Webpage created: February 01, 2016
Webpage revised: October 07, 2018
LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN OLD DEVONPORT
In the days when Stoke Damerel was just an ancient manor it was ruled by the Lord of the Manor, who held the right to hold a Court Baron and a Court Leet. At the same time the ancient parish was ruled by the Vestry at the Ancient Parish Church of Stoke Damerel, to which the Lord of the Manor appointed the Rector.
That happy and peaceful situation changed dramatically in 1691 when the Board of Admiralty became involved in order to protect its development of a Royal Dockyard. The Board was to become a thorn in the side of the townspeople for generations to come.
In 1727 the first Poor Rate was levied by the parish. In 1781 the residents got Parliamentary sanction for a Board of Commissioners to improve the town. This allowed the paving, cleansing, and watching the streets, and for removing nuisances and regulating coaches in the town and suburbs. A Bill to create a police force in 1809 was thrown out by Parliament. Further powers were obtained by the Board of Commissioners in 1814. These covered not only paving and cleansing but now lighting the streets as well. Following the erection of a Town Hall in 1821-22, Plymouth-Dock became Devonport as from January 1st 1824 by royal licence and, with East Stonehouse, it became a parliamentary borough in 1832. The parish of Stoke Damerel became a Poor Law Union in 1835 and two years later the town received its Charter of Incorporation, creating the Devonport Corporation and its various committees. The right to hold its own Quarter Sessions was granted in 1848. A new Borough Workhouse was erected in 1854 and a new Borough Prison was opened in 1861. A police force became compulsory following the County and Borough police act 1856. A Local Government Board for Devonport was imposed by order of the Home Secretary in 1866 and the Board of Commissioners disbanded. The Devonport School Board was established in 1871. In 1872 the Local Government Board was absorbed by the town council, which in 1888 became a County Borough Council. The right of a Coat of Arms was granted in 1876.
Under the authority of the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890, in April 1897 Devonport Corporation appointed inspectors to visit other towns in England and view their housing provision. When that inspection was completed, a report was submitted to the Housing of the Working Classes Committee. The report was signed by Mr H Whitfeld, chairman of the Committee; Mr W J Waycott, the Mayor of Devonport; and Messrs W Hornbrook, W Ford and C Goodman; the Town Clerk; the Borough Surveyor; and the Medical Officer of Health.
The report recommended that the James Street and Ordnance Street areas should be scheduled for demolition and redevelopment. It had already been condemned by the Medical Officer of Health. The recommendation was adopted on July 20th 1897 and promoted a Local Government Provisional Order. In February 1898, despite much opposition from landowners at a public inquiry, the Order was made by the Local Government Board and confirmed by Act of Parliament.
The Devonport Extension Act of 1898 enabled it to extend the Borough to include part of Saint Budeaux. In that same year Stoke Damerel officially became Devonport and a part of the parish of Pennycross was added to the Borough. The Borough took over from the Devonport School Board in 1903 and the Devonport Water Company in 1906. In the first decade of the 20th century Devonport opened a new Cemetery at Weston Mill and constructed an embankment across Weston Mill Creek to replace the undulating wooden bridge.
Following military intervention as a result of the Great War, the Borough of Devonport was amalgamated along with East Stonehouse Urban District into the Borough of Plymouth, although the Devonport Poor Law Union remained independent until 1930.
The Last Town Council and Officers were photographed on the steps of the Devonport Town Hall at the time of the last Council meeting on October 29th 1914.