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The meaning of the name "Plymouth"  varies considerably over time. In the 15th and 16th centuries it applied to a tiny fishing hamlet at the mouth of the River Plym.

By the end of the 17th century, Plymouth had grown somewhat although its population was still small. Clustered around Sutton Pool were a number of small streets - Looe Street, How Street, Finewell Street (where there was then an Abbey), Whimple Street where there was an ancient Guildhall and so on.

Plymouth Guildhall

Plymouth Guildhall in Whimple Street 

Demolished in 1800


Old houses in Notte Street

To the west, Catherine Street marked the boundary - from here on there was marshy land all the way to the tiny hamlet of East Stonehouse.

South of Notte Street, there were no buildings covering the land stretching up to the Hoe. Southside Street ran along to the Castle, built on the orders of the first Norman king after the conquest of 1066 with the sea providing an eastern boundary.


Old houses in Notte Street


The Mother Church of Plymouth is St. Andrew's which can be accurately dated back to 1264 and was for four centuries the only church in Plymouth.  Its parish records date from 1581. In 1634, the town petitioned King Charles for a new parish to be created on the grounds that St. Andrew's was no longer large enough to accommodate the religious needs of a growing population. The parish was to be named "Charles" but even so, it took the King seven years to make up his mind to agree to it being built.

Work stopped abruptly at roof level when the Civil War began and the King was executed. It was not until 1665, after the restoration of the Monarchy, that the building was completed, consecrated and dedicated to "Charles the Martyr". The parish registers of Charles date from this time.


Old Plymouth 1832

Old Plymouth 1832, the Spire of Charles Church in the background


In Issue 13, in an article called Men of Stone we told of the devastation caused to the British Navy by the Dutch in 1667. Everyone, from the king down,  agreed that drastic action was needed to ensure that such a fiasco never happened again and there was a national review of naval resources. One of the first acts of King William III when he came to the throne was to authorise the building of a new dockyard on the banks of the Hamoaze.  The place where it was built was first named Plymouth Dock but, for over a century, was known to the world as Dock.

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