Gwennap Pit

In Brief

Type: Historical, geographical and spiritual attraction
Suitable for: History buffs, mining enthusiasts and religious scholars
Address: Saint Clement Street, Busveal, near Redruth
Price: Free
Dog friendly?: Yes

Redruth is rich with mining history. It’s in the walls, in the landscapes and in the historical attractions dotted around the area. It’s also in an odd geographical anomaly that sits just a mile outside the town centre. Gwennap Pit may not be a traditional attraction but it’s well worth witnessing for anyone interested in history, geography and, as it turns out, religion.

Gwennap Pit, which is included in UNESCO’s Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, is believed to have been formed when the ground collapsed into an abandoned mine dig hundreds of years ago. This caused a unique natural depression which has not collected water, no matter how stormy the weather may be, ever since. This large depression would be worth visiting alone but the site has become much more historically important thanks to the work of one famous preacher.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, used to draw crowds of up to 20,000 people at his open-air religious meetings in Cornwall in the 18th century. During his many visits to the county, he fell in love with Gwennap Pit, calling it ‘the most magnificent spectacle this side of heaven’. He attracted massive crowds to the pit, where he preached to locals no less than 18 times.

The pit, in the Busveal mining settlement on the edge of Redruth, is a multi-tiered structure just like an amphitheatre and can hold up to 2,000 people on its 12 circular levels which, when you add up the distance of each, equal exactly a mile. These terraces were actually cut by local miners in the years leading up to 1806 and they are still used for seating at times of worship in the community.

There’s a visitor’s centre here that’s full of interesting info, as well as some snacks and drinks on offer. Plus, there are activities for kids that help them get the most out of this spiritual place and geographical anomaly. The centre is open from May to September every day apart from Sundays and there’s a chapel next door that was built in 1836 which is also worth exploring. But it’s the pit itself that serves to fascinate the historical, geographical and spiritual among us. Who’d have thought that visiting a big hole would be so interesting?