Redruth

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Redruth (Cornish: Resrudh, pronunciation: /rəˈdruːð/ rə-DROODH) is a town and civil parish traditionally in the Penwith Hundred in Cornwall, United Kingdom.

Redruth is part of the Camborne and Redruth Mining District with Wheal Peevor  and Portreath Harbour, one of ten sites comprising the Cornwall & West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site, and close to two more, the Gwennap Mining District with Devoran and Perran  and Kennall Vale; and the St Agnes Mining District.

It has a population of 12,352. Redruth lies approximately at the junction of the A393 and A3047 roads, on the route of the old London to Land’s End trunk road (now the A30), and is approximately 9 miles (14 km) west of Truro, 12 miles (19 km) east of St Ives, 18 miles (29 km) north east of Penzance and 11 miles (18 km) north west of Falmouth. Camborne and Redruth together form the largest urban area in Cornwall and before local government reorganisation were an urban district.

The name Redruth (pronounced ‘Red-rooth’) derives from its Cornish name, Rhyd-ruth. Rhyd an older form of ‘Res’, which is a Cornish equivalent to a ford (across a river), a common Celtic word : Old Cornish rid; Welsh rhyd (Old Welsh rit); Old Breton rit or ret, Gaulish ritu-, all from Indo-European *prtus derived word in -tu from the root *per « to cross, to go through »; Proto-Germanic *furdúz (English ford, German Furt); Latin portus, all related to the Celtic word. It is the -ruth (and not the Red- part of the name) which means the colour red.

The town has developed away from the original settlement, which was near where the present Churchtown (around St. Euny’s Church) district of Redruth stands today. This location is a steeply wooded valley, with Carn Brea on one side and the now-called Bullers Hill on the other. The presence of shallow lodes of tin and copper lying east to west made it an advantageous site for extracting metals, including, tin, lead and copper. The first settlers stayed by a crossing in the river and started extracting metal ores, and this process turned the colour of the river red.

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, although most miners’ families remained poor.

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. Andrew’s 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 20th 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 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 church which is some distance from the town centre is of Norman foundation but was rebuilt in 1756. 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.

The house now called Murdoch (or, sometimes Murdock) House in the middle of Cross Street was erected in the 1660s 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 . He 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 19th 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.

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).

The bronze sculpture of a Cornish miner that stands two 6 feet 7 inches and produced 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. David Annand was selected from over 70 artists who responded to an advert placed by Cornwall Arts Centre Trust, the project managers, for expressions of interest in August 2006.

A short-list of five artists was selected to create further drawings and models which were exhibited in the Cornwall Centre in December 2006 for public consultation. The feedback from the many visitors to the exhibition was overwhelmingly in favour of David Annand and one other artist. The final decision to commission David was taken by the Mining Art Group with the addition of young art ambassadors from Redruth School.

David Annand who lives in Fife, Scotland, has produced a wide range of public artwork throughout Britain. David 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 is a small commercial town, with a population recorded in 2001 of 12,352. It is twinned with Plumergat and Meriadec in Brittany, France and Mineral Point, Wisconsin in the USA, where Cornish immigrants built many of the 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.

Redruth is also home to Carn Brea, which has most historical interest. The Carn however is not the highest point in Redruth, beaten slightly by Carnmenellis, south west of the town centre.

Key shops and other outlets within the town centre include a multi-screen cinema, a covered market way, the Cornish Studies Centre, an old butter market, various antique shops, a second hand book shop and two supermarkets, plus Greens Newsagents, The Emporium (formerly John Oliver’s) which still carries on the tradition of selling music and books (mainly of local historical interest) and antiques, as well as providing other products (gifts, stationery, greeting cards, etc.) and the local cash and carry Jims. Off the main street (Fore Street), there are two separate specialist shopping areas, Bond Street (to the south of the railway station) and Green Lane to the north.

The new street landscaping includes wooden seating, with granite furniture, new signposts, street lights and litter bins, and two sets of bronze ‘dogs’, which were cast from the boots of former tin miners by sculptor David Kemp. The town has a burgundy colour theme, which is in the new Public Realm regeneration work to highlight the town’s name.

Redruth is an important transport hub. The railway station is a railhead for both Helston and the Lizard, and there are frequent buses connecting the three places. The railway station is served by trains from Paddington, as well as the Midlands and the North. Redruth is next to the main A30 road and thus has access to the main route out of the county as well as routes to the far West, North Cornwall, South East Cornwall and Plymouth. Another road, the A393, bisects the town in a North-South direction, and links the A30 with the port of Falmouth. A third road, the A3047, links Redruth with Camborne, some four miles to the west.

A new road, the Barncoose by-pass, has now (March 2008) opened between the Redruth Community Hospital and the Barncoose Industrial Estate. It is intended to reduce HGV traffic using the main Camborne road and provide a direct access to the Industrial Estate. It may be extended further towards Camborne in the near future.

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