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The Passmore Edwards Building

2-4 Clinton Rd,
Redruth TR15 2QE

The Ladder

The Edward Passmore Building Redruth: Then and Now

The history of the Edward Passmore building begins with the journalist and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards. Born on 24 March 1823, in the village of Blackwater near Redruth, Cornwall, he was the son of a Cornish carpenter and a widow from Devon.

Who was John Passmore Edwards?

Amongst his first jobs was working for the newly established Cornish Guardian newspaper, but aged 21 he left Cornwall to work on a newspaper in Manchester. Edwards had strong views on anti-slavery, was against the Corn Laws, supportive of the Temperance movement and he became an accomplished speaker on these and other topics. Needless to say, but he was heading upwards and much has been written about his life in a number of books and how he became a wealthy man.

He was a great benefactor for disaster appeals and supporting good causes and by the late 1880’s looked at ways he could distribute his wealth to the people. Edwards was very keen to improve education amongst the poor and had distributed hundreds of books to existing libraries. A request from the vicar of Mithian, which included his home village in Blackwater, for books not only led to him financing a building but providing 500 books. The land was provided by Lord Falmouth and the cost of building, furnishing and book, together with a later extension in 1893 by Edwards. This the first of over 70 buildings funded by John Passmore Edwards was opened by the Rev Rogers on 7th August 1890.

Promoting the labours of others had brought about his fortune, and he considered it reasonable that they should benefit from it. In 1885, he said:

“Having gathered, I determined to put into act what I had long nurtured in thought and use certain means at my disposal for the general good.”

John Passmore Edwards

He dedicatedly funded and constructed 70 buildings over 14 years, including libraries, literary institutes, and art galleries. He responded to needs as they arose, often brought to his attention through his Cornish connections, contacts at Freemasonry meetings, and publishing work.

Passmore Edwards Free Library, Redruth, Cornwall

James Hicks, a Redruth architect, designed the Passmore Edwards Free Library, and Symons & Sons built it. Passmore Edwards opened the library on 30 May 1895, celebrating with a grand event and a public holiday for the town. This Redruth library was one of eight in Cornwall funded by Passmore Edwards. This was along side other buildings in Camborne, Bodmin, Liskeard, Falmouth, Truro, St Ives, and Launceston.

The Ladder Redruth

The Ladder

The Redruth Library building closed in 2020 due to relocation. After receiving a grant of £168,000 from Historic England as part of the Redruth High Street Heritage Action Zone project, the former Redruth Library secured another £430,000 to repair the building under The Ladder’s ownership. This is part of the Devolution Deal negotiations between the government and Cornwall Council. The Redruth Former Library CIC purchased the Passmore Edwards building in Redruth and launched ‘The Ladder‘ on May 27, 2023.

Felix Mortimer, one of the directors of Redruth Former Library CIC said:

The Ladder is delighted to be starting a project to benefit local residents. The cultural significance of the town is bubbling beneath the surface. This project should make a real difference to people’s lives here, both to connect and for economic growth.”

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