Secrets and hidden gems of Central Park steeped in history


Everyone loves stumbling upon treasures we never knew existed, and even in some of Plymouth’s most recognizable and famous places, there are things you learned and never knew.

Central Park is Plymouth’s largest park and was originally established in 1928 as a park dedicated to improving the health of the city’s residents, according to Visit Plymouth.

Formed from a collection of farmhouses and reportedly sold for a low price to the City Council by Lord St Levan in 1923, it was only sold on condition that it remains an open public space.

The city council commissioned landscape architect E. Reuben Mawson to prepare a plan for the park, and his far-sighted report was presented to the Hoe and Parks committee in October 1928.

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It’s beautiful all year round, with wide boulevards running through the meadows and woods of the park – in fall or summer this is the place to go for some fresh air.

And there is a lot to discover in Central Park in Plymouth – from interesting sculptures to hidden faces, each one has a fascinating history.

So, let’s meet some of the original sculptures and hidden history of Central Park.

The green man and the lizard

The green man is carved from an old tree stump

You can walk past Green Man on your dog’s walk or jog and not think too much about his cranky face and wild hair – but he’s pretty hard to miss.

He was hewn from a tree trunk and proudly gazes at the woods near the entrance to the cemetery.

He’s not far from his lizard friend, and they’re both part of a sculpture trail. The lizard is a place to play and is made from wood from the park.

The lizard in Central Park
The lizard in Central Park

But what is the meaning of the Green Man?

According to Historic UK, the name was first used by Lady Raglan in March 1939 in an article she wrote for the journal ‘Folklore’.

It is said that before this, the sculptures and representations were known as “foliate heads” and no one paid them special attention.

She suggested that the green man was “the central figure in the May Day celebrations across northern and central Europe”.

These medieval images are very common in Devon and are frequently found on roof bosses, fonts or mercies in churches.

Carved between the 11th and 16th centuries, in stone or wood, these decorative architectural ornaments appear in various forms and have many different meanings attributed to them.

As the Green Man is also depicted with acorns and hawthorn leaves – symbols of fertility in medieval times – this would seem to reinforce the association with spring.

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The face of Neptune

What is believed to be the face of Neptune in Central Park
What is believed to be the face of Neptune in Central Park

Many may not have spotted this more hidden face in the park, but next time you’re there, it’s worth taking a look at this stone figure.

Not much is known about why or when this face was created here, but it is not far from the soccer golf facilities and is hidden from view.

According to local Plymouth man Dave Does History in mythology, Neptune was one of three brothers. His siblings were Jupiter and Pluto. Neptune was considered “cranky and violent,” which is why he was given the task of watching over the rough and erratic seas.

Britannica explains that Neptune was “originally the god of fresh water” and “he was identified with the Greek Poseidon and thus became a deity of the sea.

“Her female counterpart, Salacia, may have originally been a leaping spring water goddess, later equated with the Greek Amphitrite.”

Dave wrote on his blog: “Of course there is a connection between the city of Plymouth and the sea, and that could explain the appearance of Neptune. But that doesn’t give me the story of who placed it. in the park and the main reason why that was the case. ”

But a knowledgeable history buff who is part of the Plymouth Historical Association suggested it looks like a keystone – a center stone atop an arch, locking it all together.

They said, “The path he’s on is the path of Neptune. I was told that the fields nearby were used to sort the rubble from the houses damaged by the bombs.

“They were known as the spike fields. Maybe this could be a keystone from the rubble?”

As mystery surrounds the age of Neptune, he is an interesting character to have in our park.

Ode to Elm

Ode to Elm in Central Park
Ode to Elm in Central Park

You may have spotted this one near Pounds House and is part of the carving trail that includes the lizard and the green man.

Ode to Elm was created by The Woodland Presents, using Sapporo Autumn Gold elms that were once in the park but fell in a storm.

It was commissioned in 2018 and now stands proudly near Pounds House.

The sculpture celebrates the Sapporo Autumn Gold elms which are resistant to Dutch elm disease and house the butterflies protected in white letters.

According to Butterfly Conservation, the species declined in the 1970s when its food plants were reduced by Dutch elm disease, but it is recovering in a few areas.

The butterfly breeds where elms are present in sheltered hedges, mixed brush, and on the edges of wooded rides. The butterfly can also be found on large isolated elms.

House of books

Central Park in Plymouth, looking towards Pounds House
Central Park in Plymouth, looking towards Pounds House

This magnificent mansion is nestled on the edge of Central Park and has a fascinating rich history behind it.

The city landmark was once an extremely popular meeting place frequented by those who appreciated the finer things in life and enjoyed enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the park in the past.

Banker William Hodge built and lived in the house in the early 19th century, but it has not been used as a home since 1933, although it has had several other uses including a cafe, wedding venue, public library and offices.

The expansive lawns around Pounds House are home to a collection of mature specimen trees.

An unusual ring of pines is reputed to mark the spot where one of the owners of the estate buried his racehorses in the 19th century.

Unfortunately, the mansion was ravaged by bad weather and heavy rains poured water into Pounds House and caused damage.

In 2017, a new action plan was proposed in the hope of returning the villa to its former glory.

And scaffolding has recently been mounted on the Grade II listed pile, marking the resumption of restoration work on the building and gardens, following delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Much of the land around Pounds House is overgrown
Much of the land around Pounds House is overgrown

“We know that Pounds House is a much appreciated civic building that has unfortunately been overlooked,” said Councilor Mark Lowry, member of the finance cabinet.

“Ideally, we wanted to start the restoration work last year, but like many things, the pandemic thwarted those plans.

“We are now impatient to go. With detailed investigative work about to begin to help us really understand the extent of the repairs needed.

“While the work is not quick – and could take up to two years, we are committed to moving this project forward and putting Pound House back into service, restored to its former glory.”

During World War II, it housed the region’s air raid precautionary headquarters, its website says.

Take a look at our photo gallery here.

The cider press

Cider house from the beginning of the 20th century
Cider house from the beginning of the 20th century

This 20th century cider press isn’t far from Pounds House, and may well have had something to do with it.

The plaque next to it reads: “Cider mill from the beginning of the 20th century”, but not much else is known about it.

According to Vigo Presses, cider making experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But it’s interesting that in the 1800s fewer people drank cider and production declined.

There was also a big campaign to see the eradication of alcoholic beverages as a payment, and in 1887 the Trunk Act made this illegal.

But the 20th century has seen more people pick up on the good stuff, and might be why this press is here.

The bench

Bouquet of flowers placed by Pride in Plymouth in Central Park to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Terry Sweet

It’s a terrible but important piece of Central Park history to mention.

The bench is a painful reminder of the murder of Terry Sweet and the savage beating of Bernard ‘Bernie’ Hawken by three rogue teenagers on the evening of November 6, 1995.

The attacks left the city in shock and the gay community – already relatively hidden – increasingly fearful. As details emerged, many struggled to understand how three seemingly ordinary young boys could launch attacks so savage and brutal that local media felt unable to publish details of the assaults.

The collective organization Pride in Plymouth and the city’s first openly gay MP Luke Pollard jointly called for crowdfunding to ensure that Terry Sweet and Bernard Hawken are not only remembered, but celebrated.

And they achieved their goal, so their goal is to introduce a plaque to the restored Central Park bench and planting a mature willow in memory of Terry and Bernard to fund a dedication event when lockdown restrictions on it. will finally allow.

Not much has changed in this 2018 image of Sutton Harbor


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