Place:Plymouth, Devon, England

NamePlymouth
Alt namesEffordsource: from redirect
Sudtonesource: Encyclopædia Britannica (1988) IX, 531
Suttonsource: Blue Guide: England (1980) p 218
TypeCivil parish, Borough (county)
Coordinates50.37°N 4.14°W
Located inDevon, England
See alsoRoborough Hundred, Devon, Englandhundred in which the borough was located
Plymouth District, Devon, Englanddistrict municipality and unitary authority covering the area since 1974
Contained Places
Cemetery
Ford Park Cemetery
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names



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

Plymouth is a port city situated on the south coast of Devon, England, approximately south-west of Exeter and west-south-west of London. Enclosing the city are the mouths of the river Plym and river Tamar, which are naturally incorporated into Plymouth Sound to form a boundary with Cornwall.

Plymouth's early history extends to the Bronze Age, when a first settlement emerged at Mount Batten. This settlement continued as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until it was surpassed by the more prosperous village of Sutton founded in the ninth century, now called Plymouth. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony, the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America. During the English Civil War, the town was held by the Parliamentarians and was besieged between 1642 and 1646.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, Plymouth grew as a commercial shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas, and exporting local minerals (tin, copper, lime, china clay and arsenic). The neighbouring town of Devonport became a strategic Royal Naval shipbuilding and dockyard town. In 1914 three neighbouring independent towns, viz., the county borough of Plymouth, the county borough of Devonport, and the urban district of East Stonehouse were merged to form a single County Borough. The combined town took the name of Plymouth which, in 1928, achieved city status. The city's naval importance later led to its being targeted by the German military and partially destroyed by bombing during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt and subsequent expansion led to the incorporation of Plympton and Plymstock along with other outlying suburbs in 1967.

The city is home to people, making it the 30th-most populous built-up area in the United Kingdom and the second-largest city in the South West, after Bristol. It is governed locally by Plymouth City Council and is represented nationally by three MPs. Plymouth's economy remains strongly influenced by shipbuilding and seafaring including ferry links to Brittany (Roscoff and St Malo) and Spain (Santander), but has tended toward a service-based economy since the 1990s. It has the largest operational naval base in Western Europe, HMNB Devonport, and is home to the University of Plymouth.

City Districts and Suburbs

As with many large towns Plymouth was divided into a number of ecclesiastical parishes, some of which became civil parishes in the 19th century. In Plymouth the most prominent were Plymouth St. Andrew (to the southwest) and Plymouth Charles or Charles or Plymouth Charles the Martyr (to the northeast) which were both Registration Sub-Districts from 1837 until 1898. Wikipedia has a long article on the history of the parish of Charles going back to its founding in 1634. This article discusses the religious discord existing in Plymouth around 1630 before the sailing of the Mayflower.

In 1898 Plymouth also absorbed the areas covered by the nearby Registration Districts of Plympton and Plympton St. Mary (but while they were in existence, boundaries were redrawn) as well as Devonport, Stoke Damerel and East Stonehouse.

A pair of sketchmaps provided by the former local Online Parish Clerk may help to visualize the area. The top one is the present South Hams District which surrounds Plymouth and the bottom one (an inset of the first) shows Plymouth and its present component parts including the position of Plymouth St. Andrew and Plymouth Charles. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, these cannot be reproduced here in WeRelate. Instead, the map of the electoral wards of present-day Plymouth from Wikimedia Commons is supplied here.

Image:Plymouth ward map shortened.png

There are further notes below on researching the Plymouth area.

History

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

Early history

Upper Palaeolithic deposits, including bones of Homo sapiens, have been found in local caves, and artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age have been found at Mount Batten, showing that it was one of the main trading ports of the country at that time. An unidentified settlement named TAMARI OSTIA (mouth/estuaries of the Tamar) is listed in Ptolemy's Geographia and is presumed to be located in the area of the modern city. An ancient promontory fort was located at Rame Head at the mouth of Plymouth Sound with ancient hillforts located at Lyneham Warren to the east [1], Boringdon Camp and Maristow Camp [2] to the north [3].

The settlement of Plympton, further up the River Plym than the current Plymouth, was also an early trading port. As the river silted up in the early 11th century, mariners and merchants were forced to settle downriver at the current day Barbican near the river mouth. At the time this village was called Sutton, meaning south town in Old English.[1] The name Plym Mouth, meaning "mouth of the River Plym" was first mentioned in a Pipe Roll of 1211. The name Plymouth first officially replaced Sutton in a charter of King Henry VI in 1440. See Plympton for the derivation of the name Plym.

Early defence and Renaissance

During the Hundred Years' War a French attack (1340) burned a manor house and took some prisoners, but failed to get into the town. In 1403 the town was burned by Breton raiders. On 12 November 1439, the English Parliament made Plymouth the first town incorporated. In the late fifteenth century, Plymouth Castle, a "castle quadrate", was constructed close to the area now known as The Barbican; it included four round towers, one at each corner, as featured on the city coat of arms.

The castle served to protect Sutton Pool, which is where the fleet was based in Plymouth prior to the establishment of Plymouth Dockyard. In 1512 an Act of Parliament was passed for further fortifying Plymouth. A series of fortifications were built, including defensive walls at the entrance to Sutton Pool (across which a chain would be extended in time of danger). Defences on St Nicholas Island also date from this time, and a string of six artillery blockhouses were built, including one on Fishers Nose at the south-eastern corner of the Hoe. This location was further strengthened by the building of a fort (later known as Drake's Fort) in 1596; it was the site of the Citadel, established in the 1660s (see below).


During the 16th century, locally produced wool was the major export commodity. Plymouth was the home port for successful maritime traders, among them Sir John Hawkins, who led England's first foray into the Atlantic slave trade, as well as Sir Francis Drake, Mayor of Plymouth in 1581 and 1593. According to legend, Drake insisted on completing his game of bowls on the Hoe before engaging the Spanish Armada in 1588.[2] In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World from Plymouth, establishing Plymouth Colony – the second English colony in what is now the United States of America.

During the English Civil War Plymouth sided with the Parliamentarians and was besieged for almost four years by the Royalists. The last major attack by the Royalists was by Sir Richard Grenville leading thousands of soldiers towards Plymouth, but they were defeated by the Plymothians at Freedom Fields Park.[3] The civil war ended as a Parliamentary win, but monarchy was restored by King Charles II in 1660, who imprisoned many of the Parliamentary heroes on Drake's Island.[3] Construction of the Royal Citadel began in 1665, after the Restoration; it was armed with cannon facing both out to sea and into the town, rumoured to be a reminder to residents not to oppose the Crown. Mount Batten tower also dates from around this time.

Plymouth Dock, naval power and Foulston

Throughout the 17th century Plymouth had gradually lost its pre-eminence as a trading port. By the mid-17th century, commodities manufactured elsewhere in England cost too much to transport to Plymouth, and the city had no means of processing sugar or tobacco imports, major products from the colonies. Local sailors turning to piracy such as Henry Every became infamous, celebrated in the London play The Successful Pyrate. It played a part in the Atlantic slave trade during the early 18th century, although it was relatively small.[4]

In the nearby parish of Stoke Damerel the first dockyard, HMNB Devonport, opened in 1690 on the eastern bank of the River Tamar. Further docks were built here in 1727, 1762 and 1793. The settlement that developed here was called "Dock" or "Plymouth Dock" at the time, and a new town, separate from Plymouth, grew up. In 1712 there were 318 men employed and by 1733 the population had grown to 3,000 people.[1]

Before the latter half of the 18th century, grain, timber and then coal were Plymouth's main imports. During this time the real source of wealth was from the neighbouring town of Plymouth Dock (renamed in 1824 to Devonport) and the major employer in the entire region was the dockyard.[1] The Three Towns conurbation of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport enjoyed some prosperity during the late 18th and early 19th century and were enriched by a series of neo-classical urban developments designed by London architect John Foulston. Foulston was important for both Devonport and Plymouth and was responsible for several grand public buildings, many now destroyed, including the Athenaeum, the Theatre Royal and Royal Hotel, and much of Union Street.[5]

Local chemist William Cookworthy established his short-lived Plymouth Porcelain venture in 1768 to exploit the deposits of china clay that he had discovered in Cornwall. He was acquainted with engineer John Smeaton, the builder of the third Eddystone Lighthouse.

The Breakwater in Plymouth Sound was designed by John Rennie in order to protect the fleet moving in and out of Devonport; work started in 1812. Numerous technical difficulties and repeated storm damage meant that it was not completed until 1841, twenty years after Rennie's death. In the 1860s, a ring of Palmerston forts was constructed around the outskirts of Devonport, to protect the dockyard from attack from any direction.

Some of the most significant imports to Plymouth from the Americas and Europe during the latter half of the 19th century included maize, wheat, barley, sugar cane, guano, sodium nitrate and phosphate. Aside from the dockyard in the town of Devonport, industries in Plymouth such as the gasworks, the railways and tramways, and a number of small chemical works had begun to develop in the 19th century, continuing into the 20th century.

Plan for Plymouth 1943

During the First World War, Plymouth was the port of entry for many troops from around the Empire. It was developed as a facility for the manufacture of munitions. Although major units of the Royal Navy moved to the safety of Scapa Flow, Devonport was an important base for escort vessels and repairs. Flying boats operated from Mount Batten.[6]


During the Second World War, Devonport was the headquarters of Western Approaches Command until 1941, and Sunderland flying boats were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. It was an important embarkation point for US troops for D-Day. The city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, in a series of 59 raids known as the Plymouth Blitz.[7] Although the dockyards were the principal targets, much of the city centre and over 3,700 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 civilians lost their lives. This was largely due to Plymouth's status as a major port. Charles Church was hit by incendiary bombs and partially destroyed in 1941 during the Blitz, but has not been demolished. It has been designated as an official permanent monument to the bombing of Plymouth during World War II.

The redevelopment of the city was planned by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in his 1943 Plan for Plymouth whilst simultaneously working on the reconstruction plan for London. Between 1951 and 1957 over 1000 homes were completed every year, mostly using innovative prefabricated systems of just three main types/

By 1964 over 20,000 new homes had been built, transforming the dense overcrowded and unsanitary slums of the pre-war city into a low density, dispersed suburbia.[8] Most of the city centre shops had been destroyed and those that remained were cleared to enable a zoned reconstruction according to his plan.[8][9] In 1962 the modernist high rise of the Civic Centre was constructed, an architecturally significant example of mid-twentieth century civic slab-and-tower set piece. The Plymouth City Council allowed it to fall into disrepair but it was grade II listed in 2010 by English Heritage to prevent its demolition.[8]

Post-war, Devonport Dockyard was kept busy refitting aircraft carriers such as the and, later, nuclear submarines. New light industrial factories were constructed in the newly zoned industrial sector, attracting rapid growth of the urban population. The army had substantially left the city by 1971, after barracks were pulled down in the 1960s.[9] But the city remains home to the 42 Commando of the Royal Marines.[9]

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.
  • 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.)
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at 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.