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Charles Church, Plymouth
Charles Cross roundabout, Plymouth, Devon, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  1640 - 1658
era  Stuart  |  category  Church/Synagogue  |  reference  SX481546
Charles Church is dedicated to King Charles I and was built during the English Civil War. It was bombed during World War II and has been left as a ruin as a memorial to Plymouth citizens killed during wartime air raids on the city. Once situated in Vennel Street, it is now in the centre of a roundabout as a result of road re-routing.
Charles Church was the second stone church to be constructed in Plymouth — St Andrew’s Church on Royal Parade dates from the 14th century. The king authorised construction of the new church, named in his honour, on 21st April 1641. William Warren, a local vintner, donated the 0.4ha site for the building in return for a burial plot and a pew place.
Built in the Gothic style, the church was constructed between 1640 and 1658, though work was interrupted by the Civil War (1642-51). Ashlar Plymouth limestone with granite dressings was used. The church was consecrated on 2nd September 1665.
A lead-covered timber spire was added in 1708-9, when the first bells were cast. A clock was added in 1719. The timber spire was replaced by one of ashlar stone in 1766-7. The bells were recast in 1782.
In 1828-9, the interior was refurbished and a new pulpit and screen installed. More bells were added in 1856 and 1898, making a peal of 10 bells in total. In 1864, porches were erected over the west and south doors, replacing some external stairs. By 1935 the church consisted of chancel, nave, aisles, spire and two porches. The bells were rehung in 1936, at which time the tenor bell weighed 1,170kg.
During the night of 21st March 1941, the Charles Church was destroyed by aerial bombardment. In 1943, City Engineer James Paton Watson (c1898-1979) was the first to suggest that the ruins should be preserved as a permanent war memorial to Plymouth’s 1,200 civilian war dead. Conservation work was undertaken in 1952.
The church was designated a Grade I listed building in January 1954. On 1st November 1958, at a special service, parish vicar J. Allen James dedicated the ruins, and bishop of Plymouth Norman H. Clarke gave a blessing. The city’s mayor G.J. Wingett unveiled a commemorative plaque on the north wall.
It reads ...
"Built 1641, Consecrated 1665, Completed 1708. Named in honour of King Charles I. Ruined by enemy action, 21 March 1941. Partially restored 1952, by the City, in co-operation with the Ministry of Work. The idea of restoration having been sponsored by the Old Plymouth society, as a memorial to those citizens of Plymouth who were killed in air-raids on the city in the 1939-45 War."
When the churchyard was dismantled for the construction of Charles Cross roundabout (c1960), the remains of the people buried there were re-interred at Efford Cemetery to the east.
Architect (1828-9): Joseph Henry Ball
Bell re-hanging (1936): Gillett & Johnston
Research: ECPK
"The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History" by Brian Moseley,
Plymouth, February 2010

Charles Church, Plymouth