Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 02, 2016
Webpage updated: October 08, 2022

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The Dockyard Gate at Fore Street.
From a postcard.

Devonport's Royal Dockyard has consisted of four separate yards plus outlying departments such as the Royal William Victualling Yard at East Stonehouse, the Powder Magazine at Keyham, the Naval Ordnance Depot at Bull Point, the Royal Naval Oil Fuel Depot at Thanckes, and the Royal Naval Armament Depot at Ernesettle, all of which came under the control of the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard, the chief officer of the Dockyard until that post was abolished in 1967, when the first General Manager was appointed.  There was also a convict ship attached to the Dockyard at one time.

The first dock was built in 1691 at Point Froward in the Hamoaze at the instigation of King William III upon finding that the dastardly French had built a naval yard just across the English Channel.  The Yard was extended several times and new leases obtained from the landowner at the time.  Many warships and Dockyard craft were launched from South Yard, ending with HMS "Scylla" in 1968.

Further to the north the Board of Ordnance built the Gun Wharf between 1718 and 1725 to replace a smaller one at Mount Wise.  The Board of Ordnance was abolished in 1855 and it then came under the War Department.  They created an Army Ordnance Depot at Bull Point, in the parish of Saint Budeaux, which in 1891 was split to create a Naval Ordnance Depot on the same site.  When the Gun Wharf finally became a part of the Admiralty and the Royal Dockyard in 1941 it was named Morice Yard.

To the north of that again was the Keyham Steam Yard, constructed between 1846 and 1864.  The tunnel between the South Yard and North Yard was constructed in 1857.  It was all linked by the Dockyard Railway in 1867.  A piece of the Steam Yard was given over to the Royal Naval Engineering College in 1880.  In November 1903 it was decreed that the original Dockyard, surrounding the First Dock, should be known as South Yard and the Keyham Steam Yard as North Yard.  A general reorganisation of Royal Dockyards took effect at the start of 1906.  The North Yard Extension was completed in 1907 and the Yard's first 75-ton crane installed in 1908.  The Central Offices were occupied in October 1911.  The main body of the Royal Dockyard then extended from Mutton Cove as far north as Weston Mill Creek.  In 1921 the Royal Naval Oil Fuel Depot at Thanckes, on the Cornish side of the Hamoaze, was opened.

During the Second World War the Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard was Rea-Admiral Arthur Ninian Dowding CB.

Developments since the end of the Second World War have included the extension and abandonment of South Yard, the addition of Goschen Yard, flyovers to link the Yards, the closure of the Dockyard Railway, the disbanding of the Dockyard Fire Brigade, the creation of a Dockyard Museum, the opening and abandonment of the apprentices' training centre, the construction of the Central Office Blocks, COB1 and COB2, the building of the Frigate Complex (1970-77) and Submarine Refit Complex, the privatisation of the management structure as Messrs Devonport Management Limited, and the demolition of COB1 and COB2.  In February 1972 the name of HMS "Defiance" was given to the former submarine depot ship, HMS "Forth" and she was moored at the most northerly point of the Royal Dockyard as Fleet Maintenance Base.  She was replaced by a permanent shore base in 1978.

Assisting Royal Naval warships in and out of the Dockyard and carrying fuel, water and general supplies to those moored in the Sound were the Harbour Support Vessels.

The matter of Policing the Royal Dockyard is a separate subject.