Passmore Edwards Library in Redruth Listed at Grade II
The Passmore Edwards Free Library and adjoining former college in Redruth, Cornwall has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
Built in 1894 by local architect James Hicks for philanthropist John Passmore Edwards, the library belongs to a period of regeneration in Redruth following the decline in the mining industry. The library is the only public building in Redruth to be funded by Passmore Edwards.
In a Scottish Baronial style with crenellations and a distinctive octagonal corner tower, the library remains a prominent feature in Redruth. Hicks (with John Seddon) also designed St Andrew’s Church opposite and the church war memorial. Both listed at Grade II, together they make a distinctive contribution to this key junction.
The library dates from Redruth’s late 19th century building boom designed to revitalise the town following the decline in the mining industry. The library is one of a group of buildings on Clinton Road designed by Hicks. These include the former School of Science & Art (1882-3) and adjoining Robert Hunt Memorial Museum (1889) – which provided other opportunities for high-quality education – and Hicks’ own house opposite the library (1883). He also designed many other public buildings in the town centre.
The library is built of Carn Marth granite, extracted from the nearby quarries managed by Hicks himself, and its grey Baronial style contrasts with the Renaissance design and terracotta flamboyancy of the former college next door, designed by Hicks in 1891 for Thomas Collins.
Redruth’s Passmore Edwards Library is a living piece of social history that tells the story of the town’s regeneration after the decline of the local mining industry. Listing the Library celebrates its importance to the story of Redruth and ensures the building will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Public libraries were not common before the mid-19th century, but after the Golden Jubilee of 1887 their numbers grew as they were built as tributes to Queen Victoria. Following the 1892 Libraries Act they were built in unprecedented numbers; many were endowed by public benefactors, including Andrew Carnegie nationwide, and John Passmore Edwards in Cornwall and London.
John Passmore Edwards’ contribution to the learning and civic pride of Cornwall is expressed throughout the region in his funding for libraries, institutes, art galleries and schools of science and art, all opened between 1890 and 1900.