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Updated:  21 September 2011 

Location of Old Town Street, Plymouth

Old Town Street ran northwards from the eastern end of Bedford Street, opposite Saint Andrew's Church, to the junction with Duke Street, after which became Tavistock Road.  The part from Old Town Gate to Tavistock Road was formerly known as Tavistock Street.

Origin of the name, Old Town Street

What later became Old Town Street is shown as simply "Old Town" on Benjamin Donn's plan of 1765 (below).  It has always been claimed that the name is derived from the fact that the centre of the Town of Plymouth, where it held it's markets, was the area around Saint Andrew's Church.  The Shambles, or Market, is shown in the middle of the Street and is clearly named as such on Richard Cowl's 1778 Map of Plymouth  [0].

Old Town Street, Plymouth.


History of Old Town Street, Plymouth

As Donn's plan of Plymouth in 1765 shows, Old Town lead northwards from Saint Andrew's Church to the Old Town Gate, outside of which the road split into routes to Saltash and Tavistock.  [1]

Although shown as just Old Town on Cooke's map of 1827  [2] it was already listed as Old Town Street in 1812  [3].  Tavistock Street was listed separately.  The area outside the Gate was known as Old Town Without (the Wall).

The section between the junctions with Treville Street and Saltash Street was the boundary between the parishes of Saint Andrew's and Charles.

Older residents will recall that traffic in Old Town Street was one-way in a northerly direction between the junction with Old Town Avenue and Tavistock Road.  This was apparently introduced during 1926 as it was mention in the report of the introduction of Plymouth's second one-way street in January 1927.  [4]

Old Town, Plymouth, 1765.


Plymouth's first set of traffic lights was installed at the junction with Treville Street in September 1929.  [5]

Plans were announced on March 16th 1936 for new frontages to the properties on the eastern side of the Street.  [6]

The section of Old Town Street between Old Town Avenue and Saint Andrew's Cross was flattened by high explosive bombs and incendiaries during the night air raid of Thursday March 20th/Friday March 21st 1941.  [7]

One of the few buildings to survive that onslaught was the Bedford Wine & Spirit Vaults at number 36.  Built of local limestone, it had been a venue for carriers until the 1930s and and was the only public house with stables and a walled garden in Plymouth to survive the Blitz.  The landlord for some 23 years had been Mr Tom Elliott.  [8]

Old Town Street was rebuilt in the 1950s, when it was still on the main route to Tavistock.  Following the demolition of Drake Circus in the 1970s, it was largely lost beneath the shopping development.  Today only the southern end survives, from Norwich Union House, pictured below, up as far as Boot's the chemist, where it now enters the new Drake Circus Shopping Mall.

Some Views of Old Town Street, Plymouth

Old Town Street, Plymouth, looking north.

Old Town Street, Plymouth.

Old Town Street, Plymouth, looking northwards towards Drake Circus.

Old Town Street, Plymouth, looking northwards.


The Auxiliary Fire Service in action in Old Town Street, Plymouth, during the Blitz.

The blitzed Old Tow Street, Plymouth.
  S M Green.

The Auxiliary Fire Serviced in action in Old Town Street, Plymouth,
during the Blitz.
  Dermot P Fitzgerald.


View across the remains of the Municipal Offices to Old Town Street after the Second World War.

The only remaining part of Old Town Street, Plymouth, adjacent to St Andrew's Cross.

A view across the remains of the Municipal Offices to Old Town Street after the Second World War.

The only remaining part of the rebuilt Old Town Street,
Plymouth, is that adjoining St Andrew's Cross.

Occupants of Old Town Street, Plymouth


[0]  Cowl, Richard, "Map of Plymouth", Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, Plymouth, accession number 157 or PH/435/1.

[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]  "Cooke's Stranger's Guide or Pocket Plan of the Three Towns of Plymouth, Devonport, and Stonehouse", Published October 1st 1827 by John Cooke, 82 Union Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth, 1827.

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

[4]  "Another One-Way Street: Solving Traffic Problem", Western Morning News, Plymouth, February 1st 1927.

[5]  Plymouth City Council minute number 3716 dated September 25th 1929.

[6]  Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, March 16th 1936.

[7]  Cock, R F E, "Plymouth Blitz: Story and Pictures", Western Independent, Plymouth, not dated but circa 1942.

[8]  Western Independent, Plymouth, November 22nd 1964.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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