Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 29, 2021
Webpage updated: January 23, 2022




The oldest part of Plympton, around
the Ancient Parish Church of Saint Maurice the Martyr.
From a postcard.

The origin of the place-name of Plympton is shrouded in mystery.  The earliest record of it is in a Anglo-Saxon document dated at 904AD, where it is shown as "Plymentun".  It could not have referred to the River Plym because the burgh was never on that river but at the head of a then tidal creek that reached up to the present Barbican Road, where boats could discharge and load cargo.  In the Domesday Book of 1086 it was recorded as "Plintona" and by 1238 had become "Plumpton".

Sometime before 961AD an ecclesiastical college, or Minster, had been founded on the shore of the creek, with a dean and four canons.

His Majesty King Henry I (1068, reigned 1100-1135) awarded Richard de Vernon seigneur de Redvers, or Richard de Redvers (?-1107), one of his most loyal supporters, the Honour of Plympton, in Devon, as well as land elsewhere in the Country, making him one of the wealthiest men in England.  Upon the site of a former Roman fort he built the 'motte and bailey' Plympton Castle.  The town that developed in the shadow of Plympton Castle became known as Plympton Earle or Erle.

In 1121 the Bishop of Exeter, William Warelwast (?-1137), closed the ecclesiastical college and replaced it with an Augustinian Priory dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which became very rich until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Sometime soon after 1172, during the reign of King Henry II (1154-1189), a parish church was built adjoining the Castle and dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury, who had just been canonised.

It is said that the first charter of incorporation of Plympton was given by William de Redvers, sixth Earl of Devon, in 1216.  The only evidence for it, though, is that it was mentioned in 1224 in an inquest under King Henry III to ascertain whether they were in possession of such a charter granted by the said lord of the manor.  A new charter was granted by the seventh Earl of Devon, the fourth Baldwin de Redvers, in 1242.

The earliest known reference to what we know as the Ridgeway is "Ryggeweystrete".  It appears in an Assize Roll dated 1281.  But it only became the main road from Exeter to Plymouth after the waters of the River Plym had receded from near Plympton Priory and the bridge built near the Ancient Parish Church of Saint Mary the Blessed Virgin.  In time traders set up stalls and later shops along the Ridgeway.   

By 1295 the town was sending two members to the House of Commons by 1295.  It is thought that Plympton's first Guildhall dates from this time.

Originally built as a chapel attached to Plympton Priory, the Ancient Parish Church of Saint Mary the Blessed Virgin was dedicated in 1311. 

Plympton became a Stannary Town in 1328.

It was around 1538/39, during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-1547), that the dedication of the Ancient Parish Church was changed to Saint Maurice the Martyr.

When Mr Edward Courtenay, the 18th Earl of Devon, died in 1566 without issue, the estate was divided between four aunts or their representatives. 

In 1602 Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) granted the Town a Royal Charter which stated that 'the borough town of Earls Plympton should remain forever a free borough town with a corporation consisting of Mayor, Bailiff and Burgesses.   As it turned out, "forever" lasted for only 365 years.   The first Guildhall was erected soon after.

Plympton Grammar School was founded in 1658 and the Plympton Guildhall was rebuilt in 1696.  Burgoyne's Almshouse may have dated from this time.  The Loughtor Corn Mills near Newnham Park, in the Parish, existed at this time.

Joshua Reynolds was born at Plympton in 1723 and went on to become the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts and Mayor of the Town in 1773.

The Triumphal Arch in Plymbridge Lane, dates from 1783 and the Wesleyan Methodists started to worship in the Ridgeway in 1798.

It is believed that the Cann Quarry Canal was opened in November 1829.

The Reform Act of 1832 brought about the disenfranchisement of the Borough.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 brought about the formation of Poor Law Unions.  Soon afterwards, in 1835, Plympton House, formerly the residence of the Treby family, was opened as the Plympton House Lunatic Asylum.  In October 1836 the Plympton Saint Mary Union was formed and their Workhouse opened.  The Plympton Saint Mary and Plympton District National School was founded in 1844.  

Plympton Station was built by the South Devon Railway and opened on Thursday June 15th 1848.

When the census was taken on Sunday March 31st 1851 the Parish of Plympton Saint Maurice had a population of 833.  Of this, 347 were males and 436 females and the figure also included 28 males and 22 females in the Plympton House Lunatic Asylum.  The population of the Parish had decreased by 96 since 1841.   There were 137 inhabited and two uninhabited properties plus one under construction.

The population of the Parish of Plympton Saint Mary had a population of 2,815, of which 1,312 were men and 1,363 were women.   Included in that total figure were 72 men and 68 women in the Plympton Union Workhouse.  The population of Plympton Saint Mary had increased by 37 since 1841.   The Parish had 475 inhabited houses, 28 uninhabited ones and five under construction.

Plympton Saint Mary National School was opened in what became Market Road in 1866 and the foundation stone was laid of the Colebrook United Free Methodist Chapel.

The first services were held in the new Ridgeway Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in August 1869.

At the time of the census in 1871 Plympton Saint Maurice had a population of 463 males and 621 females living in 177 properties.  The figure included 23 lunatics held in the Plympton House Lunatic Asylum.

It is thought that the famous Ridgeway Bun, originally known as "Haddy's Busters", was started in the 1870s by a Mr Haddy.

In 1874 the Plympton Saint Maurice National School was opened and the Plympton Public School was founded.

Plympton Saint Mary Rural Sanitary District was created in 1875 as the result of the Public Health Acts 1873 and 1875.

The privately founded Plympton Public School moved into its own building in Geason's Lane in 1876.

In 1878 the Town was described as consisting of four small streets, with a few respectable dwellings in the suburbs.

Miss Mary Anne Ochterlony Middleton (1823-1905) founded the Saint Elizabeth House of Rest in the Ridgeway in 1880.

Plympton Saint Mary Rural District Council was created by the Local Government Act 1894.  Plympton's first newspaper, the "Plympton Gazette", was started in 1895 and ran until 1912.  A second newspaper, the "Plympton Times and South Hams Advertiser", ran for only a short while in 1897-98.  Plympton got its one and only cinema, the Cinedrome, in 1913.

When the motor bus services started to run in the 1920s this gave the impetus for growth, which was especially noted by the members of the Plympton Saint Mary Rural District Council.  Housing expanded greatly during the 1930s.

Plympton's second newspaper, the "Plympton District Times and South West Devon Advertiser", ran from 1921 until 1927, when the title was changed to the "Plympton and South Devon Times and Ivybridge Gazette".

Plympton War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated in 1924.  Residents of the Town lost in the Second World War were added in due course.

The Plympton Public School was acquired by the County Council in 1924 and renamed the Plympton Senior School.

In March 1930 the Plympton and South Devon Times and Ivybridge Gazette became the South Devon Times, Plympton District Times, Ivybridge Gazette and Moorland Chronicle.

Plympton Saint Mary Rural District Council moved in to new offices at "Treverbyn", Plymbridge Road, in January 1931.

The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was consecrated in September 1935.  A new Police Station and Courthouse was opened in the Ridgeway in 1937.

As a result of the Education Act 1944, which received the Royal Assent on August 3rd 1944, from April 1st 1945 Plympton Saint Maurice National School became the Plympton Saint Maurice Church of England Primary School.

Plympton Saint Maurice Church of England Primary School was re-opened in a new building on Buller's Hill in November 1954.

Plympton Station was closed in March 1959 and the Woodford Methodist Chapel was opened and dedicated in July 1959.

On April 1st 1967 part of Plympton Saint Mary Rural District Council area was absorbed into the City of Plymouth.

Glen Park County Primary School was opened in 1976 followed by Yealmpstone Farm County Primary School in 1978.

The official opening of the Ridgeway Methodist Chapel in Mudge Way took place in October 1994.

the first services were held at Mudge Way on Sunday May 1st 1994.  The official opening took place on Saturday October 22nd 1994.