Early Years

The Boom Years

About Redruth Town Trail

Example of Victorian ArchitectureTHE BOOM YEARS
Copper ore (discarded as waste by the earlier tinners) became sought after from the late 17th century. It could he used to make brass, a vital material for the technology of the Industrial Revolution. It was the deep mining of copper after the 1730s 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 l850s two-thirds of the world's copper came from Cornwall.

Tin mining had employed relatively few people, but copper mining was lahour 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.

More Victorian ArchitectureRiots 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 timcs at Redruth, giving hope and comfort to many.

The long decline, brought about by international competition, began in the l860s. By l880 two-thirds of Cornish miners had emigrated to the mines of the Americas, Australasia and South Africa. Tin mining lasted some 30 years longer but provided fewer jobs. 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.

mid 19th century view over Redruth
Redruth in the mid-19th century, viewed from the west
Map | The Early Days | About Redruth Town Trail