Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 26, 2020
Webpage updated: February 26, 2020




The southern end of Mutley Plain, circa 1920s.
Note the shop blinds on the right-hand side.
From a postcard.

On May 3rd 1804, in the 44th year of the Reign of His Majesty King George III, the Royal Assent was given to: 'An Act for the better amending and repairing of the Roads leading from the Lower Market House in Tavistock to Old Town Gate, in the Borough of Plymouth, and from Manadon Gate to the Old Pound near Plymouth Dock, in the County of Devon.'

In his manuscript for a history of Plymouth, Mr John Harris records that the work of taking the tops off North Hill and Townsend Hill in order to raise the level of Mutley Plain was done or completed in 1812.

The tree-lined northern end of Mutley Plain,  circa 1900.
From a postcard.

A similar but less colourful view of the northern end of Mutley Plain, circa 1900.
From a postcard.

The only properties on the eastern side of Mutley Plain were the Lewis Jones's Cottages, one of which was the original Tavistock Turnpike Toll House. These were at the southern end, close to the junction of Tavistock Road with what became Prison Hill.  All of the development on the western  side was at the northern end.  In 1834 Doctor John Butter, then of Thornhill House, erected two villas at Ford Park that later became the Militia barracks.  These were actually in Mutley Road.  On Mutley Plain itself were the Townsend Inn, then Ford Park House, Ford Park Villas, and finally Mutley Villas.  In front of these Villas ran the Plymouth Leat.  Hidden away  behind these properties but accessed from the road alongside Mutley Villas, past the Lodge, were Shaftesbury Villas and Valletort Villa West and Valletort Villa East.  These were no doubt the 'very neat villas' that were referred to by the "South Devon Museum" in May 1835.

By 1889 Mutley Plain was fully developed, with Belgrave Terrace, Connaught Terrace and Mutley Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on the east side and Nottingham Place, Seaton Terrace, Ford Park and the Mutley Baptist Chapel on the western side, although most of the western side was still in the Parish of Compton Gifford.  Mr George Flemen, who lived in one of Lewis Jones's Cottages during the 1870s and 1880s, recalled in the Western Morning News in January 1936 memories of trout fishing in the Leat; attending Methodist services in 'a small store in Hyde Park Road'; how the land now occupied by Plymouth College was owned and farmed by a Mr Adams [Mr Alexander Lidstone Adams]; and that on the top of North Hill, where the Blind Institution then was, there was a thatched cottage in which a Mrs Pritcher lived.  'Standing on the Plain, six farms could be seen', he recalled: 'Houndiscombe Farm, Sherrell Farm (where Seaton-avenue is now), Farmer Lake's Farm at Hyde Park, Farmer Luscombe's farm, on the site of the Methodist Church, Lipson Farm, and a farm owned by another Mr Luscombe, where Furzehill-road now stands.'

Lewis Jones's Cottages were purchased by Mr J G Ellis, of Colling's Park, Compton Gifford, who apparently allowed them to fall into dilapidation.  In the mid 1880s they were demolished and in 1889 were replaced by a fine block of six tall houses, with shops on the ground floor and three storeys above, designed by Mr H J Snell, of Plymouth.  Mr T May, of Cobourg Street, was the builder.  The lofty shops were occupied by Mr Mayell, grocer; Mrs Hodge, poultry dealer; Mrs Smith, draper; while numbers 1 and 2 were acquired by the Plymouth Co-operative Society for use as a grocery, bakery and confectioners, and a dairy and butchery.  The fronts of the buildings are of Horrabridge brick with Portland cement dressings.  The decorative work in the pediments is of note.

On the afternoon of Friday March 20th 1925 Lady Benn, the wife of Sir Arthur Shirley Benn, officially opened the new Mutley Conservative Club on the corner of Mutley Plain with  Station Road.

At the end of 1925 the Town Council announced a plan (under the Unemployment (Relief Works) Act, to widen Mutley Plain and create a new road to the west of the Hyde Park Hotel, leaving the Hotel on an island between Hyde Park Road and Townsend Hill.  Work began in February 1929 and was estimated to cost 15,675. 

The Barton Building, which formed part of the new cut-off to Hyde Park Road, was officially opened on Monday March 31st 1930.

Amazingly, although a one-way traffic system around the Hyde Park Island was mooted in December 1929, it appears to have not been introduced until December 1930.

At 3.30pm on Friday October 10th 1941 a parade of military tanks left Mutley Plain to parade through the City centre to the Octagon, where they  were open for inspection.

Marina Place and Moor View were not made one-way until December 1941 or possibly January 1942.

Abercrombie's "Plan for Plymouth" recommended a 'traffic circus' be introduced at the southern end of Mutley Plain, at the junction with Alexandra Road, Greenbank Road and North Hill.  This was eventually installed in May 1952.

In 1962-1963 the bus stops formerly between Houndiscombe Road and Seaton Avenue were removed to between Seaton Avenue and Ford Park Road, the pavement being setback about five feet to accommodate them.  Bus shelters were also erected.  Gaps in the central reservation at Lisson Grove and Marina Place were closed to prevent traffic from turning right.  The closure of the gap at Houndiscombe Road meant that the Plymouth Joint Services motor bus route 27 could no longer turn right onto Mutley Plain to get to Alexandra Road.  The roundabout at the southern end of Mutley Plain was removed in October 1964 and replaced by traffic lights.  Pedestrian crossings at Mutley Baptist Chapel and Mutley Wesleyan Methodist Chapel were closed but a new one installed by the Fortescue Hotel.  The crossings at Hyde Park were retained.

For a list of the Occupants of Mutley Plain in 1852 CLICK HERE.

For a list of the Occupants of Mutley Plain in 1889 CLICK HERE.

For a list of the Occupants of Mutley Plain in 1937 CLICK HERE.