Penwith Parishes & Towns

Redruth

Redruth, together with its neighbour Camborne, was the centre of the Cornish Tin mining industry. In the last century, over half of the world's tin came from the Camborne-Redruth area, and the area is strewn with abandoned mine engine houses with their distinctive chimneys.>
Iron oxide from tin streaming in the brook that ran along the bottom of Fore Street coloured the water red. This gave its name to the ford from which the town derives its Cornish name (rhyd = ford, ruth = red). This river now runs under the foot of the steep main street
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.
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 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 1850s, two-thirds of the world's copper came from Cornwall.
Tin mining had employed relatively few people, but copper mining was labour intensive. The population of Redruth and the nearby villages greatly increased, but most mining families remained 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 1860s. By 1880 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. It was William Murdoch who invented the world's first steam engine in 1784, and gas lighting in 1792 (Redruth was the first town in Britain to have gas lighting).
The town today has a range of architecture from Georgian to Victorian and Art Deco. The name Redruth comes from the Cornish words for red river., and . There is a large granite railway viaduct in the lower part of the town, and one can follow the tree lined Trewirgie Road to Redruth's old churchtown. the Georgian church of St Euny, which has a 15th century tower, and is notable for its long lych gate, which allowed for many coffins to rest there after major mining accidents.


St Ives & Hayle 

St Ives (click on photos for larger versions) is an ancient borough and supposedly got its name from St Ia, a female saint who crossed from Ireland on a leaf. It was one of the main centres of pilchard fishing in the last century. In 1868, a record 16.5 million pilchards were hauled in from one seine net off St Ives. The pilchards were pressed in fish cellars, to remove the blood and oil, and were then packed tightly into wooden barrels and exported. Apparently, the stench of fish was intolerable.
"Everyone there took part in the seining and packaging operations, even exiting the Church on Sundays if the fish appeared". Reverend S S Shaw, 1788
Tin ands copper from the surrounding mines were also exported through the harbour, and coal to power the mine engines was imported. Smeaton's pier, the main arm of the harbour, was built by the architect of the Eddystone Light.
There is still much of the old character in the town, with cobbled alleys and flowery courtyards, steep streets and whitewashed cottages. John Wesley's visits to St Ives are remembered in the street names - Salubrious Street and Teetotal Street.


Hayle is still a working port, though even more sand-bound than Padstow. It sprang to prominence in the 19th Century when its foundries manufactured the boilers, machinery and engines for use in the mines, and was the main exporter of copper between about 1760 to 1840, when Cornwall was known as "the Copper Kingdom". The rivalry between John Edwards, at Copperhouse to the east of the town, and John Hardy on the Western quays, resulted in the present port works. Edwards constructed the canal to bring ships to his foundry and smelting works.
Copperhouse ceased smelting in 1806; it was thenceforth more economical to take the ore to the coal in Wales than vice versa. The foundry supplied Cornish mines with engines and equipment until 1867. Meanwhile, Harvey's foundry was employing over a thousand men; its winding gear, all-thrashing machines, pumps and steam-engines became world famous. Several hardly engines were made for the Dutch government to drain the hollow near.
By 1377, Lelant (the mother village and churchtown of St Ives) had become silted up, and from then on, St Ives began to flourish, sending its fish by pack-mules to markets at Marazion and Penzance. The first stone pier there was built in 1481, and the Borough took over the port from the Duchy of Cornwall, levying its own tolls. In 1770, John Smeaton, of Eddystone fame, designed the present pier; prior to the development of Hayle, St Ives was the main outlet for Penwith copper ore to Wales and Bristol. In 1835, some 1800 in dues was collected there, a handsome sum in those times. Trade expanded with France, Ireland, Liverpool and London, and during the great days of pilchard seining (1830-50) an average of 22 million pilchards were caught there each year and exported to Italy direct.


Lelant

Lelant is a village at the estuary of the Hayle river with long stretches of sand and dunes, linking with Carbis Bay. In the Middle Ages, it was the principal market and port for the area, but later became silted up. At the edge of the sand dunes, there is a 15th Century church. The church is dedicated to a 6th Century Irish saint, St Uny, the brother of St Ia, who founded St Ives.


St Erth

St Erth is a picturesque village on the River Hayle, navigable in the 16th Century up to the ancient bridge where the 14th Century church stands.


Gulval

Berrymans from Gulval were apparently a family known for their distinctive dark eyes.


St Just

St. Just, the most westerly town in mainland England, stands at the heart of a famous tin mining area and although the mines are now closed, the remarkable character of the area is still evident in this granite-built town. All round lie the poignant, yet evocative relies of Cornwall's tin and copper mining, the granite engine houses silhouetted against the Atlantic sky and the mysterious ruins of mine workings.


Pendeen

Like St. Just, Pendeen and its string of hamlets retains the sturdy character of its great tin mining past. Pendeen's church is modelled on the famous cathedral of Iona and was built last century by local miners.


Botallack

Between Pendeen and St. Just is the old mining hamlet of Botallack, famous for being featured in the popular Poldark television series and with its own inn. On the spectacular cliff edge below Botallack, stand the engine houses of the Crowns Mine and on the cliff top are numerous relics of tin and copper mining.