The Plan for Plymouth

as seen through images from the feature film "The Way We live"

another "content over style" web page from Steve Johnson Cyberheritage

Professor Sir Patrick Abercrombie and J. Paton-Watson: Creators of a bold town planning innovation that would see Plymouth rise out of the bomb site rubble and well into the 21st. century. As seen in this film, "The Plan" saw communities as all having the "necessities"...swimming pool, clinic, church, community centre, schools, houses, cinema and "wot! pub!?" ( thanks Chad ) Shopping, industrial,residential, and business, would all have their own defined space within the new Plymouth, while at the same time preserving old heritage parts such as the Barbican.(Prof. Abercrombie walks along Barbican) and the soon to be restored St. Andrews church, sitting among all the new buildings.( bottom left)

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and also a look at post Blitz Plymouth as it bravely rises from the ashes up "Out of the Rubble"

An inquiring visitor comes to Plymouth.......we are watching the 1940`s feature film "The Way We Live."*

our "visitor" admires the view of Plymouth Hoe which at this time was also used as a vegetable plot

As the train enters the outskirts of Plymouth the view out of the window shows a bombed church - St. Augustine in Alexandra Road. Leaving the train our visitor crosses the footbridge and sees a train in the platform. It is raining heavy as he leaves Plymouth North Road Station in the company of an American sailor he has met on his journey. Getting a taxi he is driven through wet, windy and bombed Plymouth. A woman crosses a bombsite "high heels in the rubble" clutching an umbrella. You can see surface air raid shelters in the background. On another bomb site a wooden sign tells us that "Bowdens" - a shop has been relocated due to "enemy action." He sees a battered Guildhall - close to the bombed St. Andrews church, complete with palm trees.

We go on to see more bomb sites, some desolate, others up for sale, while others tell us that the shop that was now somewhere else.

He then visits Efford,.... Channel Avenue...he goes to the Efford Community Centre to meet the housewives of the area and get their view on what they hope "The Plan" may bring them.

The film follows the local family, the Copperwheats as they live their lives in war ravaged Plymouth and gain hope and expectancy of better times to come; all down to "The Plan."

Alice Copperwheat goes "Dancing on the Hoe."

Dancing was a popular relief and morale booster during the darkest days of the Blitz.

In the space of a few nights and long dawns, the centre of Plymouth was erased.... Destruction was immense .

The townspeople pulled and rallied together, even when they had to queue for emergency help and temporary accommodation...billets...when they were bombed out of their own homes. Their spirit was never broken, even though all they had left of their homes, was what they carried with them.

She meets a Yank and her girl friend Dorothy meets an English sailor. All on the Hoe. Alice then introduces them to her mum and dad as they walk and talk and enjoy the beauty of the Hoe, and sit in a sun shelter ..(note graffiti for voting for labour in the forthcoming election)[ as seen now- still with graffiti] and discuss the good times ..[ as seen today] to come. Alice waited for her Yank by Smeatons Tower [ as seen today], a former and restored lighthouse that once stood out to sea on the Eddystone Rocks. The two sailors appeared a little shy as they came over to meet the Copperwheats and stroll along with the Citadel and the "old" Aquarium in the background. They have many youthful aspirations - will "The Plan" live up to all these expectations. The film looks at Sir Francis Drake, the Spanish Armada and THAT game of bowls - that actually was nearer Vauxhall Street along Sutton Pool than the Hoe! Our Yank visits the Mayflower Steps on the Barbican - where the Pilgrim Fathers left for America in 1620.

Our visitor accompanies Alice and the English sailor friend of Dorothy to the museum [ as seen today - see the "H" for water fire`s still there, but the sign is missing, you can see where its been] to see a model of how it will all look....and as it`s turned out, it wasn't too far wrong. It seems that in many ways Alice could not give long as she can have her own bedroom and jitterbug. oh..and get out of that "pre-fab" that her Father says is too small. They discussed "The Plan" in the street outside [as seen today] past the bus stop [ as seen today, still a bus stop!] and on the steps to the museum [as seen today]as they entered the museum. [ as seen today- Plymouth has streets of marble; or to be exact, limestone pavements]

Alice`s younger sister wonders if they will still be able to play in the air raid shelters and on the bomb sites! Slowly all the rubble is cleared up by P.O.W.`s...I think these are Italian.

The film shows us many wonderful artists impressions of future Plymouth. Part of the film is a "film within a film"...we see an audience watching a film about "The Plan" and we watch with them. We see a new Civic Centre, public spaces with sculptures and fountains, towering towers, an open air theatre,........."Futureopilis?!"

This impression is of a new cafe on the Barbican....the view is from outside the Ship Inn. looking up along the harbour wall with the old Customs House on the right........future view.........1940`s view......note brick built surface air raid shelters

Once in full swing, "The Plan" would bring famous Plymouth shops back into the centre. In the Blitz many were bombed out and had to take up temporary residence split over several locations in old and large (and un-bombed) houses....such as Dingles and Pophams.

Our visitor enjoys the Hoe and is struck by the beauty of our area and the open space of our Hoe.

A major thrust of "The Plan" was a better road system. In the UK in World War II, there were more deaths on the road....due in a large part to the rigours of the "Black - Out" than in all the air raids put together. this was demonstrated by film animations. It was seen that new,.. fast ....uncluttered roads were needed. ones that took traffic away from centres of population, rather than through them.

Agriculture...shown here by cow icons!.....was to be kept away from industry and population.

Plymouth`s industrial structure was broken down and analysed for it`s present and future needs.

At one time there was the idea of letting Plymouth grow to take in part of south east Cornwall...needless to say this part of "The Plan" did not see the light of day for very long! Here we see Prof. Abercrombie pointing at the screen.

Buses and futuristic bus stops were part of the strategy, not forgetting new and well designed petrol stations.....they didn't miss much!

This is the way things could perhaps look.....Union St. 1940`s,....future;. (see St. Andrews church and Guildhall in centre distance of each view)....a view to St. Andrews 1940`s....future. It would be goodbye to the overcrowding and squalor of past times. Small and narrow and dingy streets, children having nowhere to play except the street.

Before "The Plan" was put into action, there was much debate at both local and national,...Westminster level. Here is Plymouth`s Mayor. Lady Nancy Astor and Lord Waldorf Astor were strong supporters of "The Plan." She was formerly Lady Mayoress of Plymouth and the first woman member of Parliament to take her seat in the House of Commons representing Plymouth.

Before too long it was election time and the wartime government of Winston Churchill was defeated by Labour. Here we see Michael Foot (Labour) at a political meeting. This poster urges you to vote for him. This hoarding asks the same, as well as appealing for houses to rent...for the city`s bombed out families.

This voting slip has two names on it, Foot and Hor - Belisha; the latter was the force behind the first "zebra "pedestrian crossing that gave pedestrians the right of way across public roads.[as seen today]   The first such crossing in the world is not far from where I live, and it`s still the top of Albert Road at Stoke, Plymouth.

Around this time with the tide of the war turning to the Allies favour, and air raids virtually ceasing, there were still shortages of food and shoppers were well used to queues. Would rationing ever stop?

Plymouth views

an aerial view of Peverell Park Road: with the old reservoirs clearly visible

an aerial view of Lipson

an aerial view of St. Judes

Saltash seen from the river

Virginia House: not much changed today

Plymouths temporary home of it`s famous name shops

the Prudential building in central Plymouth

an unknown residential street

hoardings along St. Levans Road....looking across to Bartholomew Terrace

gasworks near Cattedown

a view of the same ? gasworks, this time from the Prince Rock area

the railway line at Laira

a view from Wolesley Road across to St. Levans road with the bombed Fullerton Road behind it[as seen toady]


The film ends in a triumphant march of Plymouth youth. All carry banners, each beautifully painted to demonstrate visually their theme...I wonder what happened to these? Some of you may recall the "Barrage Balloon hanger" cafe on the Hoe until the mid 1980`s. On it`s walls were superb and highly stylised frescos of Plymouth`s story. the style was very similar to the imagery on these banners....hhmm...I wonder if it was the same artist. Either way, all have gone, leaving no trace.

"make homes as efficiently as guns" this the Dockyard wall down hear Mutton Cove?

the march passes a bombsite with the blitzed Johnson Terrace (now Drake) school and the main rail line to Penzance in the background [as seen today]

the marchers pass close by of the remains of Charles Church

"we want the plan"....."university status" (took almost 50 years to get that one!)...."theatre"

"holiday homes"...."club rooms" (and we do not mean dance music clubs!..we mean youth clubs and hobby clubs)..."youth wants......."

passing the area now known as Drake Circus...all this has gone

"we want the plan"...."save mother, soothe father"........."bigger homes"....."sports grounds"

"theatre"..."sports grounds"

"bigger houses"

"less monotony please"....looking down Melville Road, the shop at the bottom of Ford Hill is visible in the centre left. The old "bug house" Ford Palladium cinema (now a builders merchant) is central, and in the top left are the allotment slopes of "The Blockhouse" [as seen today]

"premises not promises"

"safety first - 4 children killed every day on the roads"...looks like they are passing under the rail bridge over Stuart Road near Penny-come-quick

"youth wants...." "theatre"..."club rooms"......I think this could be around the area of the Herbert Pub at Keyham

"? band..?" the marchers are outside the Old Custom House (on right) on the Barbican

"pools for schools" "bigger houses" we see them along New Street, in front of the Elizabethan House(as now called) on right and we see Island House in the background

* all images etc.due acknowledgements Rank Films/BFI

unrelated, but of interest material: two press articles by Louis Azrael of the Baltimore ? newspaper about the Plymouth Blitz......1..........2.....

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