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.
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