Port of Plymouth, England

The Promenade Overlooking the Harbor at Plymouth, England.

The Promenade Overlooking the Harbor at Plymouth, England. GGA Image ID # 143203e419

Plymouth - Its advantage as a landing place and the attractiveness of the surrounding country, rapidly becoming the most important recreation ground in England, are bringing to it a degree of prominence in American thought scarcely second to that which Southampton has attained.


Tourists landing in Great Britain, on leaving port, make acquaintance at Plymouth either with theGreat Western Railway or with the Southwestern. Special steamer trains run on these roads to London in connection with the arrival of ships, making the distance to London at express speed— usually 4 1/2 hours.

On these trains a "traveling lady's attendant" is usually provided for the convenience of ladies traveling alone. Plymouth has become an important port of call for steamers of all German lines, and of all English except the Cunard.

The White Star still sends ships to Liverpool, but others of this line, and some of the most important, stop at Plymouth on their way to Southampton. It is announced this season that the Holland-American Line, which operates a fleet of fine large ships, including the Rotterdam, with a displacement of 37,190 tons, now calls at Plymouth with its two ships Rotterdam and New Amsterdam on their east-bound Voyages. The French port of call for this line both ways remains Boulogne-Sur-Mer.

The Great Western is one of the largest English systems, having nearly 3,000 miles in operation, and traverses some of the finest scenery in England and Wales. Fourteen cathedral cities may be reached by its various lines.

Stratford also may be reached and Fishguard, the new port of the Cunard line. From Fishguard, Ireland is reached by a route shorter than others. Turbine steamers owned by this company, 350 feet long, and making 22 1/2 knots an hour, operate from Fishguard by day and night.

The London and Northwestern Railway penetrates the heart of England, with branch lines to Wales and, in connection with the Caledonian Railway, to Scotland as far north as Aberdeen.

It runs directly to Hollyhead and Liverpool, to Warwickshire and the "Wordsworth country (otherwise known as the Lake District), as well as to the country in which lived ancestors of Washington and Franklin.

Illustrated pamphlets, descriptive of these localities, are issued by the company and may be had at its agency, 237 Fifth Ave., New York. In Warwickshire, the company maintains a motor-car service, by which one may visit Stratford, Warwick, and Kenilworth at a moderate charge.

Through central England one may travel by the Midland Railway also—one of the great lines of the country. By the Great Eastern from London one visit-s many of the most famous English cathedrals. Among these are Ely, Peterborough, Lincoln, and Norwich.

By this line one reaches Hull and Newcastle, where steamers are taken for Norway. It also goes to Harwich, whence steamers run to the Hook of Holland. By this route that part of eastern England from which came the Pilgrim Fathers is accessible.


An Attractive Port of Entry for American Travelers to England and Port of North German Lloyd Steamers.

Cabin Passengers Waiting for the Gang Plank to be Lowered at Plymouth.

Cabin Passengers Waiting for the Gang Plank to be Lowered at Plymouth. GGA Image ID # 1431ca35c5

As Plymouth is the English haven from which the Mayflower set sail in 1620, on its memorable voyage to New England, it has always had a claim upon the United States.

Its advantage as a landing place and the attractiveness of the surrounding country, rapidly becoming the most important recreation ground in England, are bringing to it a degree of prominence in American thought scarcely second to that which Southampton has attained.

That the trend of English fashion these past few years has been toward the two southwest counties is generally known. The diversified beauty of the long stretch of seacoast from Southampton to Land's End and back to Bristol and the rugged interior filled with sightly "tors," picturesque gullies and delightful reminiscences of the Arthurian legends, Lorna Doone and Conan Doyle, has proved a greater and greater attraction to well-to-do Britishers and to the members of the American colony in London.

Common Sight at Plymouth - Seeing the Firemen and Coal Passers Cooling Off at the Rail.

Common Sight at Plymouth - Seeing the Firemen and Coal Passers Cooling Off at the Rail. GGA Image ID # 1431df85ef

As a rule the fashion of summering, both in England and in America, is first set by artists. Just as the landscape painters first discovered Newport, Bar Harbor and the Berkshires, to be followed later by the wealthy and fashionable families of New York, Boston and Chicago, so the district of Devonshire is at present passing through a stage of popularity with the artists, and with the class of people whom art most easily influences.

Covely, for instance, a picturesque little place on the north shore of Evon, has of late become distinctly a fad of both British and American painters, and along either coast, whether about Exeter of Plymouth to the south, or Ilfracrombe, Bude, or Tintagel on the north, you will always see white umbrellas. The whole region is full of the subjects, which the early English artists affected.

View of Old Houses in Plymouth, England.

View of Old Houses in Plymouth, England. GGA Image ID # 143202fec3

Here Sir Joshua Reynolds was born and worked during portions of his life, and here the greatest of all London landscapists, Turner, painted many pictures, among them the famous "Devonport," which has lately been acquired by the Fogg Museum at Harvard University.

The natural gateway for Americans to the Devonshire countryside is Plymouth. As an introduction to England it is like beginning one's meal with dessert; but perhaps there is an advantage in seeing the best first.

The similarity of Old Plymouth to the Massachusetts town which bears its name, and to which so many thousands of American tourists go every year will perhaps be one of the entertaining features to many travelers who approach it from the sea.

Map of Plymouth Harbor Shoring Route of Tender Used by the Steamship Lines.

Map of Plymouth Harbor Shoring Route of Tender Used by the Steamship Lines. Hamburg-American Line, Summer 1913 Edition, p. 189. GGA Image ID # 1d1e99b298

To be sure the American Plymouth, a little village of 10,000 people, is quite outclassed by this large center, which numbers in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million people, but there are certain striking resemblances.

Just as the vessel in making the harbor of the American Plymouth first passes a great lighthouse and then comes within a natural breakwater into a closed harbor, so the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship goes past the Eddystone Light, to glide into smooth water behind the artificial stone breakwater, which has made this harbor one of the safest in the world.

The great promenade alone The Hoe, Plymouth's park situated on a plateau overlooking the sea, somehow suggests the boulevard extending southward from the American Plymouth; and over and beyond are forested heights not unlike those of Manomet.

The country beyond is less well wooded than that of eastern Massachusetts, and the hills are higher; but still there is a general resemblance.

The Promenade Overlooking the Harbor at Plymouth, England.

The Promenade Overlooking the Harbor at Plymouth, England. GGA Image ID # 143203e419

The American tourist is apt to be surprised, if he has not followed the industrial development of towns in southern England, to discover that this community, composed of the three adjoining cities of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport has an aggregate population of more than 200,000 supported mainly by shipping and small manufacturing.

He discovers a modern city with fine free public library and several other libraries that are connected with literary and scientific institutions; a municipal museum and flourishing art and technical schools.

There are too, plenty of theaters and music halls, one of which, the Theater Royal, holds a prominent position among the great theaters of the world.

During the entire season the city is full of visitors coming and going, departing on coaching trips to Dartmoor or on sea and river excursion up and down the Devon and Cornish coasts and up the many rivers which run into the English channel.

There is abundant bathing close to the town, and the open-air concerts are among the best in England. Those who had thought of Brighton as the only great English water ing place find the magnitude of Plymouth rather staggering.

That the American tourist learns a great deal of ancient history in Plymouth goes without saying. He discovers that, although the town is one of the oldest places along the coast, being known as late as the reign of Henry II as ''a mere thing as an habitation for fishers," its favored situation caused it to be built up rapidly during the years when the English naval and merchant marines were first being develop ed to great proportions.

Fishing Boats at the Quay of Plymouth, England.

Fishing Boats at the Quay of Plymouth, England. GGA Image ID # 1432240d1c

Situated where the Plym and four other rivers come together, it has an admirable harbor, and it early became an object of frequent attacks from the French, who although generally repulsed, met with occasional success and caused Henry II to fortify the entire coast.

In Queen Elizabeth's reign we read in connection with Plymouth of such doughty Britons as Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas Cavendish, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Martin Frobisher, and Lord Howard, together with countless other heroes of the sea.

Among the noteworthy events in which Plymouth has taken part probably the most famous was the gathering of her sailor sons on the famous Hoe on that glorious July afternoon in 1588, when the invincible Armada hove in sight.

Eight years later there was another assembling of 130 ships at Plymouth, which sailed hence after the successful attack on Cadiz, led by the Earl of Essex.

Again in 1620 the Pilgrim fathers, after a long stay in Plymouth, during which they gave up one of their ships, the Speedwell, set sail in the Mayflower to find in the new world the homes they had lost in the old, and to become the founders of the greatest republic witnessed by the 20th century.

Group of Public Edifices in Modern Plymouth, England.

Group of Public Edifices in Modern Plymouth, England. GGA Image ID # 143270b43b

Hence, too, Cook and Vancouver started forth on their ocean voyages; and to Plymouth in 1815 came the Bellerophon, bearing on board Napoleon Bonaparte, defeated and captured. In general Plymouth has been but very little connected with military affairs, save at the time of the great Civil War, when it was held and retained by the Parliament, although it suffered some long and very severe sieges from the Royalists.

Plymouth at present occupies a very important position from a commercial point of view and has a large coastwise and Mediterranean trade. The value of its harbor is dependent upon its celebrated breakwater, a giant work which, slighted by the great Earl of St. Vincent, was begun in 1812, and completed in about thirty years.

The huge stone pier, extending to a length of 5,100 feet and estimated to contain nearly 7,000,000 tons of stone, cost about $10,000,000. Some fourteen miles out to sea rises the new Eddystone Lighthouse to a height of 133 feet.

It was constructed of 2,171 blocks of granite under the direction of Sir J. N. Douglas. Its lantern exhibits a flashing light visible seventeen and a half miles a fixed light on the lower level marking the Long Deeps.

During the foggy weather a bell is sounded twice at intervals of one-half a minute. Since the completion of the light and breakwater Plymouth has always been counted one of the safest harbors on the globe—a fact that will give satisfaction to the thousands of American travelers who are destined to land at its quays.

Ocean Mail and Passenger Traffic

During 1901, there was landed at Plymouth from New York specie to the value of £1,015,315, 2,928 passengers, and 17,764 sacks of mail. The outward steamers embarked 604 passengers. The following, in regard to Plymouth as a port of call, is from the. Western Daily Mercury:

The year 1901 on the whole was a satisfactory one for Plymouth as a port of call. Altogether, some 444 ocean mail and passenger steamers touched at the port, as compared with 421 vessels in 1900.

The outward-bound steamers numbered 102, as against 95, and the homeward bound 342, as against 326. There was a slight increase in the number of passengers dealt with, which was principally due to more Atlantic traffic.

The year 1901 was not without some changes, the most important undoubtedly being the return of the Norddeutscher Lloyd Company's express steamers, engaged in the trans-Atlantic trade.

The German Lloyd Company, after a very brief connection with the port, reverted to Southampton at the time of the Spanish-American war, and the resumption of their relationship with Plymouth at the very end of the passenger season was certainly unexpected.

The brilliant performances of the Hamburg-American Company's record holder, the Deutschland, had directed attention to the port, with the result that the Kronprinz Wilhelm, on her maiden voyage, called at Plymouth in October last.

Since then, the express steamers of the line have regularly called at Plymouth, and they are advertised to do so next passenger season. Attention has already teen called in the columns of the Western Daily Mercury to the large numbers of passengers that have been dealt with at Plymouth by the Hamburg-American Line.

Outward and homeward the large intermediate steamers have called at Plymouth, while on the eastward journey the express steamers regularly called to land mails, passengers, and specie.

According to the present arrangement, the express service, which was suspended for the winter in December, will lie resumed by the Columbia, which is due at Plymouth on the 15th March.

The slower vessels, the Pennsylvania, the Patricia, the Pretoria, and the Graf Waldersee, maintain their service throughout the year, and they are still calling at Plymouth, both outward and homeward.

After March next, the service will be augmented by the inclusion of two new large steamers, the Moltke and the Blucher. Up to the present the Hamburg-American Company's steamers have sailed from Plymouth on Tuesdays, but in future the sailing day will be Monday.

One line, the Woermann Line, which is engaged in the West African trade, has withdrawn from Plymouth during the past year. In March last, it was announced that these steamers would call at Plymouth outward as well as homeward, but a month or two later they signified their intention of making Southampton their English port, and in July their connection with Plymouth ceased. Messrs. Elder, Demptster & Co., of Liverpool, have improved their service between the west coast of Africa and Plymouth, and now three of their steamers touch at the port monthly, instead of two, as formerly.

Hamburg-American Line Abandons the Port of Plymouth

It is rumored that the express steamers of the Hamburg-American I.inc will desert Plymouth, England, in favor of Southampton as a port of call, the change to take place early in spring. - (Marine Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, 14 January 1909, p. 29.)




"English Railway Connections," in The Literary Digest, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Vol. XLII, No. 15, Whole No. 1095, 15 April 1911, p. 763.

"Plymouth, England," in the North German Lloyd Bulletin, New York-Bremen: Norddeutcher Lloyd, Vol. XIX, No. 1, January 1905, p. 1-3.

Joseph G. Stephens, Consul. "Ocean Mail and Passenger Traffic," in Commercial Relations of the United States with Foreign Countries During The Year 1901, Washington: US Government Printing Office, Volume II, 12 February 1902, p.890-891.

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