An Historic Area
North Corner is a quayside area of Devonport comprising a few streets that, mostly,
run downhill into the River Tamar. North Corner is where Devonport was born, where
residents have always been, and remain to this day, proud of their history.
For the first decade of the 1700s Devonport consisted only of the streets of North
Corner; nothing else. This new waterside village came into being to provide houses for dockyard
workers - they'd been living aboard hulks on the river Tamar and, following several requests, managed
to obtain building permission from the Lord of the Manor.
The choice of North Corner as their building plot, and its naming, probably made
perfect sense to them, since, at the end of a day's work they'd leave the dockyard
via its exit at the north corner, rowing out from the beach at this spot to their
If you come across the term 'Gunwharf' for this area note that this was the builders
'site name' applied during the millenium rebuild; it's not the true name of North
Corner. Modern-day builders provide marketing names for their sites, typically with
pleasant meaningful names to charm new customers into a purchase - such was the
Modern-day streets within the historic area known as North Corner are: (*
but see notes below)
- Cannon Street
- Cornwall Beach (previous address... North Corner)
- Cornwall Street (previous address... North Corner Street)
- Hamoaze Place
- Holmans's Buildings
- Queen street
- Riverside Place
* Note: the true North Corner, at origin, was the quayside itself, where the first
row of houses were built facing west to the river, (the quayside's modern name is Cornwall Beach) but over time, as the
village grew beyond the hillside and developed into a small town, all those original streets leading downhill
into the river became known thereafter as North Corner. Queen Street, running north/south along
the top of the hill, was not included - it was the dividing line. Now, at the second
millennium, Queen Street could probably be included. Purists may not agree with
this, but at the millennium redevelopment of North Corner Queen Street properties were
included, the entire plot was rebuilt together, now all properties share the same
distinctive character. As it stands today, at 2009, it's probably safe to say that
all those streets running down to the river, plus
Queen Street, is that area known as North Corner.
If you wander down this way you may bump into some friendly residents who know
lots about the area - and if they're down by the beach wall at the time they may
be willing to chat or describe our local history for you. Look out for Brenda Jago
who's been here a long time - she would not live anywhere else; for Jackie Blight
who knows plenty about the housing situation/changes as a result of the 'Regeneration' in Devonport; for Jackie's sister Joan who is
amusing and funny; for Sandy Borthwick or Dickie Damerel, neither of whom were born
at North Corner but both love it here and both are such friendly and neighbourly people. Sandy
knows a lot about our history, and enjoys talking about it. You must especially say hello to Phil Head. Phil
was born here, (so was his mum) and he now owns the Steam Packet Inn, the public house on North Corner quayside. I've produced a history of the
Steam Packet and it contains information on Phil - you're welcome to download a
free PDF copy from
Postcard Views of North Corner
Below are some early 20th century views of North Corner quayside, as seen on postcards
of the period. North Corner was noted through the centuries for the number of local
'Watermen' providing their services to both the Royal and the Merchant Navy; some of these men together with their boats,
can clearly be seen in the postcards. North Corner's last Waterman, Jim
Williams, died in 2003 aged 95. When I spoke with him in 2002 he could point to
individuals on these postcards that he knew. Jim lived at North Corner his entire life. There were Waterwomen too, they're just not
seen in these images.
(This website has further information on
North Corner Postcards,
In 1899 an unusual and attractive terracotta building was constructed on North Corner
It's still there, unchanged on the outside but extensively changed on
the inside. When new, it was owned by Devonport Corporation and managed by a Piermaster.
It was a multi-functional building that included: a passenger waiting-room, a traders'
warehouse, the Piermaster's Office and the Piermaster's residence. Today it is in private ownership
and arranged as residential apartments. Please see article on
The Piermaster's House
for fuller information.
North Corner Bridge
This bridge is a monstrosity. It was built by the admiralty in 1963 to provide a road link between
North and South dockyards. From the moment it was built, North Corner lost something
special; it became difficult for many boats to moor alongside; some anti-social
residents began using the beach as a rubbish tip and lorry drivers began flytipping
under cover of night. The quayside now looked unattractive from the river, and,
due to the lack of artistic design in the bridge, to the razor-wire fringe around
it, and to the sheer volume of grey concrete overpowering the environment, the entire
waterfront area took on a darkness. All very sad for Devonport's oldest quarter.
Residents dislike the bridge. In the late 1990s word was that the bridge had concrete
cancer; if that were true it couldn't have been seriously affected, as the horrid
thing is still in-situ now at 2011.
New Millennium - Recognition at Last
In early 2011 the
Devonport Heritage Trail
was officially opened, together with pamphlets describing and marking the route.
The promotion of Devonport's history is now common practice wherever possible, in part as a result
of the New Deals project that operated here in the millennium decade. North Corner,
being the birthplace of Devonport, where residential and commercial life first began
after a settlement was established 1700, is featured on the Heritage Trail.
North Corner's history, and contribution to Devonport's culture and residents' sense-of-place, is at last recognised.
(Page added August 2009 - Updated June 2011)