Lopwell History

Lopwell has a long history dating back to the 13th century. A thriving community once existed here, with market gardening, mining for lead and silver and a busy quayside that served Plymouth and London.

Lopwell gets its name from Mannaseh Masseh Lopes who was a one-time resident of the Georgian mansion at nearby Maristow. Lopes, born in Jamaica, was the son of a wealthy plantation owner. Legend has it that he arrived at Lopwell on a donkey and decided to buy the house, which was formerly home to the Heywood family.

Lopes prospered here, and his family became the Lords of Roborough. The house later became a servicemen’s hospital during the war, a retirement home for local clergymen and also a residential school. After being damaged by three fires Maristow was left as a ruin for around 20 years, but has now been completely restored and converted into 12 private houses.

While it is now a peaceful and beautiful spot lopwell was initially a busy river quay, serving nearby mines and farmland dating back to the 13th century. The impressive mineshaft was used for mining silver and lead. Adjacent to the mineshaft is Lopwell Cottage or Ferry Man’s Cottage where the Vivian brothers use to live around the time of 1918. The brothers use to ferry people across the river in a wooden rowing boat boat before the Dam was built in 1953.

Silver and lead were the main exports, while coal and lime were brought in. Lime was burned and used as a fertiliser, as was “dock dung”, the sweepings from the streets of Plymouth, which were brought in by flat-bottomed barges. The quay was also used by the monks from Buckland Abbey, and in the 19th and 20th centuries pleasure steamers from Plymouth would transport passangers. It was an important tidal fording point, and a ferry crossed there until 1930.

The Dam, and its additional buildings, were constructed in 1953 by Plymouth City Council to create another water supply for the city. It also incorporated a fish pass for salmon migrating to their spawning grounds, and at low tide visitors can cross the dam and follow the beautiful woodland trails.

A new underground water pumping station was created in 1981, which made the original pumphouse redundant. This has recently been renovated and is now a wildlife arts and education centre.

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