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Bradshaw’s Guide

Saltash Bridge, Plymouth, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress


A borough, first class fortress, and naval dock-yard in Devonshire, at the mouth of the Channel, 246 miles from London by the Great Western Railway. The dockyard and harbour are at Devonport, the victualling office is at Stonehouse, and there are other establishments in the neighbourhood, but Plymouth is the common name for all. Two members. Population 62,599. The view from the Hoe, or cliffy height on which the Citadel is planted, commands a magnificent prospect of the sound or outer anchorage, Mounts Batten and Edgecumbe hedging it in on both sides, and the breakwater which protects the main entrance. Two rivers run into the sound, the Plym on the east side, and the Tamar on the west, or Devonport. The mouth of the first, on which Plymouth stands, widens into a deep inlet called the Catwater. Close to the town is Sutton Pool, a tide-harbour in which vessels of various tonnage lie. About 35,000 tons of shipping are registered at this port, and the total amount of customs may be stated at £10,000. It is a convenient starting place for emigrants, for whom a depot has been established.

There is a tower, and some other remains of a castle, on the Hoe, which was first regularly fortified in 1670. Here are the new botanic gardens. The climate of this part of Devonshire is somewhat moist, but it keeps up a perpetual verdure to make amends.

Some of the best buildings are designed by Foulston, who died in 1842. This architect built the Public Library, in 1812; the Exchange, in 1813; and the Athenaeum, in 1819. But his first and largest works were the Assembly Rooms, Royal Hotel, and Theatre, in one immense block, in the Ionic style, 270 feet by 220; built 1811, for the corporation. Foulston also restored the old Parish Church of St. Andrew, in which is a monument to C. Matthews, the comedian. Its bell tolls the curfew “couvrezfeu” or, “put out fire,” every night, striking according to the days of the month. At the Guildhall is a portrait of Sir F. Drake, its most eminent native, who was at the cost of cutting a stream, 24 miles long, from Dartmoor, to supply the Town Reservoir. Christ Church is a modern Gothic church, by Wightwick, who also designed the new Post Office, in the Grecian style.

At the western extremity of the town is Mill Bay, where Docks have been formed for the Great Western Packet Station. On the side of Slonehouse (which, though one town with Plymouth, is part of Devonport borough) are the Naval and Military Hospital, the Marine Barracks, and the Victualling Office, the last a solid granite quadrangle, which cost one and a-half million sterling. It occupies a site of 15 acres, and includes biscuit baking machinery, cooperage, and immense provision stores. Line-of-battle ships can come alongside the quay.

Excursions from Plymouth. — These are almost endless in variety, and equally beautiful. The visitor will be soon made acquainted with clotted cream, junket, white pot, squab pie, and other west country mysteries, and the unbounded hospitality of the people. Within a few miles are the following: — Mount-Edgecumbe (on the Cornwall side of the Sound), the seat of Earl Mount-Edgecumbe, in a beautiful park, overlooking Plymouth, the breakwater, sea, &c. A fort in the Sound was first built when the Armada invaded these shores; and it was from this port that Howard of Effingham, Drake, and Hawkins, sailed out to attack it. Deus afflavit, et dissipantur; and where is Spain now! Maker Church, 300 or 400 feet high, is the best point for enjoying the prospect. Below is the Ram Head of the ancient geographers, and still called Rame, and Whitsand Bay, a rare spot for seaweed and shells. Fine creeks and bays hence to the Land’s End. On the Cornish side, also, are — East Anthony, the old seat of the Carews; Thancks, Dowager Lady Graves, and St. German’s Norman Church, near Port Eliot, the seat of Earl St. Germans. It contains part of a priory founded by King Athelstane. On the Devonshire side of Plymouth are — Saltram, Earl Morley’s seat; good pictures by Reynolds, &c. Boringdon was their old seat, higher up the Catwater. Newnham Park, G. Strode, Esq. Plympton (5 miles), a decayed borough, the birthplace of Sir J. Reynolds, whose portrait, by himself, is in the Guildhall. Traces of a castle. Yealmpton, Modbury, Kingsbridge, &c., are on the various creeks of South Devon, which increase in beauty towards Dartmouth and Torquay; most of the streams come from Dartmoor. Fruit, &c., are abundant in this mild and fertile region.

Up the Tamar. — This beautiful stream divides the two counties for some miles. Past St. Budeaux (on the right, or Devonshire side), aline spot, opposite Saltash. Then Landulph (on the left) where Theodore Palæolipus, the survivor of the last Emperor of Constantinople, is buried. The tomb was opened about 1830. One of his daughters married an Arundell, of Clifton, an old seat here. Lead mines here, and at Beer Ferris (Devon side), which is charmingly placed on the corner where the Tavy turns off, overlooking both rivers. The Tavy runs past Buckland Abbey (fragments of a priory), the seat of Sir T. T. Drake, Bart., a descendant of the great navigator, who was born at Tavistock. Following the Tamar, you come to Pentilie (J. Coryton, Esq.), and Cothele, both on the Cornwall side. The latter seat, for centuries in the Edgecumbe family, is one of the most interesting in England, for its architecture, furniture, and ornaments, all genuine relics of a mediaeval age. Callington, to the left, near St. Kitts Hill, the granite peak of Hengstown Down, 1,067 feet high, from the summit of which there is a famous prospect. The river winds hence to Launceston.

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Places nearby

  • Cornwall : Launceston

    Situated on the side of a hill, the top of which is surmounted by a circular keep and parts of walls, one of which is 12 feet in thickness, the remains of a very old castle.

  • Devonshire : Brixham

    Close at hand, is chiefly noted for its extensive fisheries, employing more than two hundred vessels and fifteen hundred seamen.

  • Devonshire : Devonport

    Here is the royal Dockyard, on a space of 71 acres, inclusive of 5 more at the Gun Wharf.