Drake’s Leat

This leat ran from the River Meavy (under what is now Burrator Reservoir) for just over 17miles to Millbay docks in Plymouth. A large ornate pond/reservoir was also constructed on North Hill, called Drake’s Reservoir which held some of the water. The construction was completed in 4 months by 35 men in 1590 and water ran to Plymouth after that, allegedly with Drake riding a white horse ahead of the water as it was released. The construction was superbly executed so that the water flowed slowly so as not to erode the leat walls. The water was supposed to be for houses, and the military at Lambhay Hill. However it was clear that this would not be the case as the route was not near the major built up areas of houses nor did it end up at Lambhay (Millbay instead). Drake clearly used the leat to power his own mills which drew water from the leat. There were some conduits made available to the public to take water however these were downstream of the mills and by 1600s only 30 houses were connected. The leat no longer carries water and Burrator reservoir has swallowed the start of the leat, however the course is still there, just below the main Burrator dam and onwards across Roborough Down, where it is easily seen.

Bridge near Clearbrook and Drake’s leat running under it
Drake’s Leat and the old P&D railway side by side near Yelverton