This article is about Plymouth, England. For articles about other uses of Plymouth, see Plymouth (disambiguation).

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
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 43rd
3,027 / km²
Ethnicity:98.4% White
Plymouth City Council
Leadership:Leader & Cabinet
MPs:Linda Gilroy, Alison Seabeck, Gary Streeter
Lord Mayor:Patrick Nicholson
Smeaton's tower on Plymouth Hoe
Smeaton's tower on Plymouth Hoe

Plymouth is a city in the South West 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 the largest of the two most important Royal Navy bases in Britain, 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 Britain 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, "Guz" is a nickname for Devonport.

The twin cities of Plymouth are Brest, France (twinned 1963), Gdynia, Poland (twinned 1976), Novorossiysk, Russia (twinned 1990), San Sebastian, Spain (twinned 1990) and Plymouth, United States (twinned 2001).



The earliest known settlement in Plymouth dates back to 1000BC with a small iron age trading port located at Mount Batten. It is thought that tin was brought here from Dartmoor via the Plym and traded with the ancient Phoenicians. When 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.

Missing image
Statue of Drake on Plymouth Hoe

Sutton became a market town in 1254 and later was the first town incorporated by the English Parliament on 12 November, 1439. At the same time the name of the town was changed from Sutton to Plymouth.

In 1403 the town was briefly occupied and burnt by the French, it was also from Plymouth that the Pilgrims sailed to the New World in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Plymouth was where the defeated Napolean Bonaparte was brought aboard the HMS Bellerophon before his exile to St Helena in 1815 and the surviving crew of the RMS Titanic disaster disembarked on their return to England in 1912.

Most visitors to Plymouth are drawn to the spectacular Plymouth Hoe, a stretch of greensward 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

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Resurgam Door

Plymouth was one of Britain'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 (we will recover) 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.


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

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.

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

Famous painters associated with Plymouth include Beryl Cook, Robert Lenkiewicz, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, James Northcote and Samuel Prout.

Writers who are associated with Plymouth include the noted Dartmoor antiquarian William Crossing, and Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould.


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 Bongogos, Kuleroos Sports Bar, Walkabout Bar and The Standley Grand Casino. The Millennium Complex is the major club on this thoroughfare incorporating three clubs in one. Union Street still maintains a reputation for unruly drunken behaviour and prostitution but also as a place for a guaranteed wild night out. Another location of clubs and bars is at the Barbican Leisure Park and the gay friendly Zero's on Lockyer Street.

For the more sophisticated the city also offers 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. Major cinemas include the ABC Cinema on Derry's Cross and the Vue multiscreen complex at the Barbican Leisure Park.

An up and coming area for a good night out is Mutley, formerly shops and banking, due to the increase of student population.


Prior to 1914, what is currently the modern city of Plymouth was actually the three separate towns of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse. Collectively they were referred to as "The Three Towns" before being united into a single borough. In 1928 the Borough of Plymouth was awarded city status and in 1967 expanded to include the town of Plympton and the parish of Plymstock. On 1 April, 1998 the city became a unitary authority.

The City of Plymouth is divided into 20 electoral wards, 17 of which elect three local Councillors and the other three electing two local Councillors to the 57 seats of the City Council. 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 June 2004 resulted in a current political composition of 35 Labour, 19 Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and one Independent Councillors.

The Council is headed by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, both positions being held by 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 Patrick Nicholson who is the 538th holder of the office since its establishment in 1439. It was in 1935 that the grant of dignity of Lord Mayor was announced. 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.


Template:GBdot 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 regular ferry service provided by Brittany Ferries operates from Millbay taking cars and foot passengers directly to Roscoff, Brittany and Santander, Spain. The berths in Millbay have recently been expanded to accommodate the new fleet of luxury ferries and future redevelopment is 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 transorted 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. Air Southwest and Air Wales both operate short flights to destinations within Great Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands. 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.

The rail link in Plymouth offers direct travel by First Great Western and Virgin Trains to Penzance in Cornwall and Paddington in London.

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Drake's Island, Plymouth Sound and the Hamoaze seen from Plymouth Hoe, looking across towards the Mount Edgcumbe Estate in Cornwall


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, unemployment and wages still remain below the national average.

In terms of retail Plymouth is ranked second in the South West and 29th nationally. As the regional capital 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 22 British cities to trial the new Business Improvent District initiative.


The University of Plymouth is the largest university in the Southwest of England with over 30,000 students, almost 3,000 staff and an annual income of around 110 million.


The College of St Mark and St John (often referred to as "Marjon"), is primarily a teacher training college, although it also offers degree courses in a wide range of subjects. Marjon is affiliated to the University of Exeter.

Plymouth has one of the largest Further Education Colleges in the country providing courses from the most basic to Foundation Degrees. 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 Drake Circus. The College offers a wide selection of innovative and traditional courses relating to the world of art and design.


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

The other consistantly high performing schools in Plymouth are Devonport High School for Boys, a Foundation Grammar School with a reputation for academic excellence, Devonport High School for Girls located in Peverell and Plymstock School, a comprehensive school and Specialist Sports College.


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, and Plymothian Michael Foot, once the Labour MP for Devonport and former leader of the Labour Party, is now a director of the club.

The Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club plays in the National League Division One. The Plymouth Rugby League Football Club play in the Rugby League Conference South West Division.

The Plymouth Raiders basketball team plays in the British Basketball League.


The city's main commercial radio station is Plymouth Sound FM.

Since June 2005, another commercial station, Armada FM, has started broadcasting to the city.

The regional stations include BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Cornwall and Pirate FM.

The main regional newspaper is the Western Morning News, whose headquarters and printworks were designed by architect Nicholas Grimshaw.The local news printed by the same publisher is The Evening Herald. (Formerly The Western Evening Herald)

Plymouth 2020

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The Plymouth Dome with Mount Batten and Plymstock seen from across the Cattewater
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Plymouth's main shopping street, Armada Way with Plymouth Hoe in the distance

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 internationally renowned architect David Mackay and fully backed by Plymouth City Council is set to see vast areas of the city centre demolished and rebuilt by the year 2020. Two of Plymouth's greatest eyesores; the old Drake Circus shopping centre and Charles Cross carpark, have already been demolished and are currently being replaced by the new 200 million Drake Circus circus. 2005 alone is set to see the demolition of the Bretonside bus station and the Ballard Centre to be replaced with high quality urban living and office space and construction on a new Arts Centre adjacent to the University. Future plans include the demolition of the Civic Centre and the Plymouth Pavilions to create a boulevard linking Millbay to the city centre. Millbay itself is also to be regenerated with mixed residential, retail and office space alongside extensive harbour facilities.

See also


  • Dunning, Martin (2001). Around Plymouth. Frith Book Co Ltd
  • Robinson, Chris (2004). Plymouth Then & Now. Plymouth Prints

External links

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Administrative counties with multiple districts: Cornwall - Devon - Dorset - Gloucestershire - Somerset - Wiltshire

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