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Plymouth
City and Unitary authority
Plymouth Hoe viewed from Mount Batten
Plymouth Hoe viewed from Mount Batten
Nickname(s): Britain's Ocean City
Motto: Turris fortissima est nomen Jehova
"The name of Jehovah is the strongest tower"
Plymouth shown within Devon and England
Plymouth shown within Devon and England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South West England
Ceremonial county Devon
City status 1928
Unitary Authority 1998
Area
 • Total 30.80 sq mi (79.78 km2)
Area rank 240th (of 326)
Highest elevation 509 ft (155 m)
Lowest elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2005 est.)
 • Rank (of 326)
 • Demonyms Plymothian (formal)
Janner (informal)
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Postcode district PL1 – 9
Area code(s) 01752
Website www.plymouth.gov.uk

Plymouth is a city on the south coast of Devon, England, about 37 miles (60 km) south-west of Exeter and 190 miles (310 km) west-south-west of London, between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west where they join Plymouth Sound to form the boundary with Cornwall.

Plymouth's early history extends to the Bronze Age, when a first settlement emerged at Mount Batten. This settlement continued as a trading post for the Roman Empire, until it was surpassed by the more prosperous village of Sutton founded in the ninth century, now called Plymouth. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed Plymouth for the New World and established Plymouth Colony – the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America. During the English Civil War the town was held by the Parliamentarians and was besieged between 1642 and 1646.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, Plymouth grew as a commercial shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas, and exporting local minerals (tin, copper, lime, china clay and arsenic) while the neighbouring town of Devonport became a strategic Royal Naval shipbuilding and dockyard town. In 1914 three neighbouring independent towns, viz., the county borough of Plymouth, the county borough of Devonport, and the urban district of East Stonehouse were merged to form a single County Borough. The combined town took the name of Plymouth which, in 1928, achieved city status. The city's naval importance later led to its targeting and partial destruction during World War II, an act known as the Plymouth Blitz. After the war the city centre was completely rebuilt and subsequent expansion led to the incorporation of Plympton and Plymstock along with other outlying suburbs in 1967.

The city is home to (mid-2015 est.) people, making it the 30th most populous built-up area in the United Kingdom and the second-largest city in the South West, after Bristol. It is governed locally by Plymouth City Council and is represented nationally by three MPs. Plymouth's economy remains strongly influenced by shipbuilding and seafaring including ferry links to Brittany (Roscoff and St Malo) and Spain (Santander), but has tended toward a service-based economy since the 1990s. It has the largest operational naval base in Western Europe – HMNB Devonport and is home to Plymouth University.

History

Early history

Upper Palaeolithic deposits, including bones of Homo sapiens, have been found in local caves, and artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age have been found at Mount Batten showing that it was one of the main trading ports of the country at that time. An unidentified settlement named 'TAMARI OSTIA' (mouth/estuaries of the Tamar) is listed in Ptolemy's Geographia and is presumed to be located in the area of the modern city.

The settlement of Plympton, further up the River Plym than the current Plymouth, was also an early trading port, but the river silted up in the early 11th century and forced the mariners and merchants to settle at the current day Barbican near the river mouth. At the time this village was called Sutton, meaning south town in Old English. The name Plym Mouth, meaning "mouth of the River Plym" was first mentioned in a Pipe Roll of 1211. The name Plymouth first officially replaced Sutton in a charter of King Henry VI in 1440. See Plympton for the derivation of the name Plym.

Early defence and Renaissance

Prysten House, Finewell Street, Plymouth - geograph.org.uk - 829280
Prysten House, Finewell Street, 1498, is the oldest surviving house in Plymouth, and built from local Plymouth Limestone and Dartmoor granite

During the Hundred Years' War a French attack (1340) burned a manor house and took some prisoners, but failed to get into the town. In 1403 the town was burned by Breton raiders. On 12 November, 1439, the English Parliament made Plymouth the first town incorporated. In the late fifteenth century, Plymouth Castle, a "castle quadrate", was constructed close to the area now known as The Barbican; it included four round towers, one at each corner, as featured on the city coat of arms. The castle served to protect Sutton Pool, which is where the fleet was based in Plymouth prior to the establishment of Plymouth Dockyard. In 1512 an Act of Parliament was passed for further fortifying Plymouth, and a series of fortifications were then built, including defensive walls at the entrance to Sutton Pool (across which a chain would be extended in time of danger). Defences on St Nicholas Island also date from this time, and a string of six artillery blockhouses were built, including one on Fishers Nose at the south-eastern corner of the Hoe. This location was further strengthened by the building of a fort (later known as Drake's Fort) in 1596, which itself went on to provide the site for the Citadel, established in the 1660s (see below).

Plymouth siege map 1643
Siege of Plymouth, 1643

During the 16th century locally produced wool was the major export commodity. Plymouth was the home port for successful maritime traders, among them Sir John Hawkins, who led England's first foray into the Atlantic slave trade, as well as Sir Francis Drake, Mayor of Plymouth in 1581 and 1593. According to legend, Drake insisted on completing his game of bowls on the Hoe before engaging the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World from Plymouth, establishing Plymouth Colony – the second English colony in what is now the United States of America.

During the English Civil War Plymouth sided with the Parliamentarians and was besieged for almost four years by the Royalists. The last major attack by the Royalist was by Sir Richard Grenville leading thousands of soldiers towards Plymouth, but they were defeated by the Plymothians at Freedom Fields Park. The civil war ended as a Parliamentary win, but monarchy was restored by King Charles II in 1660, who imprisoned many of the Parliamentary heroes on Drake's Island. Construction of the Royal Citadel began in 1665, after the Restoration; it was armed with cannon facing both out to sea and into the town, rumoured to be a reminder to residents not to oppose the Crown. Mount Batten tower also dates from around this time.

Plymouth Dock, naval power and Foulston

John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport
John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport
Unloading mail by hand from the Sir Francis Drake, March 1926
Unloading mail by hand from the Sir Francis Drake at Millbay Docks, March 1926

Throughout the 17th century Plymouth had gradually lost its pre-eminence as a trading port. By the mid-17th century commodities manufactured elsewhere in England cost too much to transport to Plymouth and the city had no means of processing sugar or tobacco imports, although it did play a relatively small part in the Atlantic slave trade during the early 18th century.

In the nearby parish of Stoke Damerel the first dockyard, HMNB Devonport, opened in 1690 on the eastern bank of the River Tamar. Further docks were built here in 1727, 1762 and 1793. The settlement that developed here was called "Dock" or "Plymouth Dock" at the time, and a new town, separate from Plymouth, grew up. In 1712 there were 318 men employed and by 1733 it had grown to a population of 3,000 people.

Before the latter half of the 18th century, grain, timber and then coal were Plymouth's main imports. During this time the real source of wealth was from the neighbouring town of Plymouth Dock (renamed in 1824 to Devonport) and the major employer in the entire region was the dockyard. The Three Towns conurbation of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport enjoyed some prosperity during the late 18th and early 19th century and were enriched by a series of neo-classical urban developments designed by London architect John Foulston. Foulston was important for both Devonport and Plymouth and was responsible for several grand public buildings, many now destroyed, including the Athenaeum, the Theatre Royal and Royal Hotel, and much of Union Street.

Local chemist William Cookworthy established his short-lived Plymouth Porcelain venture in 1768 to exploit the deposits of china clay that he had discovered in Cornwall. He was acquainted with engineer John Smeaton, the builder of the third Eddystone Lighthouse.

The 1-mile-long (2 km) Breakwater in Plymouth Sound was designed by John Rennie in order to protect the fleet moving in and out of Devonport; work started in 1812. Numerous technical difficulties and repeated storm damage meant that it was not completed until 1841, twenty years after Rennie's death. In the 1860s, a ring of Palmerston forts was constructed around the outskirts of Devonport, to protect the dockyard from attack from any direction.

Some of the greatest imports to Plymouth from the Americas and Europe during the latter half of the 19th century included maize, wheat, barley, sugar cane, guano, sodium nitrate and phosphate Aside from the dockyard in the town of Devonport, industries in Plymouth such as the gasworks, the railways and tramways and a number of small chemical works had begun to develop in the 19th century, continuing into the 20th century.

Plan for Plymouth 1943

During the First World War, Plymouth was the port of entry for many troops from around the Empire and also developed as a facility for the manufacture of munitions. Although major units of the Royal Navy moved to the safety of Scapa Flow, Devonport was an important base for escort vessels and repairs. Flying boats operated from Mount Batten.

Gateway to Royal William Victualling Yard
Royal William Victualling Yard, Stonehouse by Sir John Rennie,1825–33.

During the Second World War, Devonport was the headquarters of Western Approaches Command until 1941 and Sunderland flying boats were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. It was an important embarkation point for US troops for D-Day. The city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, in a series of 59 raids known as the Plymouth Blitz. Although the dockyards were the principal targets, much of the city centre and over 3,700 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 civilians lost their lives. This was largely due to Plymouth's status as a major port. Charles Church was hit by incendiary bombs and partially destroyed in 1941 during the Blitz, but has not been demolished, as it is now an official permanent monument to the bombing of Plymouth during World War II.

The redevelopment of the city was planned by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in his 1943 Plan for Plymouth whilst simultaneously working on the reconstruction plan for London. Between 1951 and 1957 over 1000 homes were completed every year mostly using innovative prefabricated systems of just three main types; by 1964 over 20,000 new homes had been built transforming the dense overcrowded and unsanitary slums of the pre-war city into a low density, dispersed suburbia. Most of the city centre shops had been destroyed and those that remained were cleared to enable a zoned reconstruction according to his plan. In 1962 the modernist high rise of the Civic Centre was constructed, an architecturally significant example of mid twentieth century civic slab-and-tower set piece allowed to fall into disrepair by its owner Plymouth City Council but recently grade II listed by English Heritage to prevent its demolition.

Post-war, Devonport Dockyard was kept busy refitting aircraft carriers such as the Ark Royal and, later, nuclear submarines while new light industrial factories were constructed in the newly zoned industrial sector attracting rapid growth of the urban population. The army had substantially left the city by 1971, with barracks pulled down in the 1960s, however the city remains home to the 42 Commando of the Royal Marines.

Geography

See also: List of places in Plymouth
Plymouth Sound
Northeastward view of Plymouth Sound from Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Cornwall, with Drake's Island (centre) and, behind it from left to right, the Royal Citadel, the fuel tanks of Cattedown, and Mount Batten; in the background, the hills of Dartmoor.

Plymouth lies between the River Plym to the east and the River Tamar to the west; both rivers flow into the natural harbour of Plymouth Sound. Since 1967, the unitary authority of Plymouth has included the, once independent, towns of Plympton and Plymstock which lie along the east of the River Plym. The River Tamar forms the county boundary between Devon and Cornwall and its estuary forms the Hamoaze on which is sited Devonport Dockyard.

The River Plym, which flows off Dartmoor to the north-east, forms a smaller estuary to the east of the city called Cattewater. Plymouth Sound is protected from the sea by the Plymouth Breakwater, in use since 1814. In the Sound is Drake's Island which is seen from Plymouth Hoe, a flat public area on top of limestone cliffs. The Unitary Authority of Plymouth is 79.78 square kilometres (30.80 sq mi). The topography rises from sea level to a height, at Roborough, of about 509 feet (155 m) above Ordnance Datum (AOD).

Geologically, Plymouth has a mixture of limestone, Devonian slate, granite and Middle Devonian limestone. Plymouth Sound, Shores and Cliffs is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because of its geology. The bulk of the city is built upon Upper Devonian slates and shales and the headlands at the entrance to Plymouth Sound are formed of Lower Devonian slates, which can withstand the power of the sea.

A band of Middle Devonian limestone runs west to east from Cremyll to Plymstock including the Hoe. Local limestone may be seen in numerous buildings, walls and pavements throughout Plymouth. To the north and north east of the city is the granite mass of Dartmoor; the granite was mined and exported via Plymouth. Rocks brought down the Tamar from Dartmoor include ores containing tin, copper, tungsten, lead and other minerals. There is evidence that the middle Devonian limestone belt at the south edge of Plymouth and in Plymstock was quarried at West Hoe, Cattedown and Radford.

Urban Form

Armada Way, Plymouth - geograph.org.uk - 83458
Armada Way looking north

On 27 April 1944 Sir Patrick Abercrombie's Plan for Plymouth to rebuild the bomb-damaged city was published; it called for demolition of the few remaining pre-War buildings in the city centre to make way for their replacement with wide, parallel, modern boulevards aligned east–west linked by a north–south avenue (Armada Way) linking the railway station with the vista of Plymouth Hoe. A peripheral road system connecting the historic Barbican on the east and Union Street to the west determines the principal form of the city centre, even following pedestrianisation of the shopping centre in the late 1980s, and continues to inform the present 'Vision for Plymouth' developed by a team led by Barcelona-based architect David MacKay in 2003 which calls for revivification of the city centre with mixed-use and residential. In suburban areas, post-War prefabs had already begun to appear by 1946, and over 1,000 permanent council houses were built each year from 1951–57 according to the Modernist zoned low-density garden city model advocated by Abercrombie. By 1964 over 20,000 new homes had been built, more than 13,500 of them permanent council homes and 853 built by the Admiralty. Plymouth is home to 28 parks with an average size of 45,638 square metres (491,240 sq ft). Its largest park is Central Park, with other sizeable green spaces including Victoria Park, Freedom Fields Park, Alexandra Park, Devonport Park and the Hoe.

Climate

Weather chart for Plymouth
J F M A M J J A S O N D
 
 
108
 
9
4
 
 
84
 
9
4
 
 
78
 
11
5
 
 
67
 
13
6
 
 
64
 
16
9
 
 
57
 
18
11
 
 
62
 
20
13
 
 
67
 
20
13
 
 
74
 
18
12
 
 
113
 
15
9
 
 
113
 
12
6
 
 
119
 
10
5
temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm

Along with the rest of South West England, Plymouth has a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of England. This means a wide range of exotic plants can be grown. The annual mean temperature is approximately 11 °C (52 °F). Due to the modifying effect of the sea the seasonal range is less than in most other parts of the UK. As a result of this summer highs are lower than points further north in the UK, however the coldest month of February has mean minimum temperatures as mild as between 3 and 4 °C (37 and 39 °F). Snow is rare, not usually equating to more than a few flakes, but there have been exclusions, namely the European winter storms of 2009-10 which, in early January, covered Plymouth in at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of snow; more on higher ground. Another period of notable snow occurred from 17–19 December 2010 when up to 8 inches (20 cm) of snow fell through the period – though only 2 inches (5.1 cm) would lie at any one time due to melt. Over the 1961–1990 period, annual snowfall accumulation averaged less than 7 cm (3 in) per year. July and August are the warmest months with mean daily maxima over 19 °C (66 °F).

South West England has a favoured location when the Azores High pressure area extends north-eastwards towards the UK, particularly in summer. Coastal areas have average annual sunshine totals over 1,600 hours.

Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with convection. The Atlantic depressions are more vigorous in autumn and winter and most of the rain which falls in those seasons in the south-west is from this source. Average annual rainfall is around 980 millimetres (39 in). November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, with June to August having the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.

Typically, the warmest day of the year (1971–2000) will achieve a temperature of 26.6 °C (80 °F), although in June 1976 the temperature reached 31.6 °C (89 °F), the site record. On average, 4.25 days of the year will report a maximum temperature of 25.1 °C (77 °F) or above. During the winter half of the year, the coldest night will typically fall to −4.1 °C (25 °F) although in January 1979 the temperature fell to −8.8 °C (16 °F). Typically, 18.6 nights of the year will register an air frost.

Climate data for Mount Batten, Plymouth, 1981-2010, extremes 1960–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.4
(57.9)
14.6
(58.3)
18.3
(64.9)
24.1
(75.4)
25.9
(78.6)
31.6
(88.9)
31.0
(87.8)
30.9
(87.6)
26.3
(79.3)
23.0
(73.4)
17.1
(62.8)
16.1
(61)
31.6
(88.9)
Average high °C (°F) 8.8
(47.8)
8.8
(47.8)
10.5
(50.9)
12.6
(54.7)
15.6
(60.1)
18.0
(64.4)
19.9
(67.8)
20.0
(68)
18.1
(64.6)
14.8
(58.6)
11.8
(53.2)
9.5
(49.1)
14.0
(57.2)
Average low °C (°F) 4.0
(39.2)
3.6
(38.5)
4.8
(40.6)
5.9
(42.6)
8.8
(47.8)
11.2
(52.2)
13.3
(55.9)
13.4
(56.1)
11.6
(52.9)
9.3
(48.7)
6.4
(43.5)
4.5
(40.1)
8.1
(46.6)
Record low °C (°F) −8.8
(16.2)
−7.0
(19)
−7.0
(19)
−2.4
(27.7)
−0.5
(31.1)
2.9
(37.2)
6.1
(43)
5.9
(42.6)
1.9
(35.4)
−1.0
(30)
−3.4
(25.9)
−5.7
(21.7)
−8.8
(16.2)
Precipitation mm (inches) 108.3
(4.264)
84.1
(3.311)
78.0
(3.071)
66.9
(2.634)
63.8
(2.512)
57.2
(2.252)
62.3
(2.453)
67.4
(2.654)
73.7
(2.902)
113.4
(4.465)
113.4
(4.465)
118.8
(4.677)
1,007.4
(39.661)
Avg. precipitation days 15.1 11.6 12.4 10.9 10.4 8.5 9.4 10.1 9.9 14.4 15.0 14.5 142.1
Sunshine hours 61.9 85.5 123.3 187.5 224.8 222.8 213.8 204.4 160.8 115.5 75.3 54.5 1,730.1
Source: Met Office

Demography

From the 2011 Census, the Office for National Statistics published that Plymouth's unitary authority area population was 256,384; 15,664 more people than that of the last census from 2001, which indicated that Plymouth had a population of 240,720. The Plymouth urban area had a population of 260,203 in 2011 (the urban sprawl which extends outside the authority's boundaries). The city's average household size was 2.3 persons. At the time of the 2011 UK census, the ethnic composition of Plymouth's population was 96.2% White (of 92.9% was White British), with the largest minority ethnic group being Chinese at 0.5%. The white Irish ethnic group saw the largest decline in its share of the population since the 2001 Census (-24%), while the Other Asian and Black African had the largest increases (360% and 351% respectively). This excludes the two new ethnic groups added to the 2011 census of Gypsy or Irish Traveller and Arab. The population rose rapidly during the second half of the 19th century, but declined by over 1.6% from 1931 to 1951.

Plymouth's gross value added (a measure of the size of its economy) was 5,169 million GBP in 2013 making up 25% of Devon's GVA. Its GVA per person was £19,943 and compared to the national average of £23,755, was £3,812 lower. Plymouth's unemployment rate was 7.0% in 2014 which was 2.0 points higher than the South West average and 0.8 points higher than the average for Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

A 2014 profile by the National Health Service showed Plymouth had higher than average levels of poverty and deprivation (26.2% of population among the poorest 20.4% nationally). Life expectancy, at 78.3 years for men and 82.1 for women, was the lowest of any region in the South West of England.

Ethnic group Representation, 2011 Change since 2001
White 96.15% -2%
Mixed 1.28% +98%
Asian 1.52% +157%
Black 0.65% +249%
Other 0.39% +83%

Transport

Royal Albert and Tamar Bridge from Cornwall
The Royal Albert Bridge, 1859 (closest), and Tamar Bridge, 1961 (behind), connect Cornwall with Plymouth
See also: Railways in Plymouth

The A38 dual-carriageway runs from east to west across the north of the city. Within the city it is designated as 'The Parkway' and represents the boundary between the urban parts of the city and the generally more recent suburban areas. Heading east, it connects Plymouth to the M5 motorway about 40 miles (65 km) away near Exeter; and heading west it connects Cornwall and Devon via the Tamar Bridge. Regular bus services are provided by Plymouth Citybus, Stagecoach South West and Target Travel. There are three Park and ride services located at Milehouse, Coypool (Plympton) and George Junction (Plymouth City Airport), which are operated by Stagecoach South West.

Pont Aven at Millbay
MV Pont-Aven: Brittany Ferries service to Roscoff, France and Santander, Spain in Millbay Docks

A regular international ferry service provided by Brittany Ferries operates from Millbay taking cars and foot passengers directly to France (Roscoff) and Spain (Santander) on the three ferries, MV Armorique, MV Bretagne and MV Pont-Aven. The Cremyll Ferry is a passenger ferry between Stonehouse and the Cornish hamlet of Cremyll, which is believed to have operated continuously since 1204. There is also a pedestrian ferry from the Mayflower Steps to Mount Batten, and an alternative to using the Tamar Bridge via the Torpoint Ferry (vehicle and pedestrian) across the River Tamar.

The city's airport was Plymouth City Airport about 4 miles (6 km) north of the city centre. The airport was home to the local airline Air Southwest, which operated flights across the United Kingdom and Ireland. In June 2003, a report by the South West RDA was published looking at the future of aviation in the south-west and the possible closure of airports. It concluded that the best option for the south-west was to close Plymouth City Airport and expand Exeter International Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport, although it did conclude that this was not the best option for Plymouth. In April 2011, it was announced that the airport would close, which it did on 23 December. FlyPlymouth has put forward plans to reopen the city airport by 2018, which would provide daily services to various destinations including London.

Plymouth railway station, which opened in 1877, First Great Western have come under fire recently, due to widespread rail service cuts across the south-west, which affect Plymouth greatly. Three MPs from the three main political parties in the region have lobbied that the train services are vital to its economy.

The Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR needs to be reopened to connect Cornwall and Plymouth to the rest of the UK railway system on an all weather basis. There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. On the night of 4 February 2014, amid high winds and extremely rough seas, part of the sea wall at Dawlish was breached washing away around 40 metres (130 ft) of the wall and the ballast under the railway immediately behind. The line was closed. Network Rail began repair work and the line reopened on 4 April 2014. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.

Religion

Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Boniface
The Catholic cathedral

Plymouth has about 150 churches and its Roman Catholic cathedral (1858) is in Stonehouse. The city's oldest church is Plymouth Minster, also known as St Andrew's Church, (Anglican) located at the top of Royal Parade—it is the largest parish church in Devon and has been a site of gathering since AD 800. The city also includes five Baptist churches, over twenty Methodist chapels, and thirteen Roman Catholic churches. In 1831 the first Brethren assembly in England, a movement of conservative non-denominational Evangelical Christians, was established in the city, so that Brethren are often called Plymouth Brethren, although the movement did not begin locally.

Plymouth has the first known reference to Jews in the South West from Sir Francis Drake's voyages in 1577 to 1580, as his log mentioned "Moses the Jew" – a man from Plymouth. The Plymouth Synagogue is a Listed Grade II* building, built in 1762 and is the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue in the English speaking world. There are also places of worship for Islam, Bahá'í, Buddhism, Unitarianism, Chinese beliefs and Humanism.

58.1% of the population described themselves in the 2011 census return as being at least nominally Christian and 0.8% as Muslim with all other religions represented by less than 0.5% each. The portion of people without a religion is 32.9%; above the national average of 24.7%. 7.1% did not state their religious belief. Since the 2001 Census, the number of Christians and Jews has decreased (-16% and -7% respectively), while all other religions have increased and non-religious people have almost doubled in number.

Culture

New Palace Theatre Plymouth
The New Palace Theatre in 2008

Built in 1815, Union Street was at the heart of Plymouth's historical culture. It became known as the servicemen's playground, as it was where sailors from the Royal Navy would seek entertainment of all kinds. During the 1930s, there were 30 pubs and it attracted such performers as Charlie Chaplin to the New Palace Theatre. It is now the late-night hub of Plymouth's entertainment strip, but has a reputation for trouble at closing hours.

Outdoor events and festivals are held including the annual British Firework Championships in August, which attracts tens of thousands of people across the waterfront.

The city's main theatres are the Theatre Royal (1,315 capacity), its Drum Theatre (200 capacity), and its production and creative learning centre, The TR2. The Plymouth Pavilions has multiple uses for the city staging music concerts, basketball matches and stand-up comedy. There are also three cinemas: Reel Cinema at Derrys Cross, Plymouth Arts Centre at Looe Street and a Vue cinema at the Barbican Leisure Park. The Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is operated by Plymouth City Council allowing free admission – it has six galleries. The Plymouth Athenaeum, which includes a local interest library, is a society dedicated to the promotion of learning in the fields of science, technology, literature and art. From 1961 to 2009 it also housed a theatre.

Plymouth is the regional television centre of BBC South West. A team of journalists are headquartered at Plymouth for the ITV West Country regional station, after a merger with ITV West forced ITV Westcountry to close on 16 February 2009. The main local newspapers serving Plymouth are The Herald and Western Morning News with Radio Plymouth, BBC Radio Devon, Heart South West, and Pirate FM being the local radio stations with the most listeners.

Landmarks and tourist attractions

Saltram House 2008
Saltram House
John Foulston's Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport in 2008
Grade I listed Town Hall, Column and Library in Devonport
Elliot Terrace, Plymouth Hoe
Elliot Terrace, Plymouth Hoe

After the English Civil War the Royal Citadel was built in 1666 on the east end of Plymouth Hoe, to defend the port from naval attacks, suppress Plymothian Parliamentary leanings and to train the armed forces. Guided tours are available in the summer months. Further west is Smeaton's Tower, which was built in 1759 as a lighthouse on rocks 14 miles (23 km) off shore, but dismantled and the top two thirds rebuilt on the Hoe in 1877. It is open to the public and has views over the Plymouth Sound and the city from the lantern room. Plymouth has 20 war memorials of which nine are on The Hoe including: Plymouth Naval Memorial, to remember those killed in World Wars I and II, and the Armada Memorial, to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The early port settlement of Plymouth, called "Sutton", approximates to the area now referred to as the Barbican and has 100 listed buildings and the largest concentration of cobbled streets in Britain. The Pilgrim Fathers left for the New World in 1620 near the commemorative Mayflower Steps in Sutton Pool. Also on Sutton Pool is the National Marine Aquarium which displays 400 marine species and includes Britain's deepest aquarium tank.

One mile (two kilometres) upstream on the opposite side of the River Plym is the Saltram estate, which has a Jacobean and Georgian mansion.

On the northern outskirts of the city, Crownhill Fort is a well restored example of a "Palmerston's Folly". It is owned by the Landmark Trust and is open to the public.

To the west of the city is Devonport, one of Plymouth's historic quarters. As part of Devonport's millennium regeneration project, the Devonport Heritage Trail has been introduced, complete with over 70 waymarkers outlining the route.

Plymouth is often used as a base by visitors to Dartmoor, the Tamar Valley and the beaches of south-east Cornwall. Kingsand, Cawsand and Whitsand Bay are popular.

The Roland Levinsky building, the landmark building of the University of Plymouth, is located in the city's central quarter. Designed by leading architect Henning Larsen, the building was opened in 2008 and houses the University's Arts faculty. It has been consistently considered one of the UK's most beautiful university buildings.

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