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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Plymouth 5 Harbour to Hoe

This is the furthest point of the walk now and we will circle around the Citadel, with views over Plymouth Sound, heading to the Hoe, on the way back to the start point.

The harbour is one of the oldest parts of the city if not the oldest. In fact it predates the city and is still called Sutton Harbour today because the name Sutton came before the name Plymouth.

It still reflects it's early origins in the street plan with it's twisted roads and very narrow alleyways. These alleyways were not the place to be 150 years ago or more. Britain had the world's largest navy and that navy needed men to sail it's labour intensive ships with their acres of sails and miles of rope. Many of those men ended up in the navy after having too much to drink in the ale houses around the harbour and passing out in alleys like this one.

Today, occasionally, contemporary drunks take the risky decision to overnight inside dumpsters like this. It's not advisable and is probably as unhealthy as passing out in the gutter was back in the old days, because a drunk had a good chance of finding themselves waking up aboard ship on a journey that might take them half way around the world or even all of the way around. This meant voyages measured in years.

As I took this picture, a delivery guy hove into view at the other end and walked towards me carrying a large box. He was curious as to why I was photographing dumpsters in a dark alley so I told him I thought it was quite an interesting looking alley, to which he suggested that there had probably been a lot of interesting stuff happen in the alley over the years and to which I suggested that maybe most of it was probably unmentionable. He chuckled his agreement.

Now, did you notice my nautical reference? Hove or Heave into view. -To move or cause to move in a specified way, direction, or position: to heave in sight. To rise or seem to rise over the horizon into view, as a ship.

The purloining of drunken sailors by the navy to serve on board ship was called Press-Ganging and the Press Gang were not averse to helping sailors into oblivion with a cudgel to the back of the head. Be it cudgel or alcohol, both served the purpose and both led to a headache and a free world cruise the morning after.

Impressment, colloquially "the press" or the "press gang", is the taking of men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice. European navies of several nations used forced recruitment by various means. The large size of the British Royal Navy in the Age of Sail meant impressment was most commonly associated with Great Britain and Ireland. It was used by the Royal Navy in wartime, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice can be traced back to the time of Edward I of England. The Royal Navy impressed many merchant sailors, as well as some sailors from other, mostly European, nations. People liable to impressment were "eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 55 years". Non-seamen were sometimes impressed as well, though rarely. Wikipedia

Another alley, this one a little wider, being wide enough for yellow lines to forbid parking, if not wide enough to actually get a vehicle down it to risk a parking fine. It is amusing that the City Council saw fit to paint two sets of yellow lines on this narrow stretch even though it would not be possible to park on one set alone. I would have been tempted to just put one pair down the middle. As you can see the cobbled alley is about the width of two ice cream cones.

The main street is Southside Street, off which most of these alleys bleed. The name of this street is first recorded in 1591. No doubt an original trackway that followed the water's edge. As happened with many early harbours on creeks, land got reclaimed and the built area extended. Here the wealthy merchants invested their money in waterfront properties. Merchant's like Parker who features in Part 4. By 1620 Southside Street was a wide street full of houses, stores and taverns.

Streets or alleys like Pin Lane usually got their name from what was locally manufactured or sold. Near the harbour in the times of sail there's no doubt there was a lot of sail making and sail repair going on.

This old name references the old Priory that once stood here.

Black Friars Distillery at the top of Southside was built at around the time of Prysten House, also featured in Part 4. It was constructed near the site of an old monastery. When the Mayflower stopped off here to make repairs before continuing it's journey to the New World, the building was probably a jail and later a meeting house.

Just as a point of interest, the top of the door is level with my chin. Those Friars were tiny.

Now it is the oldest working Gin distillery in the world, and Plymouth Gin has been bottled here since 1793.

“The first known written use of the word ‘gin’ appears in a 1714 book called ‘The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits’ by Bernard Mandeville,” “He wrote: ‘The infamous liquor, the name of which deriv’d from Juniper-Berries in Dutch, is now, by frequent use… shrunk into a Monosyllable, intoxicating Gin.’

“What I take from this is that the British were too drunk to pronounce genever so they abbreviated the word to ‘gen,’ which eventually gets anglicized to the word that we use today.”

There is something innate in the English language that lends itself to abbreviation and the creation of new shorter words from older longer ones. It is something witnessed in most English speaking countries.

The Germans on the other hand are never happier than when inventing very long words by removing the gaps from what the English would call a sentence. Just Google longest German word and you will see exactly what I mean.

Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung - Motor vehicle indemnity insurance. If the English had the same habit we'd end up with words like Motorvehicleindemnityinsurance.

The masters of new short English word manufacture are the Australians.

Arvo - Afternoon

Avo - Avocado

Defo - Definitely

Esky - An insulated container that keeps things cold.

Servo - Service Station

U-ie - To take a U turn when driving

In 1689, as is the way with Royal Houses and politics, England acquired a new King. A Dutchman which brought with it many other problems we won't go into here. What is important here is that the new King William put taxes on French wine and Brandy and brought in tax breaks on distilling. This resulted in the "Gin Craze", a period where a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer.

Within five years, the government realised it had a problem on it's hands, lots of dead people and worse, lots of insane people. The artist William Hogarth produced a set of etchings commenting on the times, one of which called "Gin Lane" featured the problems facing society in a massive wake up call. New laws, licensing and taxes followed. By 1830 beer became cheaper than gin again for the first time in a hundred years.

Another innovation came courtesy of the British Royal Navy. England’s sailors often found themselves traveling to destinations where malaria was prevalent, so they brought quinine rations to help prevent and fight the disease. Quinine tasted notoriously awful, so Schweppes came out with an “Indian Tonic Water” to make it palatable.

So was born the Anti-Malarial elixir Gin and Tonic. It must work as I have never had Malaria.

A railway branch line came right to this point in Sutton Harbour. Some vestigial tracks still remain on the quayside. There would have been no trains here when the Mayflower was in dock and neither would there have been a Mayflower gift shop. I am not even sure what constitutes a Mayflower Gift.

When this branch line was constructed it would have been much quicker for Trans Atlantic mail and parcels to be offloaded or loaded here, as London was only a few hours away by railway but maybe a day or two by sailing ship. In stormy or very calm weather the saving in time would have been even greater.

This memorial gateway commemorates the sailing from this point of the Mayflower over 400 years ago to found what became the USA. Today this gateway and steps down are the departure point for hour long cruises around Plymouth Sound. The Mayflower on the other hand took 66 days to reach Cape Cod and miraculously, given the dangers of the voyage, it is believed that only one of those who descended these steps never made it.

A company called Boom Supersonic are currently building the next generation passenger planes which will see flights from London to New York in about 3 and 3/4 hours. That is not much longer than the current train time from Plymouth to London.

This area of the harbour is a bit like Memorial Plaque Avenue so I suspect there is someone on the city council doing a lot of overtime. These are just a selection. Some I have covered previously, including the Giant Prawn.

The NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat that was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit not non-stop. In May 1919, a crew of United States Navy and US Coast Guard aviators flew the NC-4 from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal, over the course of 19 days. This included time for stops of numerous repairs and for crewmen's rest, with stops along the way in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia (on the mainland), Newfoundland, and twice in the Azores Islands. Then its flight from the Azores to Lisbon completed the first transatlantic flight between North America and Europe, and two more flights from Lisbon to north-western Spain to Plymouth, England, completed the first flight between North America and Great Britain. This accomplishment was somewhat eclipsed in the minds of the public by the first nonstop transatlantic flight, made by the Royal Air Force pilots John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown two weeks later. Wikipedia

Can you imagine being the first crossing of the Atlantic with stops, only to be written out of the history books only two weeks later by some upstart "we're not stopping anywhere on the way" types? At least they are remembered in bronze right here.

This is a panoramic blend of three photos showing the harbour, with the quayside where the railway terminated. The long building to the right of the green roof was the station. If you click on the picture and have a large enough screen you will find a lot of detail here.

Sea Venture was a seventeenth-century English sailing ship, part of the Third Supply mission to the Jamestown Colony, that was wrecked in Bermuda in 1609. She was the 300 ton purpose-built flagship of the London Company and a highly unusual vessel for her day, given that she was the first single timbered merchantman built in England, and also the first dedicated emigration ship. Sea Venture's wreck is widely thought to have been the inspiration for William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.

Days away from Jamestown, on 24 July, the fleet ran into a strong storm, likely a hurricane, and the ships were separated. Sea Venture fought the storm for three days. Comparably sized ships had survived such weather, but Sea Venture had a critical flaw in her newness: her timbers had not set. The caulking was forced from between them, and the ship began to leak rapidly. All hands were applied to bailing, but water continued to rise in the hold.

The Admiral of the Company himself, Sir George Somers, was at the helm through the storm. When he spied land on the morning of 25 July, the water in the hold had risen to 9 feet (2.7 m), and crew and passengers had been driven past the point of exhaustion. Somers deliberately had the ship driven onto the reefs of Discovery Bay, in what later proved to be eastern Bermuda, in order to prevent its foundering. This allowed 150 people, and one dog, to be landed safely ashore. After the wreck's submergence, her precise location was unknown until rediscovered by sport divers Downing and Heird in October 1958, still wedged into a coral reef. There was little left of the ship or its cargo. Despite the lack of artefacts to be found, she was positively identified in 1959, in time for the 350th anniversary of the wrecking.

......... and that is when this plaque was placed here to mark the 350th anniversary. The shipwreck of the Sea Venture led to the founding and settlement of Bermuda, which until that time was uninhabited.

It is no accident that so many great historic voyages started in Plymouth. Great Britain had the largest navy in the world and Plymouth was not only one of it's biggest ports but also the nearest to the open Atlantic. Today it styles itself as England's only Ocean City.

This next plaque is fairly self explanatory.

Here is a memorial of a different type along with the friend who joined me on the walk on this occasion.

These guns are restored 19th century ship's cannons. They more than likely saw action during the Crimea War. They were classified according to the weight of cannon ball that they fired. The 24 pounder on the left, was cast in 1811 and the 18 pounder was cast in 1819. They were cast in Falkirk, Scotland. After their active life as weapons was over, they, like many others, were embedded in concrete at the quayside of Devonport Dockyard, for use as bollards.

Instead of sinking ships they were then used to secure them to the quayside. As a consequence, over many decades the ship's ropes tied around them, wore grooves into the barrels. The gun carriages are replicas. The guns were presented to the city by Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh KCB, ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff on 29th November 2001.

After centuries of threat of invasion or attack , more modern times see the sea shore today used for recreational purposes. Here are some multi coloured beach huts for bathers.

Still looming large at our backs is the great Royal Citadel. The Royal Citadel in Plymouth, Devon, England, was built in the late 1660s to the design of Sir Bernard de Gomme. It is at the eastern end of Plymouth Hoe overlooking Plymouth Sound, and encompasses the site of the earlier fort that had been built in the time of Sir Francis Drake.

This massive construction was payed for with some little silver fish.

Drake petitioned the Privy Council for the funds to build a fort on Plymouth Hoe that could dominate the Cattewater, the approach to Sutton Harbour, which at that time was the main port at Plymouth. By May 1592, Elizabeth I had decided that the fort could be funded by a tax on every hogshead of pilchards which was exported from Plymouth. Construction of the fort dragged on until 1596 and was only finished after the government had drafted in a further 500 labourers.

During the Dutch Wars of 1664-67 King Charles II decided that it was necessary to realise the importance of Plymouth as a channel port. The original plan was to build a regular self-contained fort with five bastions, to the west of Drake's Fort, but this was revised to take in the earlier fort, resulting in the Citadel's irregular outline. (seen below) Work began in March 1665, but it was not until 18 July 1666 that the foundation stone was laid by John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath.

Unusually the fort also had guns facing inland looking over the town itself. This was due to suspicions about the local populace who had previously supported the Parliamentarian side during the Civil War.

Alterations and additions were made in almost every subsequent war up to and including the 2nd World War. The Royal Citadel is still occupied by the military, being the base of 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery. This specialist British Army unit provides artillery support to 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines.

Tinside Lido is a 1935 Art Deco lido in the city of Plymouth in south-west England. It is sited beside Plymouth Sound and is overlooked by Plymouth Hoe and Smeaton's Tower. The lido is open in the summer months between May and September. The lido was designed in 1935 by John Wibberley. It was officially opened on 2 October 1935.

A victim of declining popularity and neglect, the lido closed in 1992 but a vociferous local campaign led to a renovation, at a cost of £3.4 million, and Grade II Listed Building status in 1998. The facility re-opened to the public in 2005.

The three curved tidal pools did not survive the restoration and were filled in.

This is another panoramic, so please click on it for the full effect.

Here is the aforementioned Smeaton's Tower. Smeaton's Tower is a memorial to civil engineer John Smeaton, designer of the third and most notable Eddystone Lighthouse. A major step forward in lighthouse design, Smeaton's structure was in use from 1759 to 1877, until erosion of the ledge it was built upon forced new construction. The tower was largely dismantled and rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe in Plymouth, Devon, where it stands today.

Alfred (Alfred Ernest Albert; 6 August 1844 – 30 July 1900) was the sovereign duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1893 to 1900. He was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was known as the Duke of Edinburgh from 1866 until he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernest II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire.

So I'm looking at a good quiz question here. What German Duke had previously held the role of British Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy? He also has the accolade of being the first member of the Royal Family to visit Australia, where to this day there are several institutions named in his honour.

In 1868 on his second visit to Sydney he survived an assassination attempt at a function which saw him wounded by a bullet near his spine. Some nurses newly trained by Florence Nightingale having just arrived in Australia tended to his wound for two weeks until his recovery.

On the evening of 23 March 1868, the most influential people of Sydney voted for a memorial building to be erected, "to raise a permanent and substantial monument in testimony of the heartfelt gratitude of the community at the recovery of HRH". This led to a public subscription which paid for the construction of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

On 23 January 1874, the Duke of Edinburgh married the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the second (and only surviving) daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his first wife Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine.

For her marriage her father gave her a staggering dowry, today valued at six and a quarter million pounds with an additional £2 million per annum. That is the sort of spending that leads to revolutions.

In part 6 there will be more monuments as we explore the Hoe itself and the short route back to the start of this walk.

Unless otherwise mentioned, the information for this post was from Wikipedia.

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Unknown member
Jun 26, 2022

To be honest, not sure how to comment here ( might be my mood) but one thing that pops in and many different informations and so many different photos and yet you didn't miss a beat with any of them....what does that say about you?

Unknown member
Jun 26, 2022
Replying to

Take it as a compliment :)

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