No 4 Dock, including bollards and capstans


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
South Yard, Devonport, Plymouth, PL1 4PD


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Statutory Address:
South Yard, Devonport, Plymouth, PL1 4PD

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


One of four dry docks, built between 1796-7.

Reasons for Designation

No 4 Dock, including associated bollards and capstans, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: the late-C18 dock is the least altered of this group and illustrates well the earlier form of this group of docks;

* Architectural interest: an impressive stone dock utilising high-quality materials;

* Historic association: the dock is an integral part of the operation of Devonport Dockyard, the only one of the six royal dockyards established in the country to still be classified as such;

* Group value: along with the other adjacent listed docks (all Grade II*) it forms one of the best surviving groups of C18 and C19 docks, other than those at Portsmouth. It also has strong group value with other nearby listed buildings including the Main Dock Pumphouse (S87 and 89) (Grade II).


In the mid-C17 a royal dockyard was proposed for Plymouth, due to the recognised strategic military importance of the city. In 1689 Edward Dummer, Assistant Surveyor of the Navy, identified a suitable location to the west of Plymouth, adjacent to the settlement at Stonehouse. No 1 Dock was built between 1690-5, designed by Dummer who had by this time been made Surveyor for the Navy. It comprised an outer basin, acting as a wet dock, and an inner dry dock. Dummer’s design was innovative as it was unusually built in brick and stone (traditionally, docks had been built in timber), and consisted of stepped altars incorporating slides to allow the movement of material from the dockside. When built it was one of the earliest stepped stone docks in the world. Between 1720 and 1730 No 2 Dock was added to the north. It was extended in the 1740s to become a double dock. In 1758 construction began on No 3. No 2 was altered and deepened between 1771-3. The construction of No 4 Dock was completed between 1796-7. All four docks remained largely unaltered until the early C19. By this time major advancements in ship building led to the requirement to service much larger vessels. In the 1840s No 1 was rebuilt on an alignment to the south of the original dock, and the basin was reshaped and enlarged. No 2 Dock, still a double dock, was also enlarged and No 3 was covered. By 1898 No 2 Dock had been amalgamated into one dock and No 3 had been uncovered and enlarged.

No 4 was first listed in 1999 together with No 1 Basin and Nos 1-4 Docks. These docks are now (2015) listed individually.


One of four dry docks, built between 1796-7.

MATERIALS: granite and limestone ashlar.

PLAN: is aligned on a north-east to south-west axis, the dock mouth faces west towards the Hamoaze estuary.

DESCRIPTION: the dock is composed of altars stepped down towards the centre. Slides and steps are located around the sides for the movement of materials. The dock walls are rounded at the dock heads and there are pedestrian steps down to the lower dock levels. The dock walls are inscribed at intervals with Roman numerals marking the height of the water. In 1999 the dock was described as retaining its iron gates; however, now (2015) there is no evidence that these still survive.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: cast-iron bollards line all four docks. Most are late-C19 and are inscribed with the letters VR; some bear the date 1897. There are also upturned muzzle loading canons which have been reused as bollards. There are hydraulic capstans either side of the position of the dock gates to No 4 dock that are also dated 1897.

There are a number of features within the footprint of the dock that are not of special interest due to their late date, plain design and level of intactness. The metal barriers composed of reused railway tracks, chain link fence, life ring stands, and metal security fencing attached to the docks do not add to the special interest. Nor do the fragments of the early-C20 dock rail track.*

*Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the metal reused-railway-track barriers, modern chain link fences, life rings stands, metal security fencing, metal security fencing and the fragments of the early-C20 dock rail track are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Books and journals
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996)
URS, October 2014, HMNB Devonport, South Yard, Areas 1& 5 Heritage Baseline Assessment


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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