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Royal Cornwall Museum

royal cornwall museum outside

Uncovering Cornish History and Culture at Royal Cornwall Museum

Nestled amongst the Cathedral grounds in Cornwall’s capital Truro lies the Royal Cornwall Museum shedding light on this distinctive peninsula’s heritage and culture. From local legends through maritime exploits to mining innovations, the Museum houses an impressive hoard of over 250,000 artefacts spanning Cornwall’s eventful past.

Our guide describes how families can discover Cornish history and traditions through interactive displays, hands-on workshops and activities across the museum’s eclectic collection of galleries and gardens.

royal cornwall museum egypt

Getting to the Royal Cornwall Museum

Based centrally in Truro town on River Street, the museum sits in a grand Georgian building just behind Truro Cathedral accessible via the main Cathedral car park. Use postcode TR1 2SJ for navigation.

By Car – Found just off the main A39 Truro sits ringed by pay & display car parks. The Cathedral long stay on St Mary’s Street works well.

By Train/Bus – Truro Railway Station and central bus stops lie only 0.3 miles from the museum, downhill towards the city centre.

Royal Cornwall Museum Opening Times and Tickets

Open year-round except Christmas/New Year:

April – September Monday – Saturday 10am – 4.45pm

October – March Monday – Saturday 10am – 4.00pm

Admission Charges: Adults: £7.50 | Under 18s: Free | Senior/Student: £4.50

Top Things To See and Do at the Royal Cornall Museum

From lively summer events to kids trails, the Royal Cornwall contains something for every age and interest to ignite that Cornish spark.

Get Hands-On with Cornish Culture – Kids can Handle genuine artefacts in the aptly named Touch Base Gallery from brass platters to Celtic torques allowing a tangible connection with Cornwall’s communities stretching back over 4000 years. Nearby displays cover local legends like the Mermaid of Zennor through to Cornwall’s global links with far-flung tin trading routes.

Learn Cornwall’s Mining History – The noisy, atmospheric Jolly Giant Engine House housing one of the last working ‘beam’ engines in Cornuwall provides a real highlight. This hulking steam-powered machine once pumped vital water from Wheal Vor mine 440 feet underground helping extract copper and arsenic during Cornwall’s 19th century mining boom. Display boards and scale models detail how these engineering wonders supported entire local economies while state-of-the-art projections overlaying treacherous underground tunnels bring usually hidden aspects shockingly alive.

Discover Local Wildlife – Kids enchanted by Cornwall’s diverse marine life can get better acquainted by pressing buttons to illuminate tanks of underwater critters like rainbow wrasse fish, sea urchins and camouflaged cuttlefish at the museum’s Seashore Gallery. Microscope stations allow closer inspection of teeny mollusc shells and seaweeds found along Cornish beaches too.

royal cornwall museum inside

Learn Traditional Cornish Skills

The museum frequently runs special craft workshops allowing families to pick up traditional skills from hedge-laying and kiln-firing pottery to Celtic artwork and natural dye-making. Budding chefs will love donning aprons to conjure their own Cornish pasties filling them with local goodies like sweet onion and melted cheddar.

truro museum

The History of the Museum

The Royal Cornwall Museum’s story begins in 1818, born from the passion of the Royal Institution of Cornwall to celebrate the region’s rich heritage. Initially housed in a library, the museum’s collections quickly grew, encompassing geology, archaeology, and natural history. By 1845, a purpose-built space was needed, and the museum found its current home in a grand neoclassical building overlooking Truro Cathedral.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the museum continued to expand, with notable acquisitions like the Artognou stone from Tintagel Castle and the mummy of Iset-tayef-nakht, a temple priest from ancient Egypt. It faced challenges during World War II, serving as an air raid shelter, but emerged stronger, dedicated to preserving and sharing Cornwall’s unique history and culture.

royal cornwall museum interior

Exhibitions and Events at the Royal Cornwall Museum

The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro has been a vibrant hub of cultural exploration for over 200 years. Its walls resonate with stories of Cornish history, art, and the natural world, brought to life through captivating exhibitions and engaging events. Here are some examples of the recent highlights that have kept the museum buzzing with activity

  • Museum Late: Cornish Storytelling: This immersive evening transported listeners to the enchanting realm of Cornish folklore, with captivating tales shared by skilled storytellers.
  • Light Night Shopping: The museum extended its opening hours, transforming its galleries into a festive shopping destination. Visitors could browse locally crafted gifts and artisanal delights,all bathed in the warm glow of Christmas lights.
  • Wassailing: This ancient tradition of blessing apple trees for a bountiful harvest was revived in the museum’s courtyard, echoing with lively music, cider toasts, and good cheer.
  • Finding Father Christmas at the Museum: Christmas at the Royal Cornwall Museum isn’t just about admiring festive decorations. Families were treated to a delightful interactive experience with “Finding Father Christmas.” This charming theatrical adventure whisked participants on a quest through the museum’s galleries, following clues and solving riddles to uncover the whereabouts of Santa Claus. Laughter, wonder, and a touch of Christmas magic filled the air as children and adults alike embraced the playful spirit of the season.
  • Truro Open: Spirit of Cornwall: This landmark exhibition celebrates the creative spirit of Cornwall through the eyes of local artists. Showcasing a diverse range of mediums, from painting and sculpture to photography and textiles, “Truro Open” captures the essence of Cornwall’s wild coastlines, ancient myths, and resilient communities. Visitors can immerse themselves in a kaleidoscope of artistic interpretations, each offering a unique perspective on the Cornish soul.
outside of royal cornwall museum

A Museum Evolving: Transformation and Future Endeavors

The Royal Cornwall Museum is not resting on its laurels. It’s currently undergoing an exciting transformation project, aiming to create a more accessible and engaging space for everyone. The renovations promise to enhance the visitor experience, with improved galleries, interactive displays, and community-focused spaces. This commitment to growth and innovation ensures that the museum will continue to be a cornerstone of Cornish culture for generations to come.

Gardens near the Royal Cornwall Museum

The Museum doesn’t currently have any dedicated gardens within its premises. However, it’s nestled beside the charming Victoria Gardens, offering a delightful green space to explore before or after your museum visit.

Victoria Gardens is a Victorian gem, adorned with colorful flowerbeds, manicured lawns, and mature trees casting dappled shade. A central bandstand hosts musical events in the summer months, while pathways weave through the greenery, inviting leisurely strolls or picnics on sunny days. The gardens also boast a charming cafe, perfect for a refreshing drink or a light bite after soaking in the museum’s treasures.

While not directly part of the museum, Victoria Gardens seamlessly blends with the historical ambiance of the Royal Cornwall Museum, offering a tranquil escape and a touch of natural beauty to your cultural exploration.

The Vine and Fig Tree Tearoom set overlooking the gardens serves hot snacks, cakes and speciality leaf teas – perfect for resting little legs after hours indoors.

victoria gardens in truro

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Royal Cornwall Museum wheelchair accessible? – Yes, the museum has gone to great efforts to make sure that all parts are accessible.

Are dogs allowed in the museum? – They are allowed on leads in the ground floor section, but are not allowed upstairs

Does the Museum have it’s own car park? – No, there is not a dedicated museum car park, but there are plenty of carp parks in Truro, including the cathedral car park nearby.

Nearby Family Attractions

Combine discovering Cornwall’s heritage at the Royal Cornwall Museum with:

  • Truro Cathedral – The centerpiece of any visit to Truro, this impressive Gothic-style cathedral has awe-inspiring architecture and many decorative details to discover. Go on a guided tour to learn more.
  • Hall for Cornwall – This contemporary performance venue on Truro’s waterfront hosts major theatre productions, music concerts, comedy acts and dance performances throughout the year.
  • Trelissick House & Garden – Just 10 minutes drive from Truro lies this scenic National Trust property with a Georgian mansion, woodland walks, an orchard and views across the Fal Estuary.
  • Fal River – Take a boat trip along the Fal River from Truro to the historic fishing village of Falmouth, spotting sights like Trelissick Gardens, St Mawes Castle and River Fal Consols Mine.
  • Newquay Zoo – Get close to endangered animals like lemurs, meerkats and sloths at this zoo around half an hour’s drive from Truro in Newquay.
  • Eden Project – Just over half an hour away, this iconic eco attraction consists of huge tropical biomes housing plant species from around the world.
  • Truro Treasure Hunts – Discover Truro’s streets and stories on an interactive self-guided treasure hunt around the city as you follow clues and solve puzzles.
  • St Agnes – Visit this picturesque Cornish village with original miners’ cottages dotted above the stunning north Cornish coastline about 25 minutes drive away, with attractions like the miners’ museum.

From underwater life to age-old traditions, the Royal Cornwall Museum offers families interactive gateways into the spirit and substance of this special southwestern corner of Britain.

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