Ancient mining capital of Cornwall
Redruth Town Council
Redruth was formerly the capital of the largest and richest metal mining area in Britain. The town about nine miles west of Truro once used to be on the route of the A30 but it has now been by-passed by the new dual carriageway which opened in 1975. The population of the town was 13,845 at the 2011 census.
The town's setting is dominated by the granite heights of Carn Brea and Carn Marth. Granite is an igneous rock formed from molten material generated at great depth below the surface. Vapours from the granite carried minerals into the rock's fissures before it finally set. In later ages the granite was lifted by earth movements, and exposed to weathering. On Carn Brea can be seen the remains of one of the oldest and largest human settlements in Cornwall, a 46-acre Neolithic hillfort. Minerals were probably worked here since the Bronze Age, and by the Middle Ages mining was well established. Tin was obtained from deposits in the flats of streams, the ore found in material produced by the weathering of veins in the granite.
By 1300 streamers were working along the brook that ran along the bottom of Fore Street. The iron oxide from the workings discoloured the water. The red river in turn gave its name to the ford from which the town derives its Cornish name (rhyd = ford, ruth = red).
A charter for two weekly markets and two annual fairs was granted in 1324, and the Stannary Courts were sometimes held here in the later Middle Ages. From Tudor times control of the mining industry passed increasingly into the hands of the gentry, as more costly underground working developed. In 1591 Redruth was hit by an attack of bubonic plague which caused many deaths.
Copper ore (discarded as waste by the earlier tinners) became sought after from the late 17th century. It could be used to make brass, a vital material for the technology of the Industrial Revolution. It was the deep mining of copper after the 1730's which raised Redruth's status to that of capital of the largest and richest metal mining area in Britain. At the peak of production in the 1850's, two-thirds of the world's copper came from Cornwall. The Basset family were local mine owners and became wealthy and notable people in the area.
Tin mining had employed relatively few people, but copper mining was labour intensive. The population of Redruth and the nearby villages greatly increased. Despite this rapid expansion, and the vast fortunes produced by mines often within only one or two years, conditions in the mines were dreadful. Accidents were frequent, and there were many deaths. Life was cheap. The average life-span of the miners was under forty. Women worked on the surface handling the ore as bal maidens, and children started work as young as eight. Most mining families were desperately poor.
Riots against wage-cuts working conditions and redundancies were common, drunkenness, brawling and vice endemic. In this atmosphere similar to that of the Klondyke frontier towns, the mining communities were a fertile recruiting ground for early Methodists and Chartist groups. John Wesley preached several times at Redruth, giving hope and comfort to many. The long decline, brought about by international competition, began in the 1860's. By 1880 two-thirds of Cornish miners had emigrated to the mines of the Americas, Australasia and South Africa.
Murdoch House in the middle of Cross Street was erected in the 1660's as a chapel and it afterwards became a prison. William Murdoch lived in it from 1782 to 1798. During this time, he worked on local tin and copper mines, erecting engines on behalf of Boulton and Watt. In 1792 William Murdoch was the first person in the world to light his house and office by piped coal gas. 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.
The Parish Church of St. Euny, which is some distance from the town centre, is of Norman foundation but was rebuilt in 1756. A castellated Georgian lych gate of granite approaches the churchyard with a granite slate under it so long that it could accommodate three coffins at once after a mining accident. The patron saint is also honoured at Lelant. 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. Other places of worship include the Wesleyan Church of 1826, the Free Methodist Church of 1864 and the Quaker Meeting House of 1833.
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).
Redruth and its surrounding district gave to the world, not only a vital material, but also a legacy of engineering innovation through the work of men such as Watt, Murdoch and Trevithick. And there is a rich and varied architectural heritage to enjoy today, making Redruth, with its memories of the miners' hard lives, a special Cornish town.
Redruth Brewery, which was founded by William Davey in 1742, closed in 2004. By the middle of the 19th century, the brewery had expanded to include three malt houses, counting houses, an engine and boiler house, sheds, a carpenter's shop, beer store, aerated water factory, water tank and water reservoir. Two fires - in 2011 and 2013 - destroyed many of the buildings at the site. The former site of the Cornish brewery will be transformed into a mix of cultural buildings, public spaces, workspaces and housing with £1.7m funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The works are scheduled to finish in spring 2015. Kresen Kernow, as it became known, Cornwall's brand new, state-of-the-art archive centre, opened on the 11th September 2019.
The bronze sculpture of a Cornish miner that stands six feet seven inches tall and produced by artist David Annand was erected in April 2008.
Redruth School, a Technology College, is a secondary school and sixth form college, for ages 11–18. The town used to have a coeducational independent school, Highfields Private School, but this closed in 2012.
Redruth still has a railway station on the main line through Cornwall.
The local leisure centre is in Station Road, Pool, TR15 3QS.
The town's Tourist Information Centre is at The Cornwall Centre, Alma Place, TR15 2AT.
The main Town Trail delves into the important buildings in the town centre that placed Redruth at the heart of the Cornish mining industry including Murdoch House, the home of inventor William Murdoch.
The Plain-an-Gwarry Trail takes you on a tour north of the town centre.
Thirdly the Churchtown Trail explores the west of the town and the oldest part of the parish, taking in the beautiful St. Euny church.
The Cornish author A. K. Hamilton Jenkins, (1900-1980) lived at Redruth, he was best known for writing 'The Cornish Miner'.
John Passmore Edwards, (1823-1911) journalist and philanthropist, was born at Blackwater, a small village near Redruth.
Mick Fleetwood, (1947-) drummer and co-founder of the band Fleetwood Mac was born here.
Rory McGrath, (1956-) actor, writer and comedian was born in the town.
Donald Michael Thomas, (1935-) Cornish novelist and poet born in Redruth.
Peter Bayley (1944-2018), scholar of French literature, was born and educated in Redruth.
Stephen Frost (1955-), actor, writer and comedian.
John Gray (1817–1877), member of the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Harold Hayman (1894–1966), Labour MP for Falmouth and Camborne.
Benjamin Luxon (1937-), baritone and narrator.
David Menhennet (1928–2016), former Librarian of the House of Commons Library.
Henry Roach (1808–1889), Captain of the Burra mine in South Australia from 1847 to 1867.
Kristin Scott Thomas (1960-), actress and BAFTA Award nominee.
Luke Vibert, (1973-), musician and electronic music producer.
Each year in June Redruth celebrates Murdoch with Murdoch Day, when the town is packed with events, a street market and entertainment throughout the day for the whole family.
The Mining and Pasty Festival in September is a huge three day celebration of Cornwall's famous pasty and its origins in the local mining industry.
Baker Tom's Bakery Cafe
Red River Cafe
Zest Deli Cafe
The Collins Arms
The Green Room
Red Lion Hotel
Mount Ambrose Inn
Museum of Cornish Methodism Stithians Lake Country Park Heartlands Moseley Museum Hayle Stithians Pool Market
Cornish Engines Gwennap Pit Mineral Tramway Discovery Centre South Crofty Mine Treasure Park Scorrier House
The Shire Horse & Carriage Museum Tolgus Tin Burncoose Garden & Nursery Redruth Old Cornwall Society Museum
Carn Brea Camborne Chacewater Portreath St. Agnes St. Day Truro Lanner
Wheal Peevor Multi-use Trail Trevince Estate Gardens Kresen Kernow