The first public piped water supply for St Ives went live on 8 May 1843. The event was recorded in the diary of John Tregerthen Short and the service subsequently described by J.S. Courtney in his Guide to Penzance and Neighbourhood.
The only details provided by JTS are that there were eight public fountains and that the project was paid for by public subscription to which Messrs Stephens and Praed each contributed £100. Two years later Courtney adds to the picture, “there is a large reservoir, capable of holding 12,000 gallons, on the hill at the head of the town, from which pipes are carried through the streets, down to the quay. A number of outlets, from which the water may be drawn without labour, are placed at short distances from each other throughout the town, and the supply is unfailing. These outlets are so constructed that there is no waste, and each may, in case of fire, be used as an engine in its own locality, being capable, with the aid of a hose, of throwing the water over the highest house in its neighbourhood, without the interposition of manual labour or any additional power.
Prior to the installation of the piped water supply and the public fontains the main source of warer was the holy well of St Ia though other sources were presumably available, possibly unreliably, from the mine adits and springs in the vicinity.
Badcock's Historical Sketch of St Ives and District (1896) makes it clear that the main source of water was old mine workings though he says that water ran directly into the service pipes and makes no mention of a reservoir prior to the one the Corporation had recently built on Hellesveor Moors, which was fed from Wheal Allen and St Ives Consols. The precise location of the original reservoir referred to by Courtney is unclear but it seems likely that it would have been somewhere in the area of Hellesveor or Bussow Moors, where subsequent reservoirs were constructed.
The town by-laws of 1840 suggest that while there may not have been a piped water supply there were public pumps, spouts, waterways, or gutters, the abuse of which was a serious matter with fines of up to 10 shillings for such anti-social activity as washing tripes or entrails, washing clothes or vegetables in the fountains in such a way as to pollute the fountain. People found to have wilfully damaged these facilities were liable to a fine not exceeding £5 while those causing water to run to waste by activities such as preventing to stopcock from closing, were liable to a fine not exceeding 10 shillings. The specific mention of stopcocks suggests that a piped water supply may have been available in the town but that prior to 1843 water may not have been piped into the town. The benefit of the 1843 improvement may well have been more about security and continuity of supply to a town which had previously been plagued by fountains and wells which ran dry in periods of drought.
Badcocks Historical Sketch of St Ives * District, W Badcock, 1896
J.S. Courtney Guide to Penzance and Neighbourhood, E. Rowe, 1845
Cornish Telegraph 31/3/1910