The name Redruth – the Cornish for ford is Rhys and red is Ruth – is said to be derived from the fact that the local stream was so discoloured with iron oxide from tinning activities that it ran red. The Red River still runs through the town although it is considerably cleaner now.
People have been calling Redruth home since the 12th century (or probably much, much earlier) although it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the town really began to grow as the mining boom took off. The original town settlement was around the church of St Euny – the oldest part of the present church building is the tower, built in 1490 with the body of the church being enlarged in 1756 to accommodate a growing number of parishioners. By then, though, people had moved to live in what we now think of as the centre of town and they walked to church along Church Lane from West End – a route you can still trace today.
As the mines boomed, Redruth’s wealth grew and some of the great architecture you see now dates from this era. St Andrew’s Church, the Passmore Edwards Library and the former Council Chambers building were built in the nineteenth century as well as the imposing granite viaduct carrying the railway east to London or west to Penzance.
Redruth was also the main market town for the west of Cornwall and there was a regular livestock market in what is now Fairmeadow car park. On market days in the 19th century, it was a true emporium with stalls selling everything from limpets to pianos. More recently, retail trends were started in Redruth; the first duvets in Cornwall were sold in Knights in the 1970s.
The Lamb and Flag is used by Redruth Town Council as the emblem for the town. It was originally a mark used by Cornish tin smelting works to stamp the ingots of tin. The symbol seems to have been used first in the woollen trade during the Middle Ages. By the 19th century, it was suggested that the lamb represented purity, obviously a good selling point for the local tin smelters. We have now adopted the lamb as our mascot in the form of Tolgus, our huge fibreglass Lamb who you might bump into in the Library or out on festival days.