Ferries: From the Archives

The Box

The Box | Tavistock Place | Plymouth | Devon PL4 8AX 01752 304774 Email Facebook Twitter

Ferries have provided vital links across Plymouth’s rivers for centuries. Some of them have been replaced by bridges, while others continue today. Here are a few insights from the city’s historic collections. 

Saltash Ferry

You can find lots of information about the history of the Saltash ferry here and here. A ferry service operated across this part of the Tamar for hundreds of years until the start of the 1960s.

This postcard dates from the early 1900s and features a black and white image of ‘Saltash Passage, near Devonport’. The scene is viewed from above with the Royal Albert Bridge in the background. The chain ferry is approaching the ramp with no vehicles visible aboard.

Three horse-drawn vehicles can be seen disembarking on the Plymouth slipway in this 1918 postcard. Saltash and the Royal Albert Bridge can be clearly seen in the background.

Watch this 1961 film clip (4 mins running time) as the ferry ends its run.


Torpoint Ferry

You can find out more about the history of the Torpoint Ferry here. This important link across the river dates back to the late 1700s and owes much of its chain ferry/floating bridge design to important civil engineer, James Meadows Rendel (1759-1856).

The image on this black and white postcard pre-dates 1893. The ‘floating bridge’ pictured here is a steam-powered vessel. There are no vehicles, but a small number of pedestrians can be seen standing on the upper deck.

This postcard dates from the early 1950s and shows the ferry at the slipway on Devonport side. This is also a steam-driven vessel. A large crowd of pedestrians can be seen disembarking and alighting with several commercial vehicles waiting to alight.

This coloured postcard dates from the 1970s and also shows the ferry at the slipway in Devonport. Vehicles are disembarking, including a Hillman Avenger, a Mini and a 1960s-era minibus with luggage on its roof.

Cremyll Ferry

This ancient crossing is thought to have originated in Saxon times and was first documented in 1204. It was worked by rowing boat, then steam boat and now motor boat.

This postcard features a coloured photo of the landing stage at Cremyll Point, with the quay, Edgcumbe Arms and cottages in the background. The HMS Impregnable training ship in the Hamoaze can be seen in the distance. Bystanders and passengers are waiting on the quay and there’s also a horse-drawn carriage. It’s postmarked 1907.

This postcard also dates from the early 1900s and shows the other side of the Cremyll Ferry’s journey at ‘Admiral’s Hard, Stonehouse’. It features the landing stage and quay just off Durnford Street. The ‘Armadillo’ ferry is approaching. A horse and cart is waiting in the water at the end of the slipway, and several men can be seen in small boats alongside the jetty.

Laira Ferry

You can learn more about the passenger ferry that ran across the Laira to Pomphlett in the early 1800s here.

This oil painting from The Box’s art collections features a scene showing the ferry. It was a hand winched chain ferry – a forerunner to the Torpoint Ferry – that could apparently take four carts or a small flock of sheep! It ran for around 20 years and was eventually replaced by an iron bridge, also designed by James Meadows Rendel.

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