Devonport in 1837
DEVONPORT, formerly called Plymouth Dock, in the parish of Stoke Damerall, hundred of Roborough, and county of Devon, 218 miles west by south from London, and one mile and a half from Plymouth.
Devonport owes its present importance to a naval arsenal established there in the reign of William III, under the name of Plymouth Dock, which name it retained till 1824 when the appellation of Devonport was conferred on it by royal permission. It was first fortified in the reign of George II, but the fortifications were considerably enlarged and improved under an act passed in the 21st year of the reign of George III. The government of the town is vested in Commissioners, among whom are the lord of the manor, who holds courts leet and baron at Michaelmas, the stewards of the manor, the rector of the parish, the commissioner of his majestys dock-yard, the port-admiral, the mayor, aldermen, and recorder of the boroughs of Plymouth and Saltash, the manorial lords of East Stonehouse, and of East and West Anthony ; with the stewards of those manors. These commissioners have the superintendence of all the affairs of the poor, the lighting, watching and cleaning of the town, and the granting of licenses to porters and watermen.
Petty sessions are held by the county magistrates every Wednesday in the town-hall, for the despatch of business connected with the town and parish.
Devonport was enfranchised by the 2nd William IV. chap. 45, and since the passing of that act returns two members to parliament. The parliamentary borough includes, in addition to the town of Devonport, the whole of the parish of Stoke Damerall and the township of Stonehouse. At the first election after the passing of the Reform Act, there were 1,777 persons registered. We understand that the inhabitants of the borough have recently petitioned the king to grant them a charter of incorporation, which petition is now before the Privy Council. (March 1837.)
Devonport is situated at the south-west corner of the county, and is bounded on the south and west by the mouth of the river Tamer, which forms the spacious harbour of Hamoaze ; and on the east by Stonehouse creek. The streets are wide and regular, well paved, and lighted with gas ; the footpaths are made of marble obtained in the neighbourhood. The houses are generally large and well built. The Fore-street is approached from the east through a handsome gateway, where there is a fosse and a draw-bridge, and forms a thoroughfare to the dock-yard. A wall, twelve feet in height, called ` the kings interior boundary wall, defends the town on the north-east and south sides ; and the heavy batteries on Mount Wise protect the entrance from the sea. Without the wall is a line, or breastwork, with a fosse excavated in the solid rock from twelve to twenty feet deep. There are three gates in the line, the north gate, the state barrier, and the Stonehouse gate. A promenade, called Richmond Walk, was recently made near the sea-shore under the direction of the duke of Richmond when master-general of the ordnance.
There is a small theatre, a subscription library, and a spacious and elegant assembly-room at the royal hotel, where balls are held. To the south of the town are convenient hot, cold, shower, vapour, and swimming baths. The water which supplies the inhabitants is brought from Dartmoor in a circuitous line of about thirty miles to a reservoir on the north side of the town, from whence it is conveyed in pipes to the different houses.
The town-hall is a spacious and handsome building, with a Doric portico. It contains a county-meeting room seventy-five feet by forty, a watch-house, temporary prison, engine-house, &c. Near it is a fluted column of the Doric order, to commemorate the naming of the town in 1824, from the top of which there is a splendid view of the harbour and the neighbouring scenery. To the south of the town are the port-admiral and the governors houses, the telegraph, and the Grand Parade. Thirty-two telegraphic stations connect this place with the Admiralty in London ; and it is said that on the occasion of Napoleon surrendering to the Bellerophon the news was known in the metropolis fifteen minutes after it was known in Devonport.
The dock-yard, one of the finest in the world, comprises an area of seventy-one acres. Within the yard is the basin, constructed in the reign of William the Third, and the dock sufficiently capacious for the reception of a seventy-four gun ship, as well as four building-slips, and three other docks, one of which, the new north dock, is 260 feet by 85 feet, and 27 feet 8 inches deep. The blacksmiths shop is a building 210 feet square, containing 48 forges, the fires of which annually consume 1,300 chaldron of coal. Several hundred of anchors, some weighing five tons each, are piled up on the wharf in front of this building.
The rigging-house, is a splendid edifice 480 feet in length, and three stories high ; it forms one side of a quadrangle, the area of which is entirely composed of stone and iron, and is called the combustible storehouse. Our limits will not permit us to describe one half the objects of interest that are contained within the precincts of this dock-yard, and we must content ourselves with merely mentioning the boiling-house, the mast-house, the mast-pond, and the rope-houses. The rope-houses are limestone buildings 1,200 feet long, parallel to each other, and two stories high. Cables are made here, 100 fathoms in length, and measuring in circumference 25 inches ; a cable of this weighs 116 cwt. L qr. 6 lbs., and costs £404.
The immense roofs over the docks, being on the span of an arch without a buttress, are extraordinary specimens architectural skill ; the area of one of them amounting to 1 acre 39 poles and 200 feet. The harbour of Hamoaze is four miles long and half a mile broad ; its greatest depth high water is about 20 fathoms, and at low water 15.
A chapel has recently been erected by government in the yard, the chaplain of which receives, in addition to a stipend from government, twopence per month from the pay of each of the officers and seamen belonging to ships laid up in ordinary. There are two episcopal chapels of ease at Devonport, St. Aubyns, erected 1771, and St. Johns erected in 1799. The inhabitants have also access to the dock-yard chapel. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Moravians. A classical school was established by subscription in 1821, and a public school for boys in 1808 ; over the latter is a school for girls, where about 100 are educated and clothed. The Baptists and Methodists have also their respective schools. A public dispensary for this town and East Stonehouse was erected in 1815, and a Savings Bank in 1829.
Devonport is a branch of the port of Plymouth. There is a market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, well supplied with provisions of all kinds. To the south of Devonport is a ferry to Mount Edgecumbe, and to the north-west, one to Torpoint. The population is returned with the parish, and in 1831 consisted of 34,883 inhabitants, of whom 19,466 were females.