Plymouth in the middle ages was a small town at the mouth of the River Ply. The town was owned by the monks of Plympton Priory but in 1439 was freed from monastic rule and became the first English town to be granted a charter by an Act of Parliament. The economy of the town was stimulated by the building of the Devonport naval dockyard in 1691.
Plymouth is a town of consideration, and of great importance to the public. The situation of it between two very large inlets of the sea, and in the bottom of a large bay, which is very remarkable for the advantage of navigation. In the entrance to this bay, is a large and most dangerous rock, which at high-water is covered, but at low-tides is bare, where many a good ship has been lost, and many a ship's crew drowned in the night, before help could be had for them.