St Eustachius, Tavistock in the 1860s

My first post for quite some time…!

Recently I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to revisit a collection of photographs taken by a former Librarian of Tavistock, William Merrifield (1804-1885).

The ‘Merrifield Collection’* comprises over 60 stereoscopic views of Tavistock and the surrounding area. The Collection is rich and presents a unique view of everyday life in Tavistock between 1860 and 1870.

Of special interest to me are the superb photographs of St Eustachius Church, Tavistock – not least because there are interior as well as exterior images.

Beginning with shots of the exterior, Merrifield ably captures Tavistock at peace – compared with the bustle of modern day traffic and congestion in the busy market town.

St Eustachius Church from Bedford Square, Tavistock, c1860 


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A similar view to that above, this time with the addition of an audience!


The interior images show the church prior to the days of greater church decoration and the insertion of the many beautiful stained glass windows which adorn the sacred space today.

The only stained glass window, slightly depicted by Merrifield is that of the former East Window in the Sanctuary. This window was replaced in 1949 with the current beautiful window in memory of Rev. Prebendary H. L. Bickersteth and is the work of James Powell of the Whitefriars Glass Company.


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St Eustachius Church, Tavistock, looking SE, c1860


St Eustachius Church, Tavistock, looking NE, c1860


St Eustachius Church, Tavistock, looking W, c1860

Finally, Merrifield treats us to two images of the splendid memorials inside the Church.

The Fitz Monument, c1860

The Fitz memorial is a striking and fine example of a Memorial dating to the C16. The current church guidebook says:

The imposing Fitz Monument commemorates a prominent local family. The effigies are of John Fitz (1528-1589) and his wife Mary Sydenham: the mutilated figure of their son John kneels behind them.

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The Glanvill Memorial, c1860


Finally, Merrifield’s photographic legacy for St Eustachius also includes the splendid Glanvill Memorial. Of this memorial the current church guidebook says:

On the south wall of the [Lady] Chapel is the magnificent Glanvill Memorial erected in 1615 by his wife Alicia to commemorate Sir John Glanvill (1542-1600) the first attorney to become, in 1586, a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. In effect he was the first solicitor to become a judge…

An effigy of his widow, also of a local family, kneels beside the monument in a lifelike attitude: she remarried but was again widowed. The faces, hands and garments of the effigies have fine detail.


*The ‘Merrifield Collection’ was donated to Plymouth Libraries in the early 1970s and has been in their custodianship ever since. All images are reproduced with permission and copyright rests with Plymouth City Council Library Services.


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