Our next stop was the town of Redruth, which had some fascinating public art sculptures in the town centre…
Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Town Centre Sculptures, Tin Miner Sculpture, Redruth Clock Tower, William Murdock’s House, Town Centre Listed Buildings, Old Town Hall, Tinners Hounds Sculpture, St Rumon’s Gardens, Druid’s Hall Ruins, Railway Viaduct, Former King’s Arms Hotel, Tatey Court etc
Our exploration began at the top of Fore Street, outside the town’s Clock Tower, completed in 1828, on the site of an earlier Tower. Originally the building had an open ground floor, which meant you could walk through the tower via an open arch at either side, however these were later bricked up in 1841. The previously open space was then converted for use as cells by the Police, so I guess by imprisoning people in the Clock Tower they really were doing time! Sixty years later, in 1904 the building itself was heightened, from just three storeys up to four, meaning it now towers over Fore Street, which is also the high street.
Also worthy of a mention is the building to the Clock’s left, which now houses Superdrug. It was originally built as one large building (with the adjacent “Premier” section) as a Grocery Shop and associated Warehouse. The Superdrug section was built first, in 1870, whilst the adjacent part was an extension from 1890, which could explain why the stonework is a slightly different colour, yet the same design. Overall they are listed as Numbers 70 and 72 Fore Street, and stand out as one of the towns most impressive store fronts.
Directly outside the Clock Tower, standing where Fore Street changes from being a normal road into a pedestrianised High Street, is the “Tin Miner”, a large bronze statue designed by David Annand in 2008. It represents the towns history of Tin Mining, which was a common employment all over Cornwall until the last century.
Moving along the High Street, we came across perhaps the strangest resident of Redruth, the absolutely brilliant looking “Tinners Hounds”. Again they hark back to the towns Tin Mining past, and were designed by David Kemp who described them as: “Relics of a vast underground workforce that rarely saw the light of day, each of the hounds fed up to three and a half families. Released from their subterranean labours, they now wander looking for a proper job”.
What is more incredible, is that the statues are made from REAL miners boots, which became David’s inspiration after he spotted them dumped outside a mine after it closed in the 1990’s. Now, love them or hate them they are an icon of Redruth, and whilst some residents think they are a waste of money, I personally really like them!
One group of the “Tinners Hounds” sits outside what was the “King’s Arms Hotel”, completed around the 18th century. It still keeps many of its original features, despite now being occupied by a branch of the Halifax, such as the old Inn sign outside.
Incidentally, where the “Tinners Hounds” are stood is also of historical significance, as many years ago this square had earned the name of “Tatey Court”, as it was a well known place to buy and sell Potatoes.
Redruth really does have quite a colourful high street, which of course leads up to the Clock Tower which looks down the entire length. A number of buildings in particular stood out when we visited, and it turns out of a few of them have Listed Status, looking at two in particular:
9 and 10 Fore Street: This is the building in the foreground, with the beautiful terracotta upper storeys, which includes a rotunda over to the left, the dome of which is clad in Copper. Completed around 1900, it has to be one of the more stand out buildings, which instantly catches your eye.
11 Fore Street (National Westminster Bank): The next building along to Numbers 9 and 10, shown to the right, was built around the same time, as the home of the National Westminster Bank. At the time it would probably have been known as “Smith’s Bank”, founded in Nottingham in the 17th century by a Mr Thomas Smith, the first such Bank outside of London. In 1969 the company was restructured and renamed, and the famous arrowheads logo which we all know today was adopted to symbolise the new bank.
We soon left Fore Street, and took a walk down “Cross Street”, where we found a number of famous buildings, starting with “Murdock House”, shown above. A plaque on the side of the building explains why it is so interesting:
“William Murdock lived in this house 1782 – 1798. Made the first locomotive here and tested it in 1784. Invented gas-lighting and used it in this house in 1792.”
Mr Murdock (1754 – 1839, Scottish Engineer) was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, before he joined the Boulton & Watt engineering firm from Birmingham. As part of his work he arrived in Redruth, and as his plaque states, he invented some of the world’s most important commodities. His steam engine was a revolutionary design, yet simple, allowing it to be easily used around the world. It was officially known as an “Oscillating Cylinder Steam Engine”, whereby a crankshaft would rotate, forcing the piston up and down, and the cylinder would then begin to oscillate.
His other invention, that of Gas Lighting was also a revolution, and after lighting his house in 1792, he went on to provide Gas Lighting at the main company in Birmingham, and by 1807 it was being used on public streets in London.
Mr Murdock’s House sits right next to the ruins of the Druid’s Hall, completed in 1859. At the time it became one of the main focal points of town life, as it contained the town Assembly Rooms, Library, and Theatre. In 1910 it was converted into a Cinema, and renamed the “Gem Theatre”, before it’s final transformation, into the Zodiac Bingo Club. This sadly burnt down in 1984, leaving the building as we see it today.
The ruins have now been incorporated into what is now known as “St Rumon’s Gardens”, inside the buildings walls. The name comes from the old Chapel of St Rumon which existed here in Medieval times, on the site now occupied by Mr Murdock’s House.
Coming out of Cross Street onto Penryn Street, we got a glimpse of one of the town’s most imposing landmarks, the enormous eight arches that make up the Railway Viaduct of 1888. Designed by P. Margary, it replaced an earlier viaduct from 1852, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel as part of the route of his GWR (Great Western Railway), which it still carries today. Trains regularly enter the town along the Cornish section of the line, known as the Cornish Main Line, travelling as far afield as London, Plymouth and even the far North of Scotland via Cross Country Services.
Taking Penryn Street back round to meet up with Fore Street to conclude our walk, we passed the “Old Town Hall & Court House”, built by Robert Blee using the “Small Debts Court Act” in 1850.
It was an important building in Redruth, as the act let Redruth follow up smaller debts it was owed rather than having to go to the assize courts in Bodmin. Up until 1859 when the Druid’s Hall was built, it also contained a Theatre. The whole building has long since been stripped of it’s importance, and is in use as a club.
The other building of note we spotted on Penryn Street is the old “Barclay & Company Limited” building from 1906. At some point it was taken over as the new offices of “Redruth Town Council”, which co-habit the building with a few other companies.
So our tour of Redruth was at an end, but we were certainly impressed, by the wealth of historic buildings, public sculptures and history that we found. As I mentioned earlier it has good transport links by rail, as well as via the A30, the main route through Cornwall which bypasses the town to the North and heads for England.
We had to get an early night after we left Redruth, as in the morning we were catching an early ferry from Penzance out to Hugh Town on the Isles of Scilly…