Fore Street, Redruth town centre
|Camborne and Redruth|
Redruth (pronounced 're-DRUTH') is a town in the Penwith Hundred in western Cornwall. It lies on the route of the old London to Land's End trunk road, now the A30, and is some 9 miles west of Truro, 12 miles east of St Ives and 18 miles north-east of Penzance. The town has grown to form an effective conurbation with its neighbour Camborne and with Pool which lies between the two. These three towns together form the largest urban area in Cornwall.
Redruth is has its origin and its development in mining, though the last of the mines has now closed. Its buildings were hewn from granite and many of such stone buildings still standing. A museum organised by the Old Cornwall Society is housed in the Town Council office at the bottom of the main street.
Carn Brea rises above the town. It is a green hill with historical interest, a popular climb from Redruth and from Camborne up to the monument and to the castle which stands close to the summit. The Carn however is not the highest point in Redruth, beaten slightly by Carnmenellis, south west of the town centre.
The name "Redruth" comes from the Cornish language, in which its name is Rhyd-ruth, meaning "red ford", from the Old Cornish rhyd meaning "ford" (res in recent Cornish).
The original village was near where the present Churchtown district around St Euny church. This location is a steeply wooded valley, with Carn Brea on one side and Bullers Hill on the other. The presence of shallow lodes of tin and copper lying east to west brought miners to the ford since earliest ages, winning tin, lead and copper. The process of extracting metal ores turned the river red. Modern Redruth has developed in the flatter lands along the main road.
Historically, Redruth was a small market town overshadowed by its neighbours until a boom in the demand for copper ore during the 18th century. Copper ore had mostly been discarded by the Cornish tin-mining industry but was now needed to make brass, an essential metal in the Industrial Revolution. Surrounded by copper ore deposits, Redruth quickly became one of the largest and richest mining areas in Britain and the town's population grew markedly.
In the 1880s and 1890s the town end of Clinton Road gained a number of institutions, notably a School of Mines and Art School in 1882–83, St Andrews Church (replacing the chapel in Chapel Street) in 1883 and, opposite, the Free Library, built in 1895. The Mining Exchange was built in 1880 as a place for the trading of mineral stock. By the turn of the century, Victoria Park had been laid out to commemorate the Golden Jubilee and this part of town had taken on its present appearance — a far cry from the jumble of mining activity that had taken place there in the early 19th century. Redruth was making its transition from a market town dominated by mines and industry to a residential centre.
By the end of the 19th century, the Cornish mining industry was in decline and Britain was importing most of its copper ore. To find employment, many Cornish miners emigrated to the newer mining industries in the Americas, Australasia and South Africa. Cornwall's last fully operational mine, South Crofty at Pool between Redruth and Camborne, closed in March 1998. The mine's owners have since expressed an intention to reopen the mine as a going concern.
The Church of St Uny is Redruth's parish church. It stands at some distance from the town centre.
The church was founded in the Norman period but was rebuilt in 1756. The tower is two centuries earlier and the whole church is built of granite. A chapel of ease was built in the town in 1828 but it is no longer in use.
The dedication to St Uny is unusual, but the church at Lelant to thje southwest bears the same dedication.
- Wesleyan Church (built 1826)
- Free Methodist Church (built 1864, in grand Italianate style)
- Society of Friends (Quakers) Meeting House (built in 1833).
The House now called Murdoch House in the middle of Cross Street was built in the 1660s as a chapel and it afterwards became a prison. William Murdoch lived in it from 1782 to 1798 during which time he worked on local tin and copper mines, erecting engines on behalf of Boulton and Watt. Murdoch fitted the house out with gas lighting from coal gas – this was the first house in the world with this type of lighting.
In the nineteenth century, the house was used as a tea room, run by a Mrs Knuckey. In 1931 Mr A Pearce Jenkin, a leading citizen of Redruth purchased the house and gave it as a gift to the Society of Friends (Quakers).
Murdoch House has since been fully restored and is now regularly used by the Redruth Old Cornwall Society, as well as the Cornish-American Connection and the Redruth Story Group. Next door are St Rumon's Gardens.
Cornwall Centre and Mining Exchange
The former Post Office in Alma Place is now known as the Cornish Studies Centre: also housed there is the collection of Tregellas Tapestries which depict the history of Cornwall in embroidery. The Mining Exchange building is now used as a housing advice centre (it was built in 1880 as accommodation for share brokers).
Tin Miner statue
A six-foot bronze sculpture of a Cornish miner by artist David Annand was erected in April 2008.
The sculpture was commissioned by the Redruth Public Realm Working Party's Mining Art Group in response to comments received during the consultation process that the town did not have anything to represent the history of the men who worked down the tin and copper mines in the area. The Fife artist David Annand was selected for the work by public competition. He said "What I felt was needed in Redruth is a tin miner with the accoutrements of the trade: one solitary figure standing holding his pole pick, with a fan of candles round his neck and the esoteric helmet and candle on his head. I have gone for the era that was before the carbide and the Davy or the battery lamps because this era had a more quintessentially Cornish feel. Also, I felt that the 'simplest is best' approach was needed."
The general public's response has been mixed. Some have said that the statue looks as though the miner is about to launch himself into the air and down Fore Street. Others remain perplexed at the miner's pose and angle. However, many have welcomed this addition to the public realm designs in the town, and feel that it should encourage casual visitors to learn more about this important aspect of the town's and Cornwall's heritage.
- Redruth Old Cornwall Society.
- Redruth & its people - Michael Tangye - ISBN 0950187216
- Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall, 2nd ed. Penguin Books; p. 150
- Janet Thomson; The Scot Who Lit The World, The Story Of William Murdoch Inventor of Gas Lighting; 2003; ISBN 0-9530013-2-6
- thisiscornwall.co.uk news report on the statue