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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Plymouth 6 Hoe to Theatre Royal

This is the final stretch of my photo walk. It starts at the Hoe where I left Part 5 and carries on down Armada Way, where I hang a left through a back route back to the Theatre Royal Car Park, where I started in Part 1.

This was just an odd little find along the way which I picked for the title photo. It is strange that somebody should have gone to such care to dispose of their banana skin, placing it so deliberately in this decorative wall. At least it wasn't underfoot so I could do a slapstick routine, before I got back to my car.

Slapstick - Slapstick is a style of humour involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap, often resulting from inept use of props such as saws and ladders

or banana skins.

The term arises from a device developed for use in the broad, physical comedy style known as commedia dell'arte in 16th-century Italy. The "slap stick" consists of two thin slats of wood, which make a "slap" when striking another actor, with little force needed to make a loud—and comical—sound. The physical slap stick remains a key component of the plot in the traditional and popular Punch and Judy puppet show.

But back to serious matters.

The unique history of Plymouth means that more than most cities, apart from London, it is a city of monuments and memorials. Nowhere more so than in the public space around the Hoe.

This is the largest of those memorials, the Plymouth Navy Memorial to those mariners lost in two World Wars whose grave was the sea.

It is formed in two parts, the original of which is an obelisk which was one of three such identical memorials placed in the UK's largest naval ports, Plymouth, Chatham and Portsmouth after the first World War.

After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided.

An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Plymouth Naval Memorial was unveiled by HRH Prince George on 29 July 1924.

There is an irony in the memorial being unveiled by HRH Prince George in 1924. The war was over and nobody could have predicted another great war only less than 20 years away.

Prince George was a member of the British royal family, the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary. He was a younger brother of kings Edward VIII and George VI.

Prince George served in the Royal Navy in the 1920s and then briefly as a civil servant. He became Duke of Kent in 1934. In the late 1930s he served as an RAF officer, initially as a staff officer at RAF Training Command and then, from July 1941, as a staff officer in the Welfare Section of the RAF Inspector General's Staff. He was killed in a military air-crash on 25 August 1942.

After the Second World War it was decided that the naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead without graves of that war, but since the three sites were dissimilar, a different architectural treatment was required for each. The architect for the Second World War extension at Plymouth was Sir Edward Maufe (who also designed the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede) and the additional sculpture was by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. The Extension was unveiled by HRH Princess Margaret on 20 May 1954. Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Plymouth Naval Memorial commemorates 7,251 sailors of the First World War and 15,933 of the Second World War.

The memorial features a central obelisk, with names of the dead arranged according to the year of death. Those for the First World War are on panels affixed to the obelisk's base; those for the Second World War are on panels set into the surrounding wall. Within each year, the names are grouped by service, then by rank and surname. Wikipedia.

The largest naval action of WWI, the Battle of Jutland, saw the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet clash off the coast of Denmark on 31 May-1 June 1916. The battle raged over 72 hours, engaging over 100,000 British and German naval personnel in 250 ships. Over one-quarter of the men commemorated here at Plymouth were lost at Jutland. This includes most of the crews of the battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable and the armoured cruiser HMS Defence.

Fifteen years after this memorial was unveiled, the Navy was called upon once again to fight a global war. Hundreds of thousands of men and women joined up, and manpower strength rose from just 129,000 in the 1930s to over 860,000 by 1945. They served in a wide variety of roles and vessels, from converted fishing trawlers to submarines, immense battleships and aircraft carriers, and in shore establishments. Once again, the navy protected vital convoys of food, supplies and Allied troops, and engaged the enemy at sea.

The Second World War extension takes the form of a sunken garden area enclosed by quadrant walls, curving outwards from the obelisk to the landward (north); the walls also curve around the obelisk at the centre. The sunken area is reached by wide stepped walkways following the curve of the walls, and wide steps leading from the centre of the obelisk. The walls are lined with bronze plaques bearing the names of those lost during the Second World War. Standing against the walls at the centre, beneath the obelisk, are sculptural figures depicting two sailors on watch: a Royal Marine and a member of the maritime regiment of the Royal Artillery, both wearing duffel coats and holding binoculars;

There were numerous encounters between vessels, like that of 8 June 1940 when HMS Glorious was sunk in the Norwegian Sea by two German battlecruisers. 1,220 men were lost.

Just three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of Malaya, with the loss of over 700 lives.

In all, almost 60,000 naval personnel died as a result of their service between 1939 and 1945. In 1946, it was decided to extend the existing naval memorials to commemorate Second World War dead.

Unveiled in 1954, the Plymouth extension records the names of almost 16,000 men and women of the Commonwealth who died while serving in the Royal Navy, including most of those lost while serving aboard HMS Glorious, Prince of Wales and Repulse.

There are at least 44 pairs of brothers commemorated on

the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

On the Plymouth Naval Memorial, there are two sailors who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Commander W.E. Sanders was from New Zealand and was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 for his bravery while commanding HMS Prize. In August 2020 the Australian Governor General announced that HM Queen Elizabeth II had approved a posthumous award of the ‘Victoria Cross for Australia’ to Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean for his ‘selfless actions’ aboard HMAS Armidale in December 1942. As a result, the letters V.C. have now been added after Teddy’s name.

Among the more than 23,000 people commemorated on the memorial, there are just eight women. Josephine Carr

from Cork in Ireland is the only female casualty recorded on the memorial from the First World War. She was the first ‘Wren’ (member of the Women’s Royal

Naval Service) to be killed by enemy action, when SS Leinster was sunk by a German submarine in October 1918.

By December 1918, Ireland had become an independent country.

On the Second World War panels is the name of Sick Berth Attendant James William Thorpe. He has the letters A.M. after his name – Albert Medal. Thorpe was serving on HMS Broke in the Mediterranean in November 1942. The following is taken from the citation published in the London Gazette; ‘Thorpe showed great courage in tending the wounded and getting them to places of greater safety. He himself was then badly hit, but he spent his last strength in the care of others, working till he could no longer stand. He died of his wounds.’

The memorial takes the form of a massive stone obelisk, with four ships’ prows projecting from the apex, inspired by the rostral columns erected to celebrate Roman naval victories. The obelisk rises from a stepped square base with corner projections, each projection supporting a lion couchant. Low down on each side of the obelisk is the naval badge of an anchor within a laurel wreath, surmounted by a naval crown. The apex of the obelisk is stepped inwards; above the branching ships’ prows, are bronze figures representing the four winds, who bear a large copper sphere representing the earth.

The dent in the copper sphere is the honourable wounding in action of the monument itself. The trailing cable of a barrage balloon, which had broken free, struck it in the 1939-1945 war.

The Armada Memorial is a monument on Plymouth Hoe, Plymouth, Devon, England. Built in 1888, the monument celebrates the tercentenary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which was sighted by English captains stationed in the city. It is a granite structure, decorated with bronze crests and a statue of Britannia.

News of the Armada's approach reached Plymouth on the afternoon of 19 July and it entered into sight on 20 July 1588. Tradition recorded that tidings of the approach came to the captains whilst they were playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe. Tradition also associates the following passage from Francis Drake: "There is time enough to play the game out first, and thrash the Spaniards afterwards.

"He blew with His winds, and they were scattered" is a phrase used in the aftermath of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, when the Spanish fleet was broken up by a storm, which was also called the Protestant Wind. The phrase seems to have had its origin in an inscription on one of the many commemorative medals struck to celebrate the occasion.

In 1577, Sir Francis Drake was secretly commissioned by Elizabeth I to set off on an expedition against the Spanish colonies on the American Pacific coast. He sailed with five ships, but by the time he reached the Pacific Ocean in October 1578 only one was left, Drake's flagship the Pelican, renamed the Golden Hind.

He travelled up the west coast of South America, plundering Spanish ports. He continued north, hoping to find a route across to the Atlantic, and sailed further up the west coast of America than any European. Unable to find a passage, he turned south and then in July 1579, west across the Pacific. His travels took him to the Moluccas, Celebes, Java and then round the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived back in England in September 1580 with a rich cargo of spices and Spanish treasure and the distinction of being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.

A polished granite column topped by a sculpted watchkeeper figure. There are plaques on each of the four sides of the column with the Merchant Navy crest above. The figure is based on a statuette known as 'The Officer of the Watch', which had been produced in the late 1970s during classes attended by cadets of Plymouth's School of Navigation. The use of the word 'monument' rather than 'memorial' is deliberate as it widens the purpose from being solely a place of remembrance to those who have gone before to a celebration of all those involved in civilian maritime activities. The official unveiling by HRH The Princess Royal took place on Tuesday 3rd September 2019, Merchant Navy Day. This was also the 80th anniversary of the first action of the Second World War, namely the sinking of the British cargo passenger liner SS 'Athenia' by a U-boat.

Although the story of the ship's captains playing bowls on the Hoe when the Spanish Armada appeared may be apocryphal, as if to prove a point here on the hoe is the Plymouth Hoe Bowling Club.

Christ the King Catholic Chaplaincy, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Scott came from a family of architects. He was noted for his blending of Gothic tradition with modernism, making what might otherwise have been functionally designed buildings into popular landmarks. Scott remained working into his late 70s. He was working on designs for the Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King, Plymouth, when he developed lung cancer. He took the designs into University College Hospital, where he continued to revise them until his death aged 79.

His Masterpiece the Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ, Liverpool saw construction start in 1904. The massive project was halted during both World Wars and was not completed until 1978.

In terms of overall volume, Liverpool Cathedral ranks as the fifth-largest cathedral in the world and contests with the incomplete Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City for the title of largest Anglican church building. With a height of 331 feet (101 m) it is also one of the world's tallest non-spired church buildings and the fourth-tallest structure in the city of Liverpool. The cathedral is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building

You may be thinking you have never heard of Giles Gilbert Scott, but you are definitely very familiar with his most internationally recognised and iconic red masterpiece.

This remains a mystery for now as I cannot find out why this is here. In fact I had walked past it without noticing it at first.

This is another mystery. At first I thought it was a bombed out building but having looked closer I believe it may be a folly instead. A false façade to finish off the end of a grand terrace of large houses.

This is the stage door of the old cinema mentioned in Part 1.

Here we are back at the car park where this walk started. If you like Brutalism you will love it. Behind it is the Theatre Royal, a large brick cube.

On it's eastern side is where we started, with the Civic Building, currently vacant and awaiting development. If you didn't start with it, here is a link to the start of the walk. Part 1.

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Unknown member
Jun 27, 2022

Thanks for giving us the background on slapstick. I knew the definition but didn't know where it came from. My favorites in this series are the white statues for the service men. Their stance and the fact that they are in white is very appealing.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jun 30, 2022
Replying to

I think these are stone carvings.

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