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.

By making the survey data 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. This all takes time as there are over 600 stones surveyed! The entire database will soon be available online and in time we 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. We are also adding further information sheets about some of the different types and categories.

Resources

The Central Library 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 1950s by PE Mills - now lodged with the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office (PWDRO). The PWDRO also hold maps and other archives, including parish and Council records. You can search their collections online, requesting documents and visiting 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