The Picture of Plymouth

Being a correct guide to the public establishments, charitable institutions, amusements and remarkable objects in the towns of Plymouth, Plymouth-Dock, Stonehouse, Stoke And Their Vicinity. Also A List Of The Principal Inhabitants Of Those Towns.

Plymouth. Rees & Curtis. 1812. First edition.

The following is a transcription from the above book - starting at page 99 - only the Plymouth Dock (Devonport) sections are transcribed.


Is a modern town, deriving its first name from the old town, and the latter from the establishment of one of his Majesty’s dock-yards here, which took place towards the latter end of the reign of King William III., from which period it has been continually increasing, and has advanced from being originally a petty hamlet to an exceedingly large town, of greater extent, and far more populous, than its parent Plymouth. It is situated farther to the westward than Stonehouse, being less than a mile distant from it, and stands on a plasant eminence between Stonehouse Creek and the harbour of Hamoaze, which is that part of the Tamar that forms the harbouur here. The town has been erected on an extensive plain, in a very desirable situation, both as respects the free circulation of air, and the delightful prospects that may be seen from it in every direction; of which, however, no advantage has been made in the laying out the streets. It was naturally deficient in that necessary article of life, water, and for some time the inhabitants suffered much inconvenience from an inadequate supply of it, being obliged to purchase it of persons who carried it about in barrels on horses and asses; but in the year 1792, an application was made to Parliament to establish a Company, who are called the “Plymouth Dock Water Company,” with powers to bring a stream from the borders of Dartmoor to the town, a distance, from the circuitous course, of nearly thirty miles. This was an object of such vast importance to the inhabitants, that it is surprising how they could manage to do without it; and one should have thought that all persons would have combined in endeavouring to obtain it; but, unhappily, a foolish jealousy which had long existed between the two towns of Plymouth and Dock, operated so powerfully on the minds of the Corporation of the former, as to induce them to oppose the progress of the Bill in Parliament; fortunately, however, without effect. This spirit of rivalship seems now to be gradually wearing off. The enlightened part of the inhabitants of both towns begin to perceive that their interests are the same, and that whatever promotes the prosperity of Plymouth Dock will essentially affect Plymouth and the neighbourhood. What, indeed, is the foundation of the prosperity of the whole neighbourhood but the establishment of the naval arsenal, which has given rise to all the numerous departments of government that at present abound here.

Plymouth Dock is a fortified town, and therefore does not admit of any increase of buildings within its lines. The superabundance of its population has rendered it necessary to have recourse to the erection of a new town without the lines, named Morice Town, from the circumstance of the whole parish wherein it is situated, having been formerly the ole property of the family of Sir Wiliam Morice, Bart. As it is now of Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart. Who inherits it from the Morice family, with the exception of two estates, called Ford, and Swilly, the glebe, and ground purchased by Government. The ancient village of Stoke has likewise of late years so much increased in size, as to warrant its being called another town.

Plymouth Dock, Morice Town, Stoke, and the whole parish of Stoke Damarell, except the parts before alluded to, are now the property of Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart. And constitute the manor of Stoke Damarell in which a Court Leet and Court Baron are annually held at Michaelmas.

The streets of this town are regular, but not in general well built, though some excellent houses, with handsome brick fronts, have been of late years added; they nearly intersect each other at right angles; their general width is from 30 to 50 feet, and they are well paved. It is true of this town, as well as of Plymouth, that the foot-paths are paved with marble, and they receive such a polish from the friction occasioned by the feet of passengers and the action of the water, as to give them a very beautiful appearance when washed by a shower. The streets are kept much cleaner, and are in general more level, as well as wider, more convenient and pleasant, than those of Plymouth. It is, however, most extraordinary, that they are neither lighted nor watched; a few lamps are scattered here and there, which have the effect of reminding passengers that there are such things as public houses, and inviting them in to take a glass. It is said that these lamps were put up by order of the Magistrates, but we are well assured it is a misstatement; for they well know they have no power to order any thing of the sort to be done, nor can we imagine they would have recommended it, since they must have been aware that such a small number of lights would only make darkness more visible, and hold out a lure to the thoughtless and irresolute.

We shall proceed now to give a pretty full account of the


Conceiving it to be an object that will interest strangers more than any other in this neighbourhood; prefacing what we have to say, by informing them, that an application must be made to the commissioner for leave to see the yard, and that it is prudent to send a note the evening before the day, in order that you may obtain leave, and begin your inspection early; for strangers are very often commencing their walk about noon, just at the time the shipwrights and other artificers are leaving work.

The Dock-Yard, even in its present unfinished state, is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the world, When it was first used as a naval arsenal, is uncertain; but as the bason and its dock are the most ancient, though not made till the reign of William the Third, it seems evident that this was a place of little consequence before that period. The dock-yard is separated from the town by a wall of slate and lime-stone, in some places thirty feet high, extending from North Corner on the north, to Mutton Cove on the south. The area within these bounds is seventy-one acres, and thirty-six poles, inclusive of the projecting parts of the jetties. But a small part is the property of Government sixty-five acres, two roods and twenty-three poles, being held of Sir John St. Aubyn, on a lease for twenty-one years, subject to an annual rent of 50s. per acre; and a fine of £534.4s 6d. or three years’ value, on every renewal, which must be made every seven years, under the penalty of an entire forfeiture of the lease. The first lease, granted by Sir William Morice in the year 1728, was for forty acres only; the remaining part was enclosed in 1768.

The entrance to the dock-yard from the land side is from Fore-street, by a large gate for carriages, &c. and a small one for foot passengers. These are guarded with the utmost vigilance by three under porters, and two military sentinels, who suffer no person to enter, who is not well known, or in uniform, without an order in writing from the commissioner. Immediately within the gates is the master porter’s house; nearly in front of which a reservoir is intended to be made, to admit the water which has been lately brought into the yard. Near this house is a small neat chapel, consisting of two aisles, and a tower: the tower and one aisle were erected in the year 1700, as appears by the following inscription over the south door:-

In the 11th Year of the Reign of King William the Third, An. Dom. 1700, this Chapel was founded and built by the generous and pious Contributions of Officers and Seamen belonging to a Squadron of Men of War, paid off in this Yard (after ten Years' expensive War with France), being propagated and carried on by the Industry and religeous Endeavours of George St. Lo, Esq. Commissioner of the said Yard, and Comptroller of the said Pay.

The other aisle was erected by the reverend Mr. Hughes, the late incumbent, on the condition that he should receive the emolument arising from letting the pews; which he continued to do until the year 1787, when Government returned the sum he had expended in the buildings, and appropriated the chapel exclusively to the officers and artificers of the navy and dock-yard. Besides a regular stipend, paid by government, the Chaplain receives two-pence per month from the pay of each of the officers and seamen belonging to the ships laid up in the ordinary. In front of the Chapel is the Military Guard Office, and over it the Navy Pay Office. A captain's guard of marines do duty here, and, in addition to them, a great number of watchmen are employed during the night, all of whom are labourers belonging to the yard.

From the gates, a flat paved road, skirted with elms, leads to the officers dwelling houses, which are thirteen in number, built of brick, three stories high, with kitchens beneath, and pleasant gardens behind; in front is a double row of lime trees. The houses are inhabited by the Commissioner, master shipwright, his three assistants, two masters attendant, clerks of the checque, survey, and rope-yard, the storekeeper, surgeon, and boatswain.

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