The early settlement of Redruth was originally in the Churchtown area, where St Euny Church stands today.
This location, with Carn Brea on one side and Bullers Hill on the other, gave good access to the shallow lodes of tin and copper lying east to west and made it an easy site for extracting metals, including, tin, lead and copper.
Historically, Redruth was a small market town until a boom in the demand for copper ore during the 18th century. Copper is a constituent of brass, and was an essential metal in the Industrial Revolution. Surrounded by copper ore deposits, Redruth quickly became one of the largest and richest mining areas in Britain and the town’s population grew dramatically, Redruth became the metalliferous mining capital of the world
Redruth Buttermarket has been a centre for trading since it was built in 1795. Originally a three sided development, it was open on the eastern side to what is now Alma Place.
The timeline below shows some of the more significant events which have taken place in Redruth’s trading history. As Redruth grew in prosperity and importance, a pair of buildings were constructed in the 1880s which effectively enclosed the courtyard on the fourth side – the Mining Exchange was built in 1880 as a place for the trading of mineral stocks and shares and the Wheal Peevor Purser’s Office was built in 1883 for a prosperous mine to the east of Redruth. The imposing façades of these buildings fronting on to Alma Place were Grade II listed some years ago and the remainder of the complex was also listed at Grade II in 2021.
The external appearance of the buildings was then very similar to how they look today. The architects of the early phases of development are unknown, but the Alma Place buildings were designed by the well-known local architect James Hicks; he was working regularly at that time for Alfred Lanyon who was the lessee of the market until 1886 when he bought the freehold from the owner, Gustavus Basset.
A letter, from a businessman from London, visiting Redruth in 1778, extols the virtues of the Redruth Market…
‘Oh, ye who never knew the joys, try it! Remember Redruth Market, there you can have all in perfection and in no town in the kingdom is there greater abundance or quality’,
This report on the historic market buildings now known as the Buttermarket was prepared to inform the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) initiative at Redruth. The Buttermarket includes a two-storey market house of 1825-6 and further buildings with ground-floor colonnades around a courtyard which date from the midand late 19th century. The market is an example of the ‘agora’ or loggia type market, a precursor of the Victorian market hall.
1334 Edward III grants a charter for a twice weekly market in Redruth
1564 Elizabeth I grants a market charter.
1660 Charles II grants a charter. Weekly markets held on Tuesday and Friday.
1791 Redruth market is said to be ‘by far the largest in the county’, stretching from a market building near the site of the Town Clock and along Fore Street.
1795 Market moves location from Fore St to site of current Market Way, the Buttermarket and the Fair Meadow car park..
1802 Baptist chapel built on later site of Mining Exchange on Alma Place.
1823 Francis Basset, Lord de Dunstanville buys the market for £1,000.
1847 Starving men and women occupy the market and demand that sellers reduce their prices.
1867 Soup kitchen for poor run at back of Market House/Meat Market building (on Station Hill side of complex).
1877 Improvements to market buildings.
1880 Mining Exchange built on Alma Place at a cost of £500, followed in 1883 by the Wheal Peevor Purser’s Office; designed by local architect, James Hicks in Neo Gothic style.
1892 Pigs arrive in huge numbers by train or road and are driven down to the market. Redruth Market is the largest pig market in the West Country until the 1980s.
1902 Redruth Chamber of Commerce debates buying the market ‘if it can be obtained at proper terms’.
c.1914 Horses mustered in the Fair Meadow to be taken for army use in the First World War.
1919 Cattle Market Company formed to expand the livestock sales.
1958 Redruth Market Company Ltd sells the Market House/Meat Market which becomes a carpet warehouse; this burns down in a spectacular fire in 1983, but the Buttermarket is largely undamaged.
2017 Redruth Revival CIC purchase the freehold of the Buttermarket & Mining Exchange from Redruth Market Company, with the intention of reviving it as a community, workspace and retail hub right in the heart of Redruth.
2018 Regular monthly markets in the Buttermarket and Market Strand restarted as a joint project between Redruth Revival, Redruth Town Council and the Redruth & District Chamber of Commerce
2019 Redruth Town Council buys the Market Way complex (rebuilt in 1999 on the site of the burnt-out Meat Market) and begins the process of moving the council chambers and the town library to that site
2020 Redruth awarded High Street Heritage Action Zone funding, with the Buttermarket as one of its two key capital projects, the other being the London Inn complex. Redruth Revival appoint Thread Architects as design lead for the Buttermarket scheme.
2021 Redruth Revival purchase the freehold of the Wheal Peevor Purser’s Office, thus assembling all the key property components for the refurbishment scheme. Planning and listed building application submitted to Cornwall Council in September.