Truro, resting half-way along the length of Cornwall and mid-way between the
north and south coasts, began as a Celtic village. Today, it is centre of Cornwall’s administration and a town of historical interest with Georgian and Victorian
architecture. Tourists flocking to Cornwall, will schedule a visit to Truro,
with it’s modern shopping centre, enticing restaurants and designer coffee shops,
not forgetting the elegant tea shops where a real Cornish Cream Tea with home
made scones and jam, can be relished while gazing through a Georgian windowpane towards the Piazza on Lemon Quay, the centre of most festivities in Truro,
attracting visitors year-round with numerous different events like ‘Britain in Bloom’
and The Winter Festival at Christmas, and the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display.
But In the 12th century, Truro was little more than a settlement. Richard Lucy, Justice of England in the reign of Henry 11, built a castle at the far end of what is now Castle Street. Remains of the castle were found during excavations for the cattle market that was held there for many years. Now it is the site of the Courts of Justice, the County Courts for Cornwall.
By the time, the 14th century arrived, Truro was taking it’s place as an important port and one of the five stannary towns in Cornwall. Copper and tin were assayed and stamped twice a year before being shipped far and wide. But then the Black Death intervened, bringing death and fear in it’s wake and the town was abandoned as it’s residents fled to escape the plague.
It was Elizabeth 1st who, in 1589, arguably, saved Truro from total ruin by granting the town a charter allowing self government. A Mayor was elected and Truro became a thriving place, controlling the port of nearby Falmouth.
During the English Civil War, Truro became deeply involved and in 1642 raised a large force to fight for the King. A royalist mint was set up in Truro but was later moved to Exeter. In 1646, the city fell to Fairfax forcing King Charles to flee via nearby Falmouth.
This was not a good time for Truro. The same century saw the rivalry with Falmouth increase. Falmouth went on to receive the charter in 1661 and Truro fought to retain control of the harbour and river. The dispute was finally settled in 1709 when the Courts decreed the River Fal should be divided between the two places.
But a new boom was approaching and the Georgian period witnessed improved mining methods. Truro flourished as higher prices for tin increased prosperity and the town became the desired habitat for those who made their fortunes on the mining profits. Elegant terraces of townhouses were built along Walsingham Place and on Lemon Street, named for the mining magnate and local MP, Sir William Lemon – and the Assembly Rooms on High Cross once echoed to the music of costume balls and other functions.
Robert Southey, a traveller visiting Truro in 1802, found it to be ‘clean and opulent’ with superb shops in the main street. If he returned now, he would find the shopping centre even more improved! Every High Street store is represented in Truro, as well as speciality shops covering a variety of subjects from sportswear to crystals and tarot cards.
Three hundred years ago, Truro was fast becoming home to several notables, such as Dr. John Wolcott, a noted literary figure. The Reverand Richard Polwhele wrote his ‘History of Cornwall’ while living in Truro and actor and playwright Samuel Foote was born at a house on Boscawen Street in 1725. Henry Martyn, another local, became a missionary in India and translated the New Testament into both languages.
Complete interview appeared in 'Heritage' - July, 2008 and in the USA in 'Realm', August 2008.
© All Stories and Content Copyright of Bruna Zanelli - all rights Reserved. Redistribution without prior consent is punishable by law.