Re-purposing Redruth’s market

Concept image: National Lottery Heritage Fund

The Buttermarket and Mining Exchange in Redruth

Thread: collaborative design-led architects, Taunton, Somerset.

Redruth’s market was built in 1825-26 at the instigation of local landowner Sir Francis Basset (1757-1835). The name ‘Buttermarket’ was first used in 1884, with its focus being on fish, meat and shoes. The meat market was destroyed by fire in 1982 and rebuilt as a shopping arcade in 2001. In 2017 the Buttermarket buildings and Mining Exchange were bought by the Redruth Revival Community Interest Company (CIC).

Thread is a team of specialist conservation architects, who through robust questioning, distinct skill sets and detailed consideration, tackle the projects which sit at the most challenging areas of our specialisms. Often using and honouring historic techniques, Thread works to bring lost buildings back from the brink.

At the Buttermarket the project brief was to ‘complete the transformation of Redruth into a 21st century market town, broadening its function to attract a wider range of users and investors’. In essence, the market needed to return, in a 21st-century context, as the beating heart of West Cornwall’s principal market town, enhancing community cohesion and pride. Thread’s approach recognises the importance of the specific character of local back-land areas and rear lanes as well as existing town-centre use allocations. They take into account existing town trails and guides, along with other promotional initiatives and partnerships that are spread across the town.

In approaching these historic buildings of the Buttermarket, Thread examined their historic layout, materials, and design and also researched what the complex of buildings provided to the people of Redruth – in both its recent use and distant past.  They sought to understand where the complex has special and sometimes personal significance to the local community – and how this can be maintained and enhanced.  This was done through research and discussions with the Redruth Revival CIC, local community groups and current market users and occupiers.

As a result, their design proposal is derived from each project’s context – its unique story, architectural heritage, material palette and significance to the community. What they learnt at the Buttermarket was the culture of reuse of materials and the pallet of materials being specific to Cornwall.

While the design of this project will create a space for gathering and sharing food and will continue the marketplace culture, a key principle in the design development was to reduce, reuse and recycle building materials and elements throughout. Where Thread needed new columns, as a team they managed to source them through reclamation yards. New windows use existing joinery where possible – for example in the window arches to Station Road. Lighting in key areas will be reclaimed, and materials sourced locally and will work with the materials and colours already established as part of the Market’s character.

As part of the works, there is a new space formed by a newly inserted façade in the courtyard, enabling the spaces below the buildings to be connected by a new Hall. In pursuing the ethos of recycled materials this new façade to the centre of the courtyard will be constructed using a recycled glass product, formed in slate-sized shingles. This is inspired by the characteristic slate shingle profiles on the local buildings in the area. The design was developed first in paper form, testing the form and scale of each shingle. Thus, the main façade of the new works is provided by a recycled product. As such, while you will see a difference in the project on completion – Thread aims, at all times, to maintain the building’s spirit and history.

Keeping and reusing materials is an essential part of that process and retains the unique identity of the Buttermarket, while also providing a distinctive response to its history and memorable identity, retaining the values of the Redruth community on into the building’s future. Furthermore, by using recycled products the carbon footprint of the building is reduced and the work to conserve it will enable it to be enjoyed by all for many years to come.