A brief History of Yelverton

Yelverton, (once known as Elfordtown) lies some eight miles out from Plymouth and developed from the 1880’s when two rows of elegant houses were built on either side of the green, facing each other. On one side was Greenbank Terrace and on the other, The Villas. The latter stretched down almost to the Rock Inn. This Inn, then known as the Rock Hotel, dates from Elizabethan times when it was probably a farm. During the 1850’s it became a Hotel and it was well patronised as such right up until the 1960’s, when the Hotel side was converted to flats. From about 1820, the Inn’s stables were used by horses working on the nearby Dartmoor Tramway, taking stone from Princetown quarries to build the Breakwater in Plymouth Sound. The tramway was eventually superseded by the railway and fell into disuse although parts of it are still visible in one or two places around Yelverton. Stone from Swell Tor Quarry on Dartmoor was used to rebuild London Bridge in the 1890’s, work undertaken by John Pethick, who lived in Yelverton for many years. Swell Tor Quarry closed in the 1930’s but several unused quoins, quarried for the bridge, lie discarded at the former quarry entrance.

Around the turn of the century, further building work took place in Yelverton as it became a popular place for Plymouth businessmen to settle. There was of course a railway station at Yelverton run by the GWR and the station yard was a busy place morning and evening with these businessmen going to and from Plymouth. The railway also brought visitors to Yelverton, to admire the scenery and enjoy its clean and healthy fresh air. As well as the railways, Coach companies were running excursions out onto the moors as early as the 1880’s.

By the late 1930’s, Yelverton stretched from the Rock Hotel at the Princetown end to Leg of Mutton at the Tavistock end, with the main Tavistock to Plymouth road running through Leg of Mutton. This area also had the Yelverton Hotel in it (now called the Leg o’ Mutton Inn).

The coming of the airfield brought great changes to Yelverton. A number of houses were demolished and the main road was diverted onto its present route, effectively splitting the Village in two, with the old road forming part of a runway. The Villas, by now known as Moorland Terrace, had mostly been turned into shops, with the shop fronts we see today having been built out over the front gardens of the old houses. Unfortunately, they were in the flight path of planes taking off from the airfield and so all the upper floors were removed. Yelverton Church was also hit by a plane and was subsequently fitted with a red light.

After the war, more changes took place around Yelverton. More building work took place behind the Rock Hotel and its vegetable garden became the site of the Health Centre! The airfield too, closed, its buildings demolished and runways torn up. Many of the grand houses in Greenbank Terrace and other parts of Yelverton, have become nursing or residential homes, as the cost of their upkeep became prohibitive.

Probably the most famous part of Yelverton is its ‘rock’ on which countless thousands of children have played over the years, wearing it smooth in the process. Perched on Roborough Down, the Rock, unlike the Tors of Dartmoor, is not a lump of granite, but a mound of magnesium limestone which in its molten state, must have pushed its way up through layers of rock in some distant past. It is actually called (officially) Udal Torre.