OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 16, 2018
Webpage updated: June 19, 2018

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THE MILITARY IN OLD DEVONPORT

ARMY ORDNANCE DEPOT

In the beginning the guns on Royal Navy warships were the responsibility of the Board of Ordnance, a part of the Army not the Royal Navy.

The guns themselves were not a problem but the storage and transport of the gunpowder they used was a big problem because in the case of the Royal Dockyard at Devonport the gunpowder was originally kept at the Royal Citadel in Plymouth and had to be transported through the centres of Plymouth, East Stonehouse and Devonport to reach the ships moored in the Hamoaze.  Sometime around 1785 this was partially rectified by the construction of a Powder Magazine at Keyham, which at that time was purely countryside and thus reasonably safe.  The Keyham Powder Magazine was followed in around 1805 by the Kinterbury Powder Works, which was built on 15 acres of land acquired by the Government from Mr Edward Trelawney and Mr F Corham, of Kinterbury House, in the ancient parish of Saint Budeaux.  The Powder Works and  the Powder Magazine supplied the Gun Wharf, which in turn supplied the warships.

But the need for gunpowder and shot was outgrowing the facilities and by 1815 five hold Naval hulks had been fitted out for gunpowder storage and moored in the Hamoaze.

When the Government decided to construct a steam yard at Devonport it was found that the Keyham Powder Magazine stood in the way of expansion northwards and had to be moved.  One of the possible alternative sites was the old war prison at Millbay but, not surprisingly, both Plymouth and East Stonehouse did not want explosives that close to their communities.  So another area at Bull Point was purchased by the Government from Mr Thomas Elliot on November 8th 1845 and some additional land was bought from Mr Charles Trelawney on July 8th 1846.   The greater part of this land was transferred to the Ordnance Department in exchange for the Keyham Magazine.

In a notice dated March 11th 1847 addressed 'To Builders and Others' the Royal Engineers' Office invited tenders for the erection of 'Five Large Magazines with sundry Storehouses, Workshops, Landing Shed, etc., and Enclosure Walls; also for constructing a Basin and Pier, Wharf, Tanks, etc., at Bull Point, ....in the neighbourhood of the existing Powder Works at Saint Budeaux'.  Tenders had to be submitted to the Ordnance Office at Pall Mall, London, on or before April 23rd 1847.

On December 19th 1854 the Royal Engineer's Office in Devonport issued a notice to builders and others inviting sealed tenders for the provision of services at the newly constructed Bull Point Royal Artillery Barracks, in the parish of Saint Budeaux.

The services were:

Building cottages for a Foreman and 16 labourers;
Building a Cook-house and Wash-house for the crews of the two powder vessels, with Privy and Urinal;
Building an office for the Ordnance Storekeeper;
Building a civil Watch-house and a Shed for Waggons (sic);
Building a Warder's Lodge and a Shoe-house;
Building an Engine-house;
Building a Boat-house;
Removing the present Wooden Filling and Examination-house at Keyham to Bull Point.

Tenders had to be at the Ordnance Office, Pall Mall, London, on or before January 27th 1855.

After the buildings had been completed work started on a basin and sea works.

When on October 1st 1891 the Naval Ordnance Department was formed, the eastern half of Bull Point became Naval.  This included some cottages (Royal Laboratory Cottages) and a church/infant school with a clock tower. The western half remained in the hands of the War Department. 

Bull Point Jetty was constructed in 1898.

By 1913 the Admiralty held 69 acres and the War Department 57 acres.

Captain William Noel Stokes, Royal Marines, was the officer in charge of the Army Ordnance Depot at Bull Point in 1914 and lived in Kinterbury House.

Also at Bull Point at this time were the Naval Ordnance Depot, the Royal Naval Detention Quarters, of which Commander Frank Powell RN was in charge, and the Metropolitan Police Quarters, where Inspector Benjamin Walton was the officer in charge in 1914.

The Depot gained its own rail connection on June 2nd 1916 when the siding from the Great Western Railway at Saint Budeaux Junction was opened.

On and as from December 23rd 1918 the Naval Ordnance Store Department was re-titled the Armament Supply Department and its work included that of supplying torpedoes and mines, which had previously been done separately.  In 1920 the Admiralty portion of the Bull Point site became the Royal Naval Armament Depot.  The War Department gave up their portion of the site in May 1941, when the Army Ordnance Depot moved to a new site at Coypool Marsh, Plymouth, where it later became a sub-depot of the Royal Naval Armament Depot at Ernesettle.  At the same time the Gun Wharf at Devonport became a part of the Royal Dockyard and was renamed Morice Yard.