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Truro stmarysst.jpg
Truro Cathedral from St. Mary's Street
Grid reference: SW825448
Location: 50°15’36"N, 5°3’4"W
Population: 17,431  (2001)
Post town: Truro
Postcode: TR1-4
Dialling code: 01872
Local Government
Council: Cornwall
Truro and Falmouth

Truro is a small city in Cornwall and is the county's ecclesiastical capital; the site of Truro Cathedral. It is the only city in the county, and the most southerly city in the United Kingdom. The city is well known for its charming cobbled streets, open spaces and Georgian architecture, and the cathedral in the centre of the town (completed in 1910). Also found among its streets are and places of interest include the Royal Cornwall Museum, the Hall for Cornwall and Cornwall's Courts of Justice.

Truro initially grew as an important centre of trade from its port, and then as a stannary town for the mining industry.

Truro is not Cornwall's biggest town but it has become the county's first destination for retail and leisure, and it has assumed a role as the administrative centre of the county.


Truro's name is from the Cornish language. In Cornish today its name is "Truru". The origin of the name is debated though; it is said to be derived from the Cornish tri-veru meaning "three rivers", but authorities such as the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names reject this theory. One expert on Cornish place-names, Oliver Padel, in his book A popular dictionary of Cornish place-names said the 'three rivers' meaning is "not possible".[1]

Lie of the land

The Truro River and the boat to Falmouth

Truro is found in the centre of western Cornwall approximately 9 miles from the south coast whre the rivers Kenwyn and Allen meet to become the Truro River. The Truro River itself is one of a series of creeks, rivers and drowned valleys leading into the River Fal and then onto the large natural harbour of Carrick Roads. The river valleys form a bowl surrounding the city on the north, east and west and open to the Truro River in the south. The fairly steep-sided bowl in which Truro is found, along with high precipitation swelling the rivers and a spring tide in the River Fal, were major factors in the cause of floods seen in 1988 which caused large amounts of damage to the city centre. Since then, flood defences have been constructed around the city, including an emergency dam at New Mill on the River Kenwyn and a tidal barrier on the Truro River, to deflect future high water.

The city is surrounded by a number of protected natural areas, which include the historic parklands at Pencalenick, and larger areas of ornamental landscape, such as Trelissick Garden and Tregothnan further down the Truro River. An area south-east of the city, around and including Calenick Creek, has been designated an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". Other protected areas include an Area of Great Landscape Value comprising agricultural land and wooded valleys to the north east, and Daubuz Moors, a Local Nature Reserve located alongside the River Allen close to the city centre.

Truro has mainly grown and developed around the historic city centre in a nucleated fashion along the slopes of the bowl valley, with an exception being fast linear development along the A390 to the west, towards Threemilestone. As Truro has grown, it—like any other city—has incorporated a number of settlements, turning them into suburbs or unofficial districts. These include Kenwyn and Moresk to the north, Trelander to the east, Newham to the south, and Highertown, Treliske and Gloweth to the west as a result of the far stretching development in that area.


The west front of the Cathedral

Churches in Truro include:

  • Church of England:
    • Truro Cahedral. The cathedral was completed in 1910 to serve as the seat of the new Cornish diocese, the Diocese of Truro, carved out of the Diocese of Exeter in 1876. The cathedral was created from the old parish church of Truro, St Mary's, whose structure was incorporated into the cathedral from the later 19th century.
    • St John's Church (dedicated to St John the Evangelist) was built in 1828 (designed by P Sambell) in the Classical style on a rectangular plan and with a gallery. Considerable alterations were carried out in the 1890s.
    • St Paul's Church was built in 1848. The chancel was replaced in 1882-84, the new chancel being the work of J D Sedding. The tower is "broad and strong" (Pevsner) and the exterior of the aisles are ornamented in Sedding's version of the Perpendicular style.[2] St Paul's church, built with a tower on a river bed with poor foundations, has fallen into disrepair, and is no longer in use. Worship is now undertaken in the United Benefices of St Paul & St Clement and St George & St John, Truro.
    • St George's, designed by the Reverend William Haslam, vicar of Baldhu, was built in 1855 (the parish was formed from part of Kenwyn in 1846).
  • Methodist
    • Various chapels. That in Union Place which has a broad granite front (1830, but since enlarged).
  • Society of Friends (Quakers): Meeting House built in granite (~1830)

In the parish of St Paul is the former Anglican Convent of the Epiphany at Alverton House, Tregolls Road, an early 19th century house. The house was extended for the convent and the chapel was built in 1910 by E. H. Sedding.[2] The sisterhood was founded by the Bishop of Truro, George Howard Wilkinson in 1883 and came to an end in 2008 with the death of the last nun.[3] The sisters were involved in pastoral and educational work and the care of the cathedral and St Paul's Church.[4]


The earliest records and archaeological findings of a permanent settlement in the Truro area originate from Norman times. A castle was built in the 12th century by Richard de Luci, Chief Justice of England in the reign of King Henry II, who was granted land in Cornwall for his services to the court, including the area surrounding the confluence of the two rivers. He planted the town in the shadow of the castle and awarded it borough status to further economic activity. The castle has long since gone but the town stands, much changed in the intervening ages.

By the start of the 14th century Truro was a prospering port thanks firstly to its inland location away from invaders and its prosperity from the fishing industry, but also to 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, the Black Death soon arrived and with it, trade fell off, resulting in a mass exodus of the population and, as such the town was left in a neglected state.

Trade returned to Truro with help from the government and the town was very prosperous during the Tudor period. Self-governance was awarded in 1589 by the granting of a new charter by Elizabeth I which gave Truro an elected mayor and control over the port of Falmouth.

During the English Civil War in the 17th century, Truro raised a sizable force to fight for the King and a royalist mint was set up in the town. However Parliamentary troops came in 1646 and the mint was moved to Exeter. Further disheartenment came later in the century when Falmouth was awarded its own charter giving it rights to its harbour, starting a long rivalry between the two towns. The dispute was eventually settled with control of the River Fal divided between Truro and Falmouth.

Boscawen Street in 1810

Truro prospered during the 18th and 19th centuries. Industry flourished thanks to improved mining methods and higher prices for tin, and the town soon became the place to be for wealthy mine owners. Elegant Georgian and Victorian townhouses were built and Truro became the centre for high society in the county, being mentioned as "the London of Cornwall".[5] Many of such grand houses remain on streets such as Lemon Street, named after the mining magnate and local Member of Parliament Sir William Lemon.

The Cathedral in 1905, before completion of the spires

Throughout these prosperous times Truro remained a social centre and many notable people hailed from it. 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. Truro's importance increased later in the 19th century and 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 the Bishopric of Truro bill was passed in 1876 which gave the town a bishop, then a cathedral. The next year Queen Victoria granted Truro city status.

The start of the 20th century saw the decline of the mining industry, however the city remained prosperous as its previous role as a market town shifted to being the administrative and commercial centre of Cornwall, and saw substantial development. Today, Truro continues its role as the retail centre of Cornwall but, like many other cities, faces concerns over the disappearance of many of its renowned speciality shops for national chain stores, the eroding of its identity, and also over how to accommodate future expected growth in the 21st century.


Sunday morning on Pydar Street


Truro's most recognisable feature is its gothic-revival Cathedral, designed by architect John Loughborough Pearson and rising 250 feet above the city at its highest spire.[6] It took 30 years to build, from 1880 to 1910, and was built on the site of the old St. Mary's Church, consecrated over 600 years earlier. Enthusiasts of Georgian architecture are well catered for in the city, with terraces and townhouses along Walsingham Place and Lemon Street often said to be "the finest examples of Georgian architecture west of the city of Bath".[7]

The main attraction for local residents in the region is the wide variety of shops. Beyond the usual chain stores, Truro maintains a number of speciality 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.

The Royal Cornwall Museum is the oldest and premier museum in Cornwall for exhibitions detailing Cornish history and Culture of Cornwall|culture, with a wide range of collections such as archaeology, art and geology. Among the exhibits of the museum there is the so-called Arthur's inscribed stone. Truro is also noted for its parks and open spaces, including Victoria Gardens, Boscawen Park and Daubuz Moors.


Lemon Quay

The piazza at Lemon Quay is the centre of most festivities in Truro, which attracts visitors year-round with numerous different events.

Truro celebrates the Christmas season with its Winter Festival, which includes a paper lantern parade known as the City of Lights Procession. Participants in this procession include many local primary schools as well as the involvement of colleges, community and youth groups. There has been active involment by students from University College Falmouth in the creation of large lanterns, complementing the work of the core artists team. Christmas lights throughout the city centre as well a "big switch-on" event, speciality products and crafts fairs, late-night shopping evenings, various events at the Cathedral and a fireworks display on New Year's Eve. A Christmas tree is put up on the Piazza, and another outside the Cathedral at High Cross.


A mummers' play text which had, until recently, been attributed to Mylor in Cornwall (much quoted in early studies of folk plays, such as The Mummers Play by R. J. E. Tiddy – published posthumously in 1923 – and The English Folk-Play (1933) by E. K. Chambers), has now been shown, by genealogical and other research, to have originated in Truro, Cornwall, around 1780.[8][9]


  1. Padel, O J (1988) A Popular Dictionary of Cornish place-names, Penzance, A. Hodge ISBN 0-906720-15-X
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed. Penguin Books; pp. 234-35
  3. Article by Richard Savill "Last surviving nun of 127 year-old order" (p. 7) Daily Telegraph Tuesday 4 November 2008
  4. Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 325-26
  5. "History of Truro". Truro Town Site. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  6. "Building Statistics - Truro Cathedral, Truro". Emporis. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  7. "Daytripper - Sheer Indulgence in Truro". Truro City Council. Archived from the original on October 7, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  8. The Truro cordwainers' play: a "new" eighteenth-century Christmas play — Research article at
  9. Truro (Formerly Mylor): "A Play for Christmas", 1780s (Full text and notes)

Outside links

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about Truro)
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