The name Truro is supposedly derived from the Cornish phrase 'tri-veru' meaning three rivers owing to its location. Truro is situated in the heart of Cornwall just 14 km from the south coast at the convergence of the rivers Kenwyn and Allen. Both these rivers combine here to become the River Truro leading into the River Fal and then onto the large natural harbor of Carrick Roads.
The river valleys form a fairly steep-sided bowl surrounding Truro. Floods were commonplace during the early years, and the one that happened in 1988 caused especially large amounts of damage to the city. Since then, the authorities have taken precautionary measures and constructed flood defenses around the city, which includes an emergency dam at New Mill on the River Kenwyn and a tidal barrier on the Truro River.
The city grew to be an important centre of trade mainly due to its port, but later also because of its role as a stannary town for the mining industry. Although many of its cobbled streets are reminiscent of its glorious heritage, the city has developed considerably and is at par with most modern cities of the world.
Archaeological findings and some of the earliest written records about the region found tell us of a permanent settlement in the Truro area since the Norman times. A castle was built here in the 12th century by Richard de Luci, who was the Chief Justice of England in the reign of Henry II. He was granted some land in Cornwall for his services to the court, including the area surrounding the confluence of the two rivers. He built a town right in front of the castle and gave it a municipality status to further economic activity. Although the castle has long since disappeared, the town continues to flourish till today.
Due to the city’s location, inland, away from possible invaders, by the turn of the 14th century Truro was an important port. It prospered and gained economic wealth not only from its flourishing fishing industry, but also as its new role as one of Cornwall's stannary towns for the official assaying and stamping of locally-produced tin and copper in Cornish mines. However, tragedy struck in the form of the Black Death and with it followed a trade recession which resulted in a mass exodus of the population. The town, as a result, was left in a much neglected state. The town, in due time recovered and picked up from where it had left off.
During the 17th century Civil War in the country, Truro raised a sizable force to fight for the King and a royal mint was set up in the town. However, the Parliamentary troops were defeated in 1646 and the mint was moved to Exeter instead. More disappointment followed later in the century when Falmouth was awarded its own charter giving it rights to its harbor, starting a long rivalry between the two towns. The dispute was eventually settled in 1709 with control of the River Fal being divided between Truro and Falmouth.
In 1758, the Governor of Nova Scotia Charles Lawrence, issued a proclamation in the New England colonies offering free land to settlers who would come to Nova Scotia. Most of those who took up the offer were of Scots-Irish descent, often referred to as Ulster Scots. In 1761, about 60 families came to settle Truro Township on the south side of the bay.
Approximately 100,000 acres of land that included marshland, house lots, farm land and wood lots was divided into 200 shares of 500 acres each. Lots were also put aside for a church, burial ground, school and other common areas. Victoria Square in Truro was the original common in Truro Township.
Truro flourished immensely during the 18th and 19th centuries. Industry thrived because of the improved mining methods and higher prices for tin, and the town soon became home to wealthy mine owners. More money meant better lifestyles which were reflected in the buildings and other structures erected around this time. Elegant Georgian and Victorian townhouses were built, many of which can still be seen today on Lemon Street, named after the mining magnate Sir William Lemon. Truro became the centre for high society in the county, and was often referred to as the London of Cornwall.
As Truro's importance grew, so did its industries. By the 19th century, it had its own iron smelting works, potteries, and tanneries. The Great Western Railway arrived in Truro in the 1860s with a direct line from London Paddington and in 1877, Queen Victoria even granted Truro city status.
The beginning of the 20th century saw the decline of the mining industry, but that did not diminish the city’s importance or put much of a dent in its economy. Its previous role as a market town shifted to being the administrative and commercial centre of Cornwall, and saw substantial development. Even today, Truro is the retail centre of Cornwall.
Places to See
Truro’s Victoria Park originated in 1887 when 25 acres of land were given to Rev. L. G. Stevens’ wife Susan, for the creation of a public park. Since then, gifts and purchases of other lots of land have increased the area of the park to a thousand acres. This lovely area of woodland and picnic grounds includes water falls. The addition of a swimming pool, tennis courts and playgrounds has made the park not just a place of natural beauty, but a recreation area where you can take your family for a fun-filled picnic.
The main attraction for local residents in the region is the wide variety of shops. Truro has a vast selection of chain stores, specialty shops and markets, which reflect its historic tradition as a market town. The indoor Pannier Market is open year-round with many stalls and small businesses. The city is also popular for its eateries, including cafés and bistros. Additionally, it has emerged as a popular destination for nightlife with many bars, clubs and restaurants opening. Truro is also known for the Hall for Cornwall, a performing arts and entertainment venue.
Truro's most recognizable feature has to be its gothic-revival Cathedral, rising 76 m above the city at its highest spire. It took 30 years to build (1880-1910) on the site of the old St. Mary's Church, consecrated over 600 years earlier. It was the first cathedral to be built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220. Outside, in St Mary's Street, the 16th century stonework can be seen against the granite walls of the new cathedral. The cathedral holds an 18th century organ and pulpit made of inlaid wood. As the cathedral was built in the middle of an existing city and space was scarce, the architect built the nave at an angle of 6 feet and this bend can be clearly seen.
The city’s other noteworthy churches include St Paul's Church dating from 1848, St George's Church, St John's Church from 1828, and the church of St Kenwyn of the 14th century next to the former Bishop's Palace.
The County Library features three contrasting building materials—granite, elvan and limestone. John Passmore Edwards was a local benefactor who financed the project. He wanted 'education for the masses' and so funded libraries and institutes in Cornwall and south London.
The Royal Cornwall Museum and Art Gallery is another fine building. The museum features collections that depict Cornish history from the earliest times, the Rashleigh mineral collection, natural history exhibits and paintings, including those by well-known Cornish artist John Opie.
The Victorian building behind the war memorial in Boscawen Street is on the site of the 14th century Coinage Hall. Tin was produced in the area surrounding Truro from the early 13th century. Truro lost its status as a Stannary town in 1838. The Coinage Hall now houses Pizza Express, Charlotte's Tea Rooms and Antique Centre.
Princes House and the Mansion House are both fine examples of the town houses built in Truro in the 18th century. The Princes House was built in 1740 for William Lemon, who was twice mayor of Truro. The Mansion House was built in 1759 for Thomas Daniell, a businessman.
The City Hall houses the Mayor's Parlor, Truro Tourist Information Centre and Truro City Council Offices. It is of 19th century Italianate design and has a fine clock tower, which was given to the city by an anonymous donor after the original clock tower was demolished during a fire in 1914. The Hall for Cornwall is a popular venue for a variety of entertainment.
Walsingham Place is often called the jewel in Truro's crown and is an oasis in the heart of a busy city. It is situated just off Victoria Square. Lemon Street was built in 1801 as a new road for the increasing mail coaches that had great difficulty negotiating the existing steep routes into the town. Plots of land owned by Sir William Lemon were leased for the purpose and the street now is an elegant avenue with terraces that are said to be the finest example of Georgian architecture west of the city of Bath.
Truro became a cultural center during the 19th century after a flourishing economy made many wealthy enough to indulge in gaiety. The city has also been home to many prominent individuals. One of the most noteworthy residents was Richard Lander, an explorer who discovered the source of the River Niger in Africa and was awarded the first gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. Others include Humphry Davy, educated in Truro and inventor of the miner's safety lamp, and Samuel Foote, an actor and playwright from Boscawen Street.
The piazza at Lemon Quay attracts hundreds of visitors year-round with numerous different events and is the centre of most festivities in Truro. In April, the city prepares to partake in the Britain in Bloom competition, with many floral displays and hanging baskets dotted around the city throughout the summer. The Truro City Carnival takes place every September presenting various arts and music performances, children's activities, a fireworks display, food and drinks fairs, a circus, and a parade. A half-marathon also takes place around this time.
The Winter Festival during the Christmas season is a treat not to be missed here. A paper lantern parade known as the City of Lights Procession takes place, and you can indulge in some specialty products and crafts fairs, late-night shopping evenings, various events at the Cathedral and a fireworks display on New Year's Eve.
For the last four years, the city has also been hosting the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival which celebrates the finest Cornish cuisine, from fresh fish and succulent meats, delicious dairy products, scrumptious bread and cakes to traditional beer and cider. The festival showcases a sumptuous feast of over 60 Cornish producers and hundreds of local products for visitors to savour and enjoy.
While in Truro, try out some of the local flavor even if you don’t make it in time for the Food & Drink Festival. Clotted cream (a thick yellow cream made by heating unpasteurized cow's milk and then leaving it in shallow pans for several hours making it ‘clot’), Cornish fairings (ginger biscuit), Hog's Pudding (a meat dish comprising pork meat and fat, suet, bread, and oatmeal formed into the shape of a large sausage), heavy cake (a local version), Yarg (a semi-hard cow's milk cheese), saffron bun (a dough bun flavored with saffron and cinnamon or nutmeg containing currants), and some of the finest smoked fish, meat and cheeses are just some of the items on the menu for you to try.
If you plan to take life easy on your way to the city, then there are daily train services from London and Scotland to Truro. National Express buses also offer scheduled coach services to the city from locations across the United Kingdom. The nearest airport is Newquay, although Exeter and Bristol airports are also accessible.