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Rivers and Quays

Truro started where the Allen, Kenwyn and the now disappeared, ‘Glasteinan’ rivers met to make an early port.
There were probably smaller quays on both rivers before Town Quay was built where they meet in 1676. Some later quays were named for the merchants who built them, such as Lemon, Enys and Andrews (now Garras Wharf).

Newham Quay used to be linked to the main rail line and, further downstream and still working, Lighterage Quay, was built during the 1950s possibly to feed the area in the event of nuclear war.

The bottom picture on the right shows well dressed trippers leaving Town Quay in 1908.

Early Truro
Well dressed trippers

Shipping, Trade and Traders

Water transport was much more important before modern roads and railways, particularly for heavy industries such as tin mining. Both visiting and locally built trading vessels used the port.

The picture shows a ship on fire in Truro's port.

Ship on fire

Wooden sailing ships were once built on Back Quay and there were other ship-builders at Newham, Sunny Corner and Malpas.

The 82 ton schooner ‘Lizzie’ was built at Malpas in 1881. The ship operated a regular service to London before being wrecked in 1905.

Lizzie a schooner ship

As trade shifted to more reliable steamers, local traders ran the Truro shipping company between 1814 and 1876.

The picture to the right shows a shipping poster for the schooner Boscawen.

From this grew the Truro based Chellew steam navigation company that traded around the world until after the Second World War.

Tin trading through the port made Truro important, but from almost the earliest days, mining also caused Truro’s rivers to silt and there have been many attempts to clear the choking mud.

Shipping Poster

Truro port

Truro’s importance grew when it became one of Cornwall’s four Stannary Towns, where tin was checked and taxed before export. Grain, slate and woollen cloth were also exported, but it was tin and copper that made Truro’s merchants rich.

Coal came from Wales, timber from Ireland and the Baltic and, when wars allowed, fruit and wine from France and Spain.

More coal and timber was needed as mining improved, with timber being rafted up into ‘ponds’ until quite recently. Truro’s streets were among the first lit from gasworks on influential Sir William Lemon’s Quay. Until more modern works that stood briefly on Newham, coal to make gas was for years Truro’s biggest import.

The picture to the right shows a man working on the timber ponds.

Man working on the Timber Ponds

As Truro developed as a commercial and administrative centre and Falmouth grew as a port, The Port of Truro declined.

Lemon Quay was covered over to become a car park and later evolved into its present form as a Piazza as the picture to the right shows.

Spare warships were stored after WW2, and today merchant vessels are again being anchored locally as a result of current economic troubles.

The unusual sight of ocean going shipping lying close between wooded banks adds interest to the river trips and leisure boating that is now the rivers’ main traffic.

In the 1960s the ring road (Morlaix Avenue) was built, effectively disconnecting the City from its port.

The bottom picture shows a Mid-20th C view from the river, featuring coal dumps and the Cathedral in the background.

Filling in Lemon Quay

Mid 20th Century picture of the port