Posted on


There had to be one, somewhere in Plymouth, at some point in time – a pub named after the local football team.  The question is, when did this York Street pub acquire its name?

The building it seems, was used as a beer retailer’s from at least the early 1860s and therefore most likely, since it was first built.  However, Argyle didn’t play their first game until October 1886, and it would appear that part of the inspiration for calling the team Argyle was Argyll Terrace, off Houndiscombe Road, which was, itself, then relatively newly built.  The earliest clear reference found to date for York Street premises as the Argyle Arms is dated around 1911, just a few years after the club went professional (in 1903), but it may well be that the name had already been in use before that, either way, soon after the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the property ceased to be a beerhouse and became a milliner’s instead.

Incidentally, it’s interesting to note that one of the licensees was called William Harper, namesake of a later Argyle Scottish stalwart who joined the club from Arsenal in 1931.



1862 Harriet Stewart

1867 William Stewart

1873 James Denniford

1890 William Harper

1895 WJ Cross

1907 F Bartlett

Posted on


Writing almost two hundred years ago the early Plymouth historian Woollcombe wrote of the Barbican that the name ‘indeed implies that it was a fortified place, and projected from the Castle itself, which stood on the hill above, now called Lambhay Hill.  Some remains of this Castle are still to be found but few visible.  The old names still continued of the adjoining streets point out its situation, viz Castle Street and Castle Dyke Lane.’

Today there is even less evidence of the old Edward III castle – which predated Drake’s fort and the Citadel and whose four towers gave us our civic badge – however the thoroughfares remain and Castle Dyke Lane is remarkable for almost certainly being the city’s narrowest inhabited street.  The name itself is an alternative form of ‘ditch’ and, as you might expect, there are many other Castle Dykes dotted around the British Isles – in Lincolnshire (a navigable waterway), Kent (another waterway), Yorkshire, Scotland, Cornwall and Devon (Launceston and Chudleigh).

Posted on


A somewhat unusual name for a pub it was by no means unique to Plymouth as there is another, still open today, in Lancashire (Todmorden) and there is a Shannon, in Suffolk (Bucklesham) and a Two Ships (in Rochdale) all of which commemorate the same event: namely the celebrated sea battle off Boston Harbour in 1813 between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake.

The former was well-known in Plymouth before the incident, having been here in 1808, 1809 with a captured French cutter, and 1811, when her hull was re-coppered.  Commanded on each occasion by Captain Philip Broke, the Shannon’s crew were well-trained and well-disciplined and by the summer of 1813 Britain had suffered a couple of embarrassments at the hands of the American Navy, so Broke’s success over the Chesapeake made him a national hero and did much to restore morale across the country.

The pub stood on the corner of Pembroke Street and Canterbury Street.



1847 Mary Crispin

1852 George Soper

1867 William Gordon

Posted on


Many streets in this neighbourhood are named in honour of past Commanders-in-Chief of Devonport, but the name Pym has local associations that go back long before the ‘port of Devon’, as it became, was even conceived.

John Pym, the MP for Tavistock, was a childhood friend of Sir Francis Drake (nephew of his famous namesake) and he it was who, along with John Eliot in 1628, presented Charles I with the Petition of Right a document the King was forced to accept.  He was also one of the Five Members that the King tried to arrest two years after Parliament was recalled after an eleven year break, in 1640.

King Pym, as he came to be known, died at the age of 59 in 1643, after having taken the lead in collecting taxes to fund an army to fight for the Parliamentarians in the Civil War.

Pym Street itself dates from the middle of the nineteenth century and was fully laid out by 1852 when the new Keyham Steamyard (North Yard) at Morice Town was being completed.

Posted on


Time was when Hoe Street ran from Notte Street straight up to the Hoe, however in the 1950s post-war redevelopment of Notte Street the bottom end was appropriated for the construction of the so-called ‘star’ (on account of their shape and design) flat developments.  The western side of Hoe Street was also redeveloped after the war and apart from a section of terraced housing on the eastern side, and the Margaret Macmillan Nursery (the former rectory building), little now survives of the original thoroughfare.

Originally Hoegate Street, which runs parallel and to the east of Hoe Street, and Zion Street, which runs parallel and to the west, also offered direct uphill access to the Hoe – that high ridge or ‘hoh’ (to use the Old English term) that gave them both their names.  However like Hoe Street, the other two no longer provide a through road to the Hoe, however such a connection was re-instated in the 1980s when the imaginatively named Hoe Approach Road was created to provide a pedestrian and vehicular route through to that high ridge.

Posted on


Athlone House, off Union Place was opened on 27 November 1950, which was good news for many who in some cases been waiting almost ten years to once again have a home of their own.  Mr and Mrs George Reed with their two children were the first to move in to the flats, their three-bedroomed Corporation accommodation costing them 30s 4d (152p) per week.  Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, herself was welcomed by Mrs Reed as the Princess and her husband presided over the opening ceremony.  Lady Astor was there too as was the Lord Mayor, Mrs Jacquetta Marshall, Plymouth’s first female Lord Mayor.

It was an impressive occasion and other dignitaries included the Chairman of the Housing Committee, HM Pattinson and representatives of the contractors, AN Coles and the architects Loius de Soissons.  Said Mr Pattinson; “It is well known locally that this has been a very costly venture, but we have learned much from it and we must remember that everything must not be counted in terms of money, but in health and happiness as well.”

Princess Alice, incidentally, was a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria.  Born in 1883, Princess Alice’s father, Prince Leopold, died the following year aged 31.  In 1904 Alice married Alexander of Teck, the first Earl of Athlone, she enjoyed a long full life and finally passed away a few weeks short of her 98th birthday in 1981.

Posted on


As the new Southway estate was being carved from the Parish of Tamerton Foliot so a number of the new street names were taken from the back pages of the area’s history – among them Bampfylde Way.

There are a number of memorials to the Bampfyldes in St Mary’s Church, Tamerton, notably to Margaret, daughter of Hugh Bampfylde.  Margaret died in 1686 and the wording on her stone reads “Her make was too refined for this gross sphere”.

Another, altogether more elaborate memorial commemorates the all too short life of Copleston Bampfylde who died in 1669 – he was just ten years old.  The son of Sir Copleston Bampfylde (name brings together two well-known families) of Poltimore (north of Exeter) and Warleigh his is a much longer inscription, in Latin and Greek, and informs us that the young man was graceful, pure and “studious beyond his years”.

The name Bampfylde appears to come originally from near Poltimore and was recorded as Benefeld in 1306 and probably means “bean” “feld” (a long obsolete word for field).  The erstwhile Bampfylde almshouses that stood near the bottom of Horesham Lane were built in 1827.

Posted on



Warspite Gardens, a quiet cul-de-sac on the new Manadon estate, is named after one of the most famous warships to have been launched at Devonport Dockyard.

It was on 26 November 1913, less than a year before the Great War began, that the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship slipped into the Hamoaze.

In 1916 she was a participant in the Battle of Jutland, it was the first and, as it transpired, the largest engagement in her colourful 34-year career.  Hit fifteen times, she came close to sinking, but survived and managed to limp back to Rosyth and undergo repairs.

Twice refitted between the wars, Warspite was nicknamed ‘The Old Lady’ after a remark made by Admiral Andrew Brown Cunningham (‘ABC’) whose flag she flew in 1943.  She had by then already negotiated the Battle of Narvik, April 1940, Cape Matapan, March 1941 and Crete, May 1941, where she was again hit.  Struck by a German glider bomb during the landings at Solerno, she was once again taken to Rosyth for repairs.  In June 1944 she was deployed at Normandy where she acquired another of her impressive tally of fourteen battle honours.

Sold for scrap in 1947, Warspite, dogged by steering problems ever since Jutland, broke free of her anchor and went aground off Prussia Cove; she was famously scrapped in situ over the next three years.

Posted on

The Story of Plymouth Barbican DVD launched with the fishes – at the National Marine Aquarium

Chris launches his new DVD at the NMA

Pic © Alexander Thomas Photography 2013

The spectacular Eddystone Reef tank made a stunning – and appropriate – backdrop for the launch of the new DVD ‘The Story of the Barbican’ this week.

The evening was introduced by Dr David Gibson, the Director of the National Marine Aquarium who said he was delighted to be hosting the event and he was followed by the film-maker Alan Tibbitts, who has recently relocated from Exminster to the Barbican. However it is not the first film about Plymouth that he has been involved with, as, over the last 20 years, he and his friend and colleague Chris Robinson have now made ten full-length features on varying aspects of the City – many of which have been based around Chris’s books.
Chris first opened his Barbican studio workshop 35 years ago this very week and has written over 20 books on Plymouth, including the Historic Barbican.
Responding on behalf of the City at the end of the showing, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Vivien Pengelly, said that as a former schoolteacher, she often took parties of children around the Barbican and was amazed at how little they knew about the area. “I only wish I there had been a film like this to show them then, I thought I knew the area quite well, but I’ve learnt a lot watching it. Everyone will enjoy learning something from this, we are lucky to have Chris and to benefit from the knowledge he has built up.’
Chris himself says that learning should be fun: “as Marshall McLuhan once put it ‘anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either’.”
The Story of Plymouth Barbican traces the history of the area over the last 1,000 years, from a small ‘inhabitation of fishers’ through a booming Tudor town and then a crowded commercial harbour, to a bustling tourist destination, populated by pubs, restaurants, independent shops and artist’s studios.
The film plots this heady transformation and, through the use of extensive archive material and contemporary footage, clearly demonstrates how much of the Barbican survived the war … but not the post-war planning.
Featuring the Elizabethan House and Gardens, the Merchant’s House, Plymouth Gin, the National Marine Aquarium and much much more, the Story of Plymouth Barbican also includes a very rare – and a very candid – interview with Robert Lenkiewicz.

You can buy The Story of Plymouth Barbican on this website here and watch the opening sequence to the new film below:

Posted on

Royal Oak Inn

The Royal Oak at Hooe

A popular village inn for 150 years and more (some of the buildings nearby date from the 1700s) the Royal Oak at Hooe was run in the middle of the last century by the Ryder family.

Thomas Ryder was here in 1850, and at the same time Abraham Ryder was at the Victoria Inn around the corner.

Thomas was succeeded by Henry Ryder and he was followed by Thomas Cole, who not only managed the pub but also collected and assessed the local rates and taxes.

Those were the days – when the Royal Oak was even closer to Hooe Lake than it is now, when water used to lap the mud and grassy bank that, prior to the infilling, came right up to the side of the road.

Messrs Pine, Furse, Wiltshire and Knight are among the various licensees from the earlier part of this century.

Originally published: EH 16 Nov 1999