©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: November 29, 2018
Webpage updated: April 01, 2020




The Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum was established in February 1834 for the maintenance and education of orphan girls.  The first five girls were admitted to the Asylum in Octagon Street on May 14th that same year.  By 1836 the premises were proving to be too small and thought was given to finding larger accommodation.

The Devon & Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum in Lockyer Street, Plymouth

As the charity had accumulated £300 in the Savings’ Bank by now, this was immediately reserved for such a venture.

Soon there were 53 orphans being cared for and with the lease on the Octagon Street premises about to expire, the need to find a suitable site for a new building became paramount.  The purchase of some land at the top of Lockyer Street in 1839 unfortunately caused some friction amongst the charity’s supporters, especially those living in East Stonehouse, Stoke and Devonport.  Apparently when the Asylum was first mooted, a pledge had been given that it would be located in East Stonehouse so as to be convenient for the Three Towns as a whole.  A vote of the committee supported the choice of Lockyer Street by 14 to 4 against and this was subsequently ratified by a general meeting of subscribers, who voted 49 to 29 in favour.  It was expected that this majority decision would be acceptable to all but the dissenters immediately took steps to form another orphanage at Stoke.  At the time the opening of a rival asylum was viewed as a needless waste of money, time and labour and it was predicted that the public would probably not support either institution whereas they might have supported one.

However, the work pressed ahead and the architect was asked to design a building to accommodate seventy orphans and would be capable of easily being extended should financial support be forthcoming at a later date.  Tenders were invited in January 1840 and the contract was awarded to Mr George Roach, who undertook to complete the work for just over £2,000.  On May 11th 1840 Sir Ralph Lopes, Bart, laid the foundation stone.  At that time there were 53 orphans being housed in the Asylum.

One hundred and five female orphans were transferred from the Octagon premises to the new building in Lockyer Street on Tuesday June 21st 1842.

Financial support was not as forthcoming as had been hoped for and from a high of 60 orphans in 1860 the numbers were reduced to 40 until June 1868 when a further six orphans were accommodated.  An annual subscription or donation of £1 entitled the subscriber to vote in the election of children to be admitted to the Asylum.  When the orphan reached the age of 16 years they were placed out to service.

The secretary of the Asylum in 1868 was Mr Francis Hicks and the treasurer was Mr W J Woollcombe.  The Asylum was run by a matron with the help of a schoolmistress.

The annual general meeting of the subscribers took place at the beginning of June each year.

The founder of the Orphanage, Mrs Mary Tripe, passed away on Friday August 12th 1842, 'sincerely regretted by all who knew her worth'.  Her short obituary said:  'In all the relations of private life she discharged her duties with exemplary diligence, and unaffected goodness.  She was the unwearied friend of the distressed -- her hand was "open as day to melting charity".  To the unwearied exertions and great energy of this lamented lady, we are indebted for the formation of the Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum at Plymouth, and also the establishment of the Royal British Female Orphan Asylum at Devonport; her chief delight was to console the widow and protect the fatherless.  Her end was peace.' 

In 1890 Mr H Penrose Prance was the honorary secretary; Mr Charles Runole, the treasurer; the Reverend B B Liptrott, the chaplain; and Miss Mary Dunn, the matron.

The ruins of the Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum
 in Lockyer Street, Plymouth, 1943.
©  National Monuments Record.

The premises were destroyed in the Plymouth Blitz of March/April 1941 and the remains were demolished soon afterwards.