Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 04, 2017.
Webpage updated: August 04, 2017




Lord Boringdon, later the first Earl of Morley, promoted the Plymouth Embankment Company, which was empowered by the Lairy Embankment (Plymouth)] Act 1802 to embank the Laira river on the Plymouth side.

A extract from Benjamin Donn's map of Devon, 1765, showing the Laira estuary

An extract from Benjamin Donn's map of Devon, 1765,
showing the Laira Estuary.  Lipson Lake is by the word
"Upper", Tothill Bay is just below "Totehill".  Arnold's Point
is immediately opposite "Saltram Quay".  The Oreston
ferry is clearly shown.

The tender was awarded to Mr Mitchell Samson of Gwennap in Cornwall, who then constructed an embankment across Lipson Lake and Tothill Bay as far as Little Prince Rock.  On October 10th 1802, Mr Henry Woollcombe, the company's secretary, recorded in his diary that the embankment had been closed that afternoon and in the evening he had witnessed the tide being kept out of Lipson Bay 'for the first time since the creation of the world'.

Then in 1808, a Cornish mining engineer by the name of Mr William Kitto, also from Gwennap, completed the work by putting an embankment between Great Prince Rock and Little Prince Rock and as far as Pomphlett Point, where Lord Boringdon's ferry landed from Oreston.  William was the uncle of Doctor John Kitto, who was born in Plymouth in 1804, so his great-great-grandson, Mr Crispin Kitto, informs me, and later became famous for his illustrated Bible.

By the authority of the Efford Quay and Plymouth Road Act 1803 a new road was laid along the top of the embankment.  This became the new Eastern Turnpike from Plymouth to the Longbridge at Plympton and onwards to Exeter and replaced the more hilly route up Lipson Hill.  Plymouth Corporation also built at their own expense a new road from the Embankment into Plymouth, which they named Jubilee Road.

The Embankment Company operated no less than four toll houses.  The Northern Embankment one was at Laira Green; there was also a "Stopgate" rather than a turnpike where the lane from Mount Gould joined the Embankment at Arnold's Point.  The Southern Embankment house was a little to the north of where the Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway crossed (it is now Embankment Lane) and there was a fourth just the Plymouth side of the Laira Bridge Toll Gate, on the old non-parochial boundary of the creek that had been reclaimed.  Although the date of opening of this new road is stated to have been October 25th 1809, it is said that tolls were being levied at Arnold's Point as early as 1805.

Pedestrians paid a half-penny, a single horse was a penny, a wagon and eight horses was five shillings (this was probably Russell's carrier wagons), a wagon with one horse was fourpence, a wagon with two horses was sixpence, a wagon and four horses was a shilling, and a wagon with six horses was 1/6d.   The toll was double on a Sunday.

The Plymouth Embankment Company shared an office at 24 Frankfort Lane, Plymouth, with the other turnpike companies.

In the spring of 1806, Lord Boringdon started to embank the other side of the Lairy at Schilleston or Chelson Creek, which after the land was reclaimed became Chelson Meadow.

Councillor A R Debnam fought an interesting action for the people of Plymouth against the Plymouth Embankment Company.  The Company claimed the right to levy tolls upon anyone using their property from Charles Place to any part of the Embankment  Road.  Mr Debnam challenged this in court, where it was ruled that the road from the old toll house in St Jude's Road to the gate near the Laira Bridge was free for purposes of ordinary traffic.  This seems reasonable given that Plymouth Corporation built that stretch of road, not the embankment company.

Plymouth Corporation purchased the Embankment Company on March 8th 1897 for the price of 22,500 but as the tolls collected made a profit of only 1,000 per year, it was not until 1924 that the collection of tolls was able to cease.  The tolls for crossing the Laira Bridge had been abolished in 1904.