The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History

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Updated:  07 August 2012
National Grid reference: SX 482 540

Location of Castle Street

Castle Street runs westwards from New Street to Castle Dyke Lane.

Origin of the name

One would expect this to be the roadway leading to the Plymouth Castle but evidence to prove that is lacking.  It is more likely that as the Castle was in the vicinity, and the remains of one of its four towers was adjacent to it, the name simply seemed like an appropriate one to give this road when it acquired some houses. 

Castle Street, Plymouth.

Castle Street is in the centre of this map, running from the eastern end of
New Street westwards to the unnamed Castle Dyke Lane.

History of Castle Street, Plymouth

The name "Lambe Hay", which was the area upon which Castle Street was built, is recorded in 1627 [1].  Castle Street appears on Benjamin Donn's map of 1765  [2] and is listed in 1812  [3].  It is therefore probable that before 1765 it was merely a pathway.

Castle Street was known as Bethel Street in 1844, no doubt because of the opening of the Seamen's Bethel at the bottom of the road.  [4]

Of Castle Street - or "The Rag" as it seems to have nicknamed -- Whitfeld wrote: 'in which every house was formerly an inn and every inn a brothel'.  He tells how the Reverend Francis Barnes 'more than once entered its Inferno when nude men and women were dancing, causing the furies to decamp before his stern rebuke, and some landlords to dispappear without removing their furniture'.  By the end of the 19th century, he said, the properties 'were now tenanted by scores of families, and some houses accommodated sixty souls'.  [5]

Whitfeld also tells of 'a public house brawl in Castel Street, Plymouth, where a number of the South Devon Militia ejected Spanish sailors who were drinking with English girls.  The foreigners mustered all their friends and stormed the house, knives in hand, only to find themselves confronted by unsheathed bayonets'.  Two men were killed 'and several hacked till they fell unconscious'.  [5]

Some Views of Castle Street, Plymouth






Occupants of Castle Street, Plymouth


[1]  Gover, J E B; Mawer, A and Stenton, F M, "The Place-names of Devon", Parts One and Two, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1931/32 and 1969/73.  ISBN 0 521 07158 5 and 0 521 08083 5.

[2]  Donn, Benjamin, "A Map of the County of Devon 1765", facsimile, Devon and Cornwall Record Society and the University of Exeter, Exeter, 1965.

[3]  "The Picture of Plymouth", Rees and Curtis, Plymouth, 1812.

[4]  "Flintoff's Directory and Guide Book to Plymouth, Devonport, Stonehouse, and their Vicinities", G Flintoff, Plymouth, 1844.

[5]  Whitfeld, Henry Francis, "Plymouth and Devonport: In Times of War and Peace", E Chapple, George Street, Plymouth, and Hiorns & Miller, Fore Street, Devonport, second edition, 1900.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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