The Garden Café is located in the beautiful grounds of the church of St Ia, overlooking the harbour at St Ives.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more delightful place to enjoy a slice of cake and a cup of tea.

Visitors have posted online glowing reviews of this “fabulous tea spot” with “breathtaking” views and “very friendly staff” – “extremely welcoming volunteers” who “will inform you about the history of the church and St Ives”.

One visitor observed that the place feels “so much part of the community”.

“Great church, even better café,” another enthused. Given that this beautiful fifteenth-century building contains not only its original medieval carvings but also a sculpture of the Madonna and Child by the great Barbara Hepworth, that’s certainly quite a compliment.

“It works like a normal café,” explains Daniel Lawther, business manager for the benefice of St Ives. “We have a good core customer base and we’ve built up strong links with the local community. I think it’s been really well received.”

Church in the community

The café is part of a series of initiatives – including a range of musical and theatrical events held in the church and in its grounds – through which St Ia’s Church has been able to develop its mission beyond its more traditional activities.

“As a church, we prioritize relationships in the community – things which have value to the people of St Ives,” Daniel says.

The original plan for the café had two main goals. “The first,” says Daniel, “was to use the café as a vehicle for the Christian mission through hospitality and relationship-building, and the second was to create a revenue stream to raise funds for the church.”

The success of the initiative has exceeded all expectations. “We quickly became a hub for local community, with many local residents using the space as their regular café of choice. This allowed us to build stronger relationships within the town and provide a space that people valued and appreciated.

“The flow of tourists into Cornwall also meant that we weren’t short of customers, and were able to raise funds that exceeded our financial targets. Since the introduction of the café, partnered with an increase in events run at the church, we’ve found ourselves connecting with a lot more people and becoming an intrinsic part of the local community that’s appreciated for what we do outside of a Sunday.”

This popular outdoor café runs each year from Easter all the way through the summer months. Now, supported by funds from the Diocese of Truro, the church is planning to extend its café operations through the autumn and into the winter – and then of course to move indoors – in service to its local community, as a hub of hospitality, community, friendship and fellowship, to help keep the people of St Ives warm through the chillier times.

So, when you’re next in St Ives, you might like to pop in for coffee and cake at the Church of St Ia, where, come rain, snow or shine, a warm welcome is always guaranteed.

(Or, from the comfort of your living room, you can check them out on social media @thegardenstia.)

The Church of St Ia in St Ives