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Help and advice for Plymouth 1868

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[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]

"PLYMOUTH, comprises the parishes of St. Andrew, Charles the Martyr, and others, is a fortified seaport, market town, a garrison, sessions, and polling town, excise collection, coastguard station, and a municipal and parliamentary borough in the hundred of Roborough, county Devon, 42 miles S.W. of Exeter by road, or 63 by the South Devon railway, and 216 from London. It stands at the head of Plymouth Sound, between the Plym and the Hamoaze. Before the Norman conquest there was but a small village called Timerweorth, on the spot where Plymouth now stands. The name was afterwards changed to Sutton, and was at various times known as Sutton Priors, being held by Plympton Priory, and Sutton Valletort, when at a later period it was held by the family of that name.

Its present name first occurs in the reign of Henry VI., who granted the town a charter, and walled it in, in 1438, in consequence of its having been attacked by the French in 1336, 1350, 1377, and 1403, and in the first mentioned year totally destroyed and plundered. The Black Prince embarked here in 1355 on his way to France, and landed here with King John of France, whom he had taken prisoner at Poictiers.Many of the naval commanders in the reign of Elizabeth-Hawkins, Drake, Sir Richard Grenville, and others belonged to Devonshire, and, consequently, Plymouth was the starting point of many expeditions; of that against the Armada; and later, of the attack on Cadiz. Charles I. visited the town in 1625; but at the commencement of the war it was garrisoned in the interest of the Parliament, and the siege laid by Prince Maurice was raised by Essex. At a later time it was unsuccessfully attacked by the king, and by Sir Richard Grenville. Other sovereigns who have visited Plymouth are Charles II., George III., and the present queen.

Plymouth stands between the Catwater and the Hamoaze, two arms of the sea which run from the corners of the Sound to the mouths of the Plym and Tamar. There are also two smaller inlets, Sutton Pool and Mill Bay; the former on the W. and the latter on the E. side of the town. Between the Sound and the larger portion of the town is the Hoe, a promenade of a quarter of a mile long. Many of the streets in the older part of the town are built on a, declivity, and are narrow and irregular at its extremity. The more modern part, however, consists of commodious houses. The guildhall contains, besides the rooms necessary for the town business, the central watch-house and a prison, which is now disused, as a new one has been erected outside the town. Other buildings worthy of notice are the custom-house, the exchange, built in 1813, and the chamber of commerce. The market-place is in the centre of the town, and consists of covered markets for butter, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and ranges of stalls for other provisions and manufactured goods, with an open space occupied by hawkers of earthenware, &c., covering in all about three acres. There are entrances from Cornwall-street, East-street, and Drake-street, near the former of which the corn-market is held. Cattle markets are held on Tuesday and Thursday in the Tavistock-road, and wholesale fish markets daily at Sutton Pool, Southside, and the Barbican. The post-office is in Whimple-street, and the electric telegraph office in the Union-road.

Plymouth harbour is formed by the Hamoaze, or estuary of the Tamar, and the Catwater, or estuary of the Plym, which, with other smaller arms, unite to form Plymouth Sound, which is about 3 miles in length, and 3 miles across at the opening. The Hamoaze is a station for ships of war, and has moorings for 100 sail, while the Catwater is used for merchant vessels, of which it will accommodate at least 1,000 sail, and is provided with wet and dry docks. Sutton Pool is also used for merchant ships, and Mill Bay, on the other side of the town, for steam vessels. There is a pier in Sutton Pool. The port includes, besides the above harbours, the coast as far as Yealm Mouth with pilotage to Stoke Point on the E., and Love Bay on the W. The interior of the harbour is protected from the S. winds, to which it was much exposed, by the Breakwater which lies in the centre of the Sound, between Cawsand Bay and Staddon Point. This construction was planned in imitation of a coral reef by Rennie, a well-known engineer, and Whidbey, a master in the royal navy. It consists of a straight bar of 1,000 yards, with ends inclining towards the shore at an angle of 120°, of about 350 yards each. The base is about 70 yards in width, and the top about 10 yards. The height above high-water mark, is 2 feet at the ends and 3 at the centre. It contains 3,670,440 tons of loose limestone, and is faced with 2½ millions of cubic feet of granite and other stone, much of which has come from Orestone quarry. It was commenced in August, 1812, and has been only recently finished. A lighthouse, 63 feet in height, was added in 1841 at the W. end, with a lantern visible for 9 miles, and at the other end is a stone, in long. 4° 8' 21" W., for rating chronometers by. The cost of the work has been about £1,700,000. Its success has been completely proved in many violent storms.

The chief points, &c., round the Sound are as follows:-On the E. side Renny, Mewstone, and Shagstone rocks, off Wembury Point; Tinker, or Shovel Shoals in the Sedley Channel; Staddon Point and pier in Bovisand Bay, where there is a reservoir of water for the supply of shipping containing 12,000 tons; the Duke and Leek shoals; Mount Batten Tower; the Winter Cobbler, and Mallard shoals; and the Asia rock, under the Hoe, where the Dutton was wrecked. On the W. side, past the Hamoaze, are Devil's Point; Redding Point; Mount Edgcumbe, with a dangerous passage called the Bridge, between it and Drake's Island; the New and Scotch shoals off Ravenness; Cawsand Bay pilot station; the Knap and Panther shoals, opposite the breakwater; Dragstone Rock, off Penlee Point; and Rame Head, 9 miles S.S.W. of which are the Hand Deeps and Eddystone lighthouse. The harbour is defended by a battery on St. Nicholas, or Drake's island: by the citadel; and on Staddon Heights, the highlands on the E. of the Sound, are being erected very extensive fortifications, which extend thence round the whole of the three towns, at an average distance of about 3 miles, ending at Tregarth, on the eastern extremity.

The citadel was built in 1670, on the site of a more ancient fortress, and was visited by Charles II. during its erection. It is entered from the town by two gateways with drawbridges, the sides on the E., W., and N. being surrounded by a ditch, with a counterscarp and covered way. It consists of five bastions, and has embrasures for 120 guns. The ramparts are about three-quarters of a mile in circumference, as the fort contains an esplanade for parade as well as barracks, magazines, and a chapel. The dockyard and victualling yard are in Devonport, and the naval and military hospitals and marine barracks in Stonehouse. Many of the inhabitants of Plymouth are engaged in the government works, and others in the manufacture of sailcloth, soap, glass, starch, artificial manure and cement, sugar refining and distilling. The merchant service and the navy also employ a large number.

Trade is carried on with all parts of the English coast, with America, Mauritius, the West Indies, the Baltic, Africa, the Mediterranean, &c. The coast trade is chiefly in fish to London, wool to Hull, lead to Bristol and London, and manganese to Scotland. Steamers leave regularly for almost every port in the United Kingdom, and emigrant ships, the depot for which is at Sutton Harbour, are continually sailing for Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The African mail steamers leave monthly for Madeira, Sierra Leone, &c.

Plymouth is divided, for municipal purposes, into six wards by the new Act, instead of four, as formerly. They are as follows:-St. Andrew's, Charles, Drake, Frankfort, Sutton, and Vintry. The local government is carried on by a mayor, who is returning officer, 12 aldermen, thirty-six councillors, a recorder, town-clerk, &c., with the style of "mayor and commonalty of the borough of Plymouth." The property of the corporation consists of manor rents, granted by Edward IV., several houses and mills in Plymouth, the Royal hotel, the theatre, and the Leat, or water supply from Dartmoor, which was constructed by Sir Francis Drake. The endowed grammar school is also under their control, and they have the management of the police staff, and the lighting and cleansing of the town.

During the reigns of Edward I. and Edward II., Plymouth, which was then called Sutton, returned one member to parliament, but none were returned after the reign of the latter, till the time of Henry VI., when the number was increased to two, and it has since remained the same. The bounds of the municipal and parliamentary borough are coextensive. The population in 1851 was 72,096, with 12,825 inhabited houses, and in 1861 the number of persons was 94,799, and houses 15,819, showing an increase of 22,703 persons in the ten years. The management of the poor is conducted by a board of guardians, instituted by Act of Parliament in 1708. There is a new workhouse on the N.E. of the town adjoining the borough prisons, built in 1851 at a cost of £9,500. Plymouth superior registry includes only the borough, the new County Court district includes also Plympton, East Stonehouse, Stoke Damerel, St. Germans, and the Hamoaze, Catwater, and the Sound, and the excise district comprises Plymouth, Ashburton, Newton, Totness, Brixton, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Modbury, Plympton, Saltash, Looe, Liskeard, Callington, and Tavistock. Plymouth is the headquarters of the western military district, and of the South Devon militia. The earldom of Plymouth was held by Charles Fitzcharles, natural son of Charles II., from 1675 to 1680, and in 1682 was given to Thomas Hickman Windsor.

The livings in Plymouth belong to the archdeaconry of Totnes and the diocese of Exeter. They are as follows:-St. Andrew, a vicarage* value £920, with Pennycross curacy The church is ancient, with a square embattled tower, and was repaired in 1825. King Charles the Martyr, a vicarage, value £612, with Compton Gifford curacy The church was begun at the commencement of the Civil War, but was not finished till the Restoration. St. Andrew and Holy Trinity, perpetual curacies,* vals. £115 and £114, in the patronage of the vicar. Christ Church, curacy in the same patronage, value £80. St. Peter, St. James, and Sutton-on-Plym, curacies, in the patronage of the crown and bishop, vals. £300, £300, and £150. Plymouth was anciently a prebend to Plympton Collegiate church, and its church belonged to the priory there. At the Reformation the impropriate tithes and advowson were given to the corporation of Plymouth. The Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Society of Friends, and Jews have places of worship here. In the middle ages there were houses of white and grey friars, and a leper hospital in Plymouth.

The grammar school, which gives a gratuitous education to 12 sons of householders, was founded in 1573 by Queen Elizabeth. The new grammar school was founded in 1822, and in 1851 had 70 pupils. Other schools are, the greycoat school, Hele's redboy's school, Lanyon's bluecoat school, Lady Rogers's girls' school, the Household of Faith Sunday schools, National and British schools, and others connected with the various places of worship. There is also a Dissenting theological college, called Western College, founded in 1752. The Athenaeum contains a museum and library belonging to the Plymouth literary and scientific institution. The Public and Cottonian library possesses a valuable collection of drawings by old masters, besides a large library, and also possesses a newsroom. There is a government school of art, a mechanics' institute, a natural history society, medical and law libraries, and a commercial newsroom. The theatre and assembly rooms were built by the corporation in 1811, adjacent to the Royal hotel.

The charitable institutions are, the South Devon and East Cornwall hospital, the dispensary, the female orphan asylum, the eye infirmary, the Merchant Seamen's hospital, the "old church twelves," New Church and Jory's almshouses.

The most celebrated natives of the town were, Hawkins, who commenced the English slave trade (1520-95); Glanville, the author of a book on witchcraft (1636-80); Sir R. Hawkins, the traveller (1620); Bacon, Crane, and Quick, divines; Northcott, Haydon, Prout, Eastlake, and Lethbridge, painters; and Foulston, the architect.

Plymouth is connected with London by the Great Western railway as far as Bristol, the Bristol and Exeter as far as Exeter, and thence by the South Devon line, which terminates at Plymouth. The Devon and Cornwall railway has also its terminus at Plymouth, crossing the Hamoaze at Saltash. The newspapers published in Plymouth are, the Mercury (Liberal), and the Western News, both daily papers, and the Herald, weekly.

A weekly market on Thursdays was first granted to Plymouth by Henry III., with a three days' fair at the feast of St. John, and later in the same reign a market on Wednesday, with a three days' fair at Ascension. At present the market days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Fairs are held in April and November, the latter being originally a cloth fair. Races are held in May and August in Chelson Meadow, near Earl Morley's seat at Saltram, on an oval flat course of 1½ mile. The regatta, under the management of the Royal Western Yacht Club, is held about the end of July. The late Prince Consort was the patron of the club, the headquarters of which are at Millbay. A new club-house is just being finished, overlooking the Hoe.

Penny Cross (or Weston Peverell), is a chapelry in this parish of which it is a suburb.

"ORESTONE, a hamlet in the parish and borough of Plymouth, hundred of Roborough, county Devon, 1 mile S.E. of Plymouth. It is situated on the Sound, near the mouth of the river Plym, and has a large quarry of red sandstone. A fossil skeleton of a rhinoceros was found here embedded in the rock, and is now preserved in the museum of the College of Surgeons in London."

"SUTTON PRIOR, (or Sutton-on-plym), an ecclesiastical district in the parish and borough of Plymouth, county Devon.



Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003