Place:Devonport, Devon, England

Alt namesPlymouth Docksource: Pre-1824
TypeParish (ancient), Civil parish, Borough (municipal), Borough (county)
Coordinates50.37°N 4.179°W
Located inDevon, England
See alsoRoborough Hundred, Devon, Englandhundred in which the borough was located
Stoke Damerel, Devon, Englandformer parish on which Devonport was based, abolished 1889
Plymouth, Devon, Englandborough into which Devonport was absorbed in 1914

The town of Devonport was developed around the Royal Navy dockyards on the banks of the River Tamar. The town was originally called Plymouth Dock, but in 1823 changed its name to Devonport. From 1837 there was a Devonport Municipal Borough, which covered the ancient parish of Stoke Damerel within which Devonport lay. In 1888/9 both the old parish of Stoke Damerel and the municipal borough of Devonport were abolished, being replaced with the Devonport County Borough. This body continued until 1914, when it was absorbed into the Plymouth County Borough along with the parish of East Stonehouse. Plymouth was made a city in 1928.



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

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. By 1733 its population had grown to around 3,000, and by 1801 it was already larger than both the nearby towns of Plymouth and Stonehouse together.,


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, and to celebrate, the town built a column next to the recently completed town hall; 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. Devonport became a county borough under the Local Government Act 1888.

Dockyard defences

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 1758-1763 to accommodate the garrison of troops required to man the defences. 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). 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. 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.

Mount Wise

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). 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.

Research Tips

(revised Nov 2018)

  • For a quick view of all the parishes in Devon, download this map from Devon County Council and save it to your computer. It is in pdf format and expansion to 200% allows viewing of all the parishes by name. Modern "district" and parish boundaries are shown.
  • Ordnance Survey Map of Devonshire North and Devonshire South are large-scale maps covering the whole of Devon between them. They show the parish boundaries when Rural Districts were still in existence and before the mergers of parishes that took place in 1935 and 1974. When expanded the maps can show many of the small villages and hamlets inside the parishes. These maps are now downloadable for personal use but they can take up a lot of computer memory.
  • GENUKI has a selection of maps showing the boundaries of parishes in the 19th century. The contribution from "Know Your Place" on Devon is a huge website yet to be discovered in detail by this contributor.
  • Devon has three repositories for hands-on investigation of county records. Each has a website which holds their catalog of registers and other documents.
  • Devon Family History Society Mailing address: PO Box 9, Exeter, EX2 6YP, United Kingdom. The society has branches in various parts of the county. It is the largest Family History Society in the United Kingdom. The website has a handy guide to each of the parishes in the county and publishes the registers for each of the Devon dioceses on CDs.
  • This is the home page to the GENUKI Devon website. It has been updated since 2015.
  • Devon has a Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Project which can be reached through GENUKI. Only about half of the parishes have a volunteer contributing local data. For more information, consult the website, especially the list at the bottom of the homepage.
  • Magna Britannia, Volume 6 by Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons. A general and parochial history of the county. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1822, and placed online by British History Online. This is a volume of more than 500 pages of the history of Devon, parish by parish. It is 100 years older than the Victoria County Histories available for some other counties, but equally thorough in its coverage. Contains information that may have been swept under the carpet in more modern works.
  • There is a cornucopia of county resources at Devon Heritage. Topics are: Architecture, Census, Devon County, the Devonshire Regiment, Directory Listings, Education, Genealogy, History, Industry, Parish Records, People, Places, Transportation, War Memorials. There are fascinating resources you would never guess that existed from those topic titles. (NOTE: There may be problems reaching this site. One popular browser provider has put a block on it. This may be temporary, or it may be its similarity in name to the Devon Heritage Centre at Exeter.)
  • Users studying the Plymouth area are recommended to check the GENUKI page for Plymouth which is lengthy but recently updated (summer 2015). Two entries under the heading "Genealogy" are:
  • Donald Curkeet's Plymouth Devonshire and Surrounding Parishes for Family Genealogy website provides church and churhyard photographs, and information, in some cases including parish register name indexes, for a number of Plymouth area parishes. He provided a very useful sketchmap.
  • Plymouth is one of the growing number of places for which the Devon Heritage website provides census or parish register transcriptions, articles, and/or illustrations, etc. (For Plymouth they supply lists on specific events or groups of people at varying dates.)
  • The Plymouth Museums Art Galleries website describes the 'Of the Parish' headstone and memorial indexing and photography project with explanations of how to search for names in various indexes provided by a number of local groups. The remains in many of the early cemeteries within Plymouth were transferred to the cemetery in Egg Buckland or Eggbuckland after World War II. Other sections of this website might also be of interest to genealogists searching for ancestors in the Plymouth area.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Devonport, Plymouth. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.