The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
Although the Naval Dockyard had been constructed back at the end of the 17th century, it was some fifty years before the Government realised that it might be a good idea to protect them from attack by land. Following the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756, two Acts of Parliament were passed in 1757 and 1758 to enable such a task to be undertaken and work started at once. 
These breast-works were designed by a Mr Smelt, of the engineer department (of the Dockyard?) and consisted of a ditch ranging in width from 12 to 18 feet, excavated from the solid slate and limestone rock . At the same time several small squares of barracks for the troops were erected: Marlborough and Granby to the north of the Town; Frederick, Ligonier and Cumberland to the east; and George's Square alongside the road to Stonehouse Bridge. No invasion took place and work stopped until 1776 when the beginning of the American War of Independence stirred concerns again.
But it was in 1779, when a fleet of French and Spanish vessels appeared off Plymouth, that real panic set in. The Board of Ordnance gave directions for the defences at Dock to be repaired as they were considered to be ineffective. The commanding engineer, General Dixon, was in charge but he was unable to find sufficient numbers of men to do the work. However, Mr Francis Bassett of Trehidy in Cornwall, afterwards Lord de Dunstanville, came to his rescue and brought up a party of about 1,000 Cornish miners to help . Even then the work was not completed until 1783 but still consisted only of a ditch some 12 feet deep and the same in breadth, faced with rubble walls. Once again no invasion occurred.
Another war with the French was seen as imminent and preparations were being made to strengthen the defences. The Board of Ordnance purchased 195 acres of land behind the glacis and in 1787, under the authority of the Duke of Richmond, as Master-General of the Ordnance, the 12 foot high King's interior boundary wall was erected. On this piece of land was built a new residence for the Governor of Plymouth and when it was completed in about 1795 that seat of power was transferred to Dock from the Royal Citadel.
Both the construction of the wall, which cut the people of Dock off from the sea, and the appointment of Richmond's brother, General Lord George Lennox, into the brand new Government House so upset the people of the Town that he was forced to construct Richmond Walk along the waterfront to placate them.
At that time there were also Batteries at Mount Wise, Obelisk Hill near Mount Edgcumbe, and the Block House on Mount Pleasant, Stoke.
The Napoleonic Wars also reinforced the need for the protecting the Royal Dockyard and in 1810 work started on turning the existing works into a moat with a masonry wall. However, in 1815/16 the Duke of Wellington condemned the work as being useless and construction stopped. Work did recommence but, as previously stated, it was not completed until 1853.
In 1855 the buildings on the Block House were partially destroyed by fire.
Great archways guarded the entrance to the Town from Stonehouse Bridge and the Torpoint Ferry. The one nearest the Bridge was closed at night and the inner one, at the eastern end of Fore Street, together with the one at New Passage Hill, consisted of a drawbridge spanning a dry moat. Both the drawbridges were removed in 1865.
The archway at Stonehouse Hill was removed by Devonport Corporation because it was a hindrance to the Plymouth, Stonehouse & Devonport Tramways. The demolition was carried out by Mr Martin, of Devonport, for £805. His was not the lowest tender by just £18 but on Thursday July 5th 1877 the Corporation awarded him the contract because he was a local man who could commence the work immediately and because he had speculated heavily in buildings in the Town. 
Morice Town developed beyond "The Lines" and thus was not strictly regarded as a part of Devonport, although it fell within the Parish of Stoke Damerel. As the science of warfare developed so "The Lines" became redundant and during 1886 the trenches were filled in by a Mr Bevan, under contract from the War Department. A part of that contract was to construct a reservoir within the trench behind the Royal Albert Hospital. In fact Mr Bevan arranged to fill in all of the remainder of the trench not required for the reservoir in return for being allowed to remove and keep the limestone that had been used to face the trenches. This was considered to be an excellent bargain, even by the local press. The work employed about 50 men and the work was progressing very speedily. 
At the head of Fore Street the trench was being filled at a rate of 600 cubic yards every day, creating valuable ground for the military authorities. All of the stone came from within Devonport, apparently. The trench at the Stonehouse Hill/Brickfields end of Fore Street was not to be filled in at that time. 
Today "The Lines" can be followed through the Brickfields and Devonport Park.
|© Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK|
Any problems viewing this webpage should be notified to the webmaster at plymouthdata dot info