History of Truro

Share with others:

The Name

There are several theories about the meaning of the name Truro. One being “Tri” meaning three and “Ru” meaning roads, referencing to the three main roads entering Truro from the north, east and west. Although it is also said that the name came from Tri – veru meaning three rivers, which you can see in places around the city.

A brief overview

The town grew from an Iron age settlement.  A castle was built on the pre historic site and the port of Truro was registered as being capable of accepting foreign commerce thus the town became well established. 

Truro became a coinage town in 1327 and by order of the King twice yearly locally mined tin was brought to be assayed.  The port thrived over the years with Truro having control of the waterway right down to the sea at Falmouth. 

The hey day of the town was in the 18th & 19th centuries when wealthy mine owners & merchants built grand townhouses as well as owning country retreats. Truro offered great entertainment with balls & plays at the Assembly Rooms at High Cross, educational lectures as well as exhibitions at the Royal Cornwall Institute. 

In 1876 the Diocese of Truro was founded and the architect John Loughborough Pearson was chosen to create a cathedral in the centre of a busy town. The foundation stone was laid in 1880 & after 30 years the building was completed with the three spires Victoria, Edward & Alexandra. 

Why does it feel like Bath?

It is often said that Truro feels a bit like the city of Bath.  In 1759 the Mansion House on Princes Street was started & the facade is covered in Bath stone which was a wedding present to Thomas Daniel & his wife Elizabeth from her uncle, Ralph Allen who owned quarries in Bath.  He was either a very kind uncle or a shrewd business man as in 1798 the first property in Lemon Street was built using Bath stone. Lemon street was completed in 1831 & is a fine example of Georgian Architecture using Bath stone. 

21st Century Truro

Up until the 1920’s ships could come right up the river & discharge their cargo on to Back Quay which is now the main entrance of the Hall for Cornwall. The Quay was covered over in the early 1920’s.  Many regretted the loss of the river into the heart of Truro but silting had occurred & it meant larger ships could no longer navigate so far upstream when the tide was low. 

Today the space is used for the regular Truro Farmers market and other outdoor events & festivities. 

The Drummer

The Drummer sculpture on Lemon Quay is representative of Truro’s history and identity. The 15ft sculpture, created by artist and sculptor Tim Shaw, represents Cornish identity, symbolising a place where ‘the drum beats differently’. The cast contains both Cornish tin and copper; the emblem upon the drum refers to Truro’s past as a stannary town, where tin was weighed, stamped and sold; and the decision to use the ball on which the figure balances was inspired by Lemon Quay’s circular paving design, which refers to the tidal river beneath it.

Truro & the Effects of War

Truronians suffered the effects of many wars. Loyalties were divided during the English Civil Wars (1642–1648) some being on the side of parliament while others melted their silver to help pay for the King’s armies.A popular and famous Naval son was Admiral Edward ‘Old Dreadnought’ Boscawen. His nickname was’ Old Dreadnought’ known as a man of outstanding courage, he had a distinguished career during the Seven Year War.  

Truro in World War 2 & The American Connection

The Second World War saw many children evacuated to Truro. Also aircraft parts were made & repaired in the HTP workshops on Lemon Quay (now the Pannier Market).

Many American troops were based in Truro & the area, training for the D-Day invasion. They enjoyed films, shows & dances in the old Regent Cinema and generally it was felt they the Americans were kind & generous and regarded by locals as a “good thing”.  The US Army put on a New Year show & distributed treats to the children of Truro. Interestingly Mannings Hotel, formerly the Royal Hotel, was billeted by the Americans during the war. 

Truro’s Heroes

Useful information

Guided Walks

Journey through Truro town, with a focus on the history and characters of Cornwall’s capital. Join poet and historian Bert Biscoe for a choice of two walking tours.