For those wishing to trace their Cornish family history, a natural first stop would be either the Cornwall Record Office in Truro or the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth. At both locations the knowledgeable and dedicated staff will help to make the journey into the past a memorable one. It is therefore a matter of common sense that both resources be combined to house its world-class collections and to bring everything together under one roof. After some 10 years of planning, two years ago a project called Kresen Kernow got under way and after a lot of hard work was granted a ‘first application’ sum of £386.000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable the development of the more detailed ‘Round 2’ application.
The site that was an obvious choice for the project was the derelict Redruth Brewery site in Redruth. The Redruth Brewery was established by William Davey around 1742 and moved to the current site in 1792 where it remained brewing for over 200 years. In 1994, Redruth Brewery was struggling for survival, three years after a management buyout from Devenish. Redruth’s problems revolve around a squeeze on cash flow by the way profit margins on canned beers were eroded by supermarkets putting pressure on suppliers, bigger brewers fighting for a market share, and cheap imports from across the Channel. For ten years the site lay derelict and became the focus for vandals and had several bad fires.
During the ‘Round 2’ Development phase of the Kresen Kernow project, as well as carrying out physical works on the site, delivering a project with the Redruth community, and carrying out a wide programme of consultation across Cornwall, detailed plans had to be drawn up and documents and strategies describing the plans for the future needed to be created. The concept is that Kresen Kernow will be an exemplary modern archive and library space, bringing together the world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books and documents related to Cornwall, as well as Cornwall Record Office, the Cornish Studies Library and the Cornwall and Scilly Historic Environment Record, for the first time. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cornwall Council, it will provide a bespoke building with excellent digital facilities, dynamic volunteering opportunities and a diverse range of events, exhibitions and activities.
This centre will improve access to records and attract wider audiences to celebrate and share in Cornwall’s rich and distinct history. Kresen Kernow will also safeguard the historic Redruth Brewery building at the heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The shell of the brew house will once again spring into life as it will house offices, learning spaces and research rooms. The strong rooms will sit in the footprint of the malt houses: once again a safe store for vital ingredients, with room for 25 years’ growth and space to build more. There will be exhibition spaces, a café area, learning spaces, and improved volunteer and staff facilities. With the arrival of Kresen Kernow the site will, once again, be a hub with connections that resound across Britain and the world.
The ‘Round 2’ bid was submitted in April 2015 and was successful. The Packet newspaper and Cornwall Council have both announced that The Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded £11.7 million to the project. In Redruth, the project will begin in earnest in January 2016 and then phased closures of the current sites in 2017 with the new centre, Kresen Kernow due to open in early 2018. Cornwall Council does not own all of the old Brewery site but the private sector landlord who owns the rest has approved the outline planning application for residential housing, workspace and retail and leisure uses. There is also the possibility of a microbrewery on the site.
This new development in Redruth will anticipate the increasing interest in ancestral tourism and provide the visitor with an amazing contemporary resource. We may anticipate visitors from Australia, South Africa, Mexico, North America and anywhere else the Cornish may have ventured and offer them a warm welcome. For the many with a love of our Cornish history, this project holds an immense amount of excitement.
For further information see the Cornwall Council website.