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he Maritime Collection is a unique edition of collectable guidebooks, which tell the detailed historic past of some of the most famous ports around the British Isles. Our aim is to dive into the factual nautical years that have helped shaped the towns and cities that we focus on and recount the extraordinary tales of the explorers and pioneers of the past, who have earned their place in the history books.

Published and Distributed by The Maritime Collection Unit 12A Kensington High Street London SW7 8PG 0207 427 8146 Copyright Š 2013





Sir Francis Drake


Spanish Armada


Sea Venture




Captain Cook


Charles Darwin


Flight Of NC-4


Modern Day




Sir Francis Drake


History has been kind to Drake. He’s remembered as a pioneer, explorer and adventurer. But whilst history has celebrated his successes, it tends to cover up the darker and more sinister truth. At heart, Drake was a pirate.






istory has been kind to Drake. He's remembered as a pioneer, explorer and adventurer. But whilst history has celebrated his successes, like being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and his defeat of the Spanish Armada, the true intentions of Drake tend to be covered up. Drake funded his flamboyant and elaborate adventures around the world by pillaging and murdering, trading slaves across the Atlantic, killing those who stood in his way, stopping Spanish ships and going ashore to storm forts and villages. He was doing what was expected of him at the time, and was out to make profit and wealth, not to travel for the fun of it. At heart, Sir Francis Drake was a pirate.



He succeeded in making his wealth and returned to England a rich man. After returning from his circumnavigation of the globe, Drake expressed an interesting in purchasing the nearby Buckland Abbey, which he went ahead and bought in 1581. He had the intention of settling here, living out his days in the estate and grounds, but it was not to be. Drake died far away from his Devon retreat aboard a ship of an incurable fever off the Bay of Panama, and was laid to rest in a lead coffin, buried at sea. Countless diving expeditions have been undertaken to try and find the resting place of the iconic figure and in 2011, there was almost a breakthrough when one team claimed they were ever closer to finding the coffin, but so far no success has come of it.





When Drake returned from his circumnavigation of the world, he traded his treasures with the then Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth 1st. In exchange for the treasure Drake had collected on his voyage, she presented him with the Drake Cup, a unique accolade to celebrate his achievements as the first Englishman to sail the globe. The Drake Cup was a golden trophy to commend his mastery of the seas, and celebrate his successes. The top of the trophy is set out as a constellation of stars, shaped and mapped to the navigation patterns of the times. The constellation leads down to the main golden globe, with all the known charted settlements that had been discovered. Lands



which had yet to be discovered in the southern hemisphere are instead depicted by sea monsters, representing a fear of the unknown. The most famous anecdote about Drake relates that prior to the battle with the Spanish Armada, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. We look in more detail at the battle with the Spanish Armada in the next chapter, and at how the Elizabethan Navy called upon the services of Sir Francis Drake to deter a Spanish invasion force, sent from King Phillip II. Whatever Francis Drakes motives were for his elaborate actions, one thing cannot be denied. He has left a historic legacy in the City of Plymouth that still very abundant today, and will be remembered for years to come.





“It isn't that life ashore is distasteful to me. But a life at sea is better.� Sir Francis Drake



Spanish Armada 1588

England was saved by a protestant wind


he most infamous historic account that Plymouth boasts, is the cavalier attitude of Sir Francis drake upon learning that an amphibious invasion force of more than 120 Spanish ships were approaching the South West Coastline. It is said that Drake was more interested in finishing a game of bowls he’d been playing on the Hoe, before preparing to engage the Spanish Armada, and was quoted to remark “we’ve plenty of time to finish the game”. In July, 1588, nimble English ships sailed out to defeat the cumbersome Spanish navy. It was a war of empire and religion, and the Catholic Spanish invasion fleet intended to land, invade and conquer, overthrowing the Protestant rule of Queen Elizabeth 1st. During the 15th Century, England’s Tudor navy was not the superpower that it had become by Nelson’s time, and the Queen called upon Drake to lead the flotilla. They finally engaged the armada off the Flanders coast, in a confrontation which lasted over eight hour, before the English fleet succeeded


Spanish Armada

Interesting Trivia: The Armada is famous because at that time England was a small nation with a minimal naval presence. They were facing the greatest power in the world, Spain. They defeated Spain, with help from Mother Nature and this battle marked the beginning of England’s mastery of the seas. The great history of the English navy began, as did serious English exploration and colonization.

in scattering the Spanish. But they were not defeated yet. Seeking an alternative path into England to commence their invasion, the Spanish Armada went north towards Scotland. This time however the power of mother nature prevailed, and adverse weather conditions and rough seas dashed any chances of any invasion opportunity. The Spanish were clear that this was a warning attack to the Queen, but their retreat would prove costly due to a miscalculated route home for the Mediterranean invasion force. The Spanish Armada sailed back along the coasts of Ireland following its defeat at the naval battle of Gravelines. The Armada had attempted to return home through the North Atlantic, when it was driven from its course by violent storms and toward the west coast of Ireland. The prospect of a Spanish landing alarmed the Dublin government of Queen Elizabeth I, and harsh measures were prescribed for both the Spanish invaders and any Irish who might assist them. Up to 24 ships of the Armada were wrecked on a rocky coastline spanning 500 km,

from Antrim in the north to Kerry in the south, and the threat to Crown authority was readily defeated. Many of the survivors of the multiple wrecks were put to death, and the remainder fled across the sea to Scotland. It is estimated that 5,000 members of the fleet perished in Ireland. Of the 120 strong flotilla that King Phillip II of Spain had sent, 63 ships limped home from the Irish Shipwreck.




The power of mother nature prevailed The striken Armada in Ireland




The Wrecking of the Sea Venture


“Swimming in crystal clear waters, foraging for tropical fruit, hunting brightly coloured fish”





Sea Venture 1609

Shipwrecked: O The island of the devils

n the 2nd June 1609, the London Company, who had established the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, prepared a flotilla of seven vessels destined for Jamestown, with the third supply of settlers. There were over 600 people who were all helping to shape the early colonization of America, braving the long journey at the mercy of the Atlantic seas to begin a new life in the new world. The Sea Venture was typical of any other ship of the period; made of wood, powered by sail. The journey set sail from Plymouth, and spent several days navigating out of the South West waters into the Atlantic, and the unknown. But what happened to the trip next, was something early settlers feared most. On 24 July, the flotilla hit fierce weather conditions out in the Atlantic. A hurricane separated the ships, and Sea Venture was alone, at the mercy of the tropical storm’s onslaught. This would have been a storm unlike any Englishman had ever witnessed before and the Sea Venture, unable to maintain her course, smashed onto the rocky reefs of a new unknown land, Bermuda.


The Sea Venture

Interesting Trivia: The wrecking of the Sea Venture off the coast of Bermuda is said to have inspired the great playwrite, William Shakespeare, to write his play The Tempest. Act 1 begins with a ship battling to stay afloat in the onslaught of a tropical storm, which Shakespeare uses as a dramatic device to introduce us to the main characters in the play. It’s said he did this to take the audience away from civilization, and set the scene in a place of isolation. The Tempest has the power to destroy ships and ruin voyages, and the story follows Ariel and Caliban, servants to a protagonist named Prospero, and the consequences for the crew of the shipwreck.

All 150 settlers who were aboard when she ran aground had survived, but unlike the feeling of relaxation and tranquillity we would feel to be on a desert island today, for the settlers, this was hell on earth. Gradually, the shipwrecked crew of Sea Venture’s ill fated voyage began to die off of starvation and disease. The survivors, including several company officials Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Gates, the ship’s captain Christopher Newport, Sylvester Jordain, Stephen Hopkins, later of Mayflower, and secretary William Strachey were stranded on Bermuda for approximately nine months. During that time, they built two craft from the wreckage of sea Venture. Deliverance and Patience. The original plan was to build only one vessel, Deliverance, but it soon became evident that she would not be large enough to carry the settlers and all of the food that was being sourced on the islands. Deliverance and Patience set sail on 10th May 1610, to be reunited with the settlers from the other six ships which had successfully navigated the Atlantic during the storm. This was not the end of the survivors ordeals, however. On reaching Jamestown, only 60 survivors were

found of the 500 who had preceded them. Many of these survivors were themselves dying, and Jamestown was judged to be unviable. Everyone was boarded onto Deliverance and Patience, which set sail for England. The ordeal was recounted by Sylvester Jordain and by William Strachey, who published a gripping tale of their battle for survival. They described “a storm which had blown so exceedingly as we could not apprehend in our imagination”, “crystal clear waters” and “hunting brightly coloured fish” They play heavily on the fear of the unknown, cursing and branding Bermuda, the ‘Isle of Devils’. These narratives were published in 1610, just months after the ill fated voyage returned to London, and their descriptions captured the public imagination. These texts were the first taste of foreign travel, and the first accounts of a shipwreck.




The Mayflower

t h e s t o r y o f t h e s h i p




Mayflower 1620

The best laid plans always go to waste


he Pilgrim’s journey to America began in 1608 when they were forced to leave their native England for Holland. Their Puritan religious beliefs were in conflict with those of England’s Anglican Church. Mayflower was a cargo ship, captained by a man called Christopher Jones. She was based at Rotherhithe, on the Thames in London. Jones had been working Mayflower on trade routes to Europe since 1609. In 1620 he was approached by the Puritan group wanting to go to America, seeking religious exile from the religious oppression of the Anglican church. He agreed to take the group across the Atlantic, in the company of a smaller ship called Speedwell. Mayflower’s owners insisted that the puritans bulk up their group with other passengers to make their voyage financially viable. This resulted in random strangers recruited to make up the numbers and the voyage officially set sail on. August 5th 1620. Two vessels were meant to be involved in the journey, with the Mayflower and her sister ship the Speedwell scheduled to set off with all the Puritans


Pilgrim Fathers

Interesting Trivia: The night before they left Plymouth on their voyage across the Atlantic, the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night in England at Black Friars Refectory Room, Sutton Pool. This building is now the Black Friars Distillery for Plymouth Gin. It was from the distillery they made the short walk down to the harbour to set sail on the Mayflower on their epic voyage to start a new life away from religious oppression in America.

seeking religious exile. Preparations were made for a swift departure from Southampton, but as always the best laid plans go to waste, and trouble soon ensued. Problems plagued their departure from the start. Leaving Southampton on August 5 aboard the two ships, they were forced to make port at Bayard’s Cove, Dartmouth. after the Speedwell developed a leak. Mayflower and Speedwell were moored here from August 23rd to about August 31st 1620. They set sail again but once at sea it soon became clear the Speedwell was suffering a serious leak, and could not participate in the voyage. The two ships returned to Plymouth, where the cautious decision was taken to leave Speedwell and go it alone on the Mayflower. After abandoning the Speedwell, 102 Pilgrim passengers departed from Plymouth aboard the Mayflower, under captain Christopher Jones command on September 6th. The intended destination was Virginia where they planned to start a colony. After a journey of 66 days they made landfall at Cape Cod near present-day Provincetown, more than 600 miles off course. The legacy has left every town and city involved wanting a piece of

the glory. Southampton now has the mayflower memorial as well as Mayflower Park, whilst Plymouth has the Mayflower Steps and archway on the barbican.










Embarkations under rivals Plymouth Sound






The Voyages of James Cook




Captain James Cook

Exploring new worlds


aptain James Cook knew Plymouth well, he sailed from the port on each of his epic journeys to the South Pacific. It was in the early part of August 1768 that Cook, on board the Endeavour, sailed around from the Thames to Plymouth where the great naturalist Joseph Banks and his party, including artists Alexander Buchan, Sydney Parkinson and the Swedish naturalist, Daniel Solander. Before leaving the port on the 25th of that month, Cook, Banks and Solander dined at the table of the then relatively new home of the British father of porcelain, the temperate William Cookworthy. Cook was away from these shores for three years, however the year after his return from that first great voyage of discovery in the Endeavour, charting the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, Cook was back in Plymouth making final preparations for another trip, a voyage which saw him leaving the Sound on the Resolution at 6am on the morning of 13 July 1772. The object of Cook’s second Pacific Ocean voyage was to confirm the existence of a theorised Great Southern Continent.


James Cook

Interesting Trivia: After Cooks death, his sailors brought back to Plymouth, a tradition and art form unlike anyone in England had ever seen. Fascinated by the Polynesian culture and way of life, the sailors had acquired a taste for the intricate and unique body art of the Polynesian people. They arrived back into England with a hunger to try this for themselves and so came the birth of the now infamous, Polynesian tattoo.

His ship HMS Resolution, accompanied by HMS Adventure, departed Plymouth on 13 July 1772 and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Beset by ice, he was unable to reach Antarctica. Although its existence was suspected, James Cook demonstrated, by traversing large areas of the south Pacific, that it would have to be a frigid wasteland, and not an economically productive addition to the British empire. Cook determined the location of many of the South Pacific islands with the incredible accuracy of 3 miles. This was made possible by a new and highly accurate clock. The two ships returned to England, via Cape Horn, on 29 July 1775. Once again the great captain would be gone for three years, returning to Plymouth in July of 1775.After another busy year back home Cook made his third and final departure from Plymouth Sound, this time on the 12 July 1776 and once again on the Resolution. Captain Cook and his men were primarily searching for the Northwest Passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. They departed Plymouth on HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery. It would be the last time he saw Plymouth and indeed

England, as three years later, in Hawaii, he was clubbed to death in an avoidable incident with the natives who had become suspicious of his intentions. A fight broke out and he was killed on 14 Feb 1779 by angry natives. Although his men made another attempt at the Northwest Passage, they were unsuccessful. The expedition did identify the possibilities of trade with the coastal American natives for sea otter furs, which could then be bartered for Chinese goods that were highly prized in England. The Resolution returned to Britain without him in October 1780, more than four years after she’d left on the great voyage of discovery from Plymouth.







ook set off, full of curiosity about what the Southern Hemisphere was like, taking with him botanists, artists and scientists all documenting the mystical new land. The expedition sailed thousands of miles across uncharted areas of the globe. The artist William Hodges went on Cook’s voyages, capturing the sights and landscapes he saw, from hazy Polynesian islands to the frozen wilds of Antarctica and the lost civilization of Easter Island. There was one artistic tradition that is still going strong in modern society that was first brought back by those sailors aboard Cook’s voyages, after his death in Hawaii; Polynesian tattoos.





“Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.� James Cook




The Visit of Charles Darwin




Darwin. C 1831

Patience is a virtue


rior to his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, Darwin spent two months in Plymouth, living in Devonport, from where the Beagle set sail. During the evening of Monday 24 October 1831, following “a pleasant drive from London”, Charles Darwin arrived in Devonport, where HMS Beagle was being prepared for a voyage around the world, primarily to survey the coast of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in South America. Captain Robert FitzRoy commanded the Beagle, and Darwin, just twenty-two years old, was joining the ship as a naturalist. Darwin, although not the first or second choice, was an ideal candidate for the voyage. He enjoyed a growing reputation as a naturalist; he wasn’t married and so could be away from England for two years or more; and given his family’s wealth, he was able, as he confirmed in a letter to his sister Susan dated 5 September 1831, to pay the £30 a year fare required to travel on the Beagle. Darwin had previously made a brief visit to Devonport in early September,


Charles Darwin

Interesting Trivia: Darwin appears to have had a rather low opinion of Plymouth. In an autobiographical chapter in his son Francis “The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin”, he describes the two months spent in Plymouth waiting for the Beagle to sail as: “The most miserable which I ever spent”. When the Beagle returned to England, on 2 October 1836, it sailed into Falmouth. Darwin rushed to the family home in Shrewsbury form where, four days later, he wrote to FitzRoy who had travelled to Plymouth: “I wish with all my heart, I was writing to you, amongst your friends instead of at that horrid Plymouth.”.

between the 14th and 18th. Upon arriving in October, he booked into lodgings at 4 Clarence Baths, Devonport at 15 shillings (75p) per week. From his temporary base in Devonport, Darwin commenced to finalise his own arrangements whilst the Beagle was being painted and fitted out, preparing to sail in late November.

waited for a favourable north easterly wind. Now spending a lot of his time on board ship, Darwin had trouble finding his sea legs and wasn’t used to sleeping in a hammock: “I experienced a most ludicrous difficulty in getting into it; my great fault of jockeyship was in trying to put my legs in first.”

In his journal and in letters to family and friends, Darwin noted how he spent some of his time whilst waiting to sail. He walked often to Plymouth, spending time at the Athenaeum and in the company of William Snow Harris, the Plymouth-born inventor of a nautical lightning conductor, and Colonel Charles Hamilton Smith, a local botanist. On 4 November 1831 Darwin visited the Breakwater, then under construction, where he met the architect and engineer Sir John Rennie. Obviously impressed with the Breakwater, Darwin noted in his journal: “Everybody agrees in the Breakwater being as useful as it is a most stupendous work of art.” The Beagle left Devonport on 23 November and dropped anchor at the Barn Pool under Mount Edgcumbe, where FitzRoy

Several times during December the Beagle should have sailed, but that month south-west gales battered the coast. Twice the Beagle weighed anchor and set sail, the first time on the 9th, only to return the next day: The second time was on the 21 December. This time the Beagle ran onto a rock whilst tacking round Drake’s Island. To release the ship, all the crew ran from one side of the ship to the other and back again, so tipping it off the rock. Undamaged, the Beagle got within sight of the Lizard before storms struck, returning back to the Barn Pool. At 11am on Monday 27 December 1831, in perfect weather, the Beagle once again weighed anchor and set sail. On a friend’s yacht, Darwin caught the ship at 2pm beyond the Breakwater, and so began his epic voyage.




“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life� Charles Darwin




The Flight of The NC-4




Flight of theNC4

First powered T flight across the Atlantic

he NC-4 was a Curtiss NC flying boat which was designed by Glenn Curtiss and his team, and manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. In May 1919, the NC-4 became the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, starting in New York State and making the crossing as far as Lisbon, Portugal, in 19 days. This included time for stops of numerous repairs and for crewmen’s rest, with stops along the way in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, on the mainland, Newfoundland, and twice in the Azores Islands. Then its flight from the Azores to Lisbon completed the first transatlantic flight between North America and Europe, and two more flights from Lisbon to north-western Spain to Plymouth, England, completed the first flight between North America and Great Britain. The aircraft was designed as an antisubmarine aircraft, powered by four Packard-built V-12 Liberty engines, arguably one of the best designs of the WWI era. The NC4 has three engines facing forward and the fourth facing backward in the centre. The accomplishment of the NC- is never

The Flight Of NC-4


Interesting Trivia: After being shipped back from Plymouth, the NC-4 still survives today, as a static exhibit in the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. The NC-4 is property of the Smithsonian Institution, since it was given to that institution by the Navy after its return home.

properly remembered, as it was somewhat eclipsed in the minds of the public by the first nonstop transatlantic flight, which took 15 hours, 57 minutes, and was made by the Royal Air Force pilots John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, two weeks later. The NC-4 started out in the company of two other Curtiss NCs, the NC-1 and the NC-3. The NC-2 had been cannibalized for spare parts to repair the NC-1 before the group of planes had even left New York City. The three aircraft left from the Naval Air Station Rockaway, with intermediate stops at the Chatham Naval Air Station, Massachusetts, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, before flying on to Trepassey, Newfoundland, on 15 May. Eight U.S. Navy warships were stationed along the northern East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada to help the Curtiss NCs in navigation and to rescue their crewmen in case of any emergency. After flying all through the night and most of the next day, the NC-4 reached the town of Horta on Faial Island in the Azores on the following afternoon, having flown about 1,200 miles (1,920 km). It had taken the crewmen 15 hours, 18 minutes, to fly this leg.

The NCs encountered thick fog banks along the route. Both the NC-1 and the NC-3 were forced to land on the open Atlantic Ocean because the poor visibility and loss of a visual horizon made flying extremely dangerous. NC-1 was damaged landing in the rough seas and could not become airborne again. NC-3 had mechanical problems. The NC-4 later flew on to England, arriving in Plymouth on 31 May to great fanfare, having taken 23 days for the flight from Newfoundland to Great Britain. For the final flight legs - from Lisbon to Ferrol, Spain, and then from Ferrol to Plymouth - 10 more U.S. Navy warships were stationed along the route. A total of 53 U.S. Navy ships had been stationed along the route from New York City to Plymouth. After arriving at Plymouth, England, The NC-4 was dismantled in Plymouth, and then loaded onto the USS Aroostook, the base ship for the Curtiss NC’s transatlantic flight, for the return journey to the United States. The Aroostook arriving in New York Harbour on 2 July 1919.




Modern Day Plymouth




Plymouth as it stands today

The future’s in the past


lymouth’s Devonport naval base is now one of only three operational naval ports left in the UK, alongside Clyde and Portsmouth. Defence cuts through the political shift have seen some of the most costly operating Royal Navy ships and submarines scrapped in defence cuts made to ruduce the countries defecit, and the impact on the city it clear. The once abundant sailor nightlife scene of Union Street is now a far more quiet affair, and the student population have the rule of the city. But the Royal Navy still operate various training excercises around Mountbatten and Mount Edgcumbe, around the Plymouth Sound and beyond the breakwater. Security is tight around the area, although Locals and tourists have long been able to visit the Dockyard during ‘Navy Days’, a two-day event where visitors can tour the facility, go aboard active naval ships and watch various displays of naval prowess. Among the most popular attractions is the nuclearpowered submarine HMS Courageous, used in theFalklands War. At the moment the city

Brittany Ferries


Interesting Trivia: Alex Gourvennec, as chairman of the S.I.C.A. organization, announced in 1972 that a group of farmers were to operate a ferry service linking Brittany and Devon. Since the closure of British Rails’ Southampton - St. Malo route in 1964 the Breton farmers had been forced to transport all their produce to the UK via Le Havre and Cherbourg, incurring considerable haulage charges. Plymouth and Roscoff were chosen as their premier ports, the two towns having a history of trading onions centuries previously. Neither Roscoff or Plymouth had previously operated a ferry service, and as a result considerable investment had to be made on both sides of the channel in preparation of the new service. regular international ferry service provided by Brittany Ferries still operates from Millbay taking cars and foot passengers directly to Roscoff in France and Santander in Spain on the three ferries.

is campagining to keep the type 23 frigate class destroyers, which Portsmouth MP, Penny Mordaunt, has argued should be based in Portsmouth’s naval dockyards Princess Yachts is also a large maritime feature for the city, with general construction and maintainence of multi million pound boats, which are outshoppedand tested around Plymouths coastlines before being sold to the eliete on the market. It was founded in Plymouth in 1965 as Marine Projects Plymouth Ltd, and has become a major employer of the city. You dont have to look far to see the iconic monuments and landmarks which mark the maritime achievements through the ages either. Plymouth barbican has a whole host of commerative plaques marking all the infamous sailings, and paying tribute to the brave new explorers and pioneers of early colonization. The mayflower steps situated by the marine aquarium tell the story of what it would have been like to stand and watch the pilgrims as they set off on their voyage into the unknown.

The city museum hosts a great collection of ship modles, artifacts and records dating back to the sailings of Drake, Cook, Darwin and the city is very proud of its heritage, and being the place where so many iconic voyages have set sail.



“Yesterday is history,

tomorrow is a mystery, today

is a gift of God, which is why

we call it the present.”




“The past, the present and the future of one of Englands most historic maritime ports”

Port Of Plymouth: The Maritime Collection  

The Maritime Collection is a unique edition of collectable guidebooks, which tell the detailed historic past of some of the most famous port...

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