The history of Drake's Place
Drake's Place in 1910. Credit: Plymouth City Museum

Drake’s Place Gardens and reservoir have a rich history, having been an integral part of Plymouth life for a very long time.

In 1592 Plymouth built a 28km channel running through Drake’s Place, carrying water to the city from Dartmoor. This became known as Drake’s Leat after Sir Francis Drake, who oversaw the construction. Drake’s Leat supplied water to the townspeople through conduit houses around the town. The remains of two of these, the Old Town Conduit and the Higher Mills Conduit, are preserved in the walls of the reservoir.

The reservoir, built in 1825 and extended in 1828, was the main source of water for the town before new reservoirs were built at Hartley and Burrator.

Drake’s Mill stood in the gardens once too, supplying the town with flour. In the 1880s the mills were demolished, replaced by grand new gardens which opened in 1891 as a tribute to Sir Francis Drake. These featured a broad promenade along the dam of the reservoir, above a colonnade overlooking the gardens. Granite columns from Plymouth’s old market were incorporated into the colonnade.

The reservoir went out of use in the 1970s, gradually becoming derelict. 

In 2007, Plymouth University took over the lease for the gardens and reservoir from Plymouth City Council, investing £300,000 to make the gardens more attractive and secure. We opened the restoration to the public in June 2014, bringing the gardens back to their former glory. There's access along the east side of the reservoir for the first time. We've also opened up the Reservoir Café in the Nancy Astor Building, giving you somewhere to enjoy a drink or bite to eat and enjoy the scenery.

The £1.2 million project to restore Drake's Place is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund.