Radford Walk and Talk – Part II

March 28, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

With thanks to Kevin Warley for his Radford ‘Walk and Talk’ of the 5th December 2009.

The following notes are provided for the purpose of interest only, as recalled by a member of the group attending the walk. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Radford House:
The group walked over to the main site of where Radford House once stood (across the road from Radford Dip) near the Beckley Centre. A plaque is all that remains to mark where the house once stood. The house is mentioned in many documents preceding the Doomsday book.

Plymouth Library holds the original sale catalogue with excellent photos.

Radford House had 30 bedrooms, including servant’s quarters. At one time they had 7 gardens, foresters, boat keepers, gardeners and housekeeping staff.

Originating from the medieval period the house is first believed to have taken prominence in the Tudor period when it is believed to have been one of the richest houses in England. The house is then believed to have first been remodelled around 1650 and then remodelled in the Georgian period to what it looked like up to the time of its sale and demolition in 1937. It had a lot of formal gardens and there is a copy of the original sale brochure held in the City Library at Drakes Circus, which is well worth having a look at.

The Radford Estate was a small enclave sandwiched between the estates of the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Morley (Saltram House). Once over 600 acres stretching to Goosewell and Staddiscombe and Radford Estate.

The house gets its name from the Ford that used to be at the bottom of the dip – the house became known as Redford due to the colour of the soil colouring the water red (becoming Radford).

The ornamental park is the last remaining part of the North Park of (what was) Radford House. Its main claim to fame being the duck ponds where the (Harris) family came for rest and recuperation on their way to the Boat House, to make their way into Plymouth. As you can imagine there were no safe roads into Plymouth in those days. No Laira Bridge. To go to Plymouth you had to cross by water or go all the way up to Plympton, which was the main route into Plymouth.

The Harris family were bankers and during the Elizabethan period to the famous seafarers including Drake, Raleigh and Hawkins. When the seafarers returned from their travels the money and riches were deposited at Radford House before being divided up between Queen Elizabeth, themselves and the ‘hangers on’.

The big celebratory dinner, following the defeat of the Spanish Armada was also held at Radford House although Queen Elizabeth never came to Devon.

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned here before he was taken to the Tower of London and eventually beheaded for Treson after returning from South America with no (promised gold or treasure) King James 1st who had financed his trip. Sir Walter believed he would have a fair trial and even after escaping from Radford House and (allegedly) hiding in the Radford caves he gave himself up, negating the opportunity to escape upon a ship waiting for him in the Cattewater but the King accused him of defrauding him, he was beheaded and it is believed that Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife carried his head around in a bag with her until the end of her life.

There could / should have been a mill in the area – there is a water colour that originates from the 1700s. It was an overhead wheel / leat. Every estate would have their own mill.

The Retreat at Hooe was the dower house.

On the far side of the duck ponds is the lime Kiln used to burn limestone for stabilising soil, making pit lime which when added with water is used for whitewashing walls as is common in the Tamar Valley. There is a good example of a complete lime kiln at the Barton Road entrance to Hooe quarry.

In 1850 (end of Georgian period) they built / extended the boathouse and armoury which coincided with them remodelling the house in the Georgian period. Rather than throw stone away, used it to build and expand these buildings which were lived in. Whilst the buildings were built in the 1850s / Georgian period the materials probably date from the medieval period. There are also believed to have been 17th c extensions to the buildings.

The Boathouse – the Harris family would have had a team of rowers and a selection of boats to be rowed to / from Plymouth and anywhere else. During the 16 / 17th century you would not go out unless you knew you could get back as it was so treacherous around here. There were many documented murders and robberies all around the area.

The Armoury and a millstone was on side with axle through with horse / donkey or human labour. There was a proper quayside – it was the main gateway to the house, so kept in very good condition.

The Georgian period remodelling is when stone was taken from the Tudor house and used in this area around the Armoury and boathouse (from at least the 1850s). The fireplace which can still be seen will have been brought to the armoury during the Georgian period remodelling of the main house. It is simply too grand to have been originally installed for the use of servants.

These buildings were not follies – people were living in Radford Castle until the 1950s.

The sale of the house and majority of the park was bought by William Mitchell, who was cash rich at the time having just sold Pomphlett Mill to the Plymouth Co-operative Society. He then subdivided the land, selling little plots around Plymstock, Radford Park Road being one of the plots that was divided off. If you look at your deeds you will have either the Duke of Bedford or William Mitchell. William Mitchell died in 1930 addressing Devon County Council, leaving most of his money to various charities. A lot of his money went to the local Methodist church. His wife succeeded him until about 1945 where they are both buried at Plymstock Church grave yard.

Grandson retains a lot of family artefacts relating to the Harris estate. William Mitchell married late in life and when he died his son was not of age. Therefore the estate was run by trustees who were in disagreement and could not decide what to do. In this time the house fell to ruin and when it was demolished in 1937 it was completely inhabitable. Mr Treggs the demolition builder was not paid to demolish the site but made their money from selling off the materials. They made such a good job of clearing the site they were congratulated. If you are lucky you may find the odd red brick.

In 1960’s the railings and formal park still existed. The main entrance to the house – Radford Lake came further up (toward Radford Dip). It is understood that it was not considered a good place to build and the house suffered a lot of damp. Mystery why the house was there in the first place. Advantage was water transport and Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh came to the house by boat.

If you wish to look up the history there are books by Brian Steel and Ivy Langdon (Plymstock Connection) in the Library.

Gordon Mitchell (son of William) had considered linking up all of the tenanted farms to maintain shooting rights but in the 1950’s he decided to emigrate to South Africa instead. A lot of the plots were then sold off and the rural land handed over to the district council. Wimpey built on a lot of the land.

One of Richest Tudor houses in England and certainly the most important house in Plymouth, it is a tragedy that it has been lost. To see an idea of how it would have looked visit Chaddlewood House which has now been converted into flats and is a smaller scale than what Radford would have been but is a similar style.

The Beckley Centre was originally known as Pond Farm. (c1960/70s) Remember seeing the cows being brought here to be milked and then turned out into the park. The park was tenanted by the council. Think it was a Mr Philips who was the tenanted farmer. During war an air raid killed the majority of the cows.

The land around the historic site as now been sold as ‘amenity’ land.

The Harris family
In 1774 believe it to be John Harris who was killed here – it is believed that although the stone appears to be I H, it is probably J H as in those days they did not have a U or a J, using a V or an I. He was thrown by his horse up on Murder Hill. The stone is not believed to have been in this wall (near Beckley centre)originally. Possibly when the house was remodelled by the Georgians, this stone was relocated to its current location.

The Harris family had so much influence they owned half of Plymstock Church – see the Lady Chapel, Baroque Carving, only a very influential family would have gotten away with this statue in the church.

The legend of The Ghost of the White Lady – from around the Duck Pond area. The white lady has been seen on numerous occasions fleeting past. One of the girls of the family had a liaison with a man from a local village. Her family heard about it and prohibited it or she was getting worried about it and tried to call it off. Due to the only transport being rowing boats, he rowed up to pick her up and on the way back they had an accident and both drown. She is alleged to wander around at night looking for her long lost lover.

Even though the speaker’s father walked through Radford Park for 20 years at 0400 in the morning he never saw anything. However, recently a photo has appeared on a paranormal website that shows a ghostly figure in the boat house, taken during day light. Very little local interest in the photo though. The photographer had been taking photos of wildlife and in the background this image appears to be looking out of the window.

The Lodge House
In 1973 Plymouth City Council applied for listed building consent to demolish the Lodge (at the entrance to Radford Park) to sell the land for housing. There was a huge public outcry and after a long battle the Council were refused permission.

The lodge house – the gates have been there since living memory and the carriageway has not changed much (from the 19th century photo) – 3 bottle stopper architecture is very famous and of high importance and significant interest to English heritage.

Now privately owned – problems getting planning consent to put windows in which were originally refused. Owner saved from demolition and yet he has been plagued with difficulties as it is a listed building.

The Arboretum
Was started 1974 coinciding with the worst drought in British history.

The Council have title to the park. Radford Park is protected from any development.

The land has only ever been pasture manure by grazing cattle up to the 1970s. Great outcrop of limestone with little soil. Difficult to plant trees. No rabbits as there is no place to burrow.

Sir francis drake always wanted oak trees planted to build ships. See all of the oaks trees around the lakes. This tradition has been maintained with the Arboretum continuing in the spirit of the Tudor period by planting oaks.

The beech tree next to the lodge house is the only tree with a preservation order due to its significance in terms of species and the type of insect life living there. It is over 100 years old and the finest example in SW.

There is a Millenium Oak, a sapling from a tree in Birmingham which is believed to be over 1,000 years old therefore stock is two thousand years old.

Other info
Langdon Court was a neighbour to Radford Park. ‘The Kings General’ by Daphne DuMaurier mentions Radford House and the local area and is well worth a read.

The Radford Estate was well watered with plenty of springs to supply ornamental fountains.

Oreston has never been short of fresh water. Ships always knew they could call to Oreston for fresh water at any time regardless of weather.

Underneath the Radford area is limestone full of caves / fissures – absolutely fascinating – locked and barred now due to a couple of accidents. They have sumps and very long cliff faces created naturally from the water flowing over the limestone.

There have been limestone quarries at Radford / Hexton / Breakwater & Saltram.

From the Civil War, Radford House was the Headquarters for the Parliamentarians as Plymouth was besieged by Cromwell and it never gave in. So Charles 2nd sent nephew Print Rupert and on Dec 3 there was the battle of Freedom Fields. By defeating the invaders the siege (of Plymouth) only ended at the end of the civil war. Gun batteries at Oreston and Hooe were build to try and subdue Plymouth

At the end of the civil war huge reparation had to be paid by the people of Plymouth to the King. Go to the tower of London and you will see the largest item in the Crown Jewels – biggest item by far is a wine cooler made of solid gold worth more than anything else there and was paid in reparation by the people of Plymouth to Charles 2nd. Plymouth in poverty for centuries because whenever they made money the king would demand it.

The Citadel was built to subdue Plymouth. There are as many guns pointing toward Plymouth as there are defending it designed to stop Plymouth revolting against the royals again.

When the house was remodelled it was filled with the most magnificent wood panelling in any country house in Cornwall or Devon. The panelling disappeared even before the house was demolished and is reported to have turned up in many different places. The stair case is said to have gone to Burgh Island.

There is an ancient footpath leading to Hooe which is older than the SW coastal path. Caves used to be used up to 20 years ago but can now only be accessed via the Plymouth Cave Association.

In an early edition of National Geographic Magazine there are said to be pictures of the caves. It is easy to get stuck down there, crawling through tunnels on your belly. It was called Raleigh cave as it is where it is said he may have hid.

Millions of pounds (even in those days) in gold bars and treasure came up to Radford House (booty taken from the Spanish etc).

During the Civil War, there was panic about houses being invaded and therefore valuable were buried. A silver plate found in a field in Yealmpton and even a small piece of the plate was worth £1.5 million as it was solid silver.

Gold coins found when Birch Pond Road was being built. The Plymouth museum hold the collection, referred to as the Plymstock hoarde which includes Roman coins.

In memory of Mr Frank Martin (16th March 2011)

 

With thanks to Kevin Warley for his Radford Walk and Talk of the 5th December 2009.

The following notes are provided for the purpose of interest only, as recalled by a member of the group attending the walk. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Radford House:

The group walked over to the main site of where Radford House once stood (across the road from Radford Dip) near the Beckley Centre. A plaque is all that remains to mark where the house once stood. The house is mentioned in many documents preceding the Doomsday book.

Plymouth Library holds the original sale catalogue with excellent photos.

Radford House had 30 bedrooms, including servant’s quarters. At one time they had 7 gardens, foresters, boat keepers, gardeners and housekeeping staff.

Originating from the medieval period the house is first believed to have taken prominence in the Tudor period when it is believed to have been one of the richest houses in England. The house is then believed to have first been remodelled around 1650 and then remodelled in the Georgian period to what it looked like up to the time of its sale and demolition in 1937. It had a lot of formal gardens and there is a copy of the original sale brochure held in the City Library at Drakes Circus, which is well worth having a look at.

The Radford Estate was a small enclave sandwiched between the estates of the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Morley (Saltram House). Once over 600 acres stretching to Goosewell and Staddiscombe and Radford Estate.

The house gets its name from the Ford that used to be at the bottom of the dip – the house became known as Redford due to the colour of the soil colouring the water red (becoming Radford).

The ornamental park is the last remaining part of the North Park of (what was) Radford House. Its main claim to fame being the duck ponds where the (Harris) family came for rest and recuperation on their way to the Boat House, to make their way into Plymouth. As you can imagine there were no safe roads into Plymouth in those days. No Laira Bridge. To go to Plymouth you had to cross by water or go all the way up to Plympton, which was the main route into Plymouth.

The Harris family were bankers and during the Elizabethan period to the famous seafarers including Drake, Raleigh and Hawkins. When the seafarers returned from their travels the money and riches were deposited at Radford House before being divided up between Queen Elizabeth, themselves and the ‘hangers on’.

The big celebratory dinner, following the defeat of the Spanish Armada was also held at Radford House although Queen Elizabeth never came to Devon.

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned here before he was taken to the Tower of London and eventually beheaded for Treson after returning from South America with no (promised gold or treasure) King James 1st who had financed his trip. Sir Walter believed he would have a fair trial and even after escaping from Radford House and (allegedly) hiding in the Radford caves he gave himself up, negating the opportunity to escape upon a ship waiting for him in the Cattewater but the King accused him of defrauding him, he was beheaded and it is believed that Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife carried his head around in a bag with her until the end of her life.

There could / should have been a mill in the area – there is a water colour that originates from the 1700s. It was an overhead wheel / leat. Every estate would have their own mill.

The Retreat at Hooe was the dower house.

On the far side of the duck ponds is the lime Kiln used to burn limestone for stabilising soil, making pit lime which when added with water is used for whitewashing walls as is common in the Tamar Valley. There is a good example of a complete lime kiln at the Barton Road entrance to Hooe quarry.

In 1850 (end of Georgian period) they built / extended the boathouse and armoury which coincided with them remodelling the house in the Georgian period. Rather than throw stone away, used it to build and expand these buildings which were lived in. Whilst the buildings were built in the 1850s / Georgian period the materials probably date from the medieval period. There are also believed to have been 17th c extensions to the buildings.

The Boathouse – the Harris family would have had a team of rowers and a selection of boats to be rowed to / from Plymouth and anywhere else. During the 16 / 17th century you would not go out unless you knew you could get back as it was so treacherous around here. There were many documented murders and robberies all around the area.

The Armoury and a millstone was on side with axle through with horse / donkey or human labour. There was a proper quayside – it was the main gateway to the house, so kept in very good condition.

The Georgian period remodelling is when stone was taken from the Tudor house and used in this area around the Armoury and boathouse (from at least the 1850s). The fireplace which can still be seen will have been brought to the armoury during the Georgian period remodelling of the main house. It is simply too grand to have been originally installed for the use of servants.

These buildings were not follies – people were living in Radford Castle until the 1950s.

The sale of the house and majority of the park was bought by William Mitchell, who was cash rich at the time having just sold Pomphlett Mill to the Plymouth Co-operative Society. He then subdivided the land, selling little plots around Plymstock, Radford Park Road being one of the plots that was divided off. If you look at your deeds you will have either the Duke of Bedford or William Mitchell. William Mitchell died in 1930 addressing Devon County Council, leaving most of his money to various charities. A lot of his money went to the local Methodist church. His wife succeeded him until about 1945 where they are both buried at Plymstock Church grave yard.

Grandson retains a lot of family artefacts relating to the Harris estate. William Mitchell married late in life and when he died his son was not of age. Therefore the estate was run by trustees who were in disagreement and could not decide what to do. In this time the house fell to ruin and when it was demolished in 1937 it was completely inhabitable. Mr Treggs the demolition builder was not paid to demolish the site but made their money from selling off the materials. They made such a good job of clearing the site they were congratulated. If you are lucky you may find the odd red brick.

In 1960’s the railings and formal park still existed. The main entrance to the house – Radford Lake came further up (toward Radford Dip). It is understood that it was not considered a good place to build and the house suffered a lot of damp. Mystery why the house was there in the first place. Advantage was water transport and Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh came to the house by boat.

If you wish to look up the history there are books by Brian Steel and Ivy Langdon (Plymstock Connection) in the Library.

Gordon Mitchell (son of William) had considered linking up all of the tenanted farms to maintain shooting rights but in the 1950’s he decided to emigrate to South Africa instead. A lot of the plots were then sold off and the rural land handed over to the district council. Wimpey built on a lot of the land.

One of Richest Tudor houses in England and certainly the most important house in Plymouth, it is a tragedy that it has been lost. To see an idea of how it would have looked visit Chaddlewood House which has now been converted into flats and is a smaller scale than what Radford would have been but is a similar style.

The Beckley Centre was originally known as Pond Farm. (c1960/70s) Remember seeing the cows being brought here to be milked and then turned out into the park. The park was tenanted by the council. Think it was a Mr Philips who was the tenanted farmer. During war an air raid killed the majority of the cows.

The land around the historic site as now been sold as ‘amenity’ land.

The Harris family

In 1774 believe it to be John Harris who was killed here – it is believed that although the stone appears to be I H, it is probably J H as in those days they did not have a U or a J, using a V or an I. He was thrown by his horse up on Murder Hill. The stone is not believed to have been in this wall (near Beckley centre)originally. Possibly when the house was remodelled by the Georgians, this stone was relocated to its current location.

The Harris family had so much influence they owned half of Plymstock Church – see the Lady Chapel, Baroque Carving, only a very influential family would have gotten away with this statue in the church.

The legend of The Ghost of the White Lady – from around the Duck Pond area. The white lady has been seen on numerous occasions fleeting past. One of the girls of the family had a liaison with a man from a local village. Her family heard about it and prohibited it or she was getting worried about it and tried to call it off. Due to the only transport being rowing boats, he rowed up to pick her up and on the way back they had an accident and both drown. She is alleged to wander around at night looking for her long lost lover.

Even though the speaker’s father walked through Radford Park for 20 years at 0400 in the morning he never saw anything. However, recently a photo has appeared on a paranormal website that shows a ghostly figure in the boat house, taken during day light. Very little local interest in the photo though. The photographer had been taking photos of wildlife and in the background this image appears to be looking out of the window.

The Lodge House

In 1973 Plymouth City Council applied for listed building consent to demolish the Lodge (at the entrance to Radford Park) to sell the land for housing. There was a huge public outcry and after a long battle the Council were refused permission.

The lodge house – the gates have been there since living memory and the carriageway has not changed much (from the 19th century photo) – 3 bottle stopper architecture is very famous and of high importance and significant interest to English heritage.

Now privately owned – problems getting planning consent to put windows in which were originally refused. Owner saved from demolition and yet he has been plagued with difficulties as it is a listed building.

The Arboretum

Was started 1974 coinciding with the worst drought in British history.

The Council have title to the park. Radford Park is protected from any development.

The land has only ever been pasture manure by grazing cattle up to the 1970s. Great outcrop of limestone with little soil. Difficult to plant trees. No rabbits as there is no place to burrow.

Sir francis drake always wanted oak trees planted to build ships. See all of the oaks trees around the lakes. This tradition has been maintained with the Arboretum continuing in the spirit of the Tudor period by planting oaks.

The beech tree next to the lodge house is the only tree with a preservation order due to its significance in terms of species and the type of insect life living there. It is over 100 years old and the finest example in SW.

There is a Millenium Oak, a sapling from a tree in Birmingham which is believed to be over 1,000 years old therefore stock is two thousand years old.

Other info

Langdon Court was a neighbour to Radford Park. ‘The Kings General’ by Daphne DuMaurier mentions Radford House and the local area and is well worth a read.

The Radford Estate was well watered with plenty of springs to supply ornamental fountains.

Oreston has never been short of fresh water. Ships always knew they could call to Oreston for fresh water at any time regardless of weather.

Underneath the Radford area is limestone full of caves / fissures – absolutely fascinating – locked and barred now due to a couple of accidents. They have sumps and very long cliff faces created naturally from the water flowing over the limestone.

There have been limestone quarries at Radford / Hexton / Breakwater & Saltram.

From the Civil War, Radford House was the Headquarters for the Parliamentarians as Plymouth was besieged by Cromwell and it never gave in. So Charles 2nd sent nephew Print Rupert and on Dec 3 there was the battle of Freedom Fields. By defeating the invaders the siege (of Plymouth) only ended at the end of the civil war. Gun batteries at Oreston and Hooe were build to try and subdue Plymouth

At the end of the civil war huge reparation had to be paid by the people of Plymouth to the King. Go to the tower of London and you will see the largest item in the Crown Jewels – biggest item by far is a wine cooler made of solid gold worth more than anything else there and was paid in reparation by the people of Plymouth to Charles 2nd. Plymouth in poverty for centuries because whenever they made money the king would demand it.

The Citadel was built to subdue Plymouth. There are as many guns pointing toward Plymouth as there are defending it designed to stop Plymouth revolting against the royals again.

When the house was remodelled it was filled with the most magnificent wood panelling in any country house in Cornwall or Devon. The panelling disappeared even before the house was demolished and is reported to have turned up in many different places. The stair case is said to have gone to Burgh Island.

There is an ancient footpath leading to Hooe which is older than the SW coastal path. Caves used to be used up to 20 years ago but can now only be accessed via the Plymouth Cave Association.

In a 1956 National Geographic Magazine there are pictures of the caves. It is easy to get stuck down there, crawling through tunnels on your belly. It was called Raleigh cave as it is where it is said he may have hid.

Millions of pounds (even in those days) in gold bars and treasure came up to Radford House (booty taken from the Spanish etc).

During the Civil War, there was panic about houses being invaded and therefore valuable were buried. A silver plate found in a field in Yealmpton and even a small piece of the plate was worth £1.5 million as it was solid silver.

Gold coins found when Birch Pond Road was being built. The Plymouth museum hold the collection, referred to as the Plymstock hoarde which includes Roman coins.

In memory of Mr Frank Martin (16th March 2011)

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Category: History, Radford Heritage Group

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  1. Pauline Deschamps says:

    What a fascinating article, I really enjoyed the read. What a tragedy that the house was demolished with all that history. Is it true that Drake and Raleigh moored their ships in Hooe Lake?

  2. joe cartwright says:

    I think the report on the caves gated due to accidents is untrue it was originally explored and gated by local caving club devon speleological society to protect the beautiful and delicate formations in the large chambers

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