Webpage created: October 02, 2019
Webpage updated: October 02, 2019
Millbay Park at the junction of West Hoe Road and Citadel Road, Plymouth, was formerly the site of the Millbay Barracks, where large numbers of French, Spanish and Russian prisoners of war were housed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
With the permission of the military authorities, the site was opened as a recreation ground on Thursday June 22nd 1911, as part of the celebrations for the Coronation of HM King George V. Soldiers guarded the entrance from Millbay Road and the gate was kept locked until the arrival of the Deputy Mayor, Alderman J F Winnicott, and Corporation to claim possession. (The Mayor was in London at the time for the Coronation). On the eastern side of the cricket ground a large stand had been erected for the accommodation of the Corporation and military officers.
There was a considerable body of troops present including the Royal Garrison Artillery, under Colonel W T T Duhban, who was also in command of all the troops present; the 30th Company Royal Engineers, under Major C G Burnaby; the 5th Devon Regiment (T), under Lieutenant Colonel R W Fox; the 7th Devon Regiment (Cyclists), under Lieutenant S Whitmore; the Devon and Cornwall Brigade Army Service Corps, under Captain Calmady Collier; the 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance, under Lieutenant Colonel A B Soltau; the Devon Fortress Royal Engineers, under W R P Bastard; the 4th Southern General Hospital, under Lieutenant Colonel C E Russell Rendle; the Plymouth College contingent of the Officer Training Corps, under Captain C W Dodson; and the Plymouth Lads' Brigade Cadet Corps, under Major Wright.
Lieutenant Colonel S R Rice, commanding the Royal Engineers, represented Major-General Bowles, the commander of the South Western Coast Defences, who was in London for the Coronation. When he arrived he was received with a general salute and he then took up position inside the main gate to await the arrival of the civic procession. The band of the Royal Garrison Artillery, under Bandmaster Evans, supplied the music.
At the main entrance a castellated structure had been erected and from its two towers fluttered the Union Jack and the Corporation flag. More flags flew from the tops of slender poles and streamers were arranged around the railings surrounding the ground.
The Deputy Mayor and Corporation arrived in carriages following the Coronation service at Saint Andrew's Church and were greeted by a fanfare of trumpets. The gates were then thrown open and the Deputy Mayor asked Lieutenant Colonel Rice: 'to allow the general public admission for the purpose of recreation and pleasure in accordance with an arrangement entered into between the Secretary of State for War, the Lords of the Admiralty, and the Corporation of Plymouth.'
After receiving the invitation to enter from the Lieutenant Colonel, the Deputy Mayor and Corporation passed through the gateway, walked up the steps to the cricket ground through the double line of troops, and took their places on the platform.
In the speeches that followed Alderman Winnicott made reference to 'the unoccupied and unsightly barracks with their high enclosing walls' that had been removed and 'the well-grassed enclosure with attractive terraces, well-paved paths and handsome railings' that had replaced them. The streets nearby had also been widened in the process. The ceremony naturally concluded with the National Anthem.
As it was Coronation Day, the assembled officials went off to have a special lunch in the Guildhall.