Webpage created: March 22, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 22, 2016
During the 1880s there was a growing realisation that Plymouth and its rivers could be an attraction for visitors and a place of recreation for the residents. The construction of the Promenade Pier from beneath the slopes of Plymouth Hoe prompted the growth of paddle steamer excursions to the Breakwater and up the rivers Tamar and Lynher. Just a few years later, in 1895, the Phoenix Wharf Pier was opened just outside the limits of Sutton Pool. Plymouth now had a free landing place, albeit largely for the benefit of the Oreston and Turnchapel Ferry.
Devonport was in danger of getting left behind so the Corporation formed a Landing Stages Committee to consider and arrange the provision of landing stages for the use of the people of the Town.
Thus it was that on Wednesday October 10th 1883 the Mayor and the members of the Landing Stages Committee, Councillors Graves, May, Mogg, Peck, Ryder and Whitby, met at the new North Corner Landing Stage to receive it from the contractor, Messrs Pethick Brothers. It cost £540. The new facility appears to have replaced an old Royal Dockyard Mortar Boat that had acted as a landing place. The Dockyard were paid £3 3s 10d to remove it. Unusually, North Corner was provided with a small crane, which was purchased from the Manor authorities for the sum of £12.
A similar pontoon was provided at New Passage, just north of the Torpoint Ferry, and adjacent to the old pottery. This subsequently became known as the Pottery Quay Landing Stage. Each pontoon were insured for £1,000.
Two tickets were issued to each member of the Corporation for the formal opening ceremony on Wednesday November 14th 1883. They met at North Corner, which was formally opened at 2.30pm, and there they boarded the paddle steamer "Eleanor", which belonged to Mr William Gilbert, for a trip up river to Saltash. On the return journey they stopped to open the Pottery Quay Landing Stage.
It would appear that both landing places were initially supervised by one Stage Master, Mr G Hocking, and that he was based at Pottery Quay. He was immediately in dispute with his employers because he wanted his salary to start from 'the date of his election' but this was refused and he was paid from the beginning of the week that the Landing Stage was opened.
Even then he was soon complaining again, this time about the fact that Mr Gilbert's river steamers were not stopping at Pottery Quay. On Thursday December 27th 1883 the Town Clerk was asked to write to Mr Gilbert.
In January 1884 the Corporation accepted a tender of £58 from Mr A D or R D Rowe for the construction of the Stage Master's offices at both North Corner and Pottery Quay.
On Saturday May 24th 1884 Mr John Harris was appointed as Stage Master at Pottery Quay at a salary of £1 per month. Unfortunately for Mr Harris this came to a rather abrupt halt early in 1885 when the pontoon was hit by a Royal Dockyard fire float and badly damaged. While it was being repaired, Mr Harris had his salary cut to 15s per month but he was put back on full pay on March 16th. Both Stage Masters had their salary increased to £1 4s per month in August 1886.
Mutton Cove had to await a bit longer for its landing place. On Tuesday April 29th 1884 the Landing Stages Committee had resolved that: 'It is inexpedient at present to construct a Landing Stage at Mutton Cove.' However, it was done, the work being carried out by Mr A R Debnam, and on Friday May 15th 1891 the Mutton Cove Landing Stage was formally opened. Mr William Rattenbury, of 10 William Street, Morice Town, was appointed as Stage Master at a salary of 15 shillings per month. It is not known if all the salaries had been reduced to that level by 1891.
In the meantime the landing stage at Pottery Quay succumbed to the storms and sank in December 1884. Apparently the Dockyard fire float had run into the landing stage and several rivets had been dislodged causing holes in the structure. In the process of carrying out repairs the stage was tightly secured to the quay wall but with the rise and fall of the waves in the gales it tilted over and water entered through the rivet holes. It was hoped to retrieve the landing stage on Tuesday December 30th 1884.
North Corner was by far the busiest of the three, earning tolls of £49 7s 6d in 1900 as against £16 0s 6d for Mutton Cove and £5 1s 2d for Pottery Quay.
The pontoon at Pottery Quay sank, again, on the evening of Thursday February 12th 1920, presumably during a storm.
In June 1950 the cost of repairing the North Corner pontoon was quoted as £3,805.
Both North Corner and Pottery Quay Landing Stages were
very popular during the post-Second
World War period, when boats
could be caught for Calstock and Millbrook, the latter with onward motor
bus services up Donkey Lane
to Whitsands Beach. It is not known when they ceased to be used but it was
probably in the 1970s.