As one of Britain’s principal naval dockyards, Plymouth was bombed to devastating effect during the Second World War, especially during the five nights of the Plymouth Blitz in 1941. The centres of Plymouth and Devonport were destroyed, but the spectacular Plymouth Barbican area survived, preserving the mediaeval street layouts and many of the Tudor Dwellings. The Barbican is a maze of narrow streets and alley ways, adjacent to Sutton Harbour, the original seaport of this historic area. The Barbican is also the home to many art galleries and is a Mecca for local famous artists. The narrow streets provide a home for an array of unique and individual shops, a veritable Mecca for antique collectors and art lovers alike. The House That Jack Built is a fascinating parade of tiny and unusual shops. The Barbican Centre has over 25 craft shops, design shops, and antique shops.
As a place, the Barbican is full of history, in New Street is 'Elizabethan House', a beautifully restored Captain's dwelling dating from 1548. In the house, you can see the original windows, spiral staircase winding around an old ship's mast. A short stroll further along the street brings you to the entrance of the restored Elizabethan Gardens, with their ornate pond and tranquil atmosphere. Walter Raleigh Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Captain Cook, all strolled through the Barbican before setting off from this historic area for foreign climes. In more modern times, Scott of the Antarctic set off from here on his final expedition to the South Pole.
The Tourist Information Centre can be found here overlooking Sutton Harbour. Some of the Pilgrim Fathers are said to have lodged here, before departing on their epic voyage to the new world. A plaque on the outside of the building lists the names of these courageous pilgrims who left these shores to help found a new nation. Occupying a prominent central location, on the site of the old Plymouth Barbican Fish Market, the Plymouth Barbican Glassworks gives you the chance to see and buy the world-famous Dartington Crystal.
The Barbican is a working Harbour. Boats of all description busy themselves in the adjacent Sutton Harbour, or in the Queen Anne's Battery yacht basin. The Barbican is the departure point for the many boat trips, that take tourists around the Naval Dockyards on the river Tamar, or around the famous Plymouth Sound to secluded coves and beaches. The ferry to Cawsand, across the estuary in Cornwall leaves the Barbican four times a day, taking foot passengers to this picturesque little village.