Devonport, Plymouth

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Devonport skyline
Devon UK location map.svg
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Location within Devon
OS grid reference SX455547
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PLYMOUTH
Postcode district PL1
Dialling code 01752
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°22′37″N4°10′34″W / 50.377°N 4.176°W / 50.377; -4.176 Coordinates: 50°22′37″N4°10′34″W / 50.377°N 4.176°W / 50.377; -4.176

Devonport, formerly named Plymouth Dock or just Dock, [1] is a district of Plymouth in the English county of Devon, although it was, at one time, the more important settlement. It became a county borough in 1889. Devonport was originally one of the "Three Towns" (along with Plymouth and East Stonehouse); these merged in 1914 to form what would become in 1928 the City of Plymouth. It is represented in the Parliament of the United Kingdom as part of the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport constituency. Its elected Member of Parliament (MP) is Luke Pollard, who is a member of the Labour Party. The population of the ward at the 2011 census was 14,788. [2]



Plymouth Dock

In 1690 the Admiralty gave a contract to Robert Waters from Portsmouth to build a stone dock at Point Froward on the east bank of the Hamoaze at the mouth of the River Tamar. Plymouth Dock, as Devonport was originally called, began around 1700 as a small settlement to house workers employed on the new naval base that was being built around Waters' dock. [3] By 1733 its population had grown to around 3,000, [4] and by 1801 it was already larger than both the nearby towns of Plymouth and Stonehouse together. [5]


By 1811 the population of Plymouth Dock was just over 30,000 and the residents resented the fact that its name made it sound like an adjunct of Plymouth. In 1823 a petition to King George IV requested the town should be renamed, and suggested "Devonport". The king agreed, [6] and to celebrate, the town built Devonport Column next to the recently completed guildhall; both were designed by John Foulston. [1] Devonport was first incorporated as a municipal borough in 1837 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.

In July, 1849, the first outbreaks in what became a cholera epidemic arose on Union Street which connected Plymouth to Devonport, and were initially attributed to blockage of several house drains during construction of a new Millbay railway station. [7] [8] Devonport became a county borough under the Local Government Act 1888.

Dockyard defences

Plymouth Dock, 1765: the town is shown encompassed by the dockyard to the west, by the defensive 'lines' and square barracks to the north and east, and by Mount Wise to the south. NB North = left. Plan of Stoke Town and Plymouth Dock - Benjamin Donn, 1765.jpg
Plymouth Dock, 1765: the town is shown encompassed by the dockyard to the west, by the defensive 'lines' and square barracks to the north and east, and by Mount Wise to the south. NB North = left.

In the mid-eighteenth century a defensive earthwork was constructed around the town and dockyard. Within these dockyard 'lines', six square barracks were built between in 175863 to accommodate the garrison of troops required to man the defences. [9] A series of redoubts were also constructed, forward of the lines, in the 1770s, including that at Mount Pleasant (of which there are substantial remains). [10] In the early nineteenth century, the dockyard lines were strengthened with stone ramparts and armed with guns, and the adjacent ditches were deepened. These defences became largely redundant with the building of a series of Palmerston Forts around Plymouth in the second half of the nineteenth century. Much of the open land forming the glacis beyond the lines became Devonport Park in the late 1850s. [11] Three of the six small barracks were replaced in 1854-6 by the sizeable Raglan Infantry Barracks, designed by Captain Francis Fowke (who later designed the Albert Hall); today only its gatehouse remains (and that in a derelict state), the rest having been demolished in the 1970s. [12]

Mount Wise

Mount Wise: the modern viewing platform and mast atop the old redoubt Mount Wise from Cremyll - - 150357.jpg
Mount Wise: the modern viewing platform and mast atop the old redoubt

The high ground south of the town is called Mount Wise. Enclosed within the town ramparts, it was given its own redoubt in the 1770s, with eight guns and two mortars protecting the coastal approach to the dockyard. In earlier times, a gun wharf had been established on the quayside here to the south-east; the gun wharf was removed (and re-established at Morice Yard alongside the Dockyard) in 1724, but the area remained dominated by the armed forces up until the present century. From the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century both the military Governor and naval Commander-in-Chief of Plymouth were accommodated in large houses on Mount Wise (in Government House and Admiralty House respectively). [13] In 1805 a Royal Laboratory (an outpost of the Woolwich Arsenal) was established just north-west of the redoubt; small-arms ammunition and explosives were manufactured here, until the compound was converted into barracks accommodation (Mount Wise Barracks) in the 1830s. [14]

21st-century Devonport

During the millennium decade, Devonport received government New Deal for Communities funding of £48.7 million; this enabled an extensive Regeneration programme to be carried out. Since 2009, the investments have begun to transform Devonport – physically, socially, demographically. Where once the area was run-down, depressed, and classified as 'deprived' in many categories, the 21st-century Devonport is beginning to achieve the city’s vision of … "The recreation of Devonport as a distinct place in modern Plymouth; a vibrant self sustaining community; a place of real quality, variety and interest, the pride of residents, attractive to visitors and a model of 21st Century living, working and playing." [15]

The Admiralty's release of several land plots in Devonport has assisted the Regeneration project. One ex-MoD area, where new homes will be available from 2011, is the Admiralty House site at Mount Wise. Although there are pockets of regeneration work remaining to be completed, the waterfront district of Devonport is becoming one of the desired residential areas of the city of Plymouth. [16]

In 2011, the Devonport Heritage Trail was introduced, complete with over 70 waymarkers outlining the route. [17]


Devonport has its own shopping street, a railway station, a swimming pool, park and a sports ground, The Brickfields. Since 2003, it has been the home of Plymouth Albion, the city's Rugby Union club located near Plymouth City College.

Devonport is also home to the Devonport Playhouse, a theatre located in the former Methodist Central Hall in Fore Street. The space was purchased and converted into a performance venue by the Plymouth Theatre Company back in 1987. [18] It is a popular venue with the local Amateur Dramatic companies, choirs and dancing schools in Plymouth especially, since the closure of the Athenaeum in central Plymouth. [19]

UTC Plymouth is a university technical college (UTC) which opened in September 2013 near Devonport Park. The UTC is situated on the former site of Parkside Community College, [20] which closed in August 2008 due to falling enrolment. [21]

The Torpoint Ferry service across the Hamoaze (River Tamar) operates from Devonport to Cornwall.

Devonport Naval base/Dockyard has, over the years, been known as "Guz" by naval ratings. There are various explanations for the nickname: the Royal Naval Museum says it is short for Guzzle and refers to Devon cream teas. [22]

Engraving circa 1825 of John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Egyptian Revival Library John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport.jpg
Engraving circa 1825 of John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Egyptian Revival Library
Devonport's town hall and column in 2008 John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport in 2008.jpg
Devonport's town hall and column in 2008

Notable people

Charles Darwin spent two months in Devonport from October 1831 waiting for the weather to improve so that HMS Beagle could begin its journey to South America. The ship finally left on 27 December and Darwin later wrote that those two months were "The most miserable which I ever spent". [24]

Related Research Articles

Hamoaze Section of the River Tamar in southwest England

The Hamoaze is an estuarine stretch of the tidal River Tamar, between its confluence with the River Lynher and Plymouth Sound, England.

Plymouth City and unitary authority in England

Plymouth is a port city and unitary authority in South West England. It is located on the south coast of Devon, approximately 36 miles (58 km) south-west of Exeter and 193 miles (311 km) south-west of London. It is bordered by Cornwall to the west and south-west.

Plymouth Sound Body of water

Plymouth Sound, or locally just The Sound, is a deep inlet or sound in the English Channel near Plymouth in England.

Stonehouse, Plymouth Human settlement in England

East Stonehouse was one of three towns that were amalgamated into modern-day Plymouth. West Stonehouse was a village that is within the current Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Cornwall. It was destroyed by the French in 1350. The terminology used in this article refers to the settlement of East Stonehouse which is on the Devon side of the mouth of the Tamar estuary, and will be referred to as Stonehouse.

River Tamar River in southwest England

The Tamar is a river in south west England, that forms most of the border between Devon and Cornwall. A part of the Tamar valley is a World Heritage Site due to its historic mining activities.

Royal Navy Dockyard State-owned shipbuilding and maintenance facilities for the British navy

Royal Navy Dockyards were state-owned harbour facilities where ships of the Royal Navy were built, based, repaired and refitted. Until the mid-19th century the Royal Dockyards were the largest industrial complexes in Britain.

HMNB Portsmouth British Royal Navy base

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy. Portsmouth Naval Base is part of the city of Portsmouth; it is located on the eastern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, north of the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Until the early 1970s, it was officially known as Portsmouth Royal Dockyard ; thereafter the term 'Naval Base' gained currency, acknowledging a greater focus on personnel and support elements alongside the traditional emphasis on building, repairing and maintaining ships. In 1984 Portsmouth's Royal Dockyard function was downgraded and it was formally renamed the 'Fleet Maintenance and Repair Organisation' (FMRO). The FMRO was privatized in 1998, and for a time, shipbuilding, in the form of block construction, returned. Around 2000, the designation HMS Nelson was extended to cover the entire base.

Plymouth was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two members of parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in 1298 and again from 1442 until 1918, when the borough was merged with the neighbouring Devonport and the combined area divided into three single-member constituencies.

HMNB Devonport Operating base in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy

Her Majesty's Naval Base, Devonport is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy and is the sole nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy. The largest naval base in Western Europe, HMNB Devonport is located in Devonport, in the west of the city of Plymouth, England.

History of Plymouth History of the city in Devon, England

The History of Plymouth in Devon, England, extends back to the Bronze Age, when the first settlement began at Mount Batten a peninsula in Plymouth Sound facing onto the English Channel. It continued as both a fishing and continental tin trading port through the late Iron Age into the Early Medieval period, until the more prosperous Saxon settlement of Sutton, later renamed Plymouth, surpassed it. With its natural harbour and open access to the Atlantic, the town found wealth and a national strategic importance during the establishment of British naval dominance in the colonisation of the New World. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers departed from Plymouth to establish the second English colony in America. During the English Civil War the town was besieged between 1642 and 1646 by the Royalists, but after the Restoration a Dockyard was established in the nearby town of Devonport. Throughout the Industrial Revolution Plymouth grew as a major mercantile shipping industry, including imports and passengers from the US, whilst Devonport grew as a naval base and ship construction town, building battleships for the Royal Navy – which later led to its partial destruction during World War II in a series of air-raids known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war was over, the city centre was completely rebuilt to a new plan.

Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth Military unit

The Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, was a senior commander of the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Plymouth Command was a name given to the units, establishments, and staff operating under the admiral's command. Between 1845 and 1896, this office was renamed Commander-in-Chief, Devonport. The Commanders-in-Chief were based in what is now Hamoaze House, Devonport, Plymouth, from 1809 to 1934 and then at Admiralty House, Mount Wise, Devonport, from 1934 until 1996.

Tramways in Plymouth Tramways in Plymouth, Devon, England

The tramways in Plymouth were originally constructed as four independent networks operated by three different companies to serve the adjacent towns of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport in Devon, England. The merger of the 'Three Towns' into the new borough of Plymouth in 1914 was the catalyst for the three companies to join up under the auspices of the new Plymouth Corporation. The network was closed in 1945, partly as a result of bomb damage during World War II.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Plymouth, Devon, England.

Thomas Parlby

Thomas Parlby (1727–1802) Stone Hall, Stonehouse, in Plymouth "the big house overlooking Stonehouse Pool", was a civil engineering contractor described in his obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine as "Master Mason of HM Docks".

Admiralty House, Mount Wise

Admiralty House is a substantial building at Mount Wise, Devonport, Plymouth. It is a Grade II listed building.

Fortifications of Plymouth

The fortifications of Plymouth in Devon are extensive due to its natural harbour, its commanding position on the Western Approaches and its role as the United Kingdom's second largest naval base after Portsmouth. The first medieval defences were built to defend Sutton Harbour on the eastern side of Plymouth Sound at the mouth of the River Plym, but by the 18th century, naval activity had begun to shift westward to Devonport at the mouth of the River Tamar. During the Victorian era, advances in military technology led to a huge programme of fortification encompassing the whole of Plymouth Sound together with the overland approaches. Many of these works remained in military use well into the 20th century.

Hamoaze House

Hamoaze House is a large detached house on Mount Wise, Devonport, Plymouth, built in 1795 as the home of the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth. It should not be confused with the earlier Admiralty House, Mount Wise, built 1789-93 as the home of the military Governor of Plymouth.

Mount Wise, Plymouth Historic estate in Devon, England

Mount Wise is a historic estate situated within the historic parish and manor of Devonport and situated about one mile west of the historic centre of the city of Plymouth, Devon. It occupies "a striking waterfront location" with views across Plymouth Sound to Mount Edgcumbe and the English Channel. Until 2004 it was a headquarters for senior Admiralty staff and was inaccessible to the public.

Western Kings Redoubt

The Western King's Redoubt is an 18th and 19th-century artillery battery in Plymouth, Devonshire, England, upgraded as a result of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom of 1859. Part of an extensive scheme known as Palmerston Forts, after the prime minister who championed the scheme, it was built to defend the seaward approaches to the Hamoaze, as an element of the plan for the defence of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport.


  1. 1 2 Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1989). The Buildings of England – Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp. 674–675. ISBN   0-14-071050-7.
  2. "Ward population 2011" . Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  3. Gill (1993), pp. 168–169.
  4. Gill (1993), p. 173.
  5. Gill (1993), p. 201 gives the figures as: Plymouth – 16,378; Stonehouse – 3,807; Dock – 23,787
  6. Gill (1993), p. 203.
  7. Hamilton, Dr. W. (1850). On the Vital Statistics of the Borough of Plymouth, in The London Medical Gazette Vol. XI. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. p. 614. (online at Google Books)
  8. Cholera in its Relations to Sanitary Measures, in The British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review. London: Samuel Highley. January 1851. p. 23. (online at Google Books)
  9. Douet, James (1998). British Barracks 1600-1914. Swindon: English Heritage.
  10. Historic England. "Scheduled Ancient Monument listing (1021287)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  11. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1001657)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  12. Historic England. "Grade II listing description (1386244)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  13. "Plymouth Maritime Headquarters (Mount Wise)" . Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  14. "Devonport conservation q" (PDF). City of Plymouth. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 August 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  15. "A framework for Change" (PDF). Plymouth City Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  16. "Devonport Online".
  17. "Devonport Heritage Trail" . Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  18. "Plymouth Theatre Company :: Devonport : Plymouth :: Plymouth's Independent Theatre Company". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  19. Limited, TicketSource. "The Wind in the Willows at The Devonport Playhouse". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  20. "UTC Plymouth | University Technical College Plymouth | Parkside School Plymouth". Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  21. A joint statement by Plymouth City Council and Parkside Community College Archived 9 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  22. "Pompey, Chats and Guz: the Origins of Naval Town Nicknames". Royal Naval Museum. Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  23. "N. T. Carrington's poems". Copac. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  24. "Darwin in Plymouth". Plymouth City Council. Retrieved 29 August 2012.