Truro is located in south Cornwall, within Carrick District Council local authority area. It lies approximately 14km north of Cornwall’s south coast at the head of the tidal Truro River, one arm of a complex of drowned valleys, rivers and creeks draining into the estuary of the River Fal and thence to the large natural harbour of Carrick Roads.
It is Cornwall’s only city, having become the seat of the new Anglican diocese of Truro in 1877; its cathedral, when completed in 1910, was the first to be built in Britain since the Reformation. The city is the modern administrative focus of Cornwall and de facto county town, the headquarters of Cornwall County Council and Carrick District Council and the location of the Royal Cornwall Hospital and county court. The ongoing development of the Peninsular Medical School at Treliske will strengthen Truro’s role as the sub-regional centre for healthcare and health education. Two important regional cultural facilities, the Hall for Cornwall and Royal Cornwall Museum, are also situated in the city.
Truro is a major employment centre with a strong emphasis on the public sector; the largest employers are the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Cornwall County Council, Carrick District Council and Truro College. It is important as a commercial, retail and leisure centre for much of west and mid Cornwall and as a sub-regional focus for secondary and further education. In addition to its regional and sub-regional roles, Truro is also a local market town serving a distinct rural hinterland. This role has been augmented by the arrival of financial and investment institutions and ‘high street multiples’, which impact significantly on the local economy.
The city is an important transport node, with a station serving the mainline railway through Cornwall and a branch to Falmouth; rail services connect Truro to several key towns in Cornwall – Penzance, Camborne, Redruth, St Austell and Liskeard – and the regional centres of Plymouth, Exeter and Bristol, as well as providing long distance links to London and the national rail network. Truro is served by long-distance coach services and is a focus for bus routes covering most urban centres and rural areas in mid and west Cornwall. The city has direct links to the A30 spinal trunk road through Cornwall and lies on locally important routes south to the Falmouth – Penryn area and east towards St Austell. The city has significant traffic congestion problems, exacerbated at times during the main holiday season by its additional role as a bad weather destination for visitors. A ferry link, essentially for leisure, operates on the river between the city and Falmouth. Truro maintains a small working port downstream from the city at Lighterage Quay.
Truro has developed around the confluence of two minor rivers, the Kenwyn and the Allen, both of which rise on Cornwall’s central ‘spine’ to the north; a small stream descends the valley side from the east to join the Allen close to the point at which the rivers merge. These watercourses combine to form the Truro River which flows south as one of a number of tidal creeks making up the Fal estuary. The historic core of Truro is located at the lowest crossing points on the Kenwyn and Allen and at the highest tidal extent on the Truro River, also historically the highest navigable point for vessels of any size.
The river valleys form a moderately steep sided bowl surrounding the city on the north, east and west, opening to the drowned valley of the Truro River to the south. The bowl is itself divided by a ridge forming the interfluve between the Kenwyn and Allen and the historic area of the city extends over this ridge and across each of the rivers to the adjoining valley sides to east and west. The underlying solid geology is of slates and sandstones of the Falmouth and Portscatho Series, overlain by clays and with alluvial deposits along the lower parts of the river valleys.
Most of the area around Truro has been identified as Anciently Enclosed Land, a landscape of enclosed fields and dispersed farm settlements with its origins in the medieval period and earlier. There are some localised areas in which the Anciently Enclosed Land has been altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, predominantly by the removal or straightening of boundaries. An area of historic parkland (Pencalenick) lies to the east. Much larger areas of ornamental landscape lie to the south of the city on the Truro River around the major country houses at Tregothnan and Trelissick.