Looking down on part of the town from the castle
Plympton is located in Devon
Location within Devon
Population29,899 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceSX542561
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPL7
Dialling code01752
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°23′10″N 4°03′04″W / 50.386°N 4.051°W / 50.386; -4.051

Plympton is a suburb of the city of Plymouth in Devon, England. It is in origin an ancient stannary town. It was an important trading centre for locally mined tin, and a seaport before the River Plym silted up and trade moved down river to Plymouth and was the seat of Plympton Priory the most significant local landholder for many centuries.

Plympton is an amalgamation of several villages, including St Mary's, St Maurice, Colebrook, Woodford, Newnham, Langage and Chaddlewood.


Although the name of the town appears to be derived from its location on the River Plym (compare, for instance, Otterton or Yealmpton), this is not considered[by whom?] to be the case. As J. Brooking Rowe pointed out in 1906, the town is not and never was sited on the river – rather it is sited on the ancient trackway called 'the Ridgeway' from Dartmoor.[1] The earliest surviving documentary reference to the place is as Plymentun in Anglo-Saxon charter S380 dated to around 900 AD,[2] and this name may be derived from the Old English adjective plymen, meaning "growing with plum-trees". So Plympton would have the meaning "Plum-tree farm".[3] Alternatively, Cornish derivations also give ploumenn meaning 'plum' and plo(b)m meaning 'lead' – possibly related to Latin plombum album ( 'British lead') or tin.[4] The local civic association, however, suggests an unsupported alternative derivation from the Celtic Pen-lyn-dun ("fort at the head of a creek").[5]

By the early 13th century, the River Plym was named from a back-formation from this name and nearby Plymstock.[3] This later led to the naming of the fishing port created at the river's mouth (Plymouth, originally named Sutton) when the river estuary silted up too much for the monks to sail up river to Plympton any longer.


Nearby is the Iron Age hill fort of Boringdon Camp. Plympton is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as being held by the king (William the Conqueror), with 27 villagers, 12 smallholders and 6 slaves.[6]

In the early 12th century Plympton was the site of an important priory founded by William Warelwast. The members were Augustinian canons and the priory soon became the second richest monastic house in Devon (after Tavistock). The gatehouse of the priory is still in existence. In 1872 it was recorded that the gatehouse, kitchen and refectory were still in good condition.[7]

Plympton's motte and bailey castle

Richard de Redvers (died 1107) was granted the feudal barony of Plympton, based at Plympton Castle, by King Henry I (1100–1135), of whom he was a most trusted supporter. The de Redvers family later became Earls of Devon. Their lands, including Plympton, and titles were later inherited by the Courtenay family, feudal barons of Okehampton. The ancient Stannary town remains dominated by its now ruined Norman motte-and-bailey castle and it still retains a cohesive medieval street pattern. A number of historic buildings in the local vernacular style of green Devon slate, limestone and lime-washed walls, with Dartmoor granite detailing, attest to all periods of its history.

Before the Reform Act 1832 the town was one of the rotten boroughs, and sent two MPs to the unreformed House of Commons.

Sir Joshua Reynolds in a self-portrait

The town was the birthplace and early residence of the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) who became the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts. He was mayor of Plympton in 1773.[8] His father was headmaster of Plympton Grammar School which is a historic building in the centre of the town. Former pupils were Benjamin Haydon and Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, PRA, who were respectively first director of the National Gallery and first president of the Royal Photographic Society. Many of Reynold's paintings were purchased by his friends the Parker family of local Saltram House, now owned by the National Trust, and are still on public display there.


The Guildhall

Plympton has 68 listed buildings in the database of Historic England. Of these, one is Grade I (Plympton House, St Peter's Convent), six are Grade II* and 61 are Grade II.[9]

Fore Street, the town's main street, is lined with mediaeval buildings, around thirty of which are either Grade II* or Grade II listed. The Grade II* buildings are The Old Rectory, the Guildhall and Tudor Lodge.[10]

Historic estates

The manor of Boringdon in Colebrook was a seat of the Parker family formerly of North Molton, which later acquired Saltram.

Loughtor (after c.1718 renamed Newnham Park) was the seat of the Selman family, of whom several were MPs. William Selman II was five times MP for Plympton Erle between 1420 and 1429.[11] The estate was later a minor seat of a cadet branch of the Courtenay family.

Newnham was a manor that was the seat of the Strode family,[12] whose monuments exist in St Mary's Church.


Plympton has two churches. The Church of St Thomas at Plympton St Maurice (also known as the Church of St Maurice) is of Norman origin.[13]

St Mary's church was dedicated in 1311 and was originally a parish chapel attached to Plympton Priory. It has two aisles on each side of the nave, the outer aisles being shorter than the inner ones. The tower, built of granite ashlar, is visible from afar. The south porch is ornamented with carving and has a lierne vault. The outer north aisle is the earliest part of the church and the rest is mainly of the 15th century, the south aisle being the latest part. There are monuments to the Strode family, including a tomb-chest for Richard Strode (died 1464), the effigy being clad in armour. The monument of William Strode (died 1637) and his family shows husband, two wives and ten children. There is also a monument of W. Seymour (died 1801) in Coade stone and of Viscount Boringdon, the 11-year-old heir to the Earl of Morley of Saltram House who died in Paris in 1817, by François-Nicolas Delaistre.[13]

Modern Plympton

Between about 1990 and 2010 Plympton has seen considerable growth as the suburban population of Plymouth has doubled. To help manage this rapid growth more efficiently, Plympton has been separated into a series of separate districts: Yealmpstone, Plympton-St Maurice, Colebrook, Underwood, Woodford and Chaddlewood.[citation needed]

Public transport

Plympton has four main bus services: routes 20A, 21, 21A and 59 which are operated by Plymouth Citybus and service 52 which is operated by Stagecoach Southwest.[citation needed]

In the past, railway facilities were originally provided at Plympton – for goods traffic only – by the horse-drawn Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway, but their branch was closed and sold to the South Devon Railway to allow them to build a line from Exeter to Plymouth. A station was opened in the town on 15 June 1848. From 1 June 1904 it was the eastern terminus for enhanced Plymouth area suburban services but it was closed to passenger traffic from 3 March 1959 and all goods related traffic from June 1964.[14]

In addition to this railway connected to the National rail network there is also The Plym Valley Railway which is a preserved railway based at the reconstructed Marsh Mills station on Coypool Road. This was formerly part of the GWR Plymouth to Launceston branch line. The volunteer-run PVR is actively rebuilding the line between Marsh Mills and Plymbridge. Steam and diesel heritage trains run on numerous Sundays throughout the year.

Plymouth City Council has stated it would like to see a rail station reopened on the London main line running through the middle of Plympton, which would provide quick and frequent trains into Plymouth. But there are major obstacles to providing such a service on a primarily inter-regional rail route, shown when Ivybridge – on the same line – got a new station in 1994. Plymouth city council support the reopening of the station to deal with bad traffic congestion in Eastern Plymouth.[15] After a feasibility study in 2017,[16] A Plymouth Joint plan was opened for consultation in 2018 which included a suggested 'Plymouth Metro' with a station at Plympton[17] however, as of May 2020, nothing has been enacted.


Plympton has two state secondary schools serving pupils from ages 11–18. Both Plympton Academy and Hele's School attract students from the Plympton area and surrounding areas of Laira, Ivybridge and Dartmoor.


Amateur club Plympton Athletic F.C. are members of the Devon Football League South and West Division as of 2020. Their home is the Lee Moor Stadium.

Plympton Victoria Rugby Club are the local rugby team,


Plympton has hosted an annual fete called 'The Lamb Feast' for many years[18] on the local Castle Green. A key part of Plympton's Midsummer Festival in mid June,[19] the Lamb Feast and surrounding activities span over the weekend, organised by the Plympton Civic Association.[20][18]

Notable residents


  1. ^ J. Brooking Rowe (1906). "A History of the Borough of Plympton Erle: the Castle and Manor of Plympton... (Internet Archive)". James G. Commin, Exeter. p. 5. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Anglo-Saxon Charters". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b Watts, Victor (2010). The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names (1st paperback ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 475–6. ISBN 978-0-521-16855-7.
  4. ^ Jago, Fred. W.P. (1882). The Ancient Language and the Dialect of Cornwall. Truro: Netherington & Worth. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Plympton Castle". Plympton St Maurice Civic Association. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  6. ^ Open Domesday Online: Plympton, accessed December 2017.
  7. ^ Pevsner, N. (1952) South Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books; pp. 242–45
  8. ^ Rowe, J. Brooking (1906). A History of Plympton Erle. Exeter: James G. Commin. p. 170.
  9. ^ Plympton St Maurice Conservation Area appraisal and Management PlanPlymouth City Council, January 2008, p. 44
  10. ^ Plympton St Maurice Conservation Area appraisal and Management PlanPlymouth City Council, January 2008
  11. ^ "SELMAN, William II, of Loughtor in Plympton St. Mary, Devon. | History of Parliament Online". Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  12. ^ Vivian, Heralds' Visitations of Devon, 1895, pp.718–20, pedigree of Strode
  13. ^ a b Cherry, Bridget & Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Devon. Yale University Press, 2004. pp. 683–5 ISBN 978-0-300-09596-8
  14. ^ |Old Plymouth, UK
  15. ^ "City council to look at opening new railway station in Plympton – RailStaff".
  16. ^ "Study to look at future demand for railway station in Plympton area". Plymouth News Room. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  17. ^ Waddington, Sarah (30 January 2018). "'Plymouth Metro' could include new station in Plympton". plymouthherald. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  18. ^ a b Atkins, Rachael (25 June 2019). "Plympton Lamb Feast sells out of lamb". plymouthherald. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  19. ^ "2019-Music-Fest-Poster JPEG.png | EVENTS". villagesite. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Plympton St Mauirce | Civic Association". villagesite. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  21. ^ Margaret Lesser: Marriage, Ellen (1865–1946). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, May 2010). [1] Subscription required. Retrieved 23 August 2010.