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Truro as Cornish Capital

A.L. Rowse describes how the centre of administrative life in Cornwall has enjoyed a varied history, from Plantagenet to modern times.

In the century since Truro was constituted a city, with a cathedral and a Bishop ruling an independent Cornish diocese, it has asserted itself as a genuine county capital. Mediaeval Cornwall had its assize town on the border at Launceston, subsequently moved to Bodmin; but when the diocese was set up in 1877, followed by the County Council in the next decade, Truro was chosen as the centre. This westward shift followed the balance of population, tilting to the west with the development of tin-mining.

The founding of the diocese and the building of a cathedral, first in the country since the Reformation - being celebrated in July with a concourse of events and people, including a visit from the Queen -released an astonishing stream of Cornish patriotism, a renewal and reinforcement of Church life when it looked as if Methodism had taken over the county. The full story of the achievement has been told remarkably well by Canon Miles Brown, in a book as full of information and research as it is human and lively.1

The building of the diocese and of the cathedral coincided with the appalling decline of tin-mining and the fisheries.

‘The population of St Agnes, for example, reached a peak of 7,757 in 1841; but in 1881 it had fallen to 4,627.

A report made in 1896 commented: “In the last 40 years hundreds of cottages have gone down in rural parts - our miners go abroad”.’

Yet all this while the building of a splendid Victorian church went on, until completed in 1910, in a small impecunious county - while rich Liverpool had scarcely begun.

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