Royal Dockyard, Devonport
Major centre of warship production since 1691
Ministry of Defence
Period of construction:
1650 - 1699
Transport Trust plaque:
Devonport Royal Dockyard, Keyham Road, Plymouth PL1 4SG
The Royal Navy's historical links with the West Country are immense.Â The ships that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 sailed from the mouth of the River Plym, thus establishing the military prescence in Plymouth, The memory of Sir Francis Drake, Mayor of Plymouth as well as Great National hero is kept alive in the name, HMS DRAKE, which was recently extended to the whole of Devonport Naval Base.
In 1689 Prince William of Orange became William III and almost immediately addressed the need to constructÂ a new dockyard. He dispatched a Naval Officer, Edmund Dummer, to investiage potential sitesÂ in the West Country; he settled upon two potential locations,Â one at Cattewater, Plymouth, and one further along the coast, on the Hamoaze, a section of the River Tamar.Â On 30Â December 1690, a contract was let to Robert Waters of Portsmouth to buildÂ a dockyardÂ in the Hamoaze area, thus forming the basisÂ of the Plymouth Dock.
Dummer designed the first successful stepped stone dry dock in Europe at Devonport. Historically, the Navy Board's reliance uponÂ timber resulted in high maintenance costs andÂ a significant fire risk;Â Dummer's design offered a strengthened operating floor, allowed rapid erection of stagingÂ andÂ incorporated stepped sides that made working beneathÂ a hull much easier. Among his innovations was the application of lean manufacturing techniques, with a logical layout that maximised both land use and efficiency,Â a centralized storage area and a double rope-house that combined the previously separate tasks of spinning and laying, while allowing the upper floor to be used for the repair of sails.
The first ship to be built and launched in the dock yard was the "Postboy", weighing 73 tonnes. The dockyard expanded rapidly in the 18th century, now covering seventy acres and incorporating a further three docks - the Union Double, the North Dock and the New North Dock.
In 1824, Plymouth Dock was re-named as the Royal Dockyard, Devonport, after the grant of royal approval. With the coming of steam, the Keyham Steam Yard was completed in 1853. A dedicated electricty supply was added at the beginning of theÂ twentieth century, the facility now covering 114 acres and incorporating the newly constructed Prince of Wales Turning Basin.
The Royal Dockyard saw major expansion during and following the two world wars - by 1969, the docks extended to 332 acres and thirteen docks, almost certainly the then largest naval dockyard in the world. Today, Devonport is the largest Naval Base in Western Europe and coversÂ over 650 acres. It has fifteen dry docks, 6.5 km (4Â miles) of waterfront,Â twenty fiveÂ tidal berths andÂ five basins. The facility,Â currentlyÂ operated by Babcock Marine,Â Â is the only site in the UK now equipped to conduct nuclear submarine refits, including those for the Vanguard class. There are over five thousand ship movements annually and is it estimated that the base generatesÂ some ten per centÂ of the economic activity ofÂ Plymouth.Â
Public access is restricted to the annual two day event, "Navy Days", when visitors can tour the facility, go aboard active naval ships and watch various displays of naval prowess. Among the most popular attractions is the nuclear powered submarine HMS Courageous, used in the Falklands War. Devonport serves as headquarters for Flag Officer Sea Training, which is responsible for the training of all the ships of the Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, along with many from foreign naval services.
A maritime museum is under development at Devonport, the Plymouth Naval Base Museum.
Brimacombe, Peter, Drake's Drum - A history of the Devonport Naval Base and Dockyard, Mor Marketing, ISBN-10: 0952585340 (1998)
Brown, P., Britain's Historic Ships: The Ships That Shaped the Nation: A Complete Guide, Conway, ISBN-10: 1844860930 (2009)
Brown, P., Historic Ships: The Survivors, Amberley Publishing, ISBN-10: 1848689942 (2010)
Burkhalter, P., Devonport Dockyard Railway, Twelveheads Press, ISBN-10: 0906294371 (1996)
Burns, K. V., The Devonport Dockyard Story, Maritime Books, ISBN-10: 0907771149 (1984)
Colledge, J. J., Ships Of The Royal Navy: A Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy from the 15th Century to the Present, Casemate, ISBN-10: 1935149075 (2010)
Dicker, G., A Short History of Devonport Royal Dockyard, Dicker, ASIN: B001QVJ058 (1969)Â
Endsor, Richard, The Restoration Warship: The Design, Construction and Career of a Third Rate of Charles II's Navy, Conway, ISBN-10: 1844860884 (2009)
Evans, David, Building the Steam Navy: Dockyards, Technology and the Creation of the Victorian Battle-Fleet, 1830-1906, Conway Maritime Press, ISBN-10: 085177959X (2004)
Miller, F. P., Vandome, A. F. & McBrewster, J., Edmund Dummer (Naval Engineer, VDM Publishing, ISBN-10: 6131776229 (2010)
Winfield, Rif, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1603 - 1714: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates, Seaforth Publishing, ISBN-10: 184832040X (2009)
The Royal Dockyard is permanently visible, but is a secure militaryÂ facility with public access limited to naval open days.
How To Find:
By road: Off A3064, via B3396, Keyham Road
By rail: Plymouth DockyardÂ Devenport Stations are approx 1 km away
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