Boundary stones

There are estimated to have been over 1,000 stones in the Plymouth area. However, many stones and markers have been lost through redevelopment. Our aim is to provide a record of all the surviving stones. The majority of the surveying took place between November 2012 and the summer of 2014.

If you want to find some boundary stones, why not make a start with our two boundary stone trails.

Plymouth provides a unique assemblage. The historic three towns of Plymouth: Plymouth, Devonport and East Stonehouse were quite separate towns until amalgamation in 1914. Surrounding parishes were steadily absorbed into the growing towns, and neighbouring villages and towns now form part of the modern city.

There has long been a strong military presence, not just by the Royal Navy, but also the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force. Barracks and bases, depots and Dockyards and historic fortifications survive across the city. The military erected their own boundary stones.

Some of the larger private property owners had good reason to mark their boundaries and interests. Yet more markers relate to water supply, demarking the course of leats and water catchment areas. Finally there are the milestones, each one still unique to its location.

 Milestones and waymarkers postcard [PDF, 64KB]

 Military and miscellaneous markers postcard [PDF, 68KB]

 Town and parish boundaries postcard [PDF, 70KB]

Plotting Plymouth's Past project

The Old Plymouth Society (OPS) arranged this new survey of surviving stones and markers, supported by an 'All Our Stories' grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Volunteers did all the hard work. Surveying knowledge and expertise was provided by the The Milestone Society. We helped to promote the project and will continue to make available the results. The OPS would like to thank everyone who has assisted to date.

The formal project ended on 1 November 2014 with the unveiling of a brand new three town amalgamation centenary stone. However, the small team of volunteers continued surveying on into 2017, extending the survey into South East Cornwall to include military stones associated with the Naval Dockyard at Devonport and the defence of Plymouth. In total, over 1900 locations were visited across 120 survey days. Over 900 surviving boundary stones and markers were recorded - a survival rate of around 50%.

By making the survey results available online our aim is to help raise public interest in the city's boundary stones, milestones and markers. New developments and highway works can threaten surviving stones. By raising awareness, we hope to help safeguard and encourage the better care and protection of these interesting, important but all too easily neglected objects.

Find a boundary stone

The surviving stones have been photographed and recorded and entered into our database by volunteers. Over 900 stones and markers have now been recorded and the details are now available online. We soon hope to provide a map-based database too.

A letter prefix identifies the category of stone (for example BSPC = Boundary Stone Plymouth Corporation). The numbering system takes into consideration known stones that no longer exist, so there are gaps in the sequences where stones are known to be missing.

To help you search for a particular stone or marker, we have grouped them all by types. Find out more about each category and explore the database from the links below. Occasionally these contain information sheets about some of the different types and groups of boundary marker.

Resources

The Central Library and Plymouth and West Devon Record Office (PWDRO) holds a good collection of historic maps. Most of the large scale Ordnance Survey maps mark the location of boundary stones. These historic maps can be studied on request. The library also own the Plymouth boundary stone photographs taken in the 1960s by PE Mills - now lodged with PWDRO. PWDRO also hold other archives, including parish and Council records. You can search their collections online, request documents and then visit by arrangement.

 Plotting Plymouth's Past: Further Reading [PDF, 111KB]

How you can help

Email museum@plymouth.gov.uk (head the email 'OPS/PLOTTING PLYMOUTH'S PAST') or visit the Old Plymouth Society website if you:

  • think a stone is missing
  • think a stone is at risk
  • think we've made a mistake on a database entry
  • like to 'adopt' and keep an eye on a stone down your street or area

Thanks

The Old Plymouth Society would like to acknowledge the Heritage Lottery Fund for helping to make this project happen. The The Milestone Society gave valuable support and their Devon representative, Tim Jenkinson, assisted with field survey work. Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives staff helped to deliver some of the outcomes, including web content and the hosting of the online database.

The biggest thank you goes to the small team of project volunteers. However, many others helped us out along the way and some are listed here. If you too contributed - thank you.

  • The Plotting Plymouth's Past team:  Nigel Overton: Curator (City and Maritime Heritage), Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives; Chairperson and Project overseer. Doreen Mole: President of the Old Plymouth Society; Project organiser and representative to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Gloria Dixon: Chairperson and Secretary of the Old Plymouth Society; Project secretary and finance officer. Michael Chown: Old Plymouth Society member; Data input team (since deceased). Richard Spear: Old Plymouth Society member; Data input team. Pat Luxford: Old Plymouth Society member; Data input team. Tim Jenkinson: The Milestone Society's Devon Representative; Field surveyor and advisor. Mark Fenlon: Milestone Society member / Old Plymouth Society member; Field surveyor. Ernie Stanton: Field surveyor. Fiona Booth: Digital Engagement Officer, Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives. Jill Downing: Graphics and Design, Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives.
  • Businesses, organisations and groups: Cattedown Harbour Commissioners; Bull Point Community School; China Fleet Club; Devonport High School for Girls; Empacombe Battery (owners and residents); Hawkins Battery Holiday Park (Kevin, Jan and Amy); Hidden Heritage (Paul Diamond); HM Naval Base (Devonport); Imerys Minerals (UK); Maker Conservation Trust; Mount Edgcumbe Country Park; National Trust (Wembury); Polhawn Fort (John, Steve and co.); Port of Plymouth Canoe Association; Plymouth City Library Services; Plymouth Parks Services; Plymouth and West Devon Record Office; Plymouth University; Plym Valley Railway; Princess Yachts; Royal Marine Barracks (Stonehouse), Royal Navy (HMS Raleigh; Pier Cellars and Thankes Fuel Depot); Shore Store (Prince Rock); St Boniface Catholic College; Whitsand Bay Fort.
  • Individuals: John Anderson; Nigel and Margaret Arscott; Eilish and Howard Barrick; John Baker; Lady Boyd; Terry Calcott; Julie Farringdon; Richard Fisher; Paul Fourniss; Mr and Mrs Giles; Mr and Mrs John Hart and Mr and Mrs James Hart; Tina Hobbs; Ashley Hood; Mr and Mrs P Horswell; David and Jean Imm; Mr and Mrs James; David Jarvis; Phil Jones; John Knapman; John Lee; John Mahony; Tom and Jill Newberry; David Pedlow; Brian Poole; Brian Rayden; Mr Shallagher; Lorna Sherriff; Wendy Singlehurst; Paul Soame; Lee Tomlinson; David Westlake.