Truro initially grew as an important centre of trade from its port, and then as a stannary town for the mining industry. The city is well-known for its cathedral (completed in 1910), cobbled streets, open spaces and Georgian architecture, and places of interest include the Royal Cornwall Museum, the Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall's Courts of Justice and Cornwall County Council.
By the start of the 14th century Truro was an important port, thanks firstly to its inland location away from invaders and its prosperity from the fishing industry, but also to its new role as one of Cornwall's stannary towns for the official assaying and stamping of locally-produced tin and copper in Cornish mines. However, the Black Death soon arrived and with it, a trade recession, resulting in a mass exodus of the population and, as such the town was left in a very neglected state.
Trade returned to Truro with help from the government and the town was very prosperous during the Tudor period. Self-governance was awarded in 1589 by the granting of a new charter by Elizabeth I, which gave Truro an elected mayor and control over the port of Falmouth.
During the Civil War in the 17th century, Truro raised a sizable force to fight for the King and a royalist mint was set up in the town. However, defeat to the Parliamentary troops came in 1646 and the mint was moved to Exeter. Further disheartenment came later in the century when Falmouth was awarded its own charter giving it rights to its harbour, starting a long rivalry between the two towns. The dispute was eventually settled in 1709 with control of the River Fal being divided between Truro and Falmouth.
Truro prospered greatly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Industry flourished thanks to improved mining methods and higher prices for tin, and the town soon became the place to be for wealthy mine owners. Elegant Georgian and Victorian townhouses were built—such as those seen today on Lemon Street, named after the mining magnate and local MP Sir William Lemon—and Truro became the centre for high society in the county, being mentioned as "the London of Cornwall".
Throughout these prosperous times Truro remained a social centre and many notable people hailed from it. One of the most noteworthy residents was Richard Lander, an explorer who discovered the source of the River Niger in Africa and was awarded the first gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. Others include Humphry Davy, educated in Truro and inventor of the miner's safety lamp, and Samuel Foote, an actor and playwright from Boscawen Street.
Truro's importance increased later in the 19th century and it had its own iron smelting works, potteries, and tanneries. The Great Western Railway arrived in Truro in the 1860s with a direct line from London Paddington, and the Bishopric of Truro bill was passed in 1876 which gave the town a bishop, then a cathedral. The next year Queen Victoria granted Truro city status.
The start of the 20th century saw the decline of the mining industry, however the city remained prosperous as its previous role as a market town shifted to being the administrative and commercial centre of Cornwall, and saw substantial development. Today, Truro continues its role as the retail centre of Cornwall but, like many other cities, faces concerns over the disappearance of many of its renowned speciality shops for national chain stores, the eroding of its identity, and also over how to accommodate future expected growth in the 21st century.
Truro is located in the centre of Cornwall approximately 9 miles (14 km) from the south coast on the confluence of the rivers Kenwyn and Allen, which both combine to become the River Truro, one of a series of creeks, rivers and drowned valleys leading into the River Fal and then onto the large natural harbour of Carrick Roads. The river valleys form a bowl surrounding the city on the north, east and west and open to the Truro River in the south. The fairly steep-sided bowl in which Truro is located, along with high precipitation swelling the rivers and a spring tide in the River Fal, were major factors in the cause of floods seen in 1988 which caused large amounts of damage to the city centre. Since then, flood defences have been constructed around the city, including an emergency dam at New Mill on the River Kenwyn and a tidal barrier on the Truro River, to prevent future problems.
The city is surrounded by a number of protected natural areas such as the historic parklands at Pencalenick, and larger areas of ornamental landscape, such as Trelissick Garden and Tregothnan further down the Truro River. An area south-east of the city, around and including Calenick Creek, has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Other protected areas include an Area of Great Landscape Value comprising agricultural land and wooded valleys to the north east, and Daubuz Moors, a Local Nature Reserve located alongside the River Allen close to the city centre.
Truro has mainly grown and developed around the historic city centre in a nucleated fashion along the slopes of the bowl valley, with an exception being fast linear development along the A390 to the west, towards Threemilestone. As Truro has grown, it—like any other city—has incorporated a number of settlements, turning them into suburbs or unofficial districts. These include Kenwyn and Moresk to the north, Trelander to the east, Newham to the south, and Highertown, Treliske and Gloweth to the west as a result of the far stretching development in that area.
The main attraction for local residents in the region is the wide variety of shops. Truro has a vast selection of chain stores, speciality shops and markets, which reflect its historic tradition as a market town. The indoor Pannier Market is open year-round with many stalls and small businesses. The city is also popular for its eateries, including cafés and bistros. Additionally, it has emerged as a popular destination for nightlife with many bars, clubs and restaurants opening. Truro is also known for the Hall for Cornwall, a performing arts and entertainment venue.
The Royal Cornwall Museum is the oldest and premier museum in Cornwall for exhibitions detailing Cornish history and culture, with a wide range of collections such as archaeology, art and geology. Truro is also noted for its parks and open spaces, including Victoria Gardens, Boscawen Park and Daubuz Moors.
The piazza at Lemon Quay is the centre of most festivities in Truro, which attracts visitors year-round with numerous different events.
In April, Truro prepares to partake in the Britain in Bloom competition, with many floral displays and hanging baskets dotted around the city throughout the summer. A "continental market" also comes to Truro during the season and features food and craft stalls from all over Europe including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece.
Cornwall's first Gay Pride event took place in Truro in August 2008, and the Truro City Carnival takes place every September over a weekend, including various arts and music performances, children's activities, a fireworks display, food and drinks fairs, a circus, and a parade. A half-marathon also takes place in September, with hundreds of participants running from the city centre into the countryside towards Shortlanesend, and returning to finish at Lemon Quay.
Truro celebrates the Christmas season with its Winter Festival, which includes a paper lantern parade known as the City of Lights Procession, Christmas lights throughout the city centre as well a "big switch-on" event, speciality products and crafts fairs, late-night shopping evenings, various events at the Cathedral and a fireworks display on New Year's Eve. A Christmas tree is put up on the Piazza, and another outside the Cathedral at High Cross. One notable Christmas celebration was the Winter Festival of 2006, which, after a badly executed fundraising operation left the city with underwhelming decorations the year before, featured extensive festivities and decoration including an artificial ski slope constructed on Lemon Quay, resulting in a much more successful festival.
Truro's popularity within Cornwall as the number one destination for retail and leisure, and its role as the administrative centre of the county, is unusual compared to other cities in the country given that it is the fourth most populous settlement in Cornwall. Furthermore, population growth has been slow compared to other Cornish towns and Cornwall as a whole, at 10.5% during the 1971–1998 period.
There are approximately 22,000 jobs available in Truro; major employers in the city include the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Cornwall County Council, Carrick District Council and Truro College. The large number of jobs is a stark difference to the number of economically active people living in the city, at 9,500. This results in a large amount of commuting which is a major factor in the traffic congestion problems that Truro suffers from. Earnings on average are higher than the rest of Cornwall.
Housing prices in Truro are at an all-time high, also being 8% more expensive than the rest of Cornwall. Truro was named in 2006 as the top small city in the United Kingdom for increasing house prices, at 262% since 1996. There is a large demand for new housing in the city, and a call for inner city properties to be converted into flats or houses to encourage city centre living and to alleviate the dependence on cars.
Truro City Council, a parish council, is situated within City Hall, and is responsible for parks, gardens and planting, mayoral and civic events, support of its overseas twinning, tourist information, and the liaising with Carrick District Council and Cornwall County Council over planning, infrastructure, development and environmental issues, over which the district and county councils administer. The city is divided into four wards - Boscawen, Moresk, Tregolls and Trehaverne, with 24 councillors elected for four-year terms. The current mayor is Sue Callen.
Truro railway station is a short walk from the city centre and is part of the Cornish Main Line, giving the city a direct connection to London Paddington. North-east of the station is a 28 metre (92 ft) high stone viaduct offering expansive views over the city, cathedral, and Truro River in the distance. The viaduct—the longest on the line—replaced Isambard Kingdom Brunel's wooden Carvedras Viaduct in 1904. Connecting to the main line at Truro station is the Maritime Line, a branch line which travels south and terminates at Falmouth.
Truro's first railway station was at Highertown, which was opened in 1852 by the West Cornwall Railway and from where trains ran to Redruth and Penzance. The line was extended to the Truro River at Newham in 1855. When the Cornwall Railway connected the line to Plymouth, their trains ran to a new station above the city centre. The West Cornwall Railway then diverted most of its passenger trains to the new station, leaving Newham mainly as a goods station until it closed in 1971. The route from Highertown to Newham is now a cycle path which takes a leisurely loop through the countryside on the south side of the city. Truro is also known as the namesake of the famous steam locomotive, the City of Truro.
The city and surrounding area is served by extensive bus services offering routes in and out of the city in all directions, starting and terminating at the main bus depot near Lemon Quay. The headquarters of the mid-Cornwall bus operator Truronian are also located there, as are the starting points for many of the First Group services covering a wider area. A permanent Park and Ride scheme began operation in August 2008. Based at Langarth Park in Threemilestone, buses carry commuters into the city centre via Truro College, the Royal Cornwall Hospital, County Hall and Truro railway station. Coach services including Truronian and National Express also operate from Truro, providing transport to and from larger cities up-country.
Newquay Airport is Cornwall's main airport and is located 12 miles (19 km) north of Truro. One of the fastest-growing regional airports in the UK, the services and destinations are constantly expanding. The airport offers regular flights to and from London Gatwick, London Stansted and other cities around the country, the Isles of Scilly and Dusseldorf in Germany, winter services to Geneva in Switzerland and Chambéry in France and summer services to Alicante and Girona in Spain, Zurich in Switzerland and Saint-Brieuc in France.
Also available is a boat link to Falmouth along the Rivers Truro and Fal, four times daily, tide permitting. The small fleet run by Enterprise Boats and part of the Fal River Links also stops at Malpas, Trelissick, Tolverne and St Mawes.
Major proposals include the construction of a distributor road to carry traffic away from the very busy Threemilestone-Treliske-Highertown corridor, reconnecting at either Green Lane or Morlaix Avenue. This road will also serve the new housing planned for that area.
Major changes are also proposed for the city centre, such as pedestrianisation of the main shopping streets and beautification of a list of uncharacteristic storefronts built in the 1960s. Also, new retail developments on the current Carrick District Council site and Garras Wharf waterfront site will provide more space for shops, open spaces and public amenities and also turn rather ugly areas of the city into attractive new destinations. Along with the redevelopment of the waterfront, a tidal barrier is planned to dam water into the Truro River which is currently blighted by unsightly mud banks which appear at low tide.
Controversial developments include the construction of a new stadium for Truro City F.C. and the Cornish Pirates, and the relocation of the city's golf course to make way for more housing. A smaller project is the addition of two large sculptures in the Piazza..