The bustling cathedral city of Truro is a city for all seasons and for all interests. From the flowing rivers to the picturesque Georgian streets, the 18th and 19th century town houses and the magnificent Victorian Cathedral that dominates the city there is something for everyone. Truro derives its name from the Cornish Tri-veru, meaning three rivers, and developed as a tin port between the Truro River and the rivers Kenwyn and Allen. Today the city is the centre for tourism, commerce and administration for the county of Cornwall and its unique past makes it very special.
Tin was produced in the surrounding areas from the early 13th century and Truro was a stannary town from 1305. The present Victorian building is on the site of the 14th century Coinage Hall. It was here that the smelted tin was assayed and stamped before being sold and exported. The Coinage Hall now houses Pizza Express, Charlotte's Tea Rooms and the Antique Centre.
Building started in 1880 after the laying of the foundation stones by the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, and it was completed in 1910. The walls are of Cornish granite and the statues carved in Bath stone. All the money to build the cathedral was raised by public subscription in Cornwall. Truro Cathedral extends a warm welcome to visitors. There are guided tours every day throughout the season, as well as booked tours for groups. It has a well-stocked shop for gifts and souvenirs and a very popular restaurant housed in the Chapter House.
The City Hall, which also houses the Mayor's Parlour and Truro City Council Offices,, is of 19th century Italianate design and has a fine clock, which was given by an anonymous donor after the original clock tower was demolished in a fire in 1914. Truro Tourist Information Centre is in this building.
The Royal Cornwall Museum
The Royal Institution of Cornwall was formed in 1818 and moved to its present site in River Street in 1919 to the building that was originally Truro Savings Bank. The museum and art galley are well worth a visit. The museum features collections that depict Cornish history from the earliest times, the Rashleigh mineral collection, pottery, including work by Bernard Leach, and natural history exhibits. The art gallery includes paintings by the well-known Cornish artist John Opie. There are also visiting exhibitions throughout the year. It has an interesting shop and spacious caf¨¦ which is a popular meeting place.
Passmore Edwards Library
Formerly the Library and Technical School, the project was financed by local benefactor, John Passmore Edwards, who made a fortune as owner of the Echo newspaper in London. Designed by architect, Silvanus Trevail, there are three coats of arms sculptured into the façade showing the crest of Cornwall, the city of Truro and the Prince of Wales.
There has been a town here since the 12th century when Richard Lucy, Chief Justice of England in the reign of Henry II, built a castle at the top of what is now Castle Street. Remains of the castle were found during excavations for the cattle market that was held there until recent years. It is now the site of the Courts of Justice, the County Courts for Cornwall.
By the 14th century Truro was an important inland port and one of the five stannary towns in Cornwall. Copper and tin were assayed and stamped here twice a year and then shipped from the port. The Black Death arrived in the late 14th century and with death and a mass exodus the town was neglected. This was resolved by a petition to Parliament which excused residents from paying rent.
Elizabeth granted Truro a charter in the 16th century that brought self government. A Mayor could be elected. Truro at this time also controlled the port of Falmouth and was a thriving place.
The Truro mint was set up by the Royalists during the civil war in the 17th century but they eventually surrendered at Tresillian, just outside Truro, in 1642 and Prince Charles fled via Falmouth.
In both the 17th and 18th centuries Truro was quite industrialised with tin smelting, an iron foundry, pottery, a tannery and carpet and wool making. The rivers were essential to all this industry, and it would have been a busy place.
However, it was in the 18th and 19th centuries that Truro flourished. Tin prices increased and wealthy mine owners built elegant town houses. Truro was called the London of Cornwall and the Assembly Rooms on High Cross, with a theatre as well, were the centre of this high society. The Bishopric of Truro Bill, passed in 1876, brought the first Bishop, Edward White Benson, to Truro in 1877. It was he who decided that the people of Cornwall deserved their own cathedral. Queen Victoria also granted Truro city status in 1877, three years before the laying of the cathedral's foundation stones. The cathedral was built on the site of the 16th century parish church of St Mary the Virgin and uniquely retains its parish church status with the Dean of the Cathedral also Rector of the Parish.
The are many people that have been important in the history of Truro. Sir William Lemon, mining magnate and MP for the county who gave land for the building of Lemon Street, the finest example of Georgian architecture west of the city of Bath; Silvanus Trevail, the Cornish architect with a distinctive style, who designed many of the buildings that remain today; Richard Lander, who with his brother John, went on a government expedition to discover the source of the River Niger in Africa and was awarded the first gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1832, and whose statue stands at the top of Lemon Street; Humphrey Davy, born in Penzance but educated at the Old Truro Grammar School in St Mary's Street and inventor of the miners' safety lamp; Samuel Foote, actor and playwright, also a pupil in the 18th century and whose family lived in Boscawen Street.