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ROADS AND STREETS

FORE STREET, DEVONPORT

Updated:  31 March 2012 

 
Location of Fore Street, Devonport

Fore Street, Devonport, ran from the barrier gate near the Military Road south-westwards to the South Yard Gate of the Royal Dockyard.

Origin of the name, Fore Street

Plymouth Dock, being a development of the 17th century, chose to name its principal shopping highway Fore Street, short for "foremost", instead of the older High Street.  Devonport did have a High Street but it was short and of no trading significance whatsoever.

Fore Stree, Devonport.

 

History of Fore Street, Devonport

Fore Street was shown on Benjamin Donn's Plan of Stoke Town and Plymouth Dock, dated 1765.  As it was the main highway from Plymouth and Stonehouse to the Royal Dockyard the name probably dates from at least fifty years earlier.  What was later known as High Street was also shown on that Plan but without the name.  [1]

As Plymouth Dock grew in importance so did Fore Street.  Army establishments were built surrounding the Town to protect it in the event of a French invasion.  After the grant of a change of name to Devonport on January 1st 1824 came the construction of the Keyham Steam Yard.  At one time its population outstripped that of Plymouth.  Larger and larger shops opened, like H J & E Boold's and J C Tozer's, and in 1872 the top end of Fore Street became a terminal point for the new Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Tramway.

Although the railway had arrived in Devonport in 1876 it was probably the opening of the Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction Railway that brought more trade to Fore Street and prosperity to the Town.  Shoppers could now come from Bere Ferrers, Bere Alston, Gunnislake, Callington and Tavistock, to swell the numbers who already made the trip down river from Calstock on market days.

But for being the centre of a naval and military Town, Fore Street paid the ultimate penalty.  During the air raids of March and April 1941, especially those of April, it was utterly destroyed.  Only a few buildings survived the onslaught: the London & South Western Railway Hotel; the Methodist Central Hall; Barclay's Bank; the Midland Bank; Marks & Spencer Ltd; Montagu Burton's, and the Forum Cinema.

As from Monday June 1st 1959 Fore Street was closed to all road traffic.  Buses on routes 6 and 27, both to and from Saint Budeaux, were diverted from Chapel Street to the new Granby Way.  [2]

Fore Street was then taken inside the new extension of the Royal Dockyard.  This included the buildings previously occupied by Barclay's Bank, the Midland Bank, Burton's and Marks & Spencer's.  At first the area was used for storage of all sorts of equipment, including some impressive ship's anchors.  Eventually, the area was surrounded by a high wall.

Fore Street is currently in the process of being opened up again.         

Some Views of Fore Street, Devonport

Fore Street, Devonport, from the corner of St Aubyn Street.

Looking westwards along Fore Street, Devonport.

Fore Street, Devonport, from the corner of Saint Aubyn Street, with the General Post Office on the left.

Looking westwards along Fore Street, Devonport, with the Military Arms on the corner of Lambert Street on the right.

   

The magnificent frontage of the Royal Sailors' Rest in Fore Street, Devonport.

The Royal Sailors Rest viewed from the Catherine Street side.

The magnificent frontage of the Royal Sailors' Rest in Fore Street, Devonport.

The Royal Sailors' Rest viewed from the Catherine Street side.

   

The Royal Sailors' Rest in Fore Street, Devonport, after the Blitz of April 1941.

Fore Street, Devonport, in 1941 with Marks & Spencer's on the left and the Forum and Electric Cinemas in the distance.

The Royal Sailors' Rest in Fore Street, Devonport, after the Blitz of April 1941.
Western Morning News Company Ltd

Fore Street, in 1941 with Marks & Spencer's on the left and the Forum and Electric Cinemas in the distance.
Western Morning News Company Ltd.

   

Another view of Fore Street after the Blitz, with the tower of the Electric Cinema in the distance.

Fore Street, Devonport, in 1946, showing Marks and Spencer's, the Midland Bank, and Montagu Burton's premises in the foreground.

Another view of Fore Street after the Blitz, with the tower of the Electric Cinema in the distance.
Western Morning News Company Ltd.

Fore Street, Devonport, in 1946, showing Marks and Spencer's (nearest camera), the Midland Bank and Montagu Burton's premises.

   
Fore Street, Devonport, in 1956.  Barclay's Bank was still standing.

Only the Midland Bank and Marks and Spencer's remained in operation in Fore Street, Devonport, 1956, along with the Forum Cinema to the extreme right.

Fore Street, Devonport, in 1956, with the Barclay's Bank still standing but nothing on the south side.
  Admiralty, HM Dockyard, Devonport, 1956.
Only the Midland Bank and Marks and Spencer's remained operational in Fore Street, Devonport, in 1956, along with the Forum Cinema on the extreme right of the picture.
  Admiralty, HM Dockyard, Devonport, 1956.
   

Occupants of Fore Street, Devonport


Sources:

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

[2]  "Fore-street: 50 Years of Service Ends", Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, June 2nd 1959.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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