Plymouth had its North Street – running north out of town, long before it had its North Quay, although curiously the southern end of the former is not far from the latter. A little more oddly however is the fact that the town’s North Road was laid out around the same time as North Quay although the two are some distance apart. The former then delineated a large part of the northern boundary of the town, while the later marked the northern boundary of the harbour that the town was built around.
One hundred and fifty years later, North Road – East and West – now finds itself little changed structurally but now a little south of the middle of Plymouth, while North Quay is still the northern most part of the harbour, however its role in relation to that harbour has changed, almost beyond recognition.
North Quay was laid out several centuries after the construction of South “Kay” and even then (1849-50) the word quay was still of uncertain pronunciation – key or kay. Common usage has long since found in favour of the former as the many key-side residents of today can confirm.
The construction of the quay itself, incidentally, was by the engineer Joseph Locke and it followed the passing of the Sutton Harbour Improvement Act that gave the new company the authority to build quays and railways, around this then almost exclusively commercial harbour.