10 October 2019
A few days in Truro,
cathedral city and
capital of Cornwall
I am staying in Truro in Cornwall for a few days, visiting family and friends. Bodmin is still nominally the county town, but Truro is the only city in Cornwall, although its population is only about 20,000.
Truro is in the centre of west Cornwall, about 14 km from the south coast at the confluence of the rivers Kenwyn and Allen, which join to become the Truro River, which leads into the River Fal.
I arrived at Newquay Airport, 19 km north of Truro, and I am staying near Truro railway station, about 1 km from the city centre. Nearby, the 28-metre-high stone viaduct replaced a wooden viaduct built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Truro has been Cornwall’s administrative centre since the main courts were moved here from Bodmin. As the southerly city in mainland Britain, Truro grew as a centre of trade from its port and prospered with the tin mining industry.
Truro Cathedral, with its 250 ft high towers, its green spire and Gothic appearance, is the city’s most striking feature. It was completed in 1910, the first cathedral built in England since Saint Paul’s Cathedral was built in London. The widespread tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols originated in Truro Cathedral with Bishop Edward White Benson.
Truro began as a market town and port over 800 years, and went through a boom in the tin mining era. It was once a busy port at the head of a navigable stretch of the River Fal, and was more sheltered than Falmouth downriver. Today, much of the wharfside is offices and apartments.
Richard de Luci or Lucy Chief Justice of England in the reign of Henry II, built a castle at Truro in the 12th century by and the town grew in the shadow of the castle. The castle later passed to Reginald FitzRoy or Reginald de Dunstanville, an illegitimate son of Henry I, who became Earl of Cornwall. Nothing remains of the castle, apart from a street name and a hill, and Truro Crown Court now stands on the site.
Most of the town centre dates from Truro’s Georgian, Regency and Victorian heyday. Fine examples of 18th century architecture include the Mansion House and Prince’s House in Prince’s Street.
Walsingham Place and Lemon Street are said to be the finest examples of Georgian architecture west of Bath. Lemon Street, named after a local mining magnate and MP, Sir William Lemon, climbs up from the city centre to the Lander Memorial, erected in 1835 to commemorate the Lander brothers who discovered the source of the Niger.
I also strolled through the indoor market on Lemon Quay and by the small shops in the narrow streets. Truro’s other noticeable buildings include the Royal Cornwall Museum in River Street, and the Hall for Cornwall, a performing arts and entertainment venue surrounded by cafés and shops in a recently renovated area.
Two local newspapers, the Cornish Guardian and the West Briton, are based in Truro. The name of the West Briton may come as a surprise to Irish visitors, but I imagine its political implications are lost on people in this south-west corner of England.