The Royal Navy’s base at Plymouth, where the Rivers Tamar, Tavy, Lynher and Plym enter the English Channel, was established in the late 17th century, and re-named Devonport in 1823. The museum has evolved through several stages since the Second World War as the dockyard has contracted. Its headquarters is now the 3-storey pay office building of 1775, where several of the interior strong room doors remain. Displays illustrate the history of the dockyard, with boats, tools, figureheads, uniforms and sailors’ kit, and there is a large collection of ship models, principally of the 20th century.
Tours of the dockyard take visitors to 15 storehouses, ship-building slips and others structures of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Royal Navy also organises tours of the working dockyard, by advanced notice for those with appropriate identification.
In another part of Plymouth, the Royal William Victualling Yard, designed by Sir John Rennie (1794-1874) and built between 1824 and 1835, provided the ships of the Royal Navy with food for more than 150 years until its closure in 1992. Most of the surviving buildings are listed Grade I by English heritage. The ships’ biscuit bakery, the brewery, the abattoir and other buildings have been adapted as galleries, apartments and restaurants that can easily be visited. There is access by ferry from the Barbican in central Plymouth.