Plymouth is located on Devon’s south coast between the River Plym and the Tamar. With the city centre offering visitors fantastic shopping facilities as well as beautiful architecture, the Barbican and Sutton Harbour are a joy to explore with cobbled streets and art galleries, which sit alongside cafes and restaurants in the old port area. With the likes of Sir Francis Drake and the Pilgrim Fathers setting sail from its shores, and its military significance, Plymouth is a fascinating location for a city break.
Evidence shows that the name Plymouth, which means mouth of the River Plym, dates back to 1211, with settlements also in the area far earlier in both the Bronze and Iron Ages. The importance of the port of Plymouth would see raids during both the Hundred Years’ War which saw many battles take place between the English and the French, as well as attacks by the Breton Raiders.
Steps were taken to secure the area of Plymouth and fortifications were constructed across the city, at Mount Batten and Sutton Pool, with the Royal Citadel built under the instruction of King Charles II, following the Dutch Wars which took place in the 1660’s.
Sir Francis Drake famously departed from Plymouth on many quests including on 15 November 1577, when he led a fleet to circumnavigate the world, and later when he engaged in the Spanish Armada. Drake later became Mayor of Plymouth and a statue of Drake can be found at Plymouth Hoe. The Pilgrim Fathers also began their journey from Plymouth on a voyage to create a colony in the New World, with Plymouth Colony established in America in the 1620’s.
The city played a significant role during both World Wars, with Plymouth’s sizeable naval base HMNB Devonport which is the largest in Western Europe, used for repairs and escort vessels and as well as Plymouth being a port of entry for troops. As a result the city was a target of bombing and through the Plymouth Blitz the city was devastated, with the loss of over 1000 lives. Today Plymouth is still home for the Royal Marine Commandos, and more can be learnt about Plymouth’s fascinating maritime history at the Mayflower Museum located at the Barbican.
Plymouth is a historic and cultural city and home to the Armed Forces Day Celebrations and the British Firework Championships which are held on its waterfront each year. The city has also been a focus in popular culture.
Films & TV
Alice in Wonderland (2010) was directed by Tim Burton and starred Mia Wasilkowska together with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, and featured scenes shot in and around Plymouth.
Currently in post-production and as yet untitled, Mike Leigh’s biopic of the life of artist J.M.W. Turner stars Timothy Spall together with Marion Bailey and Dorothy Atkinson, with the Plymouth area again chosen as a prime filming location.
In Which We Serve (1942) was directed by Noel Coward with Mountbatten proving the inspiration for this war film. A number of the final scenes were filmed in the naval station and dockyard in Plymouth.
Sir Joshua Reynolds – was born in Plympton a suburb of Plymouth on 16 July 1723, and was an 18th century painter whose Grand Style work focussed on portraits. Reynolds was knighted in 1769 and was a founding member of the Royal Academy, of which he was the first President.
Tom Daley – the Olympic medallist diver and TV personality was born in Plymouth on 21 May 1994, and more recently has also hosted Splash! In which he coaches celebrities to dive.
George Passmore – was born in Plymouth on 8 January 1942, and is known together with Gilbert Prousch as the artist collaboration Gilbert and George. Recognised for their distinctive style in both sculpture and picture, the pair have received many awards for their work including the Turner Prize.
The distinctive Seaton’s Tower Lighthouse dates back to 1759, and was dismantled from its original location at Eddystone and reconstructed at Plymouth Hoe as a memorial for John Smeaton, the famous civil engineer. With the Lighthouse open to the public in September 1884, the original foundation and old tower remain in place near the current lighthouse on the Eddystone Rocks.
The Royal Citadel dates back to the 1660’s and overlooks Plymouth Sound, a bay at the eastern end of Plymouth Hoe. The Royal Citadel remains a military location and is home to the Royal Artillery 29 Commando Regiment. Made of local limestone, the 1st Earl of Bath John Granville laid the foundation stone which remains in place today. The imposing baroque gateway was designed by Thomas Fitz, and the walls of the Citadel measure over 70ft high.
Plymouth Naval Memorial
The Plymouth Naval Memorial is one of three designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and feature sculpture by Henry Poole, which were constructed to remember those sailors who lost their lives in World War I. The other memorials are located in Chatham and Portsmouth, with the three sites Britain’s main naval ports. The memorial was expanded upon to commemorate sailors who died during World War II, with Sir Edward Maufe responsible for the design and William McMillan and Charles Wheeler for the sculpture. Over 20,000 sailors who had no known grave are commemorated at the memorial.