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Plymouth History

Plymouth History Plymouth’s history can be traced back to the 9th century when the Saxons set up manors around a tiny fishing village.

It remained a poor area, overshadowed by the richer Plympton Priory, until the Normans took control of the manors following their 1066 invasion. Soon after, a castle was built and the village had prospered into a thriving market town by 1194.

The town continued to be known as Plympton well into the early 11th century, until 1211, when for the first time it was referred to as Plym Mouth on an order for goods being transported to Portsmouth.

Plymouth continued to grow but suffered a numerous attempts at invasion from the French during the 14th and 15th centuries.

The dawning of the 16th century brought a wind of change to Plymouth as the port became a major base for huge warships. Then in 1577 local hero Francis Drake set out on his voyage around the world, returning three years later to much acclaim – and a knighthood.

During the next 60 years, Plymouth also witnessed two other major events, the defeating of the Spanish Armada in 1588, in which Drake played a huge role, and the Pilgrim Fathers’ departure to America in 1620.

Despite other major voyages from the likes of Sir Walter Ralegh, Plymouth was above all else a commercial port, with its naval tradition not emerging until the 18th century.

Plymouth Dock, which was built in the late 17th century after authorisation from William of Orange, was not actually in Plymouth but in the neighbouring parish of Stoke Damerel. By 1712 there were some 300 men employed there and just 20 years later the working-class town of Plymouth Dock, as it was called, had 3000 inhabitants.

The dockyard underwent a major expansion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when a number of important buildings were erected in the area, including a naval hospital and barracks for the Royal Marines. But Plymouth’s importance as a naval base was only confirmed in 1812 when work started on the construction of the breakwater in Plymouth Sound, which provided a safe haven for ships sheltering from southerly storms.

In 1824 Plymouth Dock, which at the time was bigger than Plymouth town, won its own identity as the town of Devonport.

Along with the neighbouring town of Stonehouse, Plymouth and Devonport continued to thrive throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. In 1914 the three towns amalgamated before winning city status in 1928 – and so the City of Plymouth was born.

During the World War II, the city suffered tremendous damage in the Blitz. However out of the ashes came new buildings and so the modern day Plymouth emerged. The city is now one of the country’s major centres for commerce.


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