The Elizabethan House is to be found up a tiny alleyway in the heart of the Barbican, number 32 on New Street. It is in beautiful condition externally, with its exposed timbers and beams, but I was disappointed to find it closed for viewing on the day of my visit.
It was originally the home of a Tudor sea captain and contains authentic furniture of the period. It is reputed to have at least one ghost that haunts the upper floor. The house is open from April 1 to November 1, but is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays. I will make certain to visit the house again during the summer and post a full report.
Behind the house in New Street, along another tiny alley, are the Elizabethan Gardens.
New Street is first mentioned in 1584. The houses were built for wealthy merchants, with pleasant gardens to the rear. Over the centuries, the tradesmen built tiny cottages for their workers over the top of the gardens. In the 19h century, Plymouth was growing quickly; the old town became so overcrowded that it drove the well-heeled out of New Street and into the new villas on the hills above the town. Their old homes rapidly deteriorated into appalling slums.
After World War II, the city was desperately trying to replace all the homes lost in the bombing, but many of the old places in the Barbican area were declared unfit to live in. In 1956, the government introduced a scheme whereby local authorities were to be paid for every slum demolished. Plymouth council promptly proposed to knock down a large area of the Barbican, saving just 32 New St. (The Elizabethan House).
Uproar followed at such a dramatic scheme and the Plymouth Barbican Association was formed and accepted the council’s challenge to buy and restore all the houses of historic value.
Therefore, on New Street, the historic dwellings were restored, the old back tenements ripped away, and the old gardens that had lain beneath them for so long were also restored to resembling their possible original appearance.
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