Union Street, Like the place or hate it, the majority of Plymothians have visited the street and experienced the night club life whether it be yesterday or a century ago. It has been described as a hostile area where fights could potentially erupt anywhere by lads or laddettes under the influence of alcohol or the current popular drug. Weapons are concealed from a hoard of police officers protecting the public from themselves. If you fall short of a weapon then there is always a glass bottle to break. If the binge drinking has not made you ill then high street’s has dodgy kebab shops and burger vans to give you food poisoning.

Union Street’s story is intriguing if you can imagine how the derelict buildings once stood around the period just shy of a century ago.

Union Street was constructed a century before Plymouth had a city status between 1812 and 1823 on marshland as a grand gesture to link together three towns (Stonehouse, Devonport and the town of Plymouth) and it boasted to have over 100 pubs, a music hall and other attractions.

The upper class inhabited the area and had respectful jobs as admirals, doctors and housed members of the clergy. However in the shadows of dark street corners prostitution thrived for sailors who visited Plymouth Docks from all over the world. There are stories told that an amusement park called ‘The Snake Pit’ existed where drunken sailors where entertained by prostitutes and robbed by pick pockets.

Prostitution still plays a big part around the area as the street runs parallel with Plymouth’s famous ‘Red Light District,’ the only illegal sex market in the South West past Bristol. The council have tried to police the area by enforcing strict guidelines on sex shops and the stripper’s night clubs however prostitutes are street wise and still fool curb crawlers into handing over money without performing any sexual acts. This is known as clipping. Many prostitutes are professionals at picking pockets of drunken people. I often ask should prostitution be legalised to make it a safer place.

Much of the area was bombed in the Second World War or lost when the slums were cleared and rebuilt. There are some great Victorian architecture designs on the high street. The Palace Theatre is the best example where actors like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy performed. However much of the buildings are decaying and the high street does not look like the grand boulevard vision set up by the Victorians.    

There is an opportunity to attract tourist from Europe to Union Street because Brittany Ferries is on its doorstep. There are plans in the future to redevelop parts of the area but this is time consuming.









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