In 2020 I moved back to Plymouth in the area of St. Budeaux in the north-west of the city. Back in August 2020 I posted a short summary of Mount Tamar House, of which the place where I live is named, and since moving back I’ve enjoyed walking around the local area and taking in the local, hidden history (such as nearby King’s Tamerton Woods). All of this made me want to delve a little deeper into the history of this area in more detail.
In many ways, the area of King’s Tamerton retains many features of the old settlement that it was once was; before the urban expansion of Plymouth crept further and further north. Despite significant changes in the post-1945 period, traces and elements of its history can be seen. However, such history is seemingly not present with a simple Google search of the area, with Wikipedia providing just two sentences about this area:
‘King’s Tamerton is a suburb of Plymouth in the county of Devon, England. It was largely built post-war adjacent to St. Budeaux and overlooking the Naval base and the Hamoaze which is the wide estuary of the River Tamar.’
The above entry barely hints at the history of King’s Tamerton, which stretches much further back than the post-war period. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book from one thousand years ago, and some believe that its history stretches back two thousand years back to the Roman era. Therefore, I thought I would do a bit of digging and attempt to piece together the actual, hidden history of King’s Tamerton over the course of a few posts.
But before delving into this history I thought it might be best to first address two key questions:
- What is King’s Tamerton: how can it be defined?
- How large is King’s Tamerton: in terms of its geographical area?
Firstly, in terms of “what it is”, in its present form King’s Tamerton is exactly what the Wikipedia entry states: ‘a suburb of Plymouth’. It is positioned within the St. Budeaux electoral ward for Plymouth City Council, and although it can be defined as its own area, the history of King’s Tamerton is closely linked with St. Budeaux. This is because St. Budeaux – which historically was larger than what many realise – was the dominant parish in this area: it had the largest manor (Budshead), as well as an established church (St. Budeaux Church in Higher St. Budeaux). St. Budeaux became its own parish in 1482 and developed into a distinctive village, but this did not happen with King’s Tamerton.
It would be more accurate to describe King’s Tamerton as existing within St. Budeaux parish. St. Budeaux was the village, whereas King’s Tamerton remained a smaller settlement. Therefore, King’s Tamerton can be described as a hamlet, rather than a village. The term ‘hamlet’ can be described as:
‘a small settlement, generally one smaller than a village, and strictly (in Britain) one without a church.’
So, although there was a settlement at King’s Tamerton that could be said to have been distinct from St. Budeaux, it did not develop traits and structures associated with a village (such as its own church, or even a village hall). However, it did develop other elements of its own identity: a public house and shops.
Secondly, in terms of how large King’s Tamerton is, there is a difference in terms of how it was regarded historically and how it is regarded today. In the modern age the area is regularly defined as being the large post-war urban estate that surrounds the secondary school (currently called the Marine Academy, but formerly known as Tamarside Community College, and before that King’s Tamerton Secondary School). However, its boundaries in the medieval age was considerably larger, with some local historians stating that it stretched from the modern estate down toward the Tamar river. This enlarged King’s Tamerton – which I shall dub “Greater” King’s Tamerton – included what is now known as St. Budeaux Square, Barne Barton, Bull Point, and the coast-line toward Saltash Passage.
A key part of the confusion about the geographical confines are the mislabelling on consulting maps – both old and new. The hamlet of King’s Tamerton remained static throughout the centuries, whereas St. Budeaux grew around this hamlet. St. Budeaux’s growth can be seen over the past two thousand years: from its origins at Ernesettle Creek, to its growth at Higher St. Budeaux five hundred years ago, then the expansion at Lower St. Budeaux at the end of the Victorian age, to the massive building activity in the twentieth century. As such, St. Budeaux has wrapped itself around King’s Tamerton, which provides something of a headache for modern maps such as Google Maps, as can be seen below:
As any local will know, the above map is confusing and mislabelled. Although some areas – such as Ernesettle – are correctly stated, many others are inaccurate. King’s Tamerton is listed as being just beneath Ernesettle Crescent and at the top of Victoria Road, when it should positioned to the right and lower down, nestled in the grove of the line that runs from Trevithick Road into Weston Mill Hill. Furthermore, Barne Barton is positioned too far north, and Higher St. Budeaux is shown to be in what is actually West Park (and West Park should be further south).
So, the question is, what actually constitutes the geographical confines of the hamlet of King’s Tamerton? The map below provides a rough overview of what many would consider King’s Tamerton in the modern age:
The confines within the red area include the post-war estate, as well as King’s Tamerton Woods. The extensive road-building from the 1980s and 1990s provides it with a clear boundary to the right: the A38 in the north-east, and the by-pass in the south-east. From the bottom point at Weston Mill (which, admittedly, could be disputed), the red line runs northward and up Trevithick Road. Since childhood I always considered anything to the right of Trevithick Road to be King’s Tamerton: the school and estate was located beyond that seeming boundary.
However, the Trevithick Road divide completely misses out the heart of the old medieval hamlet of King’s Tamerton; the central point of the hamlet was the road that is known as Mount Tamar Close and Byard Close (the road on which the local shop and the old Fellowship pub are located). This is shown to be the case on old maps, such as the 1840 tithe map of the area. As such, the old heart of the hamlet is shown as:
All of this provides confusion on how to properly define King’s Tamerton. However, my approach is to provide a boundary for what I will call Great King’s Tamerton: it includes the post-war estate and the woods, but also incorporates the area of the old hamlet. This means that Trevithick Road is no longer the boundary; Roman Way acts as the boundary, which also means that Plaistow Hill (and the infant and primary schools) are included.
In conclusion, I have three definitions for the geographic area of King’s Tamerton:
- King’s Tamerton: based on the post-war estate.
- “Great” King’s Tamerton: the post-war estate, as well as the hamlet that existed throughout the medieval and modern periods.
- “Greater” King’s Tamerton: based on the assumption that it was once much larger and stretched down to Barne Barton and the Tamar.
So, now that we have definitions out the way, I will move onto the actual history of King’s Tamerton. In the next post I will outline its reputed beginnings in the Roman era.