Unveiling Cornwall’s Rich History: Exploring Kresen Kernow and Redruth’s Historic Transformation

Posted: 2 April 2024

For 2024 we have curated a series of events we trust will captivate participants and serve as a tribute to our rich past.

Join us for a behind the scenes guided tour of the Kresen Kernow archive centre and a tour by a member of Cornwall Council who isworking on the Redruth High Street Heritage Action Zone project on Saturday 4th May 2024.

Kresen Kernow

Kresen Kernow (‘Cornwall Centre’) is home to the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps and photographs related to Cornwall’s history. It resides in the formerly derelict Redruth Brewery, which operated for over 200 years, from around 1792 until it closed in 2004.

Founded by three Cornish businessmen, the brewery expanded over time to sell wine and spirits. By the 1960s, the brewery had suffered fires and floods, but had also launched its first canned beer. In 1986 the Cornish Brewery was formed and launched Newquay Steam beers, which became a household name, with beer exported all over the world.

By the 1990s, however, the company was suffering financial difficulties. It sold off its pubs and was taken over in 1996, before finally closing in 2004. After its closure, the site suffered a number of arson attacks, most notably in May 2011. The site became dangerously derelict until 2016 when construction began on the Kresen Kernow archive centre.


Redruth HSHAZ

An important market town in the 14th century, from the 18th century Redruth flourished as the commercial centre of Cornwall’s international mining industry, with its rich copper deposits helping to fulfil the demand for brass, bringing considerable wealth to the town and helping to shape the building of the town centre. Now, however, the town has a high level of deprivation and the building fabric has suffered from lack of investment and maintenance. Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone project aims to repair and repurpose the historic buildings of Redruth town centre and restore them to life. The project is expected to be completed in 2024.

One of the key sites currently undergoing restoration is the Grade II Buttermarket, which includes a two-storey market house dating from 1825-6 and further buildings with ground-floor colonnades around a courtyard which date from the mid and late 19th century. The market is an example of the ‘agora’ or loggia type market, a precursor of the Victorian market hall.

A fantastic example of saving our built heritage for new use is The Ladder, a new arts and culture hub in the former Passmore Edwards Library Building. Cornish philanthropist John Passmore Edwards founded the Library in 1895 to help tackle unemployment following the decline of the Redruth copper mining industry. The renovation work is ongoing and will result in new studio spaces for artistic work as well as community spaces for events, classes, fitness and music.

We are thrilled to include visits to Kresen Kernow and the Redruth High Street Heritage Action Zone as part of our 2024 events programme. It’s a unique opportunity for both our esteemed members and non-members to delve into Cornwall’s rich history and witness the transformation of these iconic sites first-hand. We’re excited to extend this invitation to all who are passionate about heritage conservation and eager to explore the cultural significance of these remarkable locations. For further details and to reserve your spot, please visit our event page. Join us on Saturday 4th May 2024 for an unforgettable experience!