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Torpoint

Torpoint developed from the late 18th century as a naval maintenance base and ferry point on the River Tamar. Torpoint sits comfortably on the western side of the tidal Tamar, mainly on sunny south-facing slopes, sheltered from much of the Channel weather by the Rame peninsula. Its location makes access by water relatively straightforward but, by being at the south-eastern corner of the Antony peninsula, with St John’s Lake to the south and the Lynher estuary to the north, the town is quite awkward of access by land. There are two principal roads into the town, the A374 along the old 1760 Liskeard Turnpike and Trevol Road which passes HMS Raleigh. Indeed, Torpoint is one of the more invisible towns in Cornwall; it is a dominant feature of the scene viewed from across the water in Devonport, but only a handful of Cornish houses have a clear view of the town. Fleeting glimpses of Torpoint are gained from Saltash and it can be picked out when crossing the Tamar bridges. Conversely, when entering Torpoint from the west the great river is not very apparent, so that the town appears to be the outskirts of Plymouth. Only when the town centre is reached are glimpses of the river seen through the streets and between buildings.

The Antony peninsula is a low ridge (to 60m high) fringed by a mix of low cliffs, mudflats and shingle, with several small muddy coves. Torpoint lies between two of these, Thanckes Lake to the north and the cove of the former Carbeile tidal mill, off St John’s Lake, to the south-west. There does seem to have been a small tor from which the town was named: Tor House and Rock House are both close to lumpy sedimentary outcrops some of which are still visible, sliced and trimmed before being incorporated into the rear yard walls of Carew Terrace in Barossa Road.

North of Torpoint, on the northern side of the peninsula’s ridge is Antony House, home of the Carew-Poles, with its extensive parkland and Barton farm. This ornamental landscape, begun as early as the 16th century, set a tone of high quality design which the Carew-Poles applied to Torpoint itself. A closer, lesser and later country house at Thanckes (home of the Graves family), on the western edge of the muddy Thanckes Lake, had a smaller ornamental landscape. Although the house is gone, the remains of the park form a buffer between Torpoint and the large Yonderberry naval fuel depot, whose 28 tanks were erected in 1920. This depot, while appearing to be a dominant feature on the map and on aerial photos, is actually very well landscaped by bunds and trees and is barely noticeable from either the town or Wilcove, the riverside village to its north.
 
Farmland to the west of the town has been significantly altered in recent decades through boundary removal, but with its scattered farmsteads is medieval in origin, forming part of Cornwall’s Anciently Enclosed Land. Greater changes have been wrought to the landscape by the establishment of the naval installations at Yonderberry, HMS Raleigh and HMS Fisgard.

Downloads:
The downloads offered below represent the different elements of the CSUS Torpoint Report including the core text, seven illustrative figures and fourteen character area summaries. The majority of the downloads are large files (to maintain some quality of image resolution) and therefore may take time to download.

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CSUS Torpoint Report REPORT text detailing the results of the historic character study for the town of Torpoint. Peter Herring, Historic Environment Service..

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Figure 1 - Location & Topography Map Map showing the location of Torpoint and its immediate topography.

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Figure 2 - Ordnance Survey 2nd Edition 1:2500 Map (c.1907) Map showing the town of Torpoint in c.1907.

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Figure 3 - Historic Development Map Map showing the historic development and expansion of Torpoint.

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Figure 4 - Historic Settlement Topography Map Map showing the historic topography of Torpoint with key areas of historic activity.

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Figures 5 - Surviving Historic Components Maps Map showing the surviving historic buildings of Torpoint. Format type: PDF 1497kb
Figure 6 - Urban Archaeological Potential Map Map showing the areas and sites of archaeological potential in Torpoint.

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Figure 7 - Character Areas Map Map showing the seven character areas identified by the survey of Torpoint.

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Character Area 1- Ferry, foreshore and maritime This complex and extensive area is where settlement activity began at Torpoint in the early 18th century. The area was and is the driver of the historic and modern town and the ferry complex will inevitably be the focus of much future activity. Many structures and features of considerable historical and architectural interest survive and together they ensure that the area retains a strong historic character. The variety of buildings, materials, dates, textures and scales are unified by functional and robust design. The area is dominated by current and historic access to the tidal river. Views across the river to the Dockyard and Plymouth are also very important. Because there have been various forms of activity in this busy area of Torpoint, there is a relatively high likelihood that significant below-ground remains will be encountered during developments.

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Character Area 2 - Eighteenth century planned town Reginald Pole Carew commissioned in 1774 a development plan for Torpoint Field, part of his new inheritance. His plan for a grid-based town whose streets were divided into equal-sized blocks for leasing to developers was closely adhered to, the longer streets taking their line from that of the pre-existing Turnpike road and the shorter ones crossing these perpendicularly. By 1820 all the streets were fully developed with Fore Street the principal commercial street. Close specifications for the three storey buildings had been followed. Other substantial buildings in this town include the 1795 Wesleyan Chapel. The lower ends of Fore and Macey Streets suffered during the 1941 Blitz and little is left to the south-east of Tamar Street. Fore Street is otherwise largely intact though most shop fronts have been replaced. The character of this part of Torpoint depends on the original grid’s survival and the ability to look along its lengths of criss-crossing streets. It is still possible to experience the original scale, type, detailing and character of the built fabric as envisaged at its inception.

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Character Area 3 - Regency and early Victorian planned extension High quality extension of the 18th century planned town into fields to its south-west; took up to eighty years, from the 1790s to the 1880s, but a single conception, a second phase in Torpoint’s town planning. Many streets have names associated the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars. New more rectilinear grid with wider streets, some with street trees. One of the finest examples of Georgian, Regency and early Victorian urban design in Cornwall. Well preserved despite poor design of blocks of post-war flats. Mix of good quality town houses, mainly along St James Road (formerly Nelson Street), and artisan terraces though all are architect designed. All had stucco finishes most of which are retained though few original windows survive.

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Character Area 4 - Late Victorian and Edwardian artisan terraces Extensive good quality later 19th and early 20th century artisan terraced housing. Some terraces still being built in 1914 and there are also inter-war terraces and bungalows maintaining high quality. Accommodated families whose workers made their way to Plymouth to work in dockyards. Includes 1910 school in Albion Road and a scattering of shops (mainly on street corners). Otherwise purely residential. Roads and paving have excellent granite finishes and numerous surviving cast iron telegraph poles are now reused as supports for lights; some retain ornamented finials. Generously wide streets and back lanes, allow ample street parking.

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Character Area 5 - Urban interruption Relatively open until recently. Formed an interruption to the flow of houses down Antony Road and prevented these making a direct physical and visual connection with Fore Street and the historic core of Torpoint. Now dominated by two modern and standardised buildings, Somerfield supermarket and Esso garage. They maintain a sense of interruption. Drive from a lodge to Gravesend House now closed and reused by a private cul-de-sac. The northern edge of Antony Road is broken up by an uncoordinated mix of frontage lines, heights, materials, plantings etc.

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Character Area 6 - Ornamental and recreational Thanckes was ornamented in the 18th century with a small park by Admiral Thomas Graves. Main elements are two avenues running from the original house on either side of large lawn with scattering of standard trees and a wonderful quarry garden. House demolished and replaced in 1871 by another set within one of the former house’s two large walled gardens. In 1911 the replacement house was itself translated stone by stone to Portwrinkle. Gravesend House, a smaller country house on Gravesend Point, was built in the 1750s by another Admiral, Henry Harrison. Had a small circular folly tower in its grounds. Its mature conifers and park trees provide an important ornamental frame for the north side of Torpoint. The grounds of Thanckes were acquired by Torpoint Council in 1952. Managed ever since as a public park.

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