Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 23, 2020
Webpage updated: March 23, 2020




Compton Gifford was a tything and a civil parish to the north of the Borough of Plymouth.  It was originally in the Plympton Saint Mary Union for Poor Law purposes.

At the time the census was taken on Sunday March 31st 1851 the Parish had a population of 391, comprising 154 males and 237 females.   The population had increased by 120 since the 1841 census.  There were 62 inhabited properties, five which were uninhabited and eight under construction.

Compton Gifford was formed into an ecclesiastical parish in 1871, with an addition from the civil parish of Charles.  The boundaries of the tything were formed by watercourses and the lines of ancient roads but in no case did any of these belong to the tything. 

In 1880 the Saint Andrew's portion of the tything was added, and the parish now included part of Plymouth lying to the east of Mutley Plain.

The Compton Local Board caused a bit of an upset in 1882 when they decided it was necessary to provide a fire-escape ladder on Mannamead Hill.  The only suitable site they could find was adjacent to the Western College.  The management of the College agreed, subject to the reserving the right to place a flagstaff on top of the shed the fire-escape would be stored in.  Quite why they wanted to do this is not recorded.  Anyway, the committee agreed; the Board's surveyor agreed and the Board's clerk agreed.   Unfortunately the Board itself did not agree and the suggestion was thrown out for one very simple reason: the position chosen was at the rear of the College while the Board, full of their own self-importance, wanted it at the front of the building.

When the College refused to accept that proposal, the Board appointed a surveyor from London to inspect and report on the two sites.  He reported in favour of the one at the front because it was more conspicuous and easier to access but just to place safe recommended that the Board accept the site at the rear, which he considered just as good.

The Board were not happy with this diplomatic reply (one hopes they paid the surveyor before he left for home) and took the case to Court.  After protracted litigation, the Court said that the Board 'had no right to insist on a front position, however desirable the object, if a site at the back, where it would not disfigure or annoy, was to be had and was all that was needed.'  So they had pay heavy legal costs and still ended up with the site at the rear.   Apparently, so it was reported, the Plymouth Town Council unanimously said 'Serve them right'.   

The Boundary Extension Committee of Plymouth Borough Council reported on October 23rd 1893, recommending that a large area to the north of the Town should be absorbed.

The Local Government Board held an Inquiry between February 21st and 28th 1894.  Major General C Phipps Carey was the Inspector.   His report filled 638 foolscap pages.  The proposal was for Plymouth to take over Pennycross, Compton Gifford and Eggbuckland but the Town Council could not reach an agreement as to the rates to be charged to the new ratepayers.  In the meantime, Compton Gifford acquired Urban District Council status.

A second Inquiry was held between July 1st and 9th 1896.  Pennycross and Laira were to be included but not Compton Gifford.   Plymouth's rates were 6s 1d but Compton's was only 4 shillings.  Plymouth offered the residents of Compton a rate of 4s 6d for the first five years and 5 shillings for the next five years but the offer was declined.

Unfortunately, the ratepayers suffered a setback during the Inquiry, when, on July 3rd 1896, their chairman, Mr R N Worth, died.   His position was filled by Mr T Wolferstan.  The House of Commons confirmed the Local Government Board Order P1257 on July 10th and Compton Gifford appealed to the House of Lords.  A compromise was then reached.  The rates would be 4s 3d for the first five years, and then not exceeding 4s 6d for the next ten years and not exceeding six shillings for a further ten years.  It sounds like Compton residents did rather well out of it.

Although the Bill did not get the Royal Assent until August 1st, when it became the Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 15) Act 1896,  the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr J T Bond, announced the take-over during the Corporation Grammar School's Prize Day in the Guildhall on Thursday July 30th.

His Worship declared three days of celebrations, commencing on Tuesday October 13th.  16,000 local school children were presented with a specially struck medal and a 'superior' bun and then given a half-day holiday.  During the morning the Mayor visited Cattedown Road Board Schools, North Road Board School and the Plymouth Public Free Schools, which he had attended, to supervise the medal-giving.

The following day, Wednesday October 14th, the Mayor and guests met at 12.30 for lunch at the Corn Exchange and afterwards set off in 21 carriages to Beat the new Bounds.  The good folks of Compton Gifford were somewhat displeased to find a huge party of people tramping around their fields, however, as no-one had thought to either tell them it was happening or invite them to take part.  Not a good start to the amalgamation.

On the final day of the celebrations, Thursday 15th, the Mayor opened the new artisan's dwellings at Prince Rock, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the extension of the boundary.

The new boundary came into force on November 9th 1896 and a new Town Council had to be elected.

That portion of Compton Gifford that was outside the new limits of the Borough amounted to about 167 acres.  This continued to be run as a vestry or parish meeting until 1928, when at the behest of Devon County Council it was created a civil parish.  That area was finally amalgamated into Plymouth on April 1st 1939.

Compton does not have a parish church in the ancient manner but was served by Emmanuel Church in Tavistock Road.