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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Plymouth Photo Walk 4 - 15 09 2022

This was where part 3 ended so I am starting off outside the "Last pub on Union Street". Now The Firkin Doghouse but it used to be The Royal Sovereign Inn. There were reputed to have been 43 pubs along or just off Union Street in its heyday. Plymouth had a much bigger naval presence back then, probably four to five times greater than today and this was also the centre of the night life in the city. The night life in the city is now more fragmented, the number of sailors reduced and pubs no longer frequented as they used to be.

HMS Royal Sovereign was a 100-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, which served as the flagship of Admiral Collingwood at the Battle of Trafalgar. She was the third of seven Royal Navy ships to bear the name. She was launched at Plymouth Dockyard (Only a mile away from this spot) on 11 September 1786, at a cost of £67,458, and was the only ship built to her design.


Under Admiral Collingwood she was the first ship of the fleet in action at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, she led one column of warships; Nelson's Victory led the other. Due to the re-coppering of her hull prior to her arrival off Cádiz, Royal Sovereign was a considerably better sailer in the light winds present that day than other vessels, and pulled well ahead of the rest of the fleet. As she cut the enemy line alone and engaged the Spanish three decker Santa Ana, Nelson pointed to her and said, 'See how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action!' At approximately the same moment, Collingwood remarked to his captain, Edward Rotheram, 'What would Nelson give to be here?

I turn off Union Street at the pub to go down Battery Street. We are now entering an area very much steeped in Naval history. This is East Stonehouse, one of the three towns amalgamated to form the City of Plymouth. Not to be confused with West Stonehouse on the opposite side of the River Tamar. Today it is commonly called Stonehouse. The name Battery comes from Battery Hill just south of here, a defensive position guarding the harbour and docks at Millbay. Millbay was originally the centre of military operations until they moved to a point further down the Tamar at Devonport, which is another of the three towns.

Settlement in the area goes back to Roman times and a house made of stone was believed to have stood near to Stonehouse Creek. However other stories relate to land owned in the 13th century by Robert the Bastard. This land subsequently passed from the Durnford family, through marriage, to the Edgecombe family in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Bastard family were important in South Devon and were originally from France, arriving after the Norman invasion.

This building stands out as unusual and I can't find any history on it, my best bet is that it is a former coach house and stable possibly for a neighbouring grand house or for a Hansom Cab for hire to the local gentry who may not have had their own carriages or stables. The front arch looks like a carriage entry and the upper door looks like one you would see on a barn for loading hay or straw.

On the day of the walk, I had assumed this was an old Corner Shop, below, but when I looked at it later I thought it looked more like an old pub in design, with the obscured glass windows and split double front door.

I used my new trick to look back at old maps online and found this. There on the corner of Adelaide Street is the P.H. for Public House. This map ran from 1873 -1888. It was originally The Royal Adelaide Arms and closed in the 1990's.

Looking North down Battery Street you can see a high stone wall. This is the compound of the former Royal Naval Hospital.

The naval hospital was built between 1758 and 1765 to a design by the little-known Alexander Rovehead. The design was influential in its time: its pattern of detached wards (arranged so as to maximise ventilation and minimise spread of infection) foreshadows the 'pavilion' style of hospital building which was popularised by Florence Nightingale a century later. The site for the hospital was formerly known as the mill fields (after the nearby tide mills on Stonehouse Creek). The hospital closed in 1995; it is now a gated residential complex called The Millfields. The site contains over 20 listed buildings and structures.

At The Millfields a one bed "Trafalgar"apartment will set you back £164,000.

This is Adelaide Street and along with Adelaide Place and Adelaide Lane they were named after the wife of William Duke of Clarence. William was never expected to become King as he was a third son of the monarch George III. However, both of his brothers died before him and neither had any legitimate children. He became King at the age of 64 after the untimely death of his brother George IV. He became married late in life to Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. He was survived by eight of his ten illegitimate children fathered during a twenty year cohabitation with his actress lover Dorothea Jordan. None of his children were legally permitted to inherit the throne. As a consequence, his niece Victoria became Queen upon his death.

William and Adelaide were crowned on 8 September 1831 at Westminster Abbey. Adelaide was deeply religious and took the service very seriously. William despised the ceremony and acted throughout, it is presumed deliberately, as if he was "a character in a comic opera", making a mockery of what he thought to be a ridiculous charade. Adelaide, alone among those attending received praise for her "dignity, repose and characteristic grace".

After William's death she remained Queen Dowager for twelve years. She died during the reign of her niece Queen Victoria on 2 December 1849 of natural causes at Bentley Priory in Middlesex. She was buried at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. She wrote instructions for her funeral during an illness in 1841 at Sudbury Hall:

I die in all humility … we are alike before the throne of God, and I request therefore that my mortal remains be conveyed to the grave without pomp or state … to have as private and quiet a funeral as possible. I particularly desire not to be laid out in state … I die in peace and wish to be carried to the fount in peace, and free from the vanities and pomp of this world.

Back in 2019.

Adelaide Street is vibrant and unique, much like its artistic inhabitants. They have identified colour and expression as main goals for the group to achieve and Peter Davey shares that passion with them. He said: "They want permaculture and litter picking. They want a BBQ, they want do a street party, they want sports and they want to clean their street up. They want to get away from the very conservative, ‘We have to have a certain colour street’; maybe in a year or two we might actually have our houses bright colours going down the street. People are expressing their interest to have a really beautiful street and we want to make that happen.

Well, do you know what? It looks like the Adelaide Angels achieved just that. Most of Adelaide Street appears to be Grade 2 listed by English Heritage.

This is the listing description of one group of the houses. Part of planned terrace of houses. Mid C19 to designs by John Foulston. Stucco with stucco detail; dry slate or asbestos slate roofs behind stuccoed parapets, Nos. 43 and 44 with moulded entablature, No. 45 with pediment and moulded entablature over pilasters; roof dormers; some brick end stacks.

Just north of Adelaide Street is Clarence Place and the houses in both, back on to each other to form this alley. Clarence (The Duke of) was Adelaide's husband the King don't forget. Being Plymouth there is a fully grown Palm Tree in the back garden.

The alley is large enough to get a horse drawn vehicle down it which would have enabled deliveries to the back door. But there are no coach houses here, so although these houses back in the 1830's would have been considered reasonably posh, they were not so posh that they could run to having their own transport. This is why I guess that the coach building above, may have been some sort of Hansom Cab business offering services to the occupants of these homes. This is all guesswork on my part.

This is how people will now be getting their broadband.

As I move further east the properties are less restored and more in need of restoration.

The area slowly changes and is now occupied by a variety of small businesses, some traditional like scrap metal merchants and second hand furniture and others that are IT and media based. It is a thriving, area with busy streets.

There seems to be an explosion of creative spaces congregating in this area.

Flameworks Creative Arts Facility

Established in 2000 by former staff and students of Plymouth College of Art, Flameworks Creative Arts Facility is one of the largest managed workspaces in Devon and Cornwall.

At Flameworks, we host a community of professional artists ranging from painters and illustrators to blacksmiths and sculptors and provide communal facilities and equipment that allow artists and recent graduates to continue their professional practice. Associate members can benefit from being able to hire specialist equipment such as forges, pottery wheels, kilns and lampworking torches.


Leadworks is an exciting and innovative social enterprise. Created in 2019 when the need for more creative, flexible and accessible spaces for grassroots arts and community organisations was realised.

Our first project based in Stonehouse, Plymouth, saw the community renovation of a disused lead paint warehouse which gave us our name. Our doors now house a cafe and bar, public living room and library, community fridge, six affordable artists studios, a makers area, a music and performance stage, meeting and workshop rooms, a cinema space, and two dynamic exhibition spaces.

This is the restored Leadworks.

The Tradesmans Arms below has an almost zero online presence that I can find. The only reference I can find dates back to the 1970's when apparently it hosted gay clientele who had found no welcome in other pubs in the city.

In his Memories of Gay Old Plymouth, Tony Dingle aka Madam Arcati states,

The Tradesmans and Mr Harry's

In this blog I am supposedly only covering gay pubs rather than clubs - which might have excluded me from mentioning the extraordinary Mr Harry Greenslade, but as he had a pub off Union Street, The Tradesmans Arms (19 Octagon Street) so I can. It was a good pub to meet friendly "Royal Maureens" (Marines).

However Mr Harry's Nightclub was a wonderful place. I used to sign in under the name 'Bette Davis' or 'Joan Crawford', depending on my mood; no one seemed to mind.

I am now almost back to the beginning and just returning to a short stretch of Union Street. It looks as if at some recent time you could go here and choose between Chinese, African or Indian cuisine at this short row. Today it looks as if the only survivor is the African option.

2018 - The Clipper was once Plymouth’s first 24-hour pub. The Union Street building, (centre) which dates from 1877, has reopened after teams of workers spent six months transforming the rundown building. It sports a bright colour scheme inspired by the hues on the treasured 1940s mural, which has survived, and the colours and designs of 19th Century architect John Foulston, who designed much of Union Street.

It is currently home to Plymouth Jollof Kitchen.

On the side wall of the old Gaumont Palace featured in part 2 are various posters related to it's past including this photo of the interior. Read more about it here.

Between it and the Western Approach multi-storey I am headed back to, is some waste land and hoardings. On the side road is this street art.

While on the main road, is an assortment of artworks, "Plymouth's Random Art Corner".

This seems like a good point on which to end this photo walk. If you have enjoyed this virtual walk around Plymouth you may enjoy reading about my previous walk too. That walk starts at The Theatre Royal and circles around Sutton Harbour, The Barbican, and the Hoe.

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5 Yorum

Bilinmeyen üye
20 Eki 2022

I am in agreement with John, some really nice photos of the area. The ones that grabbed me the most besides the graffities are #2 because of its colors and #10 because for whatever reason it reminds me of a French countryside building, like a boulangerie of sorts. Don't ask me why.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
20 Eki 2022
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

I've since discovered it was called the Royal Adelaide.


John Durham
John Durham
19 Eki 2022

Some wonderful colors, in the house trims, the signage and the graffiti. Loved that first image - really a bright, bold textured one.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
20 Eki 2022
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

Thanks John, there were some nice finds.

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