Churchgoers 'shocked' after Cornwall church builds wooden bar selling beer on tap

The church has had two beer pumps installed so it can sell alcohol during the St Ives September Festival. Credit: BPM Media

The installation of a bar inside a church in Cornwall has left many churchgoers "shocked".

St Ia’s Church, in St Ives has built a wooden bar and installed two beer pumps so it can sell alcohol to festival-goers who will be visiting the church during the St Ives September Festival.

The two-week event, which is a celebration of music and art, attracts thousands of visitors to the seaside town every year.

Although the 600-year-old Grade I listed building has hosted acts for the festival before, it is the first time it has been chosen as one of the main venues.

Reverend Nick Widdows said that with artists such as Molly Hocking, Bailey Tomkinson, and Cara Dillon all likely to draw in big crowds, a more fitting way of serving drinks was needed.

St Ia's Church has been chosen as one of the main venues of the St Ives September Festival. Credit: BPM Media

But the move has not gone down too well with churchgoers.

Long-standing member of the congregation Barry Lewis said putting the bar in the church "desecrates the memory of those who died for their faith".

He said: "For over 600 years, since it was first consecrated, the church has been the outward and visible sign of the spiritual grace granted to us through the martyrdom of St Ia and others in the town.

"I must protest in the strongest possible terms regarding the siting of a bar to sell beer close to the high altar and the most sacred parts of our church."

He added that the photographs of the current vicar pulling pints while wearing vestments usually worn to celebrate Holy Communion, were "simply intolerable".

Angela Homer, a tourist who has visited St Ives for more than 30 years, said she was shocked to find a bar inside the church.

She said: "I visited this church for the first time last week after visiting St Ives for more than 30 years.

"It is a beautiful church, but I was quite a shocked when I saw the bar. I immediately thought, well, maybe it will encourage more people to attend. Who knows."

However, St Ia Reverend Nick Widdows defended his decision, insisting it is only a temporary measure.

"A few of our congregation are not particular fans of the beer pumps, but they are only temporary," he said.

"What I say to them is that this is just part of our way of welcoming all sorts of people into the church. Above all, we want people to come in and have a positive experience of their time here.

"Many people don’t come into the church building at all, and actually, if people come in and have a great time at a festival event, then who knows, maybe they’ll come in for something else as well when we put it on.”