Origin of Term Up Shit Creek


The origin of a phrase Up Shit Creek, one that I use on occasions, was made clear to me during a recent visit to Plymouth.

I had never thought there was such a place as Shit Creek but records show that in Plymouth the creek now known as Stonehouse Creek was, during the 18thcentury, known as Shit Creek because of the foul smelling mud that formed its banks.

The creek is also known as Stonehouse Lake on many maps and Tinkies by many of the local people.

The creek led to the Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, a medical facility for naval officers and other ranks at that was built in 1758–65 to a design by Alexander Rowehead.

Millfield hospital housed 1,200 patients in sixty wards, its ten ward blocks being arranged around a courtyard with a central block containing the chapel, dispensary and staff housing.

In those times any hospital stay was a dice with death and for many who arrived in Shit Creek the journey up it was a one way trip.

To be Up Shit Creek therefore meant the person was in a bad situation, which was either slowly or rapidly getting worse with no evident way out.

Even if your boat had a paddle, you still, typically, had a slow long recovery

Patients for the he hospital were landed directly from the creek much of which has since been filled in to become Victoria Park playing fields because this area was filled in to celebrate the 60-year reign of Queen Victoria.

This area was formerly known as the Deadlake and is frequently marked as such on early maps of the locality.

Then the lower reaches of the creek were filled in from the 1960s onwards to enlarge the recreation ground

Today Victoria Park is home to the Stonehouse Creek Social Club and Devonport High School Old Boys RFC. The club has been open since 2002, and also hosts the Stonehouse Sharks Junior Rugby Club.

Before any filling in or silting up, this tributary of the Tamar was tidal as far to the north east as Pennycomequick and the western end of Ford Park Cemetery.

As for the hospital, it closed in 1995 and is now a gated residential complex called Millfields.

Categorised as Road & Rail