When they started to build the breakwater, it was a huge thing to do, they had not do this in the UK before.
The papers called it “the great national undertaking” its progress was regularly reported in the Times newspaper.
There were tourist trips whilst they were building it, when it was finished there were trips on the breakwater. People would dress up and have a picnic on it, we tried to re-enact this but, it was to difficult
They used the rail tracks to give rides to people so they did not have to walk from one end to the other
The young queen Victoria visited the breakwater when she was just a Princess
There were models of the breakwater people could buy
At the eastern end of the breakwater was built a “survival ball”. This was supposed to be for shipwrecked sailors to get into so they would not be knocked of the breakwater during the storm, but it became a tourist attraction and games of how many can you fit in it started.
The light house at the other end was designed by Mr Walker and Mr Burgess and built in white granite from Luxulyan in Cornwall. It was started in February 1841 and finished in November 1842. Its is 78ft high
It was first lit on June 1844. There was supposed to be a matching lighthouse at the other end of the breakwater, but they put the ball there instead. The beacon is a globe on a 17ft oak pole on a 25ft high granite plinth. This was built in 1845.
In 1800’s they had a bus on rails pulled by two horses, and ran trips up the breakwater and around the lighthouse and beacon for a day.
There was a bell put in the lighthouse in 1880 and was supposed to go ti the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, Canada. But the sound it made was wrong sound so it went to Plymouth instead, as it was only supposed be fog horn bell.
The bell has the words ‘Fabrique de la paroisse de Ville Marie Montreal’ because it was supposed to go to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Canada.
The breakwater now is a manmade reef and gets a lot of people diving around it as it has lots of life growing on it and swimming around it. Also if it is windy, people can diving just inside the breakwater, so at least you can dive when the weathers bad.
There are a number sites on the breakwater, there is a trawler HMT Abelard, Hopper Barge No. 42, pilot cutter Tavy, wooden four-masted barquentine Yvonne. As well as the breakwater itself
Rays, Pollock, dogfish, moray ells, lobsters, crabs are all at the breakwater.
A you tube video of people diving at the breakwater fort https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUV7aS5Y1Nw
If it was not for the breakwater Plymouth would be unprotected from southerly and south westerly gales, ships would be driven across the Sound to smash onto the shore. The loss of life would be appalling and hardly a winter would go by without the Sound becoming littered with the battered timbers of yet another wreck. In 1804, on one day alone, ten ships were wrecked in Deadman’s Bay and the regularity of such occurrences began to arouse public feeling. Although the people of Plymouth were not adverse to their ‘Godsend’s they politely termed their wrecking activities, enough was plainly enough. Also since a large number of the wrecked ships belonged to the Admiralty, they were becoming increasingly embarrassed, as well as feeling financially squeezed. Obviously something would have to be done. The breakwater was built, this gave a huge sheltered area and in the 1900’s people started own their own boats to play in.
Marinas and other Leisure activities started to come to Plymouth, using the breakwater shelter to offer different types of activity.
The navy controls the port, but over 20 sailing clubs their base in Plymouth sound, there are 8 major marinas in the sound. The breakwater allows sheltered sailing and safe storage of boats. We talked to the manager of one of the marinas, in his view there would be less than half the marinas and because there would be less safe storage Plymouth would not get iconic events like the Americas cup World Series and the Fastnet Race visit the port. These events alone he says bring in several millions of pounds into Plymouth.
There is the national fireworks championship each year in Plymouth, bringing visitors from all over the south west, again could not happen without the breakwater
We spoke to local fishermen, although they said fishing is decreasing, having the safe haven of the breakwater allows them to fish more, if it wasn’t there they said they would go to other ports like Fowey, or Dartmouth.