Plymouth Hoe

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Plymouth Hoe, referred to locally as the Hoe, is a large south facing open public space in the English coastal city of Plymouth. The Hoe is adjacent to and above the low limestone cliffs that form the seafront and it commands magnificent views of Plymouth Sound, Drake's Island, and across the Hamoaze to Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word Hoe, a sloping ridge shaped like an inverted foot and heel.



—An audit book of 1514.[1]

Until the early 17th century large outline images of the giants Gog and Magog (or Goemagot and Corineus) had for a long time been cut into the turf of the Hoe exposing the white limestone beneath.[2][3] These figures were periodically re-cut and cleaned.[1] No trace of them remains today, but this likely commemorates the Cornish foundation myth, being the point, Lam Goemagot - the Giant's Leap - from which the Giant was cast into the sea by the hero Corin.[4]

Plymouth Hoe is perhaps best known for the probably apocryphal story that Sir Francis Drake played his famous game of bowls here in 1588 before sailing out with the English fleet to engage with the Spanish Armada.

In the late 1660s, after The Restoration, a large stone fortress known as the Royal Citadel, was built at the eastern end of the Hoe. Its purpose was to protect the port and probably also to intimidate the townsfolk who had leaned towards Parliament during the Civil War.[5]

From 1880 there was a popular bandstand on the Hoe. It was removed for scrap metal during the Second World War and never rebuilt.[6] A three tier belvedere built in 1891 survives;[7] it was built on the site of a camera obscura, probably built in the 1830s, which showed views of the harbour.[8] Below this site was the Bull Ring (now a memorial garden),[7] and a grand pleasure pier, started in 1880, which provided a dance hall, refreshment, promenading and a landing place for boat trips.[9] The pier was destroyed by German bombing in World War II.

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