Webpage created: July 27, 2017
Webpage updated: March 21, 2020
Island House on Plymouth's Barbican is said to date from between 1572 and 1600 and was one of the houses where the Pilgrim Fathers lodged prior to their final departure for America on September 6th 1620 in the "Mayflower." It may not have been known as the Island House at that time but it is certainly so-named on the earliest surviving deeds of 1718.
Mr Robert Bayly of Poole in Dorset married Miss Hannah Brabant, of Plymouth, whose family leased the Island House from Sir William Molesworth. They had a son, John, who in 1737 moved to Plymouth to join Captain Brabant in his merchants and ship-owning business. When the Captain died in 1763 the business passed to Mr John Bayly, who, in 1786, purchased the freehold of Island House from Sir William Molesworth.
Soon after the family moved to a brand new property further along the Barbican and which became known as either the "Great House" or the "Red House", the latter because it was built of red brick. That House also still survives today. In 1812 they moved to a new block of properties that they had built called Brunswick Terrace in what was then Jubilee Street, now Exeter Street.
Island House remained in the Bayly family until the death of Mrs Emma Sophia Bayly, widow of Mr Robert Bayly (1839-1901) of Torr House, Pennycross, Plymouth, in 1924. This upset their eldest daughter, Miss Elizabeth Mary Bayly (1870-1958), who was very interested in Plymouth history. She bought the House back in to the family and in 1935 presented it to her nephew, Mr John Bayly, for future safe keeping.
On November 6th 1941 the
Island House looked in a rather sorry state.
During an air raid on the night of January 13th/14th 1941 the House sustained considerable damage. In 1948 the property was restored to its pre-war glory by Messrs A S Parker and Allen, at the request of Mr John Bayly. Island House was officially re-opened by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth on April 11th 1949. It was then leased to Messrs S J Lethbridge.
On July 1st 1953 Mr Edward Hugh Bayly, the younger brother of Mr John Bayly, and Mr William Ernest Blakeney were made the trustees of the property and in 1964 they delegated the letting of it to Miss Cicely Maude Bayly. She had apparently been successful in negotiating the leasing of the first floor to a Mr Rodney Brimacombe and letting the ground floor shop to Mr Beedell Coram, an antique dealer.
Following the death of Mr Edward Hugh Bayly in July 1992 further restoration and modernisation work was undertaken.
Although there is a reference in the municipal records for 1495-96 to 'ye house called ye Ilond', it is not certain that this refers to the this property. The quayside upon which it is built is dated 1572 and the adjoining New Street dates from 1590, whenit was constructed by a Mr John Sparke. The present property appears to have been constructed in two sections. It is thought by the family that the rear portion is probably the original House and dates from around 1590 and that the front portion was added around 1620 to 1640 when the Quay outside was enlarged. The original position of the Quay is indicated by a line of stones set at right-angle to the rest.
The Town Rental for 1630 refers to 'lands owned by John Sparke and adjoining Island House', which is the earliest reference to it by name and probable location. Ten years later, in 1640, there is a reference in the same source which reads: 'Johnathon Sparke, Esquire, for the rental of the Iseland House for which he encroached att the Kaye when he new built it'. The date of "1640 IG" is painted on a roof beam in the House. The earliest surviving deed, dated 1718, refers only to 'the building of a house by Johnathon Sparke, son of John Sparke'.
Sir William Molesworth is said to have been an heir of Mr Jonathon Sparke.