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Sallyann Ball Community Champion

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Stonehouse - A fantastic place to live


Stonehouse, known as Hepeston or Hippeston in ancient times, lies between Devonport and The Hoe, on the edge of Plymouth City Centre. Stonehouse is one of Plymouth’s original ‘three towns’ and its main east/west axis, Union Street, was laid out between 1812 and 1820 as a grand boulevard to connect the three towns of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport.


Settlement in the area goes back to Roman times. It is also believed that in the 13th century the land was owned by Robert the Bastard and was subsequently passed to the Durnford family through marriage to the Edgecombe family in the 14th and 15th centuries.


During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the areas of Emma Place and Caroline Place were home to many of the west country's top-ranking admirals, doctors and clergy. Those streets together with Millbay Road are the heart of Plymouth's residual red light district. Union Street, originally built across marshland, was for almost a century the centre of the city's night life with about a hundred pubs, a music hall and many other attractions.


For some years after its construction, Union Street was the home of the wealthy. According to a guidebook of 1823:

“the buildings are neat and handsome, and the streets straight and commodious, particularly those of Durnford Street, Emma Place, Edgcumbe Street and Union Street. These are almost entirely occupied by genteel families, chiefly those of naval and military officers, and other persons holding situations under government. The addition of Union Street is an improvement of the greatest importance, it affords a spacious thoroughfare, and presents a succession of neat and uniform buildings."


This area has a strong identity based on a long and robust history, much of which was dominated by military expansion in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.


The Royal Marine Barracks, the Royal Naval Hospital (Millfields) and the Royal William Yard have all had a major impact on the character of the area.


Another primary characteristic of the area is the historic street grid. John Foulston was the architect of the grid of streets and also used the same principles in the development of Union Street. Abercrombie’s Plan for Plymouth had some impact on the evolution of the area but it was sporadically implemented.


One element, which was partially implemented and is still visible now, is the ‘industrial zone’ on the south side of Union Street. Post war redevelopment has occurred in pockets around the area, some of better quality than others.


Despite its upper-class associations, Union Street was the location of the first outbreaks in Plymouth of cholera in the 1849 epidemic, believed to be caused by works connected to the new Millbay railway station, during which the drains of several houses had become blocked and their lower premises overflowed with sewage.

During 1882, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, worked as a newly qualified physician and lived at number 1 Durnford Street, East Stonehouse.


It was the continuing development along and around Union Street that led to the merger of the three towns in 1914, and the granting of Plymouth's city status in 1928. Frequented by sailors from all over the world, it was once known as one of the West Country's most infamous streets. Although much of the area was destroyed by German bombing in World War II, many historic buildings remained intact.


Stonehouse, and its historic significance is reflected in the number of conservation areas. There are five conservation areas, each reflecting the area’s diverse and rich historic significance. The Stonehouse Peninsula Conservation Area reflects the naval past of the Royal William Yard along with the 19th Century homes around Durnford Street and Emma Place. The Millfields Conservation Area also reflects its naval importance as the site of the former Royal Naval Hospital. Adelaide Street and Stonehouse North Conservation Areas reflect the best surviving residential areas of Georgian and Victorian housing in the area of Stonehouse north of Union Street. The Union Street Conservation Area reflects the vibrant historic commercial hub of Stonehouse and the important link between Devonport and the City Centre.


Stonehouse today is divided between a predominantly residential area north of Union Street and mixed commercial and industrial uses to the south including Millbay Docks. Victoria Park, one of the city’s larger areas of green space, borders the area to the north. The waterfront and Millbay dock are to the south, famed for Brunel’s granite dock. To the west are Devil’s Point, Stonehouse Pool and the Royal William Yard. To the east is the inner ring road of Western Approach, which currently divides Plymouth City Centre from Stonehouse.


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Sallyann Ball created this on 19 January 2010.
This was last edited on 19 April 2013.
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