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South West Plymouth

Plymouth is a modern city. Much of the city centre was destroyed by bombing raids in WW2 and has been completely rebuilt with wide streets and rather uninspiring 1960s architecture.


Plymouth has a long history stretching back to the Bronze Age and has been an important trading port since Roman times. A town grew up around Sutton Pool.


Little remains of the early C15th castle built to defend the town and harbour from attack by the French. It was replaced by the Royal Citadel, a star shaped fort built in 1665, during the wars between England and the Dutch. It is one of the few surviving examples of a permanent C17th fort in England. Guns and a garrison protected the seaward approaches to the naval anchorage at Sutton Pool, as well as guarding against land attack.

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It was used as the headquarters of the Coast Artillery Training Centre during WW2 and is still used by the military. Access is by guided tour only.


A naval dockyard opened at Devonport in 1690 The neighbouring town of Devonport became strategically important to the Royal Navy for its shipyards and dockyard, hence the 59 devastating bombing raids in 1941. As well as destroying much of the town, 4448 civilians were injured and 1178 killed.

Both city churches were destroyed. Charles Church is still a roofless ruin and now the centre of a roundabout.


St Andrews church was also reduced to a roofless shell but was rebuilt after the war.



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For those prepared to look, there is still a surprising amount of old Plymouth surviving around Sutton Pool and the Barbican, the area around the old port with its narrow cobbled streets and Tudor and Jacobean buildings. This is where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail on the Mayflower in 1620. Known as the Mayflower Steps, this is marked by a small viewing platform overlooking the quayside. The Mayflower Museum close by tell their story





The Plymouth Gin Distillery building on Southside dates back to the early 1400s and was originally a monastery belonging to the Blackfriars.



The Elizabethan House is on New Street and was originally built as a letting house with rooms for rent and is now open as a small museum.


Near it are the delightful Elizabethan Gardens, tucked away through small doorway at 40, New Street, next to the New Street Gallery.


These were laid out in 1970 for the 350th celebrations of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers and to try and show what the original gardens may have been like.

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A corridor leads into a lower paved garden


Steps lead up to a small enclosed garden with a mulberry tree.


Stone steps drop down into the fountain and knot gardens.


An archway with a carving of a ship leads through into a small hidden area behind the knot garden.


Prysten House behind St Andrew’s Church, is the second oldest building in Plymouth after the church, dating from about 1500. It was built by the Yogge family, who were wealthy merchants over the site of an old well (which gave its name to Finewell Street). The family had given money to the church for the building of the tower, so were allowed to build over the well although they still allowed the locals access to it. The family lived in part of the house, using the rest as storerooms.


Nearby on St Andrew’s Street, is the Merchant’s House which was built in 1601 for William Parker who was the Mayor of Plymouth and a friend of Sir Francis Drake. This was a museum but has been closed for sometime awaiting repairs.



Plymouth Hoe behind the Citadel with Smeaton Tower and Drake’s Statue, was fenced off when I visited as staging was being erected for a Jubilee Open Air concert later in the week.



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St Andrew’s Church

St Andrew’s Church on Royal Parade was the original parish church. There has been a with a church here since the C8th, which was replaced by a stone church in the early C12th. This church was enlarged in the C15th to accommodate the increasing population of the town and a tower was added.

The church was badly damaged in bombing raids in 1941 and left a roofless shell. Only the walls, pillars and tower survived. The next morning, someone had placed a wooden board over the north door with the word RESURGAM, Latin for ‘I will rise again’. The rubble was cleared and the area laid out with lawns and flower beds. A covered table was placed at the east end to act as an altar. The church became known as the Garden Church and open air services were held here for six years. Money was raised and, unlike nearby Charles Church, St Andrew’s church was rebuilt, being reconsecrated in 1957. Its crowning glory are the wonderful stained glass windows by John Piper.


Entry is through the north porch, still with its RESURGAM sign.


Inside is is a large church with arcades of slender pillars separating nave and side aisles.


At the back beneath the tower is a cross lit with 1178 light bulbs, one for each civilian killed in the bombing raid. The stained glass was dedicated to the memory of Waldorf, 2nd Viscount Astor who was Lord Mayor of Plymouth and a Freeman of the city. It represents the Passion of Christ.


On the lower walls of the tower are funeral hatchments and the Royal Coats of Arms of both Charles I and Charles II.



The walls of the side aisles are covered with memorials


St Philips’s Chapel in the north transept has the remains of a C12th Purbeck marble effigy of a knight.


The lovely stained glass window represents Music with two harps.


The simple stone font is by this chapel.


The Lady Chapel is at the end of the north aisle and the stained glass window represents the Virgin Mary. In the centre is a ‘rose without a thorn' and the mirror at the bottom represents purity.


The chancel is small with a wrought iron rail round the altar. The East window is dedicated to Lady Astor who was the first woman MP and represented Plymouth from 1919 -45. It represents the four elements of air, fire, earth and water.


St Catherine’s Chapel is at the end of the south aisle and the stained glass window has the wheel, the symbol of her martyrdom. In the four corners are the symbols of the four Evangelists. The top small lights have the images of other saints and martyrs.


The stained glass in the small chapel in the south transept represents the Trinity. The fishes represent Christ. The dove is the Holy Spirit and the hand at the centre is the hand of God.

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