Plymouth Pier

Discover the roots of the Old Plymouth Society and how you can get involved.

The roots of the Society started to grow in 1927 when some prominent Plymouth citizens objected to the threatened demolition of old houses in the Barbican area.  They set up the Old Plymouth Fund to combat such wanton destruction of the City’s heritage, its first achievement in 1929 being the rescue of the derelict property at 32 New Street, saving it from demolition, placing it into an excellent state of repair and giving it to the City to become known as ‘The Elizabethan House.  On 17th January 1930 the committee members of that fund and ‘others interested in Ancient Plymouth’ met in the Council Chamber and the Old Plymouth Society was founded.  The objective of the Society at that time and through the 1930s was the preservation of the remaining ancient landmarks of Plymouth, which included whole ancient buildings, and fragments of others that were known to exist within certain houses.  

Then came the 1939-45 war, which destroyed much of Plymouth, followed by post-war planning which destroyed a lot more. In 1957 the Society commenced a fund to fight the Corporation’s plan to again demolish many fine old sixteenth century houses in New Street and Looe Street in the name of ‘slum clearance’.  That fund became the Barbican Association, a Limited Company, which owns and leases many of the key properties in the area, and took over a major part of the parent Society’s work.  Thus the driving force of the Society waned, original members growing old and/or disinterested in their much-reduced role, such that its last meeting of members took place in 1968.  Its name and ideals were barely kept alive by Stanley Goodman, acting as a ‘one-man band’ until his death in 1991, which appeared to mark the end of the Society.

It certainly did not mean that there was no interest amongst the citizens of Plymouth in its history, buildings, people or heritage.  Crispin Gill, the well-known local historian and writer, thought such a Society should not be allowed to fade into obscurity.  He held the reins after the death of Stanley Goodman and convened a meeting in the Prysten House on 4th March 1992 to ascertain the strength of feeling for a revised Society.  Some forty people attended that meeting, providing an excellent nucleus for a revised endeavour.  A further meeting took place on 1st April when a committee was formed and charged with drawing up a suitable programme of events and meetings within the Society’s declared revised aims of “promoting interest in, research into, and preservation of Plymouth’s heritage”. The revised Society, retaining its original name, held its first meeting at the Abbey Hall on 10th July 1992 at which some seventy persons attended to listen to an address by Crispin Gill, who had become the Society’s President.  Since then the membership has greatly increased to around two hundred, and the Society has evolved into a local history group with a year round programme.

LECTURES: We meet nine times a year at Mutley Baptist Church’s Spurgeon Hall on Mutley Plain for talks on a range of subjects relating to our aims. There is a free carpark at the rear of the church. The talks start at 7.30pm. Tea and coffee is available from 7 o’clock. We are indebted to our many speakers who share their knowledge with us.

BOOK STALL: We run a second hand bookstall at our meetings. This is a great opportunity to raise money for the Society and yourselves! Just bring in any unwanted local history books, agree a price and decide whether you wish to keep the money or donate half to OPS when the book sells, and of course there may be a book you cannot live without too!

ANNUAL LUNCH: We arrange a lunch followed by a talk given by a well-known speaker in the presence of the Lord Mayor and his consort. We have visited many venues including The New Continental Hotel, Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, The Waterfront.

SUMMER VISITS: Every summer we arrange a programme of visits, which have included boat trips, behind the scenes tours of places not generally opened to the general public, factory visits, coach trips, the University, BBC Studios, MOD establishments and walks

BEATING THE BOUNDS:In September each year we walk the old boundary of Plymouth. As this is a 10 mile walk, we do it in three separate walks over 3 years and with the help of Walks with History,we walk part of the boundary and finish at a refreshment place for lunch. The following year we start from here and so on until in three years we have finished the full circuit.

PUBLICATIONS: The Society publishes occasional booklets relating to local history written by members of the Society. These are available at a reduced price to members.  

NEWSLETTERS: Two newsletters are sent to members each year.

SABBATH DAY FIGHT COMMEMORATION: The Society manages the annual commemoration of the Sabbath Day Fight of 1643 at the Freedom Memorial in Freedom Park, in the presence of the Lord Mayor and members of the Sealed Knot. Held on the first Sunday in December, it’s an important part of our City’s history, a colourful event well worth attending.

MEMBERSHIP: The annual subscription is £10 for one member or £18 for a couple.  If you would like further information please contact:


CHAIRPERSON: Gloria Tel: 01752 227992                                           


LECTURE PROGRAMME 2021: We are holding lectures this summer because of COVID restrictions via Zoom until September when we hope to meet face to face.

May 21: Not Just Chocolate, the Fry Family by Patricia Hodge (Part of the Plymouth History Festival 2021)

June18: Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Who we are, by Rebecca Smith

July 16: Royalist Invasion of Devon by Philip Photiou

August 20 Fair Arm of the Law by Simon Dell

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