'Admiral’s Hard, Stonehouse' by William Gibbons
8 January 2023
This lovely painting of Admiral’s Hard is a very different scene to what we’d witness today, although there are some familiar sights including a Royal William Yard building to the left, sailboats out on the water and people queuing up to cross the river.
In the foreground you can see a group of people having a picnic to pass the time. To their left a man in a black hat and red jacket looks like a soldier out with his family. The women are wearing beautiful dresses, although they can’t have been very practical for getting in and out of boats!
The ferry crossing at Cremyll dates back to Norman times. It was originally owned by the Valletort family who had houses on the Cornish bank of the Tamar.
In the 18th century, the growth of Plymouth Dock (Devonport) brought increased usage, including the transport of mail on horseback to most areas of Cornwall.
The old river crossing from Devil's Point to Barn Pool, near Mount Edgcumbe House, was eventually moved to Cremyll.
By 1884, the rowing boats that are depicted in this painting were replaced by a steam launch, reducing the crossing from 30 to 15 minutes.
Though known as William Gibbons of Plymouth, the man who created this painting was actually born in Exeter.
The son of a shoemaker, he moved to Plymouth to work as an artist and delighted in recording the bustling life of the town and the changing moods of the sea. He is buried in Ford Park Cemetery.
The modern day City of Plymouth has grown out of the three once separate neighbouring towns of Plymouth, Stonehouse (where Admiral's Hard is located) and Devonport.
Stonehouse was a small settlement for hundreds of years but its fortunes improved with the opening of the Royal Naval Hospital in 1762.
The Royal Marine Barracks then opened in 1783, while the nearby Military Hospital opened in 1791 (now Devonport High School for Boys). The Royal William Yard was completed in 1834.
Throughout the 1800s, the ‘Three Towns’ steadily merged together on the ground. The threat of the First World War and the military’s need for streamlined communication finally saw them joined as one in November 1914.
Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer