redruth miners

The name Cornwall is most likely derived from the tribal name ‘Cornovii‘ which probably means the ‘horn people’ – the horn referring to their location at the end of the south-western peninsula.
To this the Anglo-Saxons added ‘Wealas‘ meaning ‘foreigners’.

The Cornish have mined and traded tin since before the arrival of the Angles and Saxons and at the beginning of the 19th Century Cornish mines were some of the largest enterprises anywhere in Europe and very much at the forefront of the industrial revolution. The copper industry had grown beyond any other sector in the British economy and it was centred in West Cornwall. 

It was during this period that a great deal of what are considered Cornish traditions became ingrained and the culture defined. Similar to other working class, industrial regions spectator sports, particularly rugby, became popular, every town had it’s own choir and brass band.

mine 1

Set in the dramatic valley between the hilltops of Carn Brea, Carnmenellis and Carnmarth, Redruth’s geography is both impressive and integral to its mining heritage. Located on the Great Flat Lode, a rich and accessible body of copper and tin ore, Redruth was home to the full range of mining society. Walk along the residential areas to the south of the town centre, and you will be welcomed by the grand Victorian architecture which was home to mine owners and others who had profited from Cornish tin.

Staying in the south, along the Falmouth Road you can see the award-winning restorations of miner’s cottages – a scene replicated throughout the town. The three Town Trails highlight places of huge importance to the World Heritage Site and the mining industry generally, each with their own story to tell. The Mining Exchange building in the town centre, for example, was the place for trading and exchanging copper and tin and the only mining exchange outside of London. The exchange had an ingenious way of capitalising on the fervour and chaos of the trading process – they fined mine captains for swearing, all proceeds went to fund the Miners’ Hospital!

miners cottages

The iconic town clock has also seen its fair share of action – up until 1841 it was used as police cells, and in 1904 the tower was raised by a whole storey so that miners at the top of town could see the clock and get to work on time!

By the end of the 19th century, the Cornish mining industry was in decline and Britain was importing most of its copper ore.

Sadly to find employment and leaving their families behind to suffer lives of great hardship, many miners emigrated to the newer mining industries of gold and diamonds in the Americas, Pachuca, Mexico, Australasia and South Africa.

Cornwall’s last fully operational mine, South Crofty at Pool between Redruth and Camborne, closed in March 1998.

Whilst visiting Redruth we recommend visiting the World Heritage Site.