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Plymouth’s historic Drake’s Island bought by former Royal Navy engineer

Drake's Island has been bought by a Plymouth businessman for an undisclosed fee. Credit: PA

A historic island fortress located off the coast of Plymouth has been bought by a former Royal Navy engineer.

Drake’s Island, which boasts a 16th century barracks and a pier, was put up for sale in October for £6million.

It has been bought for an undisclosed fee by Plymouth businessman and former Royal Navy engineer Morgan Phillips, whose Guardian Industrial UK company is involved in numerous building projects across the West Country.

He said he wanted to restore the island “for the people of Plymouth and visitors”.

Businessman Morgan Phillips has purchased Drake's Island.

The six-acre island, named after sailor Sir Francis Drake, already has planning permission for a luxury hotel and spa.

Mr Phillips wants to build a museum and heritage centre on the island, while a water sports centre is also under consideration.

I'm under no illusions that the people of Plymouth regard Drake's Island as the jewel in the city's crown and they want to enjoy it as soon as they possibly can - indeed, we want the island to be open to the public as often as possible.

As an historic site which has been largely untouched for the past 30 years, we will inevitably uncover various issues which will affect the timescale to complete the project, but we aim to get the project started as quickly as possible.

We will be working with disabled charities to develop the best way to get people of as many different abilities as possible access to the island.

– Mr Phillips

The history of Drake’s Island

The island is named after Sir Francis Drake. Credit: PA
  • The island was named after Sir Francis Drake, who set sail from there in 1577 to circumnavigate the globe
  • The fort played a crucial role in defending the maritime city from French and Spanish invasions in the late 16th Century
  • It has been used as a prison, a religious centre, a refuge and, most recently, an adventure training facility, which closed in 1989
  • In 1995 the Crown Estate put Drake's Island up for sale for £235,000 and eventually it was purchased by former Plymouth Argyle Chairman, Dan McCauley
  • Plymouth City Council turned down a planning application in 2003, meaning the island was left unused
  • In spring 2017, Plymouth City Council granted planning permission to create a luxury £10m hotel with 25 rooms and a spa complex