Royal William Yard from main gate. Royal William Yard from main gate. Royal William Yard from main gate.

The Royal William Victualling Yard, Stonehouse, Plymouth, Devon, England

The ‘Royal William’ was designed by the architect Sir John Rennie and built between 1826 to 1835. Plymouth’s role as one of Britain’s leading naval port cities required it to maintain an up-to-date logistics facility, and as at places such as Portsmouth, efficiency and an almost factory-like system were apparent in the design and functioning of the yard. Its architecture can be regarded as a significant example of early nineteenth century utilitarian building design, within Devon itself and the wider West Country region of England. Built using mainly local granite and Plymouth limestone, and utilising relatively new technological innovations like iron struts in the roof and iron columns as supports, the buildings anticipated elements of the 20th century Modernist vocabulary in terms of functionalist architecture and site planning. Buildings were arranged on strictly rationalist lines over a site covering 14 acres, including 6 acres of ground that was reclaimed from the sea. Efficiency and good order rather than architectural display were the watchwords. It uses a similar style to many of the workhouses and industrial buildings of the time, a stripped-down, generally decoration-free syntax of neo-classicism and solidity. The various elements of the yard are clearly evident from their names such as ’Cooperage’ (where barrels were made and young apprentices would go through the bizarre ‘trussing the cooper’ ceremony on completion of their indentures), ’Bakehouse’ and so on. The site has now been converted into private flats with a Royal Navy museum, art gallery and open spaces for visitors. The north-west developers Urban Splash have turned the formerly empty buildings into a now familiar version of the luxury waterside development whilst retaining the outside facades and altering little internally. Bars and restaurants are situated around the quay.