on 29th July 1811 in Gray's Inn Square London and is buried in St Andrew's Church, Holborn. Photographer: Arthur William Jordan
© From the collection of the RIC