For centuries, Newham & The Port of Truro have had a major influence on the fortunes of the city.
From the early 13th Century onwards, tin production in Cornwall increased dramatically, with a large proportion of this being exported through the port at Newham. This helped to establish Truro as one of Cornwall’s most important towns and as a ‘stannary’ town. By the 17th Century a much wider range of goods was passing through the port and it was also handling nearly half of Cornwall’s copper exports, while also dealing with imports of timber, coal and other goods.
In the 18th Century, smelting works for tin were established at Newham and the period from 1730 to 1850 would prove to be a golden age for commerce and industry in Truro. During this period there were as many as sixty cargo ships using Newham as their home port. It was around this time that Lighterage Quay became known as Dynamite Quay: explosives from Nobel’s factory in Perranporth were loaded on to ships there – having first been transported through the centre of Truro!
From 1840, passenger boats started operating between Truro and Falmouth and in 1855 the first railway station opened in Newham. This gave a further boost to trade. Merchants could unload their goods on the banks of the river at Newham and Malpas and send them all over the country by train. For the next 100 years, the Newham Line carried cargo the three miles to the main railway line, until Newham Station was finally closed in 1965, following the Beeching Report.
It is hard to imagine now, but in the early 20th Century, the bulk of Truro’s domestic coal and gas was brought in by sea and offloaded at Newham. However, the silting up of the Truro River had been a problem throughout the history of the port and as ships got larger in size, it became very difficult for Newham & The Port of Truro to compete with deepwater coastal ports.
After the Second World War, the sea trade declined steadily and Newham became mainly associated with the new gas works, which was built in 1955. The freight line finally closed completely in 1971 and the office and industrial development at Newham began to expand to the scale that we see today.