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Plymouth, Devon

PLYMOUTH, DEVON, a municipal county (1888, extended 1896) and parliamentary borough and seaport of Devonshire, England, 231 m. W.S.W. of London. Pop. (1910), 126,266. It lies at the head of Plymouth Sound, stretching westward from the river Plym towards the mouth of the Tamar, from which it is separated by the township of East Stonehouse and the borough of Devonport, the two later constituting with it the " Three Towns." The prince of Wales is lord high steward of the borough, which is divided into 14 wards, under a mayor, 14 aldermen and 42 councillors. The parliamentary borough, returning two members, is not coextensive with the municipal borough, part of the latter being in the Tavistock (county) division of Devon. The water frontage of the Three Towns consists of Plymouth Sound, with its inlets, in order from east to west, the Catwater, Sutton Pool, Mill Bay, Stonehouse Pool and the Hamoaze. The Catwater and Hamoaze are flanked on the east and west respectively by high ground, on which are built forts that command the harbour and its approaches. On the western side of the entrance to Catwater is the Citadel, founded in the reign of Henry VIII. and rebuilt by Charles II. The adjacent Hoe extends along the northern edge of the Sound, and from it can be obtained a splendid view, embracing the rugged Staddon Heights on the east and the wooded slopes of Mount Edgcumbe on the west. To the north is seen the town of Plymouth rising up to the hills known as Mannamead. On the site of an old Trinity House obelisk landmark is Smeaton's lighthouse tower, removed from its original position on the Eddystone Reef in 1884. It is now used as a wind-recording station in connexion with the adjoining Meteorological Observatory. On the Hoe there stands the striking Drake statue by Sir Edgar Boehm, and the Armada Memorial, while at the north-east end is an obelisk monument to the memory of troops engaged in the South African War. A municipal bowling-green recalls a probable early use of the Hoe. Adjacent to the Citadel, at its south-west angle, is the Marine Biological Station, and, further west, projects the Promenade Pier. In the Sound is Drake's (formerly St Nicholas's) Island, now strongly fortified, at one time the property of the corporation, and serving in Stuart times as a place of imprisonment of certain Plymouth Baptist ministers. Few evidences, however, of the antiquity of the town remain. Below, and to the north-east of the Citadel, is the Barbican with its " Mayflower " commemoration stone, a large fish-buying trade being done on the adjacent quay, near which is the Custom House. From the Barbican winding streets lead past the old Guildhall (1800) which contained the municipal library, pending its removal to more commodious quarters in the new museum, opposite the technical and art schools, situated in the most northern part of the town. At a short distance west stands the new Guildhall, with the enlarged post office, central police station, law courts and municipal buildings in close proximity. Opened in 1874, the Guildhall is built in a bold, rather exotic, Early Pointed French style. The tower at the south-west end is 190 ft. high, and the building is ornamented with a series of coloured windows relating to events in the history of Plymouth or commemorating men and families connected with the town. The large hall contains a fine organ. In the mayor's parlour is a contemporary portrait of Sir Francis Drake and some interesting prints of the town of Plymouth.

Near the eastern entrance to Guildhall Square is St Andrews, the mother church of Plymouth, erected on the site of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. The church is typical of the Devonshire Perpendicular style of 1480-1520, but, though large, presents few features of artistic or archaeological interest. It underwent complete restoration in 1874. The burying-ground on the north side has been levelled, and on it erected a stone monument. The church, furnished with one of the finest organs in the west of England, contains the tombs of a son of Admiral Vernon, of Sir John Skelton (a former governor of the Citadel), and of Charles Mathews the comedian, as well as portions of the bodies of Frobisher and Drake. Here Katherine of Aragon returned thanks for a safe voyage from Spain to Plymouth. In 1640 a second parish was formed with Charles Church (1658) at its head, the last-named being popularly known as New Church, in contradistinction to St Andrews or " Old Church." The New Church is an interesting specimen of Stuart " debased " Gothic architecture. South of Andrews church is the site of a Franciscan Friary with some early 15 th century remains. Near the church are a few old houses scattered along the crooked little streets going down to the water. These houses date from Elizabethan times, but are not of any unusual interest. The Citadel (now used as army headquarters and barracks) is a fine specimen of 17th-century military architecture. It is an irregular bastioned pentagon in trace. It possesses a fine florid classical gateway. In the centre stands a dignified Jacobean house, once the residence of the governor of Plymouth.

Plymouth is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric founded in 1851, the cathedral, in Wyndham Street, being completed in 1858 through the efforts of Bishop Vaughan, who was the second occupant of the see (until 1902). The building is in the Early English style, and adjoining are the bishop's house and the convent of Notre Dame. In the immediate vicinity is the only Presbyterian church in the Three Towns. Noteworthy among the many Nonconformist places of worship are the Baptist chapel (George Street), with its tablet recording the imprisonment of ministers on Drake's Island; Sherwell (Congregational) on the Tavistock Road, the most ornate in its style of architecture; the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in the main thoroughfare of the residential suburb of Mutley, unique among Methodist edifices in the town in respect of its fine spire. All the principal religious bodies have places for worship or for assembly in the town, and the borough has given, in popular speech, the name of " Plymouth Brethren " to one body.

In addition to the Plymouth College (for boys), there are several educational institutions administered by the borough council, comprising a science, art and technical school, a mixed secondary school replacing the corporation grammar school of Elizabethan foundation, and intermediate day and evening school and numerous primary departments. The philanthropic institutions include the enlarged South Devon and East Cornwall hospital, eye infirmary, homoeopathic hospital, blind institution and female orphan asylum.

The public recreation grounds, other than the Hoe, are few and small; Hartley Reservoir Grounds at the northern extremity of the town commands extensive moorland views; the Freedom Park, by its plain, unfinished monument, recalls the siege of Plymouth by the Royalists in 1646, and the Beaumont Park contains the temporary home of the nucleus for a museum and art gallery. The Victoria Park, reclaimed from a part of Stonehouse Creek, is under the joint administration of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport.

The township of East Stonehouse, having Plymouth on the east, is separated from Devonport on the west by the Stonehouse Pool Creek, which is crossed by a toll-bridge and thoroughfare known locally as the " Half-penny Gate Bridge." A manor of the Mount Edgcumbe family, East Stonehouse, is an urban district, in the administrative county of Devon, with a council of 15 members, but is united for parliamentary purposes with Devonport, with which it returns two members. Within the boundaries of Stonehouse are the Royal Naval Hospital (1762), the Royal Marine Barracks (1795) in Durnford Street, and the Royal William Victualling Yard (1825), the last-named having frontage on the Hamoaze, which separates the Devon from the Cornish portion of the Stonehouse manor.

The Stanehus(e) of Domesday Book ultimately passed into the hands of the Valletorts, whose hamlet of West Stonehouse stood on the Cornish side of the Tamar, for (to quote Carew's Survey) " certaine old ruines yet remaining confirm the neighbours' report that near the water's side, there stood once a towne called West stone house until the ?rench (1350?) by fire and sword overthrew it."

St George's (1798) is the oldest of " the three parishes of Stonehouse, and on the site of the present church stood the chapel of St George, in which, during the years 1681-1682, worshipped, in addition to the English congregation, one composed, as at Plymouth, of Huguenots who fled from France at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Facing the Sound are Stone Hall and the Winter Villa. The former, occupied by the lords of the manor before the building of Mount Edgcumbe House, was originally a castellated building, and the latter was built primarily as an alternative residence for a countess of Mount Edgcumbe. A link with the past is the Mill Bridge Causeway, over what was the " Dead Lake," now a road, which, at the head of Stonehouse Creek, is the second approach to the Stoke Damerel portion of Devonport. Built in 1525, it possesses a toll-gate house at which payment from vehicles is still demanded.

In addition to the Victualling Yard, with its naval ordnance department, repairing shops and armoury, the Barracks, accommodating some 1500 men, and the Naval Hospital of 24 acres, abutting on the Creek, there are within the boundaries a theatre seating over 2000 persons, the Devonport Corporation Electricity Works, a clothing factory and part of the Great Western Railway Docks. The stationary character of the township which from its situation is incapable of expansion is seen from the statistics of population:(1881), 15,041; (1901), 15,108; (1910), 15,111.

The "Port of Plymouth" in 1311 embraced Plympton, Modbury and Newton Ferrers, and received a customs grant from Richard II. In 1435 sixty-five cargoes were imported, and in the reign of Elizabeth it rose to be the foremost port in England. The 18th century saw a great development of trade with Virginia and the West Indies, resulting in the establishment of a sugar-refining industry that was maintained until a recent date.

In 1 749 the " town's water " was carried to the Barbican to supply shipping. The port of Plymouth, as at present constituted, embraces " the waters of Plymouth Sound and the Hamoaze, including all bays, creeks, lakes, pools, ponds and rivers as far as the tide flows within or to the northward of a straight line drawn across the entrance of Plymouth Sound from Penlee Point on the west to the Shagstone on the east." The chief water area within the limits of the port is the Sound with its inlets, the Catwater (200 acres), Button Pool, Mill Bay, Stonehouse Pool and the Hamoaze. The Sound itself covers an area of 4500 acres and is sheltered from south-west gales by the breakwater completed in 1841 at a cost of i| million sterling. It lies 23 m. south of the Hoe, and is nearly a mile long, 360 ft. wide at the base and 45 ft. at the top. Its cants bend inwards at angles of 120; at the western end is a lighthouse and at the eastern extremity is a pyramidal beacon with a cage capable of accommodating several men.

The town is served by the Great Western and the London & South-Western railways. The former company has a main line entering from the west through Devonport and going east to Exeter, having Dartmoor on the west; the latter company has a terminal station in the eastern quarter of the town, and its route to Exeter is by way of the Tamar valley, and the western and northern moorland districts.

The industries of Plymouth include soap manufacture, preparation of artificial manure and sulphuric acid and paper staining. The water supply, inaugurated by Drake in 1590, and drawn from the Dartmoor watershed, is the most important municipal undertaking. The service of electricity both for lighting and tramway traction is in the hands of the town, but the gasworks belong to a private company.

Plymouth, the Suton of Domesday, was afterwards divided into the town of Sutton Prior, the hamlet of Sutton Valletort and the tithing of Sutton Ralph, the greater part belonging to the priory of Plympton. The market, established about 1253, became in 1311 town property, with the mayor as clerk of the market. In 1292 the town first returned members to parliament. In the 14th century it was frequently the port of embarcation and of disembarcation in connexion with expeditions to France, and suffered considerably at the hands of the French. In 1412 the inhabitants petitioned for a charter, which, after strenuous opposition from the priors of Plympton, was granted by Henry VI. in 1439. In the discovery of the New World it played a part of great importance. Cockeram, a native of the town, sailed with John Cabot in 1497. Sir John Hawkins and his father William were also natives, the former being port admiral and (in 1571) M.P. From Plymouth in 1577 Drake set out on his voyage round the world; in 1581 he became mayor and represented the borough in parliament during 1592-1593. Sir Humphrey Gilbert (M.P. 1571) sailed on his second colonizing expedition to America in 1583 from the port, and hither Drake brought the remnant of Raleigh's Virginian colony. Plymouth supplied seven ships against the Armada, and it was in the Sound that the English fleet awaited the sighting of the Spaniards. A stone on a quay at the Barbican records the fact that this was the last port touched by the Pilgrim Fathers on their voyage to America.

During the Civil War Plymouth was closely invested by the Royalists, whose great defeat is commemorated by the monument at Freedom Park. It was the only town in the west that never fell into their hands. It early declared for William of Orange, in whose reign the neighbouring dockyard was begun.

AUTHORITIES. Histories of Plymouth by Jewitt and Worth; Wright's Plymouth with its Surroundings and Story of Plymouth; Whitfeld, Plymouth and Devonport, in times of War and Peace; Municipal Records (Plymouth Corporation); Worth, "Notes on Early History of Stonehouse " (Plymouth Instil. Proc.).

(H. G. DE W.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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