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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Royal William Yard

In August we made another visit to Royal William Yard, and there always seems to be something we have either missed before or has not been accessible before.


The former Royal Navy victualling yards have been undergoing restoration and repurposing for a number of years due to the sheer scale of the complex of buildings. Sixteen acres of listed buildings released by the Ministry of Defence in 1992 as they were no longer needed.


Originally a combination of workshops, offices and storage/seasoning space (built around a pair of concentric quadrangles) the cooperage accommodated 100 coopers to make the barrels and kegs in which the produce of the Yard could be stored and transported. In 1869, however, the Navy decided to concentrate the majority of its barrel manufacturing work at Deptford; the coopers' skills were still required at Stonehouse (for repairs and production of smaller items) but their numbers declined over time until only 12 were employed.

The Yard was designed by the architect Sir John Rennie and was named after King William IV. It was built between 1826 and 1835. The Yard consolidated in one place various victualling activities from around the Plymouth area, including the brewing of beer, the slaughtering of live animals for fresh meat, the manufacture of barrels, the baking of bread and biscuits and the production of flour; as well as providing space for administration, accommodation and large amounts of storage.

The Royal William Yard includes a collection of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, built from Devon limestone with granite detailing, arranged around the square basin;


Each building had it's own name. This was the brewhouse. Although purpose built in 1832, it was never actually equipped as a brewhouse since emerging technology was allowing large quantities of fresh water to be carried at sea, eliminating the need for the beer rations. (A shed was later built to store ships water tanks within the Brewhouse courtyard, where they had been stored from as early as 1840.)The building itself stood empty until 1885, when the west wing was converted into a new slaughterhouse, with cattle lairs, a meat store and a vegetable store; at the same time the east wing functioned as a rum store and the central engine house was repurposed to provide hydraulic power to the Yard's many cranes. Later, for much of the 20th century, the Brewhouse housed a torpedo workshop.


The northern range of this complex of buildings contained a central granary flanked by flour mills, with 27 sets of millstones powered by a pair of steam engines, capable of producing 270,000 lb (120,000 kg) of flour per week. Grain could be loaded directly into the granary from vessels on the quayside. The southern range contained the bakery, with two sets of six ovens, back-to-back either side of the central spine wall (beneath a row of four square chimneys). There was a central boiler house with a chimney, with one engine to the north and the other to the south (the engines also powered biscuit-making equipment). The biscuits were dried on the upper floors of the side ranges; there was also a drying kiln above the boiler house.


Melville, a quadrangular storehouse building, designed, built and operated as the nerve centre of the whole of the Royal William Yard; begun in 1829, this was the second building to be constructed on the site. All administration was carried out here and it served as a major storehouse for food, clothing and equipment.





May Evans - BW 131 only supplies the freshest, locally caught fish direct from the boat at an affordable price. "Our usual catch would normally consist of plaice, thornback ray (skate) and dabs, plus more lucrative species such as bass, dover sole, brill, turbot and occasionally lobster making an appearance.......mackerel and gurnards also form part of our catch when they are in season."


Stothert & Pitt was a British engineering company founded in 1855 in Bath, England. It was the builder of various engineering products ranging from Dock cranes to construction plant and household cast iron items. It went out of business in 1989. The name and intellectual property became part of Clarke Chapman.


The small central basin or marina is for visiting boats and also houses some local ferry services, including the passenger Cremyll Ferry across the Tamar to Mt Edgcumbe.


The original site was dug out and levelled and the material used to extend the site. This retaining wall backs the peninsula that faces the harbour opening out to sea with the natural rock surface being level with the top, and it therefore acted as a major fortification against seaborne attack.


The other side of that wall is the harbour mouth, protected by a man made bar and fortifications.




This sea water swimming pool has recently been saved as it was scheduled for demolition.


No expense was spared on the buildings at William Yard with most decorated using patterned limestone and granite from nearby quarries. This was a showpiece meant to impress both in scale and quality.




A small section of the site is still in its state of disrepair after the rest have been restored and repurposed. I am not sure when or if this last part is due for restoration. Some businesses are using part of it and part of it is derelict.

Addendum August 2023. This area is now being restored.










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4件のコメント


不明なメンバー
2022年9月15日

I suddenly had a deja vue moment when I saw the swimming pool, thinking have I read this post and did not write a comment. Then realized that you just recently posted this one. The couple with the umbrella don't look too thrilled with your presence ( at least the guy is not).

いいね!
Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
2022年9月16日
返信先

Yes this was a bit of an update because we had not explored the unrestored areas before. I thought they made a nice contrast with the newly restored.

いいね!

John Durham
John Durham
2022年9月15日

Fascinating facility - any idea how it might be repurposed?

いいね!
Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
2022年9月16日
返信先

Hi John, Most has already been repurposed and there is a real mix of apartments, offices, brewery, hotel, restaurants and bars etc. Also an artist quarter.

いいね!
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