Plymouth stands between moorland to the north and the English Channel to the south, and is flanked by the river Plym to the east and the river Tamar to the west. The Tamar forms a natural border between the city in the county of Devonshire, and the county of Cornwall.

The origins of Plymouth can be traced back to Saxon times, more than a thousand years ago, and its history very much reflects its maritime location. Farmland on a small peninsula at the mouth of the river Plym, referred to in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Sudtone, meaning South Farm, developed into Sutton Harbour, the hub of medieval Plymouth. The earliest record of cargo leaving Plymouth dates from 1211, and for the next two centuries trade through Plymouth flourished, particularly during the 100 Years War with France.

This is the best photo I have collected of Plymouth's Barbican.

Plymouth Old Photos

Plymouth Hoe provides a great, relaxing view-point to watch ships sail in and
out of Plymouth Sound,with views out to Drake's Island, Mount Batten,
Mount Edgecumbe Park and the Eddystone Lighthouse. Dotted with memorials
to Plymouth's past.Also located within the Plymouth Hoe is Smeaton's Tower a
world famous lighthouse. Built in 1759, Smeaton's Tower was the fourth tower to
guide ships safely through Plymouth's port. It replaced the earlier Rudyerd
Tower (1709) which was set ablaze when the lantern house caught fire.
John Smeaton's replacement on Eddystone's Tower was to be as solid as an oak,
able to withstand the elements where the previous lighthouses had failed.
His new construction was a complete success and his use of joint masonry
would become a template for the construction of other lighthouses throughout
the world. Indeed, Smeaton's Tower would still stand on Eddystone's Rock
were it not for the fissures in the rock caused by the undermining of the sea.
After a sound 127 years of service, Smeaton's Tower had become a landmark
dearly loved by Plymouth's residents. Although new technology had now
superseded Smeaton's Tower, in 1882 Plymouth's locals raised funds to have
it dismantled and reerected on Plymouth's Hoe – a testament and a tribute to
Smeaton's engineering brilliance. On your visit, you can climb the 93 steps
to the top of Smeaton's Tower.

Lying adjacent to the east side of the Plymouth Hoe is the Royal Citadel. An awesome fortification whether seen from land or sea, the Royal Citadel is bounded by 70ft walls. It lies on the site of Plymouth Fort which was originally constructed in 1596 at the request of Sir Francis Drake who feared for Plymouth's safety in the face of the antagonistic Spanish Armada. After England's Civil War and the Dutch Wars, Charles II realised it was high time to protect his interests and work on the Royal Citadel began. However, Plymouth's enthusiastic support for Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarian cause was not easily forgotten. Having enemies both at home and abroad, the Royal Citadel was marked by an unusual feature with guns pointing both out to sea and inland towards the city. The Royal Citadel is now home to the 29th Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery and its Baroque Gate is still manned by armed sentries. However, between May and September, the Royal Citadel's doors are opened to the public for tours by Blue Badge guides. Plymouth's importance both as a community and a port accelerated during this period. In 1254 its town status was recognised by Royal Charter, and in 1439 Plymouth was the first town in England to be granted a Charter by Parliament. Trade with other English regions, the Baltics and Northern Europe expanded, whilst fortifications were built up to repel repeated French incursions. During the next three centuries Plymouth established its reputation both as a centre for voyage and discovery, and for its military importance. Transatlantic trade originated with William Hawkins in 1528. His son John laid the foundations of an organised naval force.

Plymouth Harbour's history stretches right back, but the focus is from the Elizabethan period of Sir Francis Drake, his enormous statue can be viewed near Smeaton's Tower. The Plymouth Sound estuary and harbour is a naturally perfect harbour with it's deep waters and sheltered position. Many historic names are associated with Plymouth, and setting sail from it's harbour on voyages of discovery, or on excursions to plunder. Drake effectively was an Elizabethan pirate or perceived as such by the Spanish whose many ships were plundered by him!

In 1572 Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail into the Pacific, and in 1577 he embarked on the first ever circumnavigation of the globe. Back in Plymouth, Drake masterminded the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. According to popular legend, he played bowls on Plymouth Hoe as the Armada sailed up the Channel. Drake was responsible also for the establishment of England's first colony, at Roanoke in Virginia, an act that may be regarded as the origins of the British Empire.

Perhaps the most celebrated expedition to leave Plymouth was that of the Pilgrims to form the Plymouth Colony in America. The Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth on the 16th September 1620 in the Mayflower captained by Myles Standish steering a course for Virginia. The ship was a double decked, three masted vessel. However a storm blew them off course and they reached land at Cape Cod which they renamed Plymouth Rock.They dropped anchor on 21st November 1620.They reached the site that was to become Plymouth Colony on 21st December 1620 and established their own government

Further explorations that left from Plymouth included three voyages to the southern ocean and the Pacific made by James Cook, the first in 1768. He was the first explorer to set foot on what are now the Hawaiian Islands, where he died in 1779. In 1831 Charles Darwin left Plymouth for the Galapagos Islands, where he formulated his revolutionary theories of natural selection and the Origins of Species.

In 1690 the first Royal Dockyard opened on the banks of the Tamar west of Plymouth. Further docks were built in 1727, 1762 and 1793, and a huge naval complex was later established, including the communities of Plymouth Dock and Stonehouse. The Navy's role during war against Napoleon's France was pivotal, and in 1812 a mile-long breakwater was laid to protect the fleet.

Throughout the nineteenth century the population and physical size of the towns increased dramatically. In 1824 Plymouth Dock was renamed Devonport, and in 1914 the three towns of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse were united as the Borough of Plymouth. In 1928 Plymouth was granted City status, and the first Lord Mayor was appointed in 1935. Plymouth was heavily bombed during the Second World War. Plymouth's and Devonport's centres were destroyed. Re-built in the 1950s, Plymouth's commercial heart was the first in England to incorporate pedestrian-only shopping avenues. Since the war the city has expanded, with new housing and commercial developments and absorption of what once were neighbouring communities.

In 1967 Plymouth absorbed the towns of Plympton and Plymstock. Plympton pre-dates any development in the Sutton / Plymouth area on the coast. Plympton stands two miles inland on the river Plym, and its origins, which, like that of Sutton, date from the Saxon age, were founded on tin mining and trading. For as long as trading vessels could reach Plympton, the community flourished. However, in the early years of the last millennium the river silted with mining residue, and it was from that time that Sutton / Plymouth grew to pre-eminence. The name Plympton means plum-tree village in Saxon English, and it was from this that the river and later the city of Plymouth itself derived their names.
Today Plymouth is the third largest city in southern England, with a population of almost 250,000. It has strong links with several European cities, with ferry links to France and Spain. Plymouth is twinned with Gdynia in Poland, San Sebastian in Spain, Novorossiysk in Russia, Brest in France and, since 2001, with Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The whole region is a popular tourist destination, and the city itself attracts large numbers of visitors, particularly Americans, who are drawn to the Old Barbican district.

The Merchant’s House is the largest and finest house of the early 16th and 17th century date surviving in Plymouth. The most famous owner of 33 St Andrews St, William Parker was an Elizabethan adventurer,sea captain and merchant.He was certainly living in the house in 1608/09 and most probably modernised an older house using profits from his privateering ventures against the Spaniards in the Carribean. Parker was probably the master of the Mary Rose the victualling ship of Sir Francis Drake’s squadron in the fleet against the Armada in 1588. His first known independent adventure was in November 1596 when he sailed his ship the Prudence to Jamaica and Mexico. He sacked and looted Puerto de Cavallos but was driven off by the Spaniards from the town of Campeche on Easter Day 1597. In November 1600 he again took the Prudence and with two other vessels sailed to the West Indies, sacking St Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands on the way. After several adventures they captured two frigates belonging to the Spanish treasure fleet with 10,000 gold ducats on board. Parker then returned to Plymouth in May 1601 and in September of that year became Mayor. Although he remained actively involved in patrolling the waters between Ushant and the Scilly Isles, from this time on he seems to have settled in Plymouth as a merchant. He took an interest in the colonising of Virginia, being one of the promoters of the Plymouth Company for the colonisation of the North American coast, founded under Charter from King James 1 in April 1606. His final adventure was a second-in-command of a fleet voyaging to the East Indies in 1618. this expedition was led by Sir Thomas Dale who wrote that Parker was by then ‘unfit for his work being old and corpulent’. Parker sent a letter from the Cape of Good Hope in June 1618 asking that £100 be paid to his wife; he died on the voyage to Bantam, Java, on 24th September 1618.

The Prysten House ("Priests' House") on the S. side of St. Andrew's churchyard, It is the oldest building in Plymouth it was built in 1490, a year before Henry VIII was born and two years before Columbus discovered America. It is a late 15th century building which fortunately escaped damage. It is a quadrangular building of limestone and granite, with a central courtyard and original door-ways, windows, staircases, roofs, and other features.

In the 20th century of course, the famous name is Sir Francis Chichester. He became the first Englishman to sail solo round the globe. Chichester and his small craft Gypsy Moth hold a number of records, one being the fastest voyage around the world by a small vessel.

Plymouth is a naval town the Royal Naval Dockyards were built at Devonport / Plymouth in the 17th century, and this was the beginning of Plymouth's huge importance as a naval base. Working docks are of course still there today, only accessible usually in August on Plymouth Navy Days events. It's strategic importance as a naval base made Plymouth a key target for bombing during the Second World War. Learn more about the devastating effects of war on Plymouth at the super Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery in the town centre.

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