Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 11, 2018
Webpage updated: October 16, 2022




East Stonehouse, now more usually referred to as just "Stonehouse", is a district of the City of Plymouth but it grew up as a town in its own right until 1914 when it, along with Devonport, were amalgamated into Plymouth.

In the Beginning

There is a legend, which Mr R N Worth blames on Sir William Pole, that the area now called East Stonehouse was originally known as "Hepeston" and that the name came from the family that owned it.  Neither has any foundation in fact except in so much as the place, originally recorded as "Stanehvs" in the Domesday Book, gave its name to its owners at a later date.

The place-name itself is thought to have derived from the existence of a very unusual building, a stone-built property, hence "stone house".  Only the Romans built using stone and it has been felt that this suggests that they had a villa or military outpost in this area.

Subsequent Development

Thus, our first actual written record is from the Domesday Book in 1086 and this tells us that the Saxon owner, Alwin, had been forced to hand over this piece of land to Robert the Bastard, who likewise took over the manor of Efford.  At that time it had only one recorded inhabitant, a villein, who paid the Lord of the Manor five shillings a year.

But Robert the Bastard was not the only person who held authority over this district.  East Stonehouse was at the southern extremity of the Hundred of Roborough, which was in the hands of the Abbot of Buckland Abbey and he held many civil rights over East Stonehouse.

Also involved in the history are the Valletort family, Lords of the Manor of Trematon, which gave them rights over the waters of the river Tamar.  Although based in Cornwall, part of his land, the manors of West Stonehouse (Cremyll) and Maker, were actually at that time in the County of Devon.  Some time before 1275, when he died, Roger de Valletort gave these two manors to Ralph, an illegitimate son of Richard, Earl of Cornwall and a female Valletort.  It was Ralph who first took the name of de Stonehouse.

The Bastard family held land at East Stonehouse until 1368.  The last male member of the family was Henry Bastard and it was his daughter, Gonilda Bastard, who had taken the land with her into her marriage to Mr William Snapedon sometime before that year.  In 1368 they granted the land to Mr Stephen Durnford.

One year later, in 1369, Mr Stephen Durnford married Miss Cecilia Stonehouse and thus added West Stonehouse and Maker to his estate at East Stonehouse.  Worth cites this as the date from which "East" and "West" got added to "Stonehouse".  In 1386 Durnford acquired the Cornish manor of Rame as well.

In 1442 Mr James Durnford let the power of ownership go to his head and he set up his own manor court and a pillory, both in contravention of the rights held by the Abbot of Buckland Abbey.  The Abbot made him close down both and received a payment of 20 as compensation.  It is thought that the Abbot was using East Stonehouse as  the port from which to despatch his agricultural produce so it was probable best not to offend him.

The Chapel of Saint Lawrence was first licensed in 1472.

Acquisition by the Edgcumbe family

Both East and West Stonehouse passed into the hands of Sir Piers Edgcumbe circa 1493 when he married the widowed Mrs Joan Dinham, the last of the Durnford family.

In 1525 the Edgcumbes acquired the northern shore of Stonehouse Creek from the Wise family of Stoke Damerel.  They built a bridge across the upper creek and erected a tidal mill.

When Buckland Abbey was dissolved in 1535 the Edgcumbes bought all the rights in East Stonehouse.

Sometime around 1553 the Edgcumbes built Mount Edgcumbe on the Cornish side of the Hamoaze and moved out of their manor house at East Stonehouse.  The manor house is shown on a map of the area dating from this period and Worth describes it as having a high, fortified wall, a high tower and a gatehouse.  The properties known as Stonehall and Whitehall later occupied the site and part of the embattle outer wall remained long after as part of the boundary wall of the churchyard.  They allowed their private Chapel of Saint George to become the village church as it was much nearer to the inhabitants than the Chapel of Saint Lawrence at Devil's Point.

The Mill Bridge was the scene of two battles on the same day during the Civil War  The forces of King Charles twice stormed the Bridge but were twice defeated.  And during the Siege of Plymouth, when  the Royalists captured Mount Batten and prevented ships from entering or leaving Sutton Pool, Millbay was used as the town's port.

Into the Eighteenth Century

In 1701 a battery was constructed at Stonehouse Point to help protect the newly built Royal Dockyard.

The building known as "The Abbey", to the north of the High Street, was acquired by the Admiralty and used as the site for the Royal Naval Hospital.

Although the village of East Stonehouse consisted of only four very short streets at that time (Chapel Street, Edgcumbe Street, High Street, Newport Street), it clearly had pretensions.  In 1766 the Longroom was opened.  It was originally an assembly room, where balls or concerts could be held, and soon became a very popular place of recreation, especially as it overlooked a suitable place for bathing in the sea, which was becoming fashionable.

To help the  military and naval officers from Plymouth Dock get to the Longroom, a bridge was constructed across the old ferry passage on Stonehouse Creek in 1768-69, and this was followed up the year after by the removal of the barrier gate.  It was not long before the officers decided to settle permanently in east Stonehouse and by 1773 the large, family houses of Durnford Street and Emma Place had bee built.

The latter part of the 18th century saw the building of the Royal Marine Barracks and a new Anglican Church of Saint George to replace the former private Chapel.  This was used every Sunday morning by the Royal Marines.

19th Century

With the threat from Napolean just across the English Channel, the new century started with a wooden barracks being erected around the Longroom and a battery of guns being placed on what was to become known as Battery Hill.

East Stonehouse was also the location for the first Roman Catholic place of worship in the Three Towns, the Roman Catholic Church or Chapel of Saint Mary, erected in 1807 in what became Saint Mary Street.

The earliest published description of East Stonehouse, in 1812, reveals that the town got its water from Plymouth Dock, that in addition to the Roman Catholic Church it also had a Presbyterian Church and a Methodist Chapel but no inns but that it did boast a post office.

Perhaps the town's most significant development of the century was the construction by Mr John Foulston of Union Street and the Octagon in 1815, which linked the Town with Plymouth.  It provided a massive impetus for a growth in both towns and the foundation of the public transport system with the introduction of horse-bus services between Plymouth and Devonport in 1836.

So extensive did it grow, that in 1849 the Town Hall, otherwise known as the Saint George's Hall, was opened.

On December 3rd 1872 the Local Government Act 1858 was adopted and the East Stonehouse Local Board was formed.

When the Local Government Act 1894 came into operation on Monday March 5th 1894, it abolished the Hundred, the Urban Sanitary Authority, the Poor Law Union and the Local Government Board and replaced them with the East Stonehouse Urban District Council.  The Act also required that any parishes with over 300 inhabitants should create a Parish Council to take over all the civil functions previously undertaken by the Parish Vestry.

Finally, the end of East Stonehouse's independence came on Monday November 9th 1914 when along with Devonport it was amalgamated into the Borough of Plymouth.