This extremely rare and very early view of Plymouth seen from Mount Edgcumbe shows the heavily fortified Citadel dominating the eastern end of the Hoe and, beyond it, the stretch of water known as the Cattewater [at the confluence of the River Plym and the Sound] where Plymouth's old commercial harbour is located and which is guarded by the Mount Batten tower on its southern approaches, also visible here in the centre. The distinctive Union flag flying from the Citadel dates the painting to post-1707, after the changes resulting from the Act of Union with Scotland, and a drawing of Plymouth executed by Sailmaker and subsequently engraved is also known from this period (see F.B. Cockett's Early Sea Painters, 1660-1730, ch. 1, pp. 25 et seq.).
A merchant port existed at Plymouth as early as 1311 and it was from here that numerous expeditions were launched against France in the fourteenth century. Columbus's discovery of America in 1492 and the consequent rise in western trade rapidly increased its importance and, by the reign of Elizabeth I, it was England's foremost port. During the seventeenth century, its strategic significance was also fully realised and, in 1689, it became the last of three new royal dockyards to be established after Harwich and Sheerness. Originally designated Plymouth Dockyard but frequently called simply Dock, the naval facilities were renamed Devonport by royal decree in 1824 and were greatly expanded thereafter.