North Corner

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 hulks.

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 name Gunwharf.

Street Listing

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.

Local Residents

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 this page.

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, and on Devonport Postcards in general.)



Piermaster's House

In 1899 an unusual and attractive terracotta building was constructed on North Corner quayside. 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)