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Trading Places

Middle Row was the heart of retail in Truro’s past, but is now long gone.

The row of buildings ran down the middle of Boscawen Street, beginning at Market House at King Street and continuing to the Town Prison in front of the Coinage Hall. Truro Borough owned most of the properties, which housed such traders as a Saddler, a Barker (for leather tanning), a Shoemaker and a Cooper. The picture to the right shows a representation of Middle Row as created by the Combined Truro Schools Project for their art event.

Town burghers decided to demolish Middle Row,describing it as “dilapidated and ramshackle buildings”. The demolition let in more light and air and created the wider Boscawen Street we know today.

Andrew Brice describes Truro and Middle Row in 1759 “Tis a considerable town with some regular streets, well frequented market and a large market house (Middle Row) ... and tho’ the market house be a good one yet ‘tis odd that the flesh meat there should be so long dangling ... to one’s shoulders so that persons who come to buy have a difficulty to escape with the vestitures unsmeared with grease and blood. The country wenches too in the open market, stand holding their baskets of geese, poultry, butter etc. Before them, all rank and file like a company of soldiers under the arms to be reviewed.”

A representation of Middle Row

Shop 'till you drop!

Since the Middle Ages Truro has always dealt in trade but the growth of a wealthy middle class in the 18th century brought a need for something more upmarket. By the end of the 19th century shops such as Home & Colonial, The International Tea Company and The Co-operative Stores were becoming well established.

However, Mr Olds, a Truronian remembers that...

“when I was growing up in the 1930’s, Truro was unique in the number of independent family owned shops”.

The pictures opposite are of St Nicholas Street and Rowe's grocers shop.

St Nicholas Street
Rowe's Grocers shop

Are you being served?

Customers were greeted by the shop owner and personally served by an assistant rather than the self service style of today.

“I was told the customer is right, even if they are wrong ... to me the customer is the most important person that comes through the door,”

said Mr Robert Mallett who's store is pictured to the right.

Grocers would call on their customers to collect their weekly order and delivery would be made later in the week. Payment was made when the customer next visited the shop.

Mr Roberts recalled that “We, of course, lived over our shop in Boscawen Street” as did other shop owners.

Cecil Roberts recollected that 20th century Truronians were very conservative in their shopping habits, “Where the family had shopped, the children shopped, even if something was cheaper across the road.


Mallet and Sons store

Shopping Today

By the 1960’s the traditional family run business was in decline and most of the well established businesses had sold their premises to multi-nationals. A shopping lifestyle had all but disappeared.

The first Elizabethan Charter had granted Truro permission to hold a market twice a week. Long before the increase in the number of shops in Truro, people could purchase goods from the market. Today we have come full circle with the Farmer’s Market being held twice a week on Lemon Quay where individuals can sell their goods - with the personal touch early shoppers in Truro would have enjoyed.

Pictured is Victoria Square in the 1950s.

Victoria Square in the 1950s