Commercial Square, Camborne Town Centre
|Camborne and Redruth
Camborne is a town in western Cornwall. It stands at the western edge of a conurbation made up of Camborne, Pool and Redruth. Above the town rises its distinctive hill, Carn Brea, an almost unspoiled green space looking down on what was once a hive of industrial development.
Camborne is found in what was formerly one of the richest tin mining areas in the world. It is no longer an industrial town but is still home to the Camborne School of Mines.
Camborne's name is from the Cornish language, in which it is called Cambron, meaning "Crooked Hill".
Camborne's parish church is dedicated to St Martin and St Meriadoc. It is built entirely of granite, of 15th century date and is Grade I listed. There is a western tower and the aisles are identical in design: an outer south aisle was added in 1878. St Martin was added to the original dedication to St Meriadoc in the 15th century.
An inscribed altar stone found at Chapel Ia, Troon (now set in the altar of the parish church), and dated to the tenth or eleventh centuries, attests to the existence of a settlement then. The chapel of St Ia was recorded in 1429 and a holy well was nearby. The site was called Fenton-ear (i.e. the well of Ia). The stone is very similar to one now in the garden at Pendarves, used as the base for a sundial.
Camborne churchyard contains a number of crosses collected from nearby sites: the finest is one found in a well at Crane in 1896 but already known from William Borlase's account of it when it was at Fenton-ear. Two other chapels are known to have existed in the mediaeval period: one not far from the parish church was dedicated to Our Lady and St Anne and one at Menadarva (derived from Merther-Derwa) was one of Celtic origin dedicated to St Derwa, Virgin, but mentioned in 1429.
In 1931 the ruins of a Roman villa were found at Magor Farm, Illogan, near Camborne, and excavated that year under the guidance of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. It is the only Roman villa found in the whole of Cornwall.
An inscribed altar stone found at Camborne (now in the Church of St Martin and St Meriadoc), and dated to the tenth or eleventh centuries, attests to the existence of a settlement then. Langdon (1896) records seven stone crosses in the parish of which two are at Pendarves.
Camborne is best known as a centre for the former Cornish tin and copper mining industry, having its working heyday during the later 18th and early 19th centuries. Camborne was a mere village until transformed by the mining boom which began in the late eighteenth century and saw the Camborne and Redruth district become the richest mining area in the world. Although a considerable number of ruinous stacks and engine houses remain, they cannot begin to convey the scenes of 150 years ago when scores of mines transfigured the landscape.
Dolcoath Mine, (meaning Old Ground Mine) was known as "the Queen of Cornish Mines". At a depth of 3,500 feet it was for many years the deepest mine in the world, not to mention one of the oldest deep-level mines, before its closure in 1921. The last working tin mine in Europe, South Crofty, which closed in 1998, is to be found by Camborne. Its current owners, Western United Mines Limited, are planning to reopen South Crofty as a commercial mine.
The mines brought to Camborne too a number of important related industries. Here stood the once world-renowned foundry of Holman Bros Ltd. Holmans, a family business founded in 1801, was for generations, Camborne's, and indeed Cornwall's largest manufacturer of industrial equipment, even making the famous Sten gun, a submachine gun used during the Second World War. The Holman Projector was used by the Royal Navy. At its height Holmans was spread over three sites within Camborne, employing some three and half thousand men. Despite Britain's industrial decline, Compair Holmans Camborne factory finally closed in 2001.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 5 December 2006, a wall of the Holmans factory was leaning towards the railway line, as a result the line west of Truro was closed for the afternoon and night and disrupting railway services, as it was feared the wall could callapse onto the mainline, part of the derelict factory was later demolished that night.
A modest quantity of South Crofty tin was purchased by a local enterprise and this gradually dwindling stock is used to make specialist tin jewellery, branded as the South Crofty Collection.
Camborne School of Mines
The Camborne School of Mines was founded because of the importance of metal mining to the Cornish economy. It developed as the only specialist hard rock education establishment in the United Kingdom until the Royal School of Mines was established in 1851. The beginnings of the Camborne School of Mines can be traced to 1829 when plans for the school were first laid out and leading to the current school in 1888. It now forms part of the University of Exeter, and relocated to the University's Tremough campus in 2004. Camborne School of Mines graduates are to be found working in the mining industry all over the world. It has a very fine collection of minerals in its museum of geology.
On Christmas Eve 1801, the Puffing Devil, a steam-powered road locomotive built by Camborne engineer Richard Trevithick, made its way up Camborne Hill. It was the world's first self-propelled passenger carrying vehicle. The events have been turned into a local ditty:
Going up Camborne Hill, coming down,
Going up Camborne Hill, coming down,
The horses stood still,
The wheels turn around,
Going up Camborne Hill, coming down.
Trevithick was born in Penponds, in 1771, a miner's son, and was educated at Camborne School. His achievements included the first practical steam engine and the development of mining techniques. He is celebrated every last Saturday of April as the town's 'Trevithick Day', and by his statue standing outside Camborne public library.
- Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall, 2nd ed. Penguin Books; pp. 49-50
- See the discussion and bibliography in Elisabeth Okasha, Corpus of early Christian inscribed stones of South-west Britain (Leicester: University Press, 1993), pp.82-84.
- Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; p. 71
- B.H. St. J. O'Neil, "Roman villa in Cornwall", Antiquity 5 (1931), pp .494-5, with photographs
- Western United Mines home page
- BBC Cornwall - Nature - Camborne History
- Camborne Town Council - Information on the town
- Cornwall Record Office Online Catalogue for Camborne