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Thursday 19 October 2023

Tell Us About....Home Towns

 1930s art deco lido swimming pool on Plymouth Hoe. Copyright Is This Mutton.com

Dear friends. It's time for the monthly Tell Us About challenge. It was the turn of Marsha from Marsha in the Middle to choose the prompt, and she went with Home Towns  (or hometowns as our US friends prefer). 

My home town is Plymouth, in the south west of England. It's well known for a couple of historical facts:

  • The Pilgrim Fathers sailed from what we now call The Mayflower Steps in 1620. 
  • Sir Francis Drake, (now in the process of being cancelled)  was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe in 1588 when he saw the Spanish Armada approaching.

When I grew up in Plymouth, it was a bustling place with the huge Devonport Dockyard employing more than 17,000 people (down to 2,500 now). 

We lived in Plympton, 5 miles from the centre and very close to Dartmoor. My mum and brother still live there, my mum in the same house. 

I loved going "in town" for the riotous Saturday Morning Pictures at the Drake cinema. When I was older, I'd spend Saturdays in the various boutiques and shops: Van Allen, Chelsea Girl, Eve Fashions and C&A, and shoe shops Freeman Hardy Willis, Stead & Simpson and Saxone.  All long gone. 

Whole summers were spent on Plymouth Hoe at the art deco lido pool, the fun fair and watching the Radio 1 Roadshow. 

My mum and her friends used to have their hair done at "Mason Terry's," which was really called "Maison Terry." 

As a trainee journalist, I enjoyed going to places like cake shop Le Croquembouche and the Poona Bar at the top of what was then the Holiday Inn. Not to mention Piermaster's,  The Cooperage on the Barbican and discos Woods, Clones and the Metro. At the latter, in Devonport,  I saw punk bands including UK Subs, Wreckless Eric and X Ray Spex. 

I'm a Janner 

A Plymothian is referred to as a Janner. It's not widely used, so I was astonished recently when a man asked me if I was a Janner when I ordered a drink in a pub, in Kent. He could tell by the accent. It takes a degree of skill to differentiate a Plymouth accent from, say, a Cornish one. Most of the UK population assumes that anyone west of Bristol is a yokel.

The definition of Janner is described as a person from Devon, deriving from Cousin Jan (the Devon form of John), but more particularly in naval circles in the Plymouth area.

Don't Miss these Plymouth Landmarks

I haven't lived in Plymouth since the early 1980s, but I return quite frequently to see my family. Two areas which haven't changed much are The Barbican and the Hoe.

The Barbican is thriving and attracts tourists like a honeypot. It seems unchanged from when I was a child, except that since the death of famous artist Robert Lenkiewicz, his  famous mural has gone. 

The Barbican has quaint shops, very old pubs and a few historic buildings, including the Elizabethan House, and the Plymouth Gin distillery.

It's a short walk from the Barbican to Plymouth Hoe, with its elegant esplanades, the landmark of Smeeton's Tower (now a tourist attraction) and numerous war memorials. The swimming pool was closed for many years but was thrillingly restored and reopened. 

Tinside Beach on the Hoe is not very attractive - there are much better beaches not far away at places like Wembury and Bovisand. 

The infamous Union Street is a shadow of its former self. "Back in the day" it was noted for nightclubs, prostitutes and fighting sailors. There was a wonderful old theatre, The Palace. Laurel & Hardy gave their last live performance there. It has been disused since 2006.  

The Trees Scandal 

There was a huge outcry recently when trees in the city centre, planted after the war, were chopped down in the dark of night. The Conservatives were ousted as leaders of the council following the backlash. The trees still lie forlornly on their sides, surrounded by fencing. 

The council could have done a much better job of explaining why the trees needed to go, and what would replace them. It's actually trying to deliver the full promise of the post war Plan for Plymouth by creating an elegant central boulevard from the Hoe to the train station, with attractions including a park over 1km long, lined with trees; a refurbished Braille Garden and Phoenix fountain; a new stepped amphitheatre space, and new running water feature.

Why visit Plymouth?

Plymouth is an ideal launch pad for a broader touring holiday. It's not far to Dartmoor and towns like Tavistock. There are several historic places of interest to visit. I recomend Buckland Abbey, the former home of Francis Drake, and Saltram House in Plympton. 

Cornwall is easy to get to via the Tamar Bridge or the Cremyll or Torpoint ferries. The beautiful city of Exeter is 50 miles down the A38. 

There aren't many decent hotels in the centre of Plymouth but there's a gorgeous 5 star spa hotel not far from where I lived, Boringdon Hall. If you're an Air BnB fan there are some interesting properties on the Hoe.

If you do visit, make sure you have a pasty - Warren's or Dewdneys are the famous local pasty shops - and a cream tea.

In fact I'll be in Plymouth again very soon for a reunion with former colleagues.  We're planning to hop over to Cornwall on the Cremyll foot ferry to  have a cream tea at Mount Edgcumbe House.

Now Discover More Home Towns with Marsha, Penny, Leslie, Mary Katherine, Suzy and Debbie

Marsha in the Middle: even though this month's prompt was Marsha's idea, she wasn't quite sure what road to follow.  She decided to just meander her way through memories and places from her hometown.

The journey of Suzy @ The Grey Brunette from Rotherham to Portimao, her cozy Portuguese hometown, unfolds a tale of seafront serenity and the vibrant life of Praia da Rocha, offering a slice of Algarve charm. See her post

Penny from Frugal Fashion Shopper  lived in 3 very different places in childhood, and shares what she  remembers of them.  Read her post

Australian blogger Debbie from Deb's World lives in a very small rural town in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW Australia, with the captivating name of Tumbarumba.  She's made the town her home, with her husband and three daughters (now grown up and flown the nest), for over 30 years and is almost considered a 'local'.  There is a poem all about Tumba-bloody-Rumba...Read more

Mary Katherine from MK's Adventures loves her hometown, which is quite different from its famous namesake, and pronounced differently too! Find out which town. 

Leslie from Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After says her heart is breaking for her hometown. "From the moment I drove into El Paso, Texas on Thanksgiving weekend, 1988, I felt like I was home.  The Franklin Mountains tower over this big little city and divide the town in two.  The people are humble, hardworking and friendly; accepting of all cultures and ethnicities.  But this jewel in the desert southwest is being crippled by the incredible number of people crossing into this border town and impacting an already financially strained and impoverished community."  Read her post

I hope you enjoyed reading about our home towns this month. I'm looking forward to your comments about YOUR home town. Do you still live there?  Does thinking about it make you nostalgic, if you moved away?  Find the comments box below the link-up. 

If you want to join us with a post on Home Towns, the link-up below is open until October 27. Next month it's my prompt: LAUGHTER. Posts go live on the 3rd Thursday of the month.

ADD YOUR POSTS ON HOME TOWNS  (other posts will be removed)  

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1 comment

  1. Thank you for this great post. We visited Plymouth to see family, when we stayed in Devon for a week. Loved it! Sam - Thrift Plan Enjoy


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