The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

Millbay Station

This is a lovely photograph of the old Millbay station with the Duke of Cornwall Hotel clearly in the background. Millbay station (currently where the Plymouth Pavilions is located) was the first purpose built train station in 1849 (a temporary one had been built at Laira the year before). Initially, the track into Millbay from Exeter had been the much wider 7 foot guage. Indeed, the line running to Millbay was not converted to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in standard gauge until 1892. This line was built to connect to the commercial quay at Millbay docks. Both had been constructed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This arrangement allowed for passengers to board ocean liners crossing the Atlantic or going to London via Southampton or Le Havre. Even the very largest liners could come inside the breakwater and ferry passengers to and from the Millbay docks. Medium sized ships could come directly to the wharf.

The Duke of Cornwall had an interesting history in the interwar years when it became the focus of fascist political activity in the city. The owners were sympathetic to Oswald Moseley's blackshirts and so were monitored by the intelligence agencies. During World War Two, it was believed that intelligence was gathered from American officers being 'entertained' in the hotel and so the the entire family was taken into custody as threats to the realm.

Empire in Your Backyard: Plymouth Article

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by Stephen Luscombe