top of page
  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Plymouth Sound

Originally published on Blogspot by Gethin Thomas November 10th 2021

This is a selection of views of Plymouth Sound from Prince William's Yard a former Royal Navy fortification over looking the Sound. This lighthouse is the breakwater lighthouse at the entrance to the port.

Engineer John Rennie designed the mile-long breakwater to protect fleet movements in and out of Devonport. Although work started in 1812, the breakwater suffered storm damage and technical problems, and it was not finally completed until 1841. Unfortunately, Rennie died 20 years before its completion.

Messrs Walker and Burgess designed the lighthouse built on the western end of the breakwater. Work commenced in February 1841 and was completed in November 1843.

The tower was first lit in June 1844. A fixed red light with a white sector marked an anchorage to the northeast. These colours were later reversed. A second white light later shone lower down the tower from 1854, highlighting the Draystone, off Penlee Point and the Knap.

At the eastern end of the breakwater, a round cage mounted on a pole was built as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors. Around 4 million tons of rock were used in its construction in 1812 at the then-colossal cost of £1.5 million (equivalent to £101 million today).

Plymouth Hoe, in the distance, referred to locally as the Hoe, is a large south-facing open public space in the English coastal city of Plymouth. The Hoe is adjacent to and above the low limestone cliffs that form the seafront and it commands views of Plymouth Sound, Drake's Island, and across the Hamoaze to Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word hoh, a sloping ridge shaped like an inverted foot and heel.

A prominent landmark on the Hoe is Smeaton's Tower, on the right. This is the upper portion of John Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse, which was originally built on the Eddystone Rocks, located 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south, in 1759. It was dismantled in 1877 and moved, stone by stone, to the Hoe where it was re-erected.

The Armada Memorial, the tower on the left, was opened in 1888 to celebrate the tercentenary of the Spanish Armada.

The Eddystone Lighthouse is a lighthouse that is located on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, 9 statute miles (14 km) south of Rame Head in Cornwall, England. The rocks are submerged below the surface of the sea.

The current structure is the fourth to be built on the site (or arguably the fifth, since the first lighthouse had to be substantially rebuilt after only a year due to harsh conditions). The first lighthouse (Winstanley's) was swept away in a powerful storm, killing its architect and five other men in the process. The second (Rudyard's) stood for fifty years before it burned down. The third (Smeaton's) is the best known, renowned because of its influence on lighthouse design.

This beach in the Sound is at the base of the fortifications at Devil's Point. Firestone Bay is a designated wild swimming area. Plans are underway to make access to the water on foot safer and easier as currently swimmers have to traverse huge boulders that form the sea defence. The entrance to Devonport naval Dockyard is in the middle distance.

The land the other side is The Mount Edgcumbe Estate. The river here also forms the boundary of Devon and Cornwall so this photo takes in two counties. Mount Edgcumbe House is the former home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe. Surrounded by formal gardens and set in a Grade I listed landscape, the country park covers 865 acres of the Rame Peninsula in South East Cornwall.

Built nearly 100 years before the Mayflower set sail in 1620, the Tudor style mansion stands at the top of an equally ancient double avenue of trees. The Edgcumbe family can trace their ancestry back over 600 years. (

Just inside the Plymouth Breakwater is Drake's island.

The first recorded name for the island was in 1135, when it was referred to as St Michael's after the chapel erected on it. At some later date the chapel was rededicated to St Nicholas and the island adopted the same name. From the latter part of the 16th century the island was occasionally referred to as Drake's Island after Sir Francis Drake, the English privateer who used Plymouth as his home port.

It was from Plymouth that Drake sailed in 1577, to return in 1580 having circumnavigated the world, and in 1583 Drake was made governor of the island. From 1549 the island began to be fortified as a defence against the French and Spanish, with barracks for 300 men being built on the island in the late 16th century.

In October 2018, the island was put up for sale for £6 million. It was purchased by Morgan Phillips for £2m. Phillips plans to open the island to the public with a museum and heritage centre, thirty years after previously closing. It was due to open for a one-off tour by 105 visitors on 15 March 2020 but this was cancelled due to COVID-19.

In the distance a Royal Navy Auxiliary vessel is at anchor.

Devil's Point Tidal Pool.

The historic swimming spot, which is thought to have been constructed a century ago when King George was the reigning monarch, has been looking a little worse for wear recently.

The council had originally said it would be letting the pool be reclaimed by nature as it was 'much better' for the environment..........

Increasingly these days public bodies are throwing in the word environment when they decide they no longer want to maintain or fund the upkeep of something. This is a weasel approach and happily the people of Plymouth have challenged the council on this one.

......... but after many stern words backwards and forwards by those who wanted it cleaned out, the council finally gave in and environmental officers have been spotted at the pool assessing the situation and beginning to make a bit of headway in the hefty operation.

A council ecological survey had found that marine life was 'thriving' inside the tidal pool - you often find oysters and other marine life living there - and the authority said at the time it was 'serious' about leaving them alone instead of clearing the pool out every year for locals and tourists to enjoy.

But, as the pool was created for the enjoyment of humans, others' voices have prevailed and the council has now vowed to undertake necessary upkeep and repair work.

The council was probably finally swayed by the realisation that oysters don't pay tax and also don't have a vote. I would like to point out that flora and fauna could equally well take over the council offices too, wouldn't that be great for the environment?


bottom of page