Redruth School of Mines and School of Art

Established 1860

This article is about Mining education, primarily before the School of Art, as we knew it, became part of Cornwall Technical College. Subsequently the changes in educational policy, funding and social trends are mentioned with reference to following the future of Redruth School of Art.

Mining has taken p!ace in Cornwall since ancient times, tin in particular being mined and traded. Cornwall has had quite exceptional mining traditions. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution and predating this, mining in Cornwall became more industrialized with more sophisticated machinery and greater output.

In the earlier part of the 19th century it became clear that mine captains and those in authority needed greater education in all aspects of mining. Redruth was a very strong mining area, the most important in Cornwall. Cornish mining men went all over the world where mining took place, but it was recognized that technical and scientific education was needed in the immediate locality.

Richard Trevithick and James Watts, engineers and inventors, lived near one another at P!ain-an-Gwarry, but were not on speaking terms.
As well as mining there was a Mining Exchange with business from all over the country dealing in stocks and shares.
A miners hospital was endowed by Lord Robartes, where doctors from Redruth, Illogan and Camborne daily performed free operations.

In 1824 influential men connected with Cornish mines met to consider raising a monument to James Watts (died 1819) and also to consider the propriety of establishing a public school for men wishing to be mine captains etc.

In 1859 the Miners Association was founded for technical education and later amalgamated with the Mining Institute of Cornwall

(Founded in 1871). The decision to establish Redruth School of Mines was made in 1860. The Independent Mining School occupied new premises in Clinton Road with sampling and vanning house, laboratory and furnace room, while mining classes took place at Heanton Terrace.

Redruth School of Mines was built in what were the grounds of Treruffe Manor House in Clinton Road, a solid building built to last in a prestigious area near the main town centre. Pupils were drawn from all over the U.K., India and China.

In 1890 a comprehensive syllabus was undertaken very successfully. The mining school was governed by mining men of high standing, men interested in the practice and theory of mining both on the surface and underground. The lecturers likewise were men experienced in mining both in the U.K. and abroad. Instruction comprised land and mine surveying, geology, mineralogy, blowpipe analyses, mining and mining engineering, mathematics, mechanics, steam physics, building construction, vanning and shaft timbering etc. At the course end, a mining certificate was awarded to successful candidates, recognised as completion of a thorough training. The art course that was included resulted in the drawing of high quality charts.

Later in 1891 the Robert Hunt Memorial Museum was built adjoining the Redruth School of Mines to house mineral geological specimens. This building was built with money raised by public subscription, in memory of Professor Hunt. In 1901a mining shaft sunk in the garden of the School of Mines was reopened for instructional purposes and underground work at Pednandrea Mine was available for students. By 1902, Redruth was considered THE place to shop, the school was very important and the Principal of the school was directly or indirectly in charge of most of the post-school education in the Camborne area, particularly in the science and art classes.

At that time the Board of Education considered amalgamating the three Mining Schools at Penzance, Redruth and Camborne, an unpopular decision in Penzance and Redruth. As these two schools became less viable, the amalgamation took place in 1909, and by 1911 Camborne School became virtually a national institution for mining training. Redruth continued in 1917 – 18 to issue Schools of Science Certificates for evening courses and certificates were still issued in surveying, metalifferous mining and ore dressing. The two-year course ended in 1918 with all instruction taking place in Camborne.

It was later said of Camborne School of Mines that the ratio of lecturers to students was the highest in Higher Education. These numbers were only reduced when the B.A. Degree was introduced. The school became affiliated with Manchester University with a third year training recognized by the University. The Mining Museum closed in 1950, the specimens going to the Camborne School of Mines.

From 1860 the building was called the Redruth School of Mines and School of Art, therefore the Redruth School of Art needed no renaming. The whole Redruth building became the successful Redruth School of Art, a part of Camborne Technical College as it was then called. This was Further Education not Higher Education. Teachers were encouraged to receive training and the part-time teacher took the City and Guilds Further Education Certificate, then at Advanced level. In a short time the Certificate of Education, In-service, became a two-year part-time option to be encouraged. There was a great flowering of education with governmental requirements for upgrading course content and teaching quality. The man in the street was encouraged to enhance his education and classes at Redruth Art School were available to those who sought them, all ages of student taking part together in many instances, the part-time with the full-time student, while fees were very affordable for Adult Recreational Education. The classes available meant that those taking part were becoming knowledgeable and there was increasing Art/Craft interest. The new Redruth-based Vocational training of three and then four year duration in ceramics, which started up in the later 1960s, was of very high calibre, the part-time teachers (they werenÕt called tutors in those days) being some of the finest artist/craftsmen of the 20th century: Denis Mitchell, with Bernard, Janet and David Leach.

The smelting furnace in the Redruth building had become a large efficient gas-fired pottery kiln and the adjoining very large high room was the Ceramics Department proper, with efficient heating, and graced by a superb smokey-blond hardwood parquet floor, seldom noticed. Many art/craft subjects were available there: figure and plant drawing and painting, book illustration, weaving, sculpture, lithography, screen-printing, shop-window dressing, photography, metal-work, jewellery making and others. The national educational programme became increasingly academic, with a move away from vocational to degree status. The Ceramics Dept. moved to a new purpose-built building at Camborne Technical College, which was trying to upgrade to Higher (university), rather than Further Educational, status. This did not come to pass due to political party election changes.

Prices were going up in the 1970s when there was some national recession; Redruth Art School continued in a reduced form for a few years, closing in 1980-81, sold to a restaurateur and used also as a meadery. The Mining Museum, from being an area for drawing and painting is now where the restaurant clientele is seated. Eating out is now an easier way to socialize and entertain.

Camborne School of Mines survived the mining slump of the 193Os and later moved to a new building in the grounds of Camborne Technical College, before finally being housed at Tremough, Penryn, part of the Cornish University Group.

The town of Redruth has been for several years in decline, as has Camborne town. The huge mining interests and mining employment have almost ended In Cornwall and mining throughout much of the world is less financially viable.

Winston Graham’s Poldark novels romanticising mining have resulted in some Cornish tourist attractions of revamped mining buildings. The tourist trade is now of prime importance to Cornwall.

Re. Bibliography, all reference material has been obtained from The Cornwall Centre, the new home of the Cornish Studies Library, at Alma Place, Redruth.


Mates Illustrated Redruth. A literary and pictorial SouvenirÉ 1914

C914 x001233173

Reference only

Written by Thurston C. Peter

The official guide of the Redruth District Council

No page numbers, but facing page is photograph

Annals of an Ancient Cornish Town- Redruth

Being notes on the history of Redruth

by Frank Mitchell 1978

Printed original 1946. printed by Headland Printers, Penzance

Pages 150,154, 208

3 Pamphlet Files c/378 42376

Certificates awarded to J. Keven in 1917-18 for satisfactory completion in Surveying, Metalifferous Mining and Ore Dressing at Redruth School of Mines.

A short History of the Camborne School of Mines. by L.P.S. Piper – Page 18.

reprinted from the Journal of the Trevithick Society 1975.

Printed by Headland Printing Co. Bread Street, Penzance.

Photocopy of

Programme for 1898-9.Established 1860

Redruth School of Mines and School of Art.

Printed by F. Tregaskis. Stamp Office, Fore Street, Redruth. 1898.

The School of Metalifferous Mining (Cornwall)

Prospectus 1928-29.

Collated by Barbara Hill

11 years ago

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