A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Redruth (for up to 60 inmates), Gwennop [Gwennap] (50), and Guinear [Gwinear](40).
Redruth Poor Law Union was officially formed on 10th June 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 29 in number, representing its 8 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Cornwall: Camborne (5), Gwennap (6), Gwinear (2), Gwithian, Illogan (4), Phillack (3), Redruth (6), Stythians (2).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 38,695 with parishes ranging in size from Gwithian (population 539) to Gwennap (8,539) and Redruth itself (8,191). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £8,485 or 4s.5d. per head of the population.
The Redruth Union workhouse was built in 1838 at Carn Brea near Redruth. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott and his partner William Bonython Moffatt who were also the architects for other Cornish workhouses in Liskeard, Penzance, St Austell, and St Columb Major. Intended to accommodate 450 inmates, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised the sum of £6,000 on its construction. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1906 map below.
Redruth followed Scott and Moffatt's typical design. It had a single-storey front block with a central entrance archway.
To the rear was the main accommodation block, now demolished. An infirmary block stood to the rear.
In 1897, the site was extended with the purchase of additional land costing £60 to the south-west of the workhouse. A new infirmary block for women was erected at a cost of around £2,700. The architect was Sampson Hill who, in 1912, provided the designs for an extension at the south of the building.
The former workhouse later became Barncoose Hospital. It is now the Camborne-Redruth Community Hospital.
A brief glimpse of life at Redruth workhouse is included the 1954 book A Cornish Waif's Story by 'Emma Smith'. A short extract is provided on a separate page.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Cornwall Archives, Kresen Kernow, Little Vauxhall, Redruth TR15 1AS. Holdings include Guardians' minute books (1855-1930); Indoor relief lists (1837-1930, with gaps); Admissions and discharges (1840-1934, with gaps); Index of inmates (1912-24); Creed registers (1910-30); Deaths (1837-67, 1901-39); etc.
- Ancestry has Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1839-72).
- Smith, Emma (a pseudonym) A Cornish Waif's Story (1964, Odhams)
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.