Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for DEVONPORT

DEVONPORT, a seaport town and a borough in Devon. The town proper is in Stoke-Damerel parish; the municipal borough consists of all that parish; and the parliamentary borough includes also the parish of East Stonehouse. The town is the western one of three towns which form the port of Plymouth, Stonehouse being the central one, and Plymouth the eastern one, while the suburb of Morice-Town is on the north-west; it has a relation to the other two towns somewhat similar to that which Westminster has to the manufacturing parts of the metropolis and to London city; it is bounded on the E by Stonehouse pool and creek, on the N by Morice-Towu, on the S and W by the Hamoaze, or estuary of the Tamar; and it adjoins the Cornwall railway at a station 1½ mile W of Plymouth station. It occupies much higher ground than either Stonehouse or Plymouth; and includes many points which command delightful prospects of the surrounding lands and harbours.

History.—Devonport sprang from the establishment of a dockyard at it in the latter part of the reign of William III. It was at first called Plymouth-Dock; and it got its present name, in 1823, from George IV., in answer to a petition to him by the inhabitants for a change of name. It contained few dwellings at the commencement of last century; but it rose greatly, both in bulk and in naval and commercial importance, as the century advanced; and it was called Devonport in consideration of being the grandest sea-outlet of the county. It figures historically and commercially as part of Plymouth, but it was designed to be, and formally is, a great separate fortress; it contains the headquarters of the naval and military authorities of the port; it was constituted, in 1837, a separate municipal borough, and in 1832, with Stonehouse and suburbs, a parliamentary borough; it also possesses amenities which render it an eligible resideuce of persons in quest of amusement or health; and, in all these respects, it has a character of its own.

Streets and Public Buildings.—The town is oblong in outline; and consists of regular well-built streets, intersecting one another nearly at right angles. Lines of fortification, of various height, surround it; they were first formed in the reign of George II., and afterwards improved and enlarged; but, on being inspected by the Duke of Wellington, with reference to a completing of their strength, they were, as they then stood, pronounced to be useless as a defence from invasion. The entrance to the chief street on the east is through an arched gateway, with fosse and drawbridge; there are other two land entrances; and the sea-side one is protected by batteries of heavy artillery. The chief street crosses the upper part of the town; and is both the oldest street and the greatest seat of business. Other streets contain large handsome shops; others are filled with good private residences; and the northern and north-eastern suburbs, beyond the lines, include some elegant villas. A hard limestone, of marble-like quality, forms the pavements; and, having been considerably polished by the feet of passengers and the action of the weather, has a very beautiful appearance when washed by a shower.

A granite fluted Doric column, 125 feet high, was erected in 1824, at a cost of £2, 750, to commemorate the alteration in the name of the town; stands on a rock, 22 feet above the pavement, near the town-hall; is pierced with a spiral staircase, and crowned by a balcony; and commands a fine, extensive, panoramic view. The town-hall, at the top of Ker-street, was erected in 1822, at a cost of £2, 900, exclusive of fittings; has a tetrastyle Doric portico, of imposing proportions; includes a hall 70 feet long, 40 wide, and 31 high; and contains portraits of George I., II., III., William IV., Queens Charlotte, Caroline, and Victoria, and Prince Albert. The post office, in Fore-street, was built in 1849, from designs by Wightwick; and has an elegant semicircular portico, after the temple at Tivoli. The markets, with entrances from Tavistock-street, Cumberland-street, and Duke-street, were erected in 1852, at a cost of about £18, 000; and present a front to Tavistock-street in the Italian style. The temperance-hall, at the top of Fore-street, is a neat Italian edifice of 1850. The borough jail, at Pennycomequick, is a strong stone building, with capacity for 44 male and 24 female prisoners. The Clarence baths, opposite Mount Edgcumbe, contain hot and cold sea baths, and have bathing-machines on a beautiful beach. A colossal bronze statue of the late Lord Sefton was placed in the Garrison in 1866.

Places of Worship.—The places of worship within the parliamentary borough, in 1851, were 13 of the Church of England, with 10, 432 sittings; 9 of Independents, with 4, 823 s.; 4 of Baptists, with 2, 214 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 300 s.; 1 of Moravians, with 300 s.; 5 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 3, 303 s.; 1 of New Connexion Methodists, with 180 s.; 2 of Bible Christians, with 480 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 268 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 80 s.; 2 of isolated congregations, with 120 s.; 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 300 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholies, with 380 s. Eight of those of the Church of England are in Devonport-proper or its Morice-Town suburb; bear the names of St. Aubyn, St. John, St. Michael. St. Mary, St. Paul, St. Stephen, St. James-The-Great, and Dockyard chapel; and St. Mary, St. Paul, St. Stephen, and St. James are vicarages, the others p. curacies, in the diocese of Exeter. Value of St. Aubyn, £117; of St. John, £50; of St. Paul, £300;* of St. Mary and St. James, each £300; of St. Stephen, £150; of the others, not reported. Patron of St. Aubyn, St. John, and St. Michael, the Rector of Stoke-Damerel; of Dockyard chapel, the Board of Admiralty; of the others, alternately the Crown and the Bishop.

St. Aubyn's church, in Chapel-street, is a plain edifice of 1776; and consists of nave and aisles, with western tower and low spire. St. John's church, between Duke-street and St. John-street, is a plain building of 1799; and contains a fine marble monument of the Rev. T. M. Hitchings. St. Michael's church, in Navy-row, is a neat edifice of nave and aisles, in the early English style. St. Mary's church, between James-street and Dockyard-wall, was erected in 1854, at a cost of about £10, 000: and has a reredos of Minton's embossed tiles. St. Paul's church, in Morice-square, is a handsome edifice of nave, aisles, and chancel, with fine tower and lofty spire. St. Stephen's church, at the junction of George-street and Clowance-street, is in the decorated English style; and cost, exclusive of the south aisle, £5, 743. St. James-the-Great's church, in Morice-town, is an imposing edifice, of nave, aisles, and chancel, with tower and spire. Dockyard chapel was built in 1817; and consists of nave, aisles, and sanctuary, with western tower. Mount Zion chapel, one of the dissenting places of worship, is an edifice of 1824, in imitation of the Hindoo style. The Roman Catholic church of S. S. Mary and Boniface, was built in 1858, of unhewn limestone; is in the early English style; and has nave-piers of polished granite, and choir-piers of polished limestone. A Unitarian chapel, with 500 sittings, was built in 1864.

Schools and Institutions.—There were, within the municipal borough, in 1851, 17 public day schools, with 2, 610 scholars; 86 private day schools, with 2, 517 s.; and 22 Sunday schools, with 3, 617 s. The royal naval and military free schools, in King-street, are for the children of persons connected with the naval and military establishments, and have about 800 scholars. The female orphan asylum, at the east end of Navy-row, is a handsome edifice, and has capacity for 110 inmates. The Devonport and Cornwall hospital, in Devonport Park, is an ornate building of 1863. The mechanics' institution, in Duke-street, is a fine structure in the Corinthian style; has been several times enlarged; and contains two halls, with accommodation for 1, 100 and 500 persons, a library, and a reading room . The books of the civil and military library, about 4, 000 volumes, have been transferred to the mechanics' institution; and the building has been sold to the Odd Fellows.

Government Establishments.—The dockyard, a 1eat naval arsenal, lies on the Hamoaze at the Fore-street; occupies 70½ acres; is protected, on the land side, by a high wall; and employs about 1, 600 persons in time of peace, and from 3, 000 to 4, 000 in time of war. It originally covered only 40 acres; but was enlarged in 1765 and at other dates. The chief things in it are, first, the warden's house, the chapel, the guard-house, the navy pay-office, and the surgery; then, a paved avenue and the residences of the local authorities; then the new north dock, excavated from the solid rock, and measuring 254 feet in length, 97 in breadth, and 27½ in depth; then, the engineer, millwright, and sawing-mills department; then the mast-house and mast basins, the old north dock, the Admiral's stairs, the double dock, and the boat basin; then the graving-slip, and a canal 60 feet wide, going far up the yard; then the blacksmiths' shop, containing 48 forges; then two rope-houses, each 1, 200 feet long; then the mould-loft, where plans of ships to be built are prepared; then the King's hill, an isolated spot conserved in its original state by the wish of George III.; and lastly, five great building-slips, protected from the weather by vast sheds.-The gun-wharf, north of the dockyard, and separated from it by a part of the town, includes open spaces with great quantity of ordnance, and storehouses with large quantity of gun-carriages and small arms. The steam-yard, at Keyham, occupies the whole water-frontage of Morice-Town; is connected with the dockyard by a tunnel; was commenced in 1846, and completed at a cost of about £1, 500, 000; comprises an area of 72 acres; employs some hundreds of artizans in the repairing and fitting of steam vessels; and includes a lock of admittance from the Hamoaze, two floating-basins of about 6 acres each, three large dry docks, with entrances 80 feet wide and closed by iron caissons, and an enormous foundry, with a chimney shaft 180 feet high.-Barracks on Mount Wise, Granby-square, George-square, and other places have accommodation for 2, 000; a redoubt, called the Blockhouse, is on Mount Pleasant, at the north side of the parish; and a chain of batteries commands all the harbour. Mount Wise, especially, bristles with cannon, overlooking the entrance of the Hamoaze; is surmounted by a telegraph, which communicates with the guard ship by semaphore, and with the Admiralty by electricity; has, on different spots, the residence of the Port-Admiral, the residence of the Lieutenant-governor of the garrison, and a large brass cannon, taken from the Turks in the Dardanelles; is the place of reviews; and commands a charming prospect of the surrounding scenery. -The Hamoaze commences at St. Nicholas island, about a mile below the town; has a mean width of nearly half a mile to parts considerably north of the steam-yard; has chiefly from 9 to 10 fathoms of water; and is crossed, above the town, by the Albert viaduct of the Cornwall railway.

Trade, &c.—Devonport has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, three banking offices, and five chief inns; is the head-quarters of the western military district, and a seat of sessions; has markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; and publishes a weekly newspaper. Its trade, except in the main things arising from the government establishments, is chiefly agricultural. The borough is governed by a mayor, twelve aldermen, and thirty-six councillors; and sends two members to parliament. Direct taxes, in 1857, £16, 200. Electors, in 1868, 2, 860. Pop. of the m. borough in 1841, 33, 820; in 1861, 50, 440. Houses, 4, 189. Pop. of the p. borough in 1841, 43, 532; in 1861, 64, 783. Houses, 5, 434.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a seaport town and a borough"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Devonport ExP       Devon AncC
Place: Devonport

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