St Ives is a town that has been shaped by the bounties and demands of the sea. The narrow granite streets tell the story of the sea by their very shape and structure. For over a century the RLNI has brought peace of mind to this seafaring community. In 1990 the establishment of the larger Mersey class lifeboat required the provision of a new lifeboat house and slipway.
Ponyon Bradbury Wynter Cole Architects were commissioned to design the new boathouse, and discussions began in 1988 with Penwith Disctrict Council on locating the station on the town's West Pier.
The building is divided into three main structures, with the large central portion housing the All Weather Boat (AWB). This is flanked by two smaller wings, that on the harbour side for the In-Shore Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) whilst the one on the town side is used as a fund-raising gift shop. Both boats are kept inside on carriages and launched into the harbour with the aid of tractors. Additional facilities include a workshop, changing rooms, a crewroom and lifeboat boarding stairs.
The building was constructed with a steel frame structure to accommodate the open spaces needed for the new lifeboats. In order to remain sensitive to the adjacent Grade I Listed St Ia's Church and the St Ives conservation area it was proposed that the external walls were traditionally built with load bearing local granite stone. The building is finished with a traditional scantle slate roof. Meticulous attention was given to the detailing and materiality of the building to ensure it could withstand the full force of the Atlantic Ocean.
The external paving outside the entrance to the station incorporates a millstone recovered from the SS Nile, an iron-hulled cargo steamship that was shipwrecked on 30 November 1854 with the loss of all hands. A poignant reminder of the dangers of the sea and the altruism of the volunteers stationed here.