Webpage created: June 30, 2017
Webpage updated: April 20, 2021
Plymouth Hoe on a sunny day before the Second
'The modern pilgrim walks up from the low level of the City Centre towards the green slopes of the Hoe, or HOH as it was in the Old English tongue, meaning "spur of the hill" or "high place". This limestone ridge at its highest point is only about 110 feet above sea level but Plymouth folk throughout their long history have worshipped here; have watched anxiously for enemy raiders - Dane, Breton, Spaniard and German; and when the long struggle was victoriously ended they have erected monuments to their dead.' So wrote the late Mrs Marion Beckford at the start of her "Story of Plymouth Hoe" published by the Plymouth Guild of Social Service in the early 1960s.
Plymouth Hoe originally stretched from the cliff overlooking Sutton Pool in the east, dominated by Plymouth Castle, to a similar cliff overlooking Mill Bay to the west. It helped to shelter from view the small hamlet and harbour of Sutton and proved an excellent point for those ancient Suttonians to watch out to sea for possible enemies and invaders. Centuries later the Castle was replaced by the Royal Citadel, a tarmacadamed Promenade was laid, and the citizens erected, in full view of those enemies and invaders, memorials and monuments to those who gave their lives when those scoundrels tried to takeover this Country.
Starting at the very eastern end of Plymouth Hoe is the Royal Citadel, in front of which will be seen the Royal Marine Memorial looking out over Plymouth Sound. Partly hidden behind the Memorial is the headquarters of the Marine Biological Association, which between 1888 and 1998 housed the Plymouth Aquarium.
Climbing the slope, or steps, from Hoe Road onto the Hoe proper, on the right is The Lodge, now a cafe, behind which is a public convenience block. Down the same path as the toilets is the South African or Boer War Memorial, an obelisk from which there is a fine view over the rooftops of old Plymouth.
Alongside The Lodge is a garden in which is the Prejoma Clock. This site also used to contain the Observatory, at which weather readings were taken and meteorological data posted in a twin faced display cabinet at the junction of the main Promenade and the pathway to its north. This pathway leads to a junction with another pathway, at which in the ground will be seen a metal cross bearing the number "3". This is said to mark the spot of the Death by Firing Squad of three military mutineers. Along the path to the north of this spot will be seen the Norrington Fountain.
Back on the Promenade we will now loom at the memorials and monuments on its northern side. First is the newest of them all, the Royal Air Force and Allied Air Forces Monument. Next comes the National Armada Memorial, where Plymouth's first Remembrance Day was held in May 1919. A short pathway leads to the Plymouth Naval Memorial, upon which are engraved the names of the men who lost their lives at sea in the Great War and, in the sunken gardens around it, those who died in the Second World War.
One of Devon's most famous sailors from an earlier era, the fifteenth century, Sir Francis Drake, is the subject of the next monument, Drake's Statue, which is actually a copy of the original on a roundabout just as you enter the Town of Tavistock. Behind the Statue used to stand the Tea Pavilion, which appears in many old photographs of the Hoe, replaced after the Second World War by the much-photographed Hoe Floral Cafe, a former aircraft hanger.
If you take a walk down Lockyer Street, which enters Plymouth Hoe at this point, at the far north-western corner of the Hoe you will come to the Plymouth War Memorial. Note the Drake Bowling Club which has long commemorated the famous game of bowls that our sailor hero was playing on Plymouth Hoe when the Spanish Armada was sighted off the coast.
After returning to the Promenade, we shall now view the landmarks on the southern, seaward, side, starting almost opposite the entrance from Lockyer Street with the Belvedere, from which an excellent view of Plymouth Sound, Drake's Island and, to the right, West Hoe, is obtained. In the distance, on the opposite shore, is Mount Edgcumbe Park. The Belvedere was once known as the Corporation Seat and is actually best viewed from the road below, which we shall get to later. The Victorian Camera Obscura used to sit on top of the Belvedere.
The most prominent structure on Plymouth Hoe is undoubtedly Smeaton's Tower, a former lighthouse from the Eddystone Reef. It replaced a Trinity House Obelisk that had stood near the site to guide ships' captains into Sutton Harbour. Near here used to be the Bandstand, where military bands used to give concerts during the summer months. On the seaward side of it will be seen a small building which was built as a Look-out House or Watch House.
Leaving the Hoe on the eastern side by the path from the lighthouse one will come to a restaurant known as The Plymouth Dome. This replaced the Mallard Cafe during the 1980s and was at first a cafe cum local history display which the Council failed to maintain and update. In the wall at the entrance is the Reform Tablet.
On the waterfront will be seen, beneath the Royal Citadel, the home of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, and further westwards, the Tinside Lido. By following Hoe Road along the shore of the Hoe, you will be able to get a better view of the Belvedere and also visit the Garden of Remembrance that now fills what was once known a as the Bull Ring. Immediately opposite the Belvedere and Bull Ring once stood the Plymouth Promenade Pier, which was lost during the Second World War.
The children's pleasure park, with the West Hoe Miniature Railway, is situated in what was West Hoe Limestone Quarry and the houses erected on the site are known as the West Hoe Estate. On the shoreline will be seen the West Hoe Baths, now used as a restaurant, and West Hoe Pier.