Kresen Kernow secures £11.7m to turn historic brewhouse into central Cornish archive

Following 10 years of planning this is the final element of funding needed to build a new archive centre for Cornwall, which will be the world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books, maps and photographs related to Cornwall

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £11.7million has been awarded to Cornwall Council to create Kresen Kernow, an inspirational new archive centre on the site of the former Redruth Brewery.

The building will bring together the collections of Cornwall Record Office, the Cornish Studies Library and Cornwall and Scilly Historic Environment Record and will complete with cutting edge digital facilities, will help people across the globe learn more about Cornwall and its rich culture and history.

At the heart of the project will be the extensively refurbished historic brewhouse with a new environmentally sustainable extension for archive storage and care. The design, developed by architects Purcell, takes advantage of the unique heritage features of the brewery buildings and carefully integrates contemporary archive and learning facilities. Work will begin on construction in 2016 with the centre due to open in 2018.

During an 18-month development stage, the project team spoke to thousands of people about the scheme and their ideas are central to the project. The new exhibition and public spaces will transform how the internationally significant collections are shared with visitors of all ages and a learning studio will provide a dedicated area for schools and community groups eager to find out more about Cornwall’s archaeology, history, literature and culture.

The HLF grant will also fund a wide programme of events and activities at the centre, around Cornwall and online, including workshops, training and the ‘Out of the Ordinary’ exhibition, featuring loans of significant Cornish documents from national collections. Digital engagement with Cornwall’s archives will be transformed, and a dynamic and enhanced range of volunteering opportunities will be on offer.

“National Lottery money continues to make an absolutely vital contribution to our culture and heritage in the UK,” said Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale who attended the announcement. “I am delighted that this investment will help safeguard the historic brewery buildings at the heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The new archive centre at the Redruth brewery will be home to the world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books and maps related to Cornwall and will inspire people of all ages by showcasing their rich and distinct history for future generations.”

Due to Cornwall’s connections all over the world and the growing interest in ancestral tourism, the centre is expected to attract visitors from as far afield as Australia and South Africa. However, it will retain the brewery’s heritage at its core, with artefacts, documents and memories from the brewery’s heyday also preserved in the exhibition spaces.

The investment is part of a wider £40m of private sector investment of the area, which will generate £1.7m additional spend in the local economy and creating 300 jobs. The redevelopment work will include townhouses and flats together with other spaces, such as offices, retail, a hotel and a micro-brewery.

Cornwall Council is contributing £4.6m to the scheme, which will secure the future of its historic collections for the next 100 years. “This grant from HLF will enable us to make our vision for Kresen Kernow possible. We have been working with partners in Redruth for two years to clear the Brewery site, which has been derelict for nearly a decade,” said Julian German, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture. “With this announcement today we can build on this effort and create a thriving and vibrant archive centre, which will be at the heart of a wider heritage-led regeneration scheme, creating over 300 jobs and £40m of investment in Redruth.”

Purcell has been involved in the care and development of some of the best loved buildings and places in the UK and abroad. The practice has designed archive and community engagement facilities throughout the UK including the Sammy Ofer Wing at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; the Story Museum, Oxford and St Fagans Museum, Cardiff. The project will offer a model of how archives can be environmentally sustainable.