The near-empty patch of Plymouth land which is now thriving

An aerial view of Langage Science Park in about 1988

An aerial view of Langage Science Park in about 1988

It's one of the more recent photographs we’ve featured on this page, but no less interesting for that.

The picture was taken about 29 years ago and it shows us the first units to have been built on the green-field site that was intended to be the Langage Science Park.

Holland Road runs left to right across the middle of the image with Eastern Wood road running towards the front – Rowdown Close and Garden Close spurring left and right off it, with Barn Close and Meadow Close still on the drawing board (along with all the housing development off the as yet unfinished Steer Park Road that lies beyond the tree lined boundary in the middle distance).

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The photograph was kindly supplied by David Buckingham, chairman of the Plymouth Barbican Trust, who at the time was working as a quantity surveyor with Smerdon and Jones.

Also working on the project at the time was Peter Burrows, a fellow PBT Director, who was then an economic development officer with Plymouth City Council.

The two major units that we see either side of Western Wood Way on the other side of the road have just been erected on spec by the city council to kick-start the development.

The city council bought 115 acres from local farmers and had secured planning permission from South Hams – the boundary runs along the line of the trees.

Rockeagle later purchased a further 25 acres to the west.

“We put in the roads and took the view that the site would be a success because it is easily accessible from the A38,” says Peter.

First to occupy the units were Reflex Automation (on the western side of Western Wood Way) and the Premier Computer Corporation (on the eastern side).

The latter were an American firm that apparently didn’t allow tea-breaks!

As it transpired neither firm was to stay here more than four or five years, unlike the third firm to arrive here, Algram, a firm who manufactured plastic injection moulding prototypes.

Westframe built Algram while Dudley Coles had built the first two units.

“Algram had previously been based in Marlow, in Buckinghamshire,” recalls David.

“I remember they brought the whole workforce down one weekend to visit the site and the city.

“We all went to see Blood Brothers at the Theatre Royal – it must have been 1988.”

The firm had been going a decade or so already by then and is still trading from the Langage site today although it was taken over by the Japanese giants, Olympus, in 1996.

Today they supply thermoplastic components to a client base that includes Rolls-Royce and BAE.

Meanwhile other units have sprung up and have since been occupied by such a wide variety of businesses, that the ‘Science’ epithet is no longer entirely appropriate, although many units have a hi-tech use.

Artemis Optical, Vacsax, Crown Copiers, Atlantis Marine Power, SWP Hydraulics, are among the firms out there now, while I fondly remember when ITV Westcountry operated from Western Wood Way, and the wholesale newsagents business of LF Paul were out there.

Doubtless readers will think of different associations with the site over the years as we reflect on just how quickly changes take place once the fields surrender to concrete, metal and asphalt.