Why does everyone hate Camborne?

Ask a group what their least favourite part of Cornwall is, and there will be an overwhelming answer in the comments. “Camborne”. 

Now, I’m a little bit biased – my whole family come from Camborne and my great grandad worked down the mines – but I’ve never quite understood why it gets so much hate. 

Sure, it’s not coastal, and there are definitely more scenic places to visit in Cornwall, but to me there’s much more to Camborne than meets the eye. 

Here’s my defence of the town! 

Why I don’t think Camborne’s so bad

One of the largest towns in Cornwall (population 24,282), Camborne is one of the few settlements that remain relatively unchanged by tourism.

While it’s relatively off the tourist radar, it’s a fascinating place that claims to have changed the world at least two times.

Its historic centre is lined with 18th-century buildings, with essences of its past on nearly every corner.

Sure, it has a bit of a ramshackle high street, and the lanes don’t lead their way to the sea (well, they do eventually, but you’d have to walk out of Camborne to reach the coast!), but if you scratch the surface, Camborne may well surprise you. 

So, what’s so interesting about Camborne’s history?

Camborne’s history stretches back to at least 1181, although it most likely existed before the 12th century (the records are somewhat hazy the further back you go in history!). This is because ruins of a Romano-British villa have been found nearby.

This is the only of its kind in Cornwall – not many Romans got this far down the peninsula!

Due to Camborne’s inland location, it didn’t grow as fast as other settlements on the coast – until tin was discovered in the area.

It’s thought that mining started in the 1400s – obviously with Medieval tools – and as machinery became more sophisticated, mining in the Camborne area became more widespread.

The town grew over the centuries and had the right to hold a market in the early 18th century.

In the late 18th century, Camborne and Redruth had an abundance of Cornish mines, in fact, the area was so popular for its copper and tin mining that it was the richest mining area in the world.

In the early Victorian era, Camborne was world-famous as a mining district, with the Dolcaoath Mine being the deepest mine in the world (at 1,067 metres or 3,500 feet) for many years. It closed in 1921, but before closure, it was the oldest in the world too.

Camborne was also home to South Crofty, which was the last working tin mine in Europe (closing its doors in 1998).

During Camborne’s mining heyday, the town prospered around it – it naturally gained more wealth, making the region a great place to invest in.

The mining industry started to decline in the 1870s, although it didn’t completely shut down until the 1990s.

My great-granddad and great-uncle both did a stint down the Camborne mines before they closed!

How Camborne changed the world

But there’s more to Camborne! It actually changed the world… twice!

Puffing Devil

On Christmas Eve 1801, Richard Trevithick unveiled the “Puffing Devil” which was the world’s first passenger-carrying road vehicle/ full-scale steam locomotive.

He transported six passengers from the town centre to Beacon, which is around a mile away (and included an uphill segment!). You can read more about it in the Centuries of Inventions ebook.

This was a new and ingenious way to transport not just people, but also cargo. It paved the way for trains and cars today!

Holman Brothers

The Holman Brothers became the largest manufacturer of mining equipment in Cornwall, and also built the Polsten Gun and Holman Projector which was used in WW2.

When the mining industry started to decline, the Holman Brothers created a new rock drill which changed the mining process and kept it viable for longer.

Camborne School of Mining

The Camborne School of Mining was established in 1896 and kept an updated curriculum about the most current and efficient methods for mining.

It’s still running (and is one of the world’s best mining colleges) to this day, although it has been absolved into the University of Exeter on their Penryn campus, which is near Falmouth.

Camborne today

After the mines closed, Camborne’s prosperity waned, particularly as it’s not coastal so didn’t see the same tourism boom as other spots in the region.

However, it was recognised as one of the ten areas to be awarded the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape status by UNESCO.

Nowadays, there’s plenty of Cornish mining history, along with beautiful 18th century architecture and independent shops, restaurants and cafes are opening up all the time.

Want to visit 

Camborne Heritage Trail: Walk through Camborne town centre and experience its rich mining history by exploring historic buildings and landmarks.

Camborne Library and Trevithick Memorial Statue: Visit the memorial of Richard Trevithick, the inventor of the steam engine locomotive, and see the plaque marking its inaugural journey.

  • The Old Market House: Explore this historic building from 1802, originally serving as the Town Hall and Magistrates Rooms, later rebuilt in the 1860s.
  • Josiah Thomas Memorial Wing: See the remnants of the original Camborne School of Mines, a key institution in the town’s mining history.
  • The Clink: Discover the local lock-up used in the 18th century for detaining felons and drunks overnight.
  • Heartlands Mining Museum: Learn about Camborne’s tin mining industry at this museum, which also offers a giant adventure playscape and soft play for kids.
  • Cornish Diaspora Gardens: Reflect on the Cornish emigrants of the 19th century in these gardens, each dedicated to different global regions where the diaspora settled.
  • King Edward Mine Museum: Explore the history of mining at this museum, which also highlights the role of the Camborne School of Mining in reviving the mine.
  • East Pool Mine Museum: Visit this National Trust site to see the impressive Cornish beam engine and explore the industrial heritage discovery centre.

See my full blog post with things to do in Camborne here.Camborne is quite different to the other top places to visit in Cornwall – it’s almost like taking a step back in time – but if you want to experience another dynamic of Cornwall, then I highly recommend visiting Camborne!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *