History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The four garden areas include an old-fashioned rose garden, a knotgarden defined by box hedges, a formal water garden centred around a circular pool, and a lawn garden. An extra bit of historical context is provided by a 17th century doorway from the Hospital of Poor's Portion (a private charity established in the 16th century to instruct poor children in skilled labour), and a tympanum with a very fine carving of a ship under sail.
The area around New Street was inhabited by well-to-do merchants in the 16th century. The houses lining the street had pleasant gardens extending to the rear. As time went by the merchants and tradesmen of New Street built small cottages on their back gardens to house workmen. Plymouth grew so much over time that the merchants of New Street left for more pleaant surroundings on the edge of town, leaving the area around the Barbican to decay into an dreadful slum. After the devastation of World War II, the city council was desparate to build enough new houses all those destroyed in bombing during the war. They decided to destroy the Barbican houses, even those of historical value. The Government's position was given added weigt when the Public Health Officer decalred the New Street buildings unfiot for human habitation.
The national Government even offered a subsidy in exchange for every old house that was destroyed. The city council planned to clear a large area from Lambhay Hill to Southside Street, sparing only one building at 32 New Street. However, the prospect of the historic properties near Plymouth harbour being destroyed raised a public outcry, and the Plymouth Barbican Association was formed. They managed to purchase and restore houses of historical value, but the tenement cottages behind them were removed and the garden area restored as it might have looked over 400 years ago.
Visiting the Elizabethan Gardens
I didn't know what to expect when I ducked through a doorway on New Street and climbed a set of stairs to the gardens. What I found was a delightful space, a real oasis of peace and calm, with shade from the sun and quiet benches for sitting and relaxing. It was especially fascinating to look at the backs of all the historic buildings from the gardens, seeing the side of 16th and 17th century houses that you don't ordinarily get a chance to see.
About Elizabethan Gardens
Address: 34 New Street, The Barbican, Plymouth, Devon, England, PL1 2NA
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: Open 9-5 daily, free access.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Royal Citadel - 0.2 miles (Historic Building)
Merchants House Museum - 0.2 miles (Museum)
Plymouth Minster - 0.3 miles (Historic Church)
Mount Edgecumbe House and Country Park - 2.1 miles (Historic House)
Saltram - 2.6 miles (Historic House)
Wembury Old Mill - 4.1 miles (Historic Building)
Antony House - 4.2 miles (Historic House)
Rame, St Germanus Church - 4.6 miles (Historic Church)
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