2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Great Britain

City of Plymouth
Status: Unitary, City (1928)
Region: South West England
Ceremonial County: Devon
- Total
Ranked 266th
79.78 km²
Admin. HQ: Plymouth
ONS code: 00HG
Grid reference: SX475538
- Total (2005 est.)
- Density
Ranked 43rd
3,085 / km²
Ethnicity: 98.4% White
Plymouth Coat of Arms
Plymouth City Council
Leadership: Leader & Cabinet
Executive: Labour
MPs: Linda Gilroy, Alison Seabeck, Gary Streeter
Lord Mayor: Michael Fletcher

Plymouth is a city of 246,000 inhabitants (est. 2005) in the southwest of England, or alternatively the Westcountry, and is situated within the traditional county of Devon. It is located at the mouths of the rivers Plym and Tamar and at the head of one of the world's largest and most spectacular natural harbours, the Plymouth Sound. The city has a rich maritime past and was once one of the two most important Royal Navy bases in the United Kingdom, a factor that made the city a prime target of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. After the destruction of the dockyards and city centre in the blitz of 1941, Plymouth was rebuilt under the guidance of architect Patrick Abercrombie and is now one of the few remaining naval dockyards in the United Kingdom and the largest naval base in Western Europe. Important locations in the city include The Royal Citadel, Devonport Dockyard and The Barbican from where the Pilgrims left for the New World in 1620.

People born in Plymouth are known as Plymothians or less formally as Janners. In the Royal Navy, "Guzz" is a nickname for Devonport, from its original radio callsign.


The earliest known settlement in Plymouth dates back to 1000 BC with a small iron age trading port located at Mount Batten in Plymstock. It is thought that tin was brought here from Dartmoor via the Plym and traded with the ancient Phoenicians. As part of the Roman Empire this same port continued to trade tin along with cattle and hides. The small port was later overshadowed by the rise of the fishing village of Sutton, whose name means 'south town'.

At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) the manor of Sutton was held by the King, but Henry I granted it to the Valletort family whose local powerbase was at nearby Trematon Castle. The Valletorts in turn granted parts to the Augustinian priory at Plympton, a larger and older settlement than Plymouth at the head of the tidal estuary of the river Plym.

That part of the town owned by Plympton Priory was granted a market charter in 1254, and the whole town and its surrounding area achieved municipal independence in 1439, becoming the first town to be incorporated by Act of Parliament English Parliament. As the higher parts of the Plym estuary silted up, ships used the port at the Plym's mouth instead of Plympton. And so, the name of the town of Sutton slowly became Plymouth instead, but the name 'Sutton' still resonates in the area, for example in the naming of its old harbour.

In 1403, the town was briefly occupied and burnt by the French, especially the Bretons. Indeed, the town was often the target of enemies across the channel, especially during the Hundred Years' War. Plymouth had a castle at the mouth of Sutton Pool, as well as barricades across the seafront on the Hoe, but all of these have either been demolished or built upon by later fortifications dating to the Tudor and Stuart eras.

During the sixteenth century, Plymouth was the home port for many successful maritime traders, including Sir William Hawkins (or Hawkyns) and his son Sir John Hawkins, who defied the Treaty of Tordesillas. It was Sir William Hawkins who led the first English participation in the triangle trade. In 1562 Sir John Hawkins, with the full support of Queen Elizabeth I, led England's first foray into the slave trade, kidnapping hundreds of women and men from Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa to trade in the Spanish colonies in the Americas.

As an Atlantic port Plymouth has seen the arrival and departure of many historical figures in English history. Catherine of Aragon and Pocahontas both arrived in England via the port in 1501 and 1616 respectively. It was also from Plymouth that the Pilgrims sailed to the New World in 1620 aboard the Mayflower before landing at and founding the " Plymouth Colony". Napolean Bonaparte was brought to Plymouth aboard the HMS Bellerophon which remained on the Plymouth Sound for two weeks before his exile to Saint Helena in 1815 and the surviving crew of the RMS Titanic disaster disembarked at Millbay docks on their return to England in 1912.

On 14 December 1810, Plymouth was struck by the strongest tornado yet reported in the UK (as of August 2005), with a T8 rating on the TORRO scale, and a wind speed of 213 to 240 mph.

Most visitors to Plymouth are drawn to the spectacular Plymouth Hoe, a stretch of greensward on Plymouth Limestone (Devonian) low cliffs, overlooking Plymouth Sound; it is believed that this is the place where Sir Francis Drake completed his game of bowls before setting sail to defeat the Spanish Armada.

Plymouth during the Civil War

Plymouth sided with the Parliamentarians against Charles I in the English Civil War. The town held out for almost four years until the defeat of the Royalists. There are a number of Forts and Keeps from that era, the remains of which can still be seen. After the restoration of the monarchy, construction of The Royal Citadel began in 1665. It is interesting to note that cannons were placed on the walls both facing out to sea and towards the town. A reminder to the people of Plymouth what consequences a repeated stance against the monarchy could have in future.

Plymouth during the Second World War

Plymouth was one of the United Kingdom's principal naval dockyards, a naval tradition that continues to this day. The city was extensively blitzed during the Second World War, to the extent that approximately twice the amount of housing stock that existed prior to the war was destroyed during it (as a consequence of rebuilt houses being successively hit). Although the dockyards were the principal targets, civilian casualties were inevitably very high.

The first bomb fell on the city on Saturday 6 July, 1940 at Swilly, killing 3 people. The last attack came on 30 April, 1944. Altogether 1,172 people were killed and 3,269 people were injured - these figures do not include the many service casualties. At one point the population fell from 220,000, at the start of the conflict, to 127,000.

The two main shopping centres and nearly every civic building were destroyed, along with 20 schools and 40 churches. 3,754 houses were destroyed with a further 18,398 seriously damaged. In the midst of that devastation a famous wooden sign was anonymously posted over the door of St Andrew's Church saying simply "Resurgam" (a Latin word meaning "I shall rise again"), indicating the wartime spirit. To this day the entrance of the church has been referred to as Resurgam door and a granite plaque with the word engraved is now permanently placed there.

Plymouth was also one of the principal staging posts for the Normandy landings in June 1944, with Normandy Way (near the Tamar bridges) leading down to one of a series of embarcation points for US troops.


Many highly acclaimed events and festivals are held in Plymouth including the British Fireworks Championships, World Championship Class 1 Powerboat Racing and Music of the Night, a massive outdoor production held every two years in The Royal Citadel involving the efforts of the 29th Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, The Royal Artillery Band, the band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines and hundreds of local amateur performers.


The premier theatre not only for Plymouth but of the entire Westcountry is the Theatre Royal and its Drum Theatre where many current and widely acclaimed productions are shown. The Theatre Royal recently opened its Production and Education Centre on the waterfront at Cattedown, otherwise known as TR2. This architecturally praised building ensures that drama and acting continue to succeed in the city. On The Barbican is the Barbican Theatre providing the opportunity for the people of Plymouth to access and participate in high quality drama and acting, it also hosts a monthly comedy night. Many amateur dramatic societies and schools of dance function in Plymouth and regularly perform at the Athenaeum Theatre, Devonport Playhouse and Globe Theatre.

The Plymouth Pavilions opened in 1991, and stages regular music concerts to suit all tastes from rock and pop to ballet, and other live events.

The Plymouth Music Accord is an organisation of classical music consisting of many amateur and professional orchestras and choirs such as the South West Sinfonietta, Plymouth Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Choir, Opera South West, the City of Plymouth Concert Band, the University of Plymouth Choir and Orchestra and Plymouth Jazz Club.

Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Buildings

Smeaton's Tower
Smeaton's Tower
Sutton Harbour Lock Gates
Sutton Harbour Lock Gates

The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is home to vast collections of fine and decorative arts, natural history and human history. The museum's natural history collection consists of over 150,000 specimens of insects, birds, mammals, skeletons, plants, fossils and rocks along with an historic natural history library and archive. Many prehistoric artefacts from Dartmoor, important Bronze Age and Iron Age material from Mount Batten and medieval and post-medieval finds from Plymouth are found in the human history collection alongside artefacts from ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures of Europe and the Middle East. The Art Gallery boasts ever-changing art displays and exhibitions showcasing local and international art ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The collections include 750 easel paintings, over 3000 watercolours and drawings, at least 5000 prints and a sizeable collection of sculptures. Work by local artists include that of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Robert Lenkiewicz along with work by artists of the 19th century Newlyn School, the influential 20th century St. Ives group of painters and works by the Camden Town Group.

The Plymouth Arts Centre is located in the historic Barbican and offers displays of work by a wide range of local, British and international artists such as Beryl Cook, Richard Deacon, Andy Goldsworthy and Sir Terry Frost. As well as promoting art, many independent art house and foreign films are also shown here. In a spectacularly converted church on North Hill is the Sherwell Centre that plays host to regular exhibitions, concerts, recitals, lectures and other public events. Many more small and privately owned galleries can be found on The Barbican.

Other museums in Plymouth include the Plymouth Dome, the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, Smeatons Tower, the Elizabethan House and Merchants House in addition to thousands of historic documents at various other locations.

Plymouth is also home to the National Marine Aquarium. It is the United Kingdom's foremost aquarium.

The synagogue, in Catherine Street, was built in 1762. It is the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue still standing in the English-speaking world.


The centre of Plymouth's nightlife for over a century has been the infamous Union Street. Once lined with numerous music halls and cinemas, the street is now home to a wide number of bars, clubs and casinos such as Club Jesters, Kularoos Sports Bar, Walkabout Bar and The Stanley Grand Casino. The Millennium Complex was the major club on this thoroughfare incorporating three clubs in one, but was shut down due to allegations that drug dealers were operating within the premises. Union Street still maintains a reputation for unruly drunken behaviour but also as a place for a guaranteed wild night out. Although most clubs play commercial dance and R&B, there are some such as C103s which plays a variety of rock, spanning from classic to new age. Another location of clubs and bars is at the Barbican Leisure Park and the gay friendly Zero's on Lockyer Street.

There are a number of bars with live music such as the Barbican Jazz Cafe, The Cider Press, The Cooperage and The Three Crowns on The Barbican and Yates's Wine Lodge on Royal Parade. The Plymouth Gin Distillery on the Barbican serves award winning cocktails. Major cinemas include the ABC Cinema on Derry's Cross and the Vue multiscreen complex at the Barbican Leisure Park.

Mutley Plain, a road in the area of Mutley, is a pleasant residential shopping area and also now has many bars like Cafe Sol and The Underground; due to the increase of student population in the city. The Fortescue Hotel is a good natured & busy pub that has a wide range of beers, customers and a downstairs bar that boasts The Acoustic Cafe every Thursday night and Bizarre, Mutley (stand up comedy) on the 1st Saturday of each month.

Looking towards the sea, from Cliff Road near the Hoe
Looking towards the sea, from Cliff Road near the Hoe


In 1914 the county boroughs of Plymouth and Devonport, and the urban district of East Stonehouse merged to form a single county borough of Plymouth. This was supported by the War Office, who were concerned that having three different local councils would complicate matters in time of war. Collectively they were referred to as " The Three Towns". A provisional order was made on May 2, 1914, to come into effect in November.

In 1928, Plymouth was granted city status. The city's boundaries were extended in the mid-1930s and further expanded in 1967 to include the town of Plympton and the parish of Plymstock.

Plymouth lobbied for further boundary extensions throughout the post-war period, proposing to annex Saltash and Torpoint on the other side of the Tamar to the Local Government Boundary Commission. The 1971 Local Government White Paper proposed abolishing county boroughs, which would have left Plymouth, a town of 250,000 people, being administered from a council based at the much smaller Exeter, on the other side of the county. This led to Plymouth lobbying for the creation of a Tamarside county, to include Plymouth, Torpoint, Saltash, and their rural hinterlands.

The campaign was not successful, and Plymouth ceased to be a county borough on April 1, 1974 with responsibility for education, social services, highways and libraries transferred to Devon County Council. It would become again a unitary authority under recommendations of the Banham Commission, on April 1, 1998.

The City of Plymouth is divided into 20 wards, 17 of which elect three councillors and the other three electing two councillors, making up a total council of 57. Councillors are also known as Members of the Council and usually stand for election as members of national political parties. The local elections are held every four years with elections for one third of Council seats being held each year, the total electorate for Plymouth is 184,956 as of December 2003. The local election of May 2006 resulted in a current political composition of 28 Labour, 25 Conservative and three Liberal Democrat councillors. One seat is still vacant due to the death of its occupier and will be filled after a by-election later in the year. Having lost seven seats since the last election, the Labour Party have now lost their majority control in the council (a position held since 2003) leaving no overall control in the city.

The Council is headed by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, who are the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor respectively. There is also a Leader of the Council (the Chairman of the Cabinet) and a leader of each political group. The current Lord Mayor is Michael Fletcher who is the 539th holder of the office since its establishment in 1439. It was in 1935 that the grant of dignity of Lord Mayor was announced; before that the office was Mayor. The Lord Mayor of Plymouth's official residence is 3 Elliot Terrace, located on the Hoe. Once the private residence of Waldorf and Nancy Astor, it was presented by Lady Astor to the City of Plymouth as a residence for future Lord Mayors and is used today for civic hospitality by visiting dignatories and circuit judges.

In Westminster, Plymouth is represented by the three constituencies of Plymouth Devonport, Plymouth Sutton and Southwest Devon. As of the 2005 General Election the two former constituencies are held by Labour MPs Alison Seabeck and Linda Gilroy respectively with the latter held by Conservative MP Gary Streeter.


Map sources for Plymouth at grid reference SX475538
Map sources for Plymouth at grid reference SX475538
Lorries unloading from the Pont-Aven at Plymouth Docks
Lorries unloading from the Pont-Aven at Plymouth Docks

The city is one of the primary gateways to Cornwall providing access by way of the Torpoint Ferry across the Hamoaze, and the Tamar Bridge linking the St Budeaux area of Plymouth on the Devon bank of the Tamar to Saltash on the Cornish bank. The major rail link to Cornwall, the Royal Albert Bridge runs side-by-side with the road bridge. A small foot-passenger ferry also runs between Stonehouse and the Cornish village of Cremyll; adjacent to the Mount Edgcumbe estate.

A regular ferry service provided by Brittany Ferries operates from Millbay taking cars and foot passengers directly to Roscoff, Brittany and Santander, Spain. The berth in Millbay has recently been expanded to accommodate Brittany Ferries flag ship vessel, Pont-Aven and future redevelopment are planned to transform the harbour into a major port that will also accommodate incoming cruise liners. Currently Millbay is only the point where passengers are transported in tenders to and from cruise liners that occasionally stop off in the Plymouth Sound. These actions will see Plymouth revert from a predominantly naval port, where British and other foreign warships and submarines regularly dock, and return to a major destination of international cruise liners, as was common before the Second World War.

Air travel to Plymouth is directly to Plymouth City Airport, or 'Roborough', a small airport located four miles north of the city centre, just off the A386 road to Tavistock. Air Southwest exclusively operate short flights from the airport to destinations within the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands, the airport currently only handles passengers to destinations where a passport isn't required. The expansion of this airport to provide flights to continental Europe is currently a controversial issue in the city. Due to the airport's central location expansion is limited and public opinion towards building a new airport to the east of the city remain divided between the economic benefits to the local economy and the environmental concerns over building in the countryside.

Plymouth railway station offers direct travel by First Great Western and Virgin Trains to Penzance in Cornwall and Paddington in London and links to the North of England by Virgin Trains.

Other railway stations served by local trians are: Devonport, Dockyard, Keyham, St Budeax Victoria Road, and St Budeaux Ferry Road.


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Plymouth at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 2,561 6 1,027 1,528
2000 2,676 1 795 1,880
2003 3,098 1 899 2,198
  1. ^ Three Towns Amalgamation. The Times February 9, 1914.
  2. ^ Union of Plymouth and Devonport. The Times. May 4, 1914.
  3. ^ The City of Plymouth. The Times. October 18, 1928.
  4. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  5. ^ includes hunting and forestry
  6. ^ includes energy and construction
  7. ^ includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

The economy of Plymouth has traditionally been linked to its coastal location focusing around fishing and the military, in particular Devonport Dockyard. The recent decline of these industries has seen a greater diversification towards a service based economy based on healthcare, food and drink and call centres with electronics, advanced engineering and boat building still maintaining a prime role. The decline of heavy industries has had a negative effect on the city's employment figures. In the past eight years employment has risen 11%, however, employment and wages still remain significantly below the national average.

In terms of retail Plymouth is ranked second in the South West and 29th nationally. As the chief regional city of Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth has a catchment area of over 720,000 people with an annual high street expenditure of over £600 million being spent in the city. An annual influx of 11.8 million tourists is another major contributor to the local economy. The city is also one of a handful of British cities to trial the new Business Improvement District initiative.


The University of Plymouth is the largest university in southwestern England (and the fourth largest in the UK) with over 30,000 students, almost 3,000 staff and an annual income of around £110 million.


Plymouth has one of the largest Further Education Colleges in the country providing courses from the most basic to Foundation Degrees, it enrols more than 20,000 students a year. Plymouth College of Further Education is a highly successful college with many national awards for teaching and is to be found on the old site of Devonport Station which was Plymouth's largest and most important station until the cuts of Beeching.

The Plymouth College of Art and Design (referred to as PCAD) is located at Charles Cross. The College offers a wide selection of innovative and traditional courses relating to the world of art and design.

The teacher training College of St Mark and St John (Marjons) is part of the University of Exeter, situated almost at the end of the now disused runway 01/19 at Plymouth City Airport. The construction of this establishment in the 1970s led to the Royal Marine helicopter support units moving to Coypool (and eventually to RNAS Yeovilton).


Plymouth College, one of England's public schools, is situated in Ford Park, to the north of the city centre.

Other consistently high performing schools in Plymouth are Devonport High School for Boys, Devonport High School for Girls and Plymouth High School for Girls, three selective Grammar Schools with a reputation for academic excellence. There are also the comprehensive schools that specialise in selected subjects; Plymstock School is a Specialist Sports College, Hele's School a Specialist Language College, Ridgeway School specialises in Science and Coombe Dean School specialising in Mathematics and Computing.

Notre Dame RC School, situated near to Derriford Hospital, is an all girls school. It is twinned with the nearby boys school, St. Boniface.

Green Space

Plymouth has a number of public parks, the most significant of which is the massive Central Park. Other significant green spaces include Victoria Park, Freedom Fields Park, Alexandra Park, Keyham, Beaumont Park, St Judes, Greenbank Park, Blockhouse Park, Devonport Park and Westwell Gardens.


The city is home to Plymouth Argyle Football Club, which plays in the English Football League's Championship division. The club is based at the Home Park stadium in Central Park.

The Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club play their home games at the Brickfields. They are currently one of the top teams in the National League Division One

The Plymouth Rugby League Football Club play in the Rugby League Conference South West Division. Kularoos Plymouth Raiders play their home games at the Plymouth Pavilions. They are currently one of the top teams in the British Basketball League.

The Plymouth Devils speedway team races at St Boniface arena, Marsh Mills. Currently in the Conference League the newly formed team are headed by Chairman Mike Bowden.

Plymouth is also home to two American Football teams, the Plymouth Blitz and the Plymouth Admirals who compete in the British American Football League.

Plymouth 2020

The old Drake Circus centre was demolished in 2004
The old Drake Circus centre was demolished in 2004

Plymouth is currently undertaking a massive project of urban redevelopment, the largest since the city was rebuilt after the Second World War. The 'Vision for Plymouth' launched by the internationally renowned architect David MacKay, and fully backed by Plymouth City Council is set to see areas of the city centre demolished, redesigned and rebuilt by the year 2020. Two of Plymouth's greatest eyesores, the old Drake Circus shopping centre and Charles Cross car park, have already been demolished and been replaced by the new £200 million Drake Circus shopping centre, which opened on 5 October 2006, with an estimated 60,000 visitors during the opening morning . Former public leisure centre, the Ballard Centre is currently being replaced with high quality urban living and office space along with a project involving the future demolition of the Bretonside bus station. A new £20 million nine-storey Jury's Inn hotel is being developed near the landmark ruined church and war memorial, Charles Church, along with the new Arts Faculty building, part of the ongoing redevelopment of the University campus. Other future plans include the demolition of the Plymouth Pavilions entertainment arena to create a boulevard linking Millbay to the city centre. Millbay itself, currently by day a wasteland and by night a red light district, is also to be regenerated with mixed residential, retail and office space alongside extensive new harbour facilities.

The current appearance of the Drake Circus shopping centre is subject to much criticism from some residents of the city, claiming that it spoils the city with its garish colours. The main approach to the city, Exeter Street, is the focal point of these arguments, as the centre is situated behind the ruined Charles Church war memorial, and is said to do injustice to those killed, wounded and otherwise affected by World War II. Others, however, say the centre forms a backdrop to the church and creates a striking juxtaposition of traditional and modern architecture.

Since development of the new shopping centre began, shop rents in the city centre have been significantly increased, inadvertently pushing smaller retail outlets out of the marketplace. Examples include Some Bizarre, which also lost customers as a result of the demolition of a pedestrian subway and more recently Kathie's Comics, an esoteric comic and game enthusiast store. The shopping centre itself contains the city centre's second Virgin Megastore, a fourth Costa Coffee outlet, a second Waterstones and a third Burger King.


The twin cities of Plymouth are:

  • Brest, Brittany, France (twinned 1963)
  • Gdynia, Poland (twinned 1976)
  • Novorossiysk, Russia (twinned 1990)
  • San Sebastián, Spain (twinned 1990)
  • Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States (twinned 2001)

Plymouth also maintains a link with:

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