OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 06, 2016.
Webpage updated: April 18, 2017

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ROYAL DOCKYARD

THE FIRST DOCK

Two men were responsible for bringing the dock yard to the Plymouth area: King William III, who realised that there was a need after the French had opened their dock across the English Channel; and Mr Edward Dummer, Surveyor to the Navy.

It was in 1689 that Mr Dummer received instructions to visit Dartmouth and Plymouth and recommend which of them should be the location for new dock.  He chose Plymouth but initially favoured the Cattewater.  He was overruled by King William, who on January 5th 1690 directed the Admiralty and the Navy Board to build a stone dry dock at Ham Oze in the Port of Plymouth.  After preparing estimates for a dock yard and associated buildings, the contract for its construction was let on December 30th 1690 although it was not until July 29th 1692 that the Admiralty gave its authority for the work to build a complete dockyard at an estimated cost of 23,406.

The result was a stone dock to accommodate first rate ships of the line, completed in 1693; a great storehouse; a ropery; a smithery; boat houses; mast houses; carpenters' and joiners' shops; a small slipway; a mast pond; wharves; and a Terrace of houses to accommodate the Dockyard officers, with stables for their horses.  The principle contractor for the work has been named as a Mr Robert Walters but there were many suppliers of materials.

At Point Froward the dry dock was excavated from the hillside and the spoil used to make a wet dock in front of it.  The dry dock measured 230 feet in length, by 50 feet wide at the dock gates, and it was 22 feet deep.  It had steps on the sides and a twin-leaf dock gate, which took between 4 and 6 men to operate.  The rope house was to be 1,056 feet in length but the tenant of the land at one end of it, a Mr Dodge or Doidge, delayed the last 40 feet of it until 1698.  The Terrace for the Commissioner and twelve of his most senior staff was just over 400 feet long and built of brick.

A double dock was added to the first dock in about 1722 and Sir William Morice, the owner of the land, granted the Admiralty a lease for 50 acres in 1728.  A fourth dock was added north of the double docks.  This was the first phase of the reconstruction, modernization and expansion of the Yard.