Palais de Danse and southern boundary wall


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Back Street, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1JJ


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Statutory Address:
Back Street, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1JJ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Ives
National Grid Reference:


Artist’s workshop, now storage. Late-C18 domestic origins, converted in 1910-11 to a cinema and in 1925 into a dance hall. Used as a studio workshop and showroom by Dame Barbara Hepworth between 1961 and 1975.

Reasons for Designation

The Palais de Danse and its southern boundary wall, St Ives, Cornwall are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

*the building retains fabric, plan form and features which represent its major C20 uses - as a former cinema and dance hall from 1910, and when it was owned by Dame Barbara Hepworth between 1961 and 1975; *Hepworth’s use of the building is expressed in various elements of the building, notably the lower and upper workshops, where many significant large-scale prototypes were made; *for the survival in the upper workshop of the chequered grid used by Hepworth in 1963 in the creation of the prototype for Single Form (1962-3) for the United Nations; *the glassine screen in the dance hall was designed by Hepworth and is visible in many photographs of the sculptor and her prototypes.

Historic interest:

*for its strong association with the internationally-renowned sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth; *as part of Hepworth’s long contribution to both the public and artistic community of St Ives; *for other historic associations during the building’s life as a community and entertainment space, including with the prima ballerina Phyllis Bedells who ran a ballet school in the dance hall during the Second World War.

Group value:

*with Hepworth’s studio and sculpture garden at Trewyn, diagonally opposite on Back Street, which is Grade II on the Register of Parks and Gardens.


The Palais de Danse (as it has been known since 1925) is located on the north-east corner of the junction between Barnoon Hill and the eastern arm of Ayr Lane, with Back Street leading south from the junction at the bottom of Barnoon Hill to the historic marketplace and the Church of St Ia. The site was probably first developed in the late C18, when it comprised two plots: a house to the west and a yard to the east. At the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), the house was occupied by Josiah Sincock, the part-owner of ‘Friendship’, a merchant brig which was captured by the French off the Kent coast in 1804. Josiah’s crew, including three of his nephews and his son William, were taken as prisoners of war. Josiah died in prison in Verdun but William and his cousins survived and returned to Britain in 1814. Taking on the lease of the St Ives property in 1817, William allowed one of the cousins, John Tregerthen Short (1785-1873), to establish a navigation school in part of the premises. This was probably newly-built and occupied a two-storey slate-hung cottage seen in early-C20 photographs of Barnoon Hill (Bowness, 2017). Short was assisted by the other cousins, Thomas Williams and William Sincock, all three of whom had taught themselves navigation whilst prisoners of war. The leases on the main property were sold to Sir Christopher Hawkins in around 1819, and again in 1834 to the Honourable William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley. The navigation school continued until at least 1893.

The yard to the east was in separate ownership. In 1878 it was described as ‘a cellar formerly a fish cellar with old dwellings over the cellar’ and being in ruinous condition. By the time of the 1880 Ordnance Survey (OS) the Palais de Danse site comprised four plots, including two separate properties facing onto Ayr Lane, indicating that the main house had at some point been divided into two dwellings. By the beginning of the C20 the buildings were falling into disrepair and were in multiple occupancy, including as a carpenter’s shop and boot maker. The narrow extensions which these trades occupied were demolished in 1908 for the widening of Barnoon Hill. In 1909 the entire site except the former navigation school building were sold to St Ives Town Council, and the following year was sold again to George and Montague Williams, who planned to redevelop the site to create a cinema; they also purchased the navigation school building. The yard was simultaneously sold to a St Ives merchant, Joshua Daniel, and so remained in separate ownership.

From 1910 the site was redeveloped. The navigation school was demolished and the two properties facing Ayr Lane were reconfigured to create two separate halls at first-floor level. The eastern wall of the main building was largely rebuilt to facilitate this. The large (west) hall was opened as the Picturedrome cinema on 28 June 1911. A shop occupied the south-west corner of the building; the south-east corner was a dwelling house; and Joshua Daniel used the yard for his business. The small hall (to the east) was sold in 1914, at which time it was occupied by the Women’s Unionist Association with the Star Tea Company using the store below. The latter took on the freehold in 1920 and St John’s Ambulance Brigade occupied the small hall. Passing through several ownerships up to 1925, in that year the freehold of the cinema was sold to William and Irene Drage, and the main hall refurbished to accommodate concerts and dances; a sprung maple floor was inserted overlaying the earlier sloping floor of the cinema. The building reopened as the Palais de Danse and was used by the Royal British Legion and orchestras; it also continued use as a cinema. At some point in the 1930s a billiard table was installed in the mezzanine room below the small hall by the Conservative Club (and from then on it was called the Conservative Room), and the south-west corner of the main building was remodelled with a corner entrance and a new main staircase, and a new projector room and balcony in the dance hall were inserted.

In 1936 the freehold of the Palais de Danse was sold to St Ives Cinemas Ltd, who brought the site into single ownership the following year with the purchase of the small hall, store and yard to the east. In 1939 a dedicated cinema opened in St Ives, The Royal, and so the Palais de Danse was used for auctions, dances, orchestras and bands. During the Second World War the ballerina Phyllis Bedells (1893-1985) held a ballet school in the dance hall; a large mirror beneath the balcony in the main hall dates from this period. At the beginning of the 1950s the Palais was modernised by Garfield Daniel (the manager). It reopened on 29 June 1951 and some of the new changes were reported in the St Ives Times, including a ‘very attractive’ carpeted approach with a box office; the small hall converted to a refreshment area with a buffet; modern cloak rooms; and the stage reduced in size and the ‘rather forbidding ceiling of matchboarding with open iron girder supports’ boxed in. The dance floor remained and was described as ‘the best in the West’. The St Ives Cinemas Ltd changed its named to Garfield Daniel Ltd in 1955, when the ground floor and yard were leased to the drapers RW Martin Ltd; they remained until 1960 when they were replaced by Kent & Jenkins, building contractors.

The sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) had been working and living at her studio at Trewyn - diagonally opposite the Palais de Danse, and which she had bought at auction there - since 1949. From the late 1950s Hepworth began receiving commissions for large bronze pieces, for example ‘Meridian’ (1958), and was using the former St Ives Public Hall to create their prototypes. In 1960 the Palais came up for sale, and Hepworth immediately made an offer to Garfield Daniel, buying the entire building for £10,000 on 25 February 1961. She kept many of the fittings and finishes, including the 1950s public lavatory fittings and stair carpet, and the large mirror in the dance hall installed by Bedells. An office was created in the position of the box office and a slate floor laid in the entrance lobby in the mid-1960s. Initially Hepworth described using the Palais as her additional studio as a ‘strange experience’, but it soon transformed her practice and gave her flexibility for new work. Hepworth continued to lease out the ground-floor store and yard to Kent & Jenkins until 1962, when she took on the space, creating a double-height workshop from the existing structure and adding a balcony (the staircase from the Conservative Room to the first floor was blocked in as a result). This new space - known as the lower workshop - enabled Hepworth to create the 19ft-high prototype for ‘Winged Figure’ (1962) for John Lewis on London’s Oxford Street. Other large-scale commissions - ‘Single Form’ (1962-3), made for the UN Headquarters in New York; ‘Four-Square (Walk Through)’ (1966-7) whose proportions were determined by the workshop space; ‘Squares with Two Circles’ (1963-4); and ‘Construction (Crucifixion)’ (1966) - were also enabled by this additional space. The preparation stages of all of these sculptures at the Palais are documented in historic photographs, and at least three phases of the prototype for ‘Winged Figure’ were photographed in the yard. Hepworth used a room below the dance hall - known as the upper workshop - to lay out a chequered grid of one-foot squares to create the 20ft-high prototype for ‘Single Form’ in memory of the United Nations (UN) secretary and Hepworth’s friend Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-61). This process was also photographed in 1963.

Photographs from the 1960s also show that Hepworth used the 24m-long main dance hall as both a work and an exhibition space, and the small hall as a space for working on prototypes for bronzes. Dividing the two halls with a personally designed sliding screen of glassine (a smooth, glossy paper) and timber, many of her smaller wood and stone sculptures made at the Trewyn studio, her later large-scale works, and the sculptor herself were photographed against this background, beyond which are often seen the lampshades above the stage and specially constructed wheeled plinths which survive today. The balcony was also useful for Hepworth to see her pieces from a different angle; the full-scale prototype for ‘Theme and Variations’, commissioned for the Cheltenham & Gloucester Head Office, was attached to the front of the balcony and photographed from the dance floor in August 1970. She also enlarged the door onto Barnoon Hill to improve access from the hall for her large sculptures and prototypes.

In 1967 Hepworth broke her femur and, alongside worsening arthritis, was unable to easily use the Palais space. The building continued to be used by her assistants and as a display and office space until Hepworth’s death at Trewyn in 1975. After this it was used by the Hepworth Estate to store her plaster prototypes; these were transferred to the Hepworth Wakefield in 2011 although some unfinished plasters and carvings were used to fill what became the Barbara Hepworth Museum at Trewyn (opened 1976). In 2015 the Palais de Danse was given to Tate by members of Hepworth’s family.


Artist’s workshop, now storage. Late-C18 domestic origins, converted in 1910-11 to a cinema and in 1925 into a dance hall. Used as a studio workshop and showroom by Dame Barbara Hepworth between 1961 and 1975.

The varied historical uses of the Palais de Danse have generated a range of phases, materials and types of construction. This description characterises the building as it survives today but is not exhaustive (see Sturgess & Motley for further detailed descriptions and history). The building comprises two principal sections: the hall and upper workshop to the west, and the mezzanine Conservative Room, small hall and lower workshop to the east. At the far south-east corner is an open triangular yard.

MATERIALS: the main building is of stone and brick construction, rendered with incised ashlar markings, under a corrugated cement-covered roof, hipped with diamond-pattern slate at the south end, with two louvered ventilation cupolas to the ridge. The eastern structures are of the same construction with render and slurried tile-hanging coverings; they have slate, corrugated-tin and lead-sheet roof coverings, again hipped at the south end.

PLAN: on the west side of the site is a two-storey rectangular main block containing a double-height dance hall, with the upper workshop, smaller rooms and the entrance lobby below. Attached on the east side is the Conservative Room at mezzanine level, the lower workshop with its balcony, with a small hall and other ancillary rooms above. The most-visible elevation is that to the west along Barnoon Hill. It is approximately seven bays north to south, with three window openings with early-C20 timber sashes to the first-floor main hall and projecting double doors, altered in the 1960s. The ground floor of the building disappears into the hill at the point where there is a blocked C19 window. The principal entrance to the building is on its south-west corner, through a canted recess with a single iron column, created in the 1930s, leading to double timber doors with six-pane lights, flanked by fixed panels of the same design. The south elevation to Ayr Lane comprises two distinct sections: that to the east is lower and is defined by double doors and a single entrance door at ground level; and a large early-C20 window with the central panes boarded at mezzanine-level, giving the impression of two horizontal windows. The western part of the elevation is blind with blocked openings at the ground floor. The east elevation rises to three storeys to accommodate the mezzanine, and is five irregular bays north to south. The southern bays have slurried tile-hanging to the mezzanine and first floor, and some of the exposed stone structure is visible. The remainder of the elevation is rendered. At ground-floor level are large double timber-boarded doors, set within 1960s brickwork. Five window openings are irregularly placed on the upper floors and contain unequal-size timber casements and sashes. The lower part of the north end of the east elevation and the north elevation are barely visible as they back onto adjacent properties.

The main dance-hall building is entered into a lobby with a staircase on the south wall (inserted in the 1920s, but with 1950s carpet and handrails). To the east is a small retiring room and washrooms (1950s), access to the void below the main hall stage, and running north from the lobby is a series of small rooms. These were used as offices during Hepworth’s occupation and retain some 1960s fittings, a slate floor, and a glazed screen. On the west wall near the entrance is a C19 sash window, blocked externally. At the east end of the office range is the upper workshop whose boarded floor where Hepworth created the prototype for the United Nations ‘Single Form’ in 1962-3; her 1ft-scale grid and the prototype’s outline remain clearly visible on the floor. To the north-east of this room is a storage space with a variety of block and stone walls, access to a small enclosed yard, and a blocked early-C20 window on the south wall. On the north wall are the remains of an early-C20 staircase; this space may have been a green room with stairs leading up to behind the stage. On the south-east side of the building a covered entranceway with boarded double doors leads from Ayr Lane, which in turn leads into the lower workshop area. This is a double-height space, probably structurally altered in around 1911, and adapted by Hepworth in the 1960s when the balcony was added; she used the space for many of her later large-scale prototypes for bronzes. The yard is accessed through double doors to the east.

The mezzanine is accessed externally from Ayr Lane, via a stone staircase with match-boarded walls. This level comprises the Conservative Room (the rest is given over to the balcony area above the lower workshop) where there is a blocked staircase on the north wall; the flight up to the first floor is still intact, but there is no evidence of it above.

Access to the first floor is from the staircase in the ground-floor entrance hall. This leads into the eastern side of the building to the 1950s refreshment/canteen area (small hall) with its contemporary corner bar on a raised platform area with linoleum floor coverings, a servery to the north and brick fireplace to the west. At the far north-east of the building are two small rooms accessed from a narrow corridor with matchboard panelling to the outer wall. On the west (internal) wall is a fixed 1930s sliding door. To the west of the canteen is a large segmental-arch opening with sliding timber and glassine screens, designed by Hepworth in 1961. This leads into the main dance hall. The hall is five bays north to south (approximately 24m long) with a further bay at the north end occupied by a stage within a simple proscenium arch. The bays are defined by a boxed in iron girder roof structure and geometrical ventilators in each bay. On the west wall are three early-C20 four-pane timber sash windows and at the far north end is a large sliding door, inserted in the 1960s. The dance floor is sprung boarded hardwood, which changes in pattern at the north and south ends. Attached to the south wall is a large bevelled mirror (added during the Second World War). At the south-west corner of the hall is an enclosed 1930s projector booth (not inspected) reached by a cast-iron spiral staircase; the space contains some mid-C20 graffiti including of ships and boats. Opposite, stairs lead up to a stepped balcony with a timber boarded floor; the balcony front has been raised. Throughout the building wall finishes are generally rendered and painted and ceilings are suspended plasterboard. Windows are timber sashes and casements of varying dates and patterns, and most doors are early-mid C20.

SUBSIDARY FEATURES: to the south-east of the building is a small yard with a cobbled stone surface, with late-C20 concrete patching. On its south side there is a rubble-stone boundary wall, probably of late-C19 date.


Books and journals
Bowness, S (Editor), Barbara Hepworth : The Plasters: The Gift to Wakefield, (2011)
Bowness, S, Barbara Hepworth: The Sculptor in the Studio , (2017)
Festing, S, Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms , (1995)
Hammacher, AM, Barbara Hepworth , (1998)
Hepworth, B, A Pictorial Autobiography, (1998)
Barbara Hepworth , accessed 18/11/2019 from
National Portrait Gallery: Barbara Hepworth , accessed 18/11/2019 from
Prisoners of war in France from 1804 to 1814, being the adventures of John Tregerthen Short and Thomas Williams of St. Ives, Cornwall , accessed 18/11/2019 from
Tate: Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture records comprising photographs and notes compiled under the sculptor’s supervision, accessed 18/11/2019 from
Tate: the Hepworth family gift , accessed 18/11/2019 from
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1907) (1:2500)
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1936) (1:2500)
Ordnance Survey, Cornwall (1971) (1:2500)
Pdp Green Consulting, Palais de Danse, St Ives: Condition Report (July 2019)
Sturgess, J & C Motley (Cornwall Archaeological Unit), Palais de Danse, St Ives, Cornwall: Historic Building Record (2019)
Tate archive material


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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