TAVISTOCK, Devon – St Eustachius. 

Alterations and additions 1896 to 1922

George Fellowes Prynne had considerable dealings with this church, although it is not clear whether all the work cited below was actually done. It is known that some has since been removed.

The Tavistock Gazette of 15 January 1897 published this notice concerning the church.

For some time past, the Vicar and Churchwardens, together with the other members of the Church Council, have been considering-

(1) – The advisability of clearing away the inconveniently-placed and unsightly Platforms at the west end of the Church, and the general rearrangement, including the removal and refixing of the Font in a more suitable position;

(2) – As to the best method of relighting the Church, the present system being ineffective and unsatisfactory, while many of the fittings are almost worn out;

(3) – A thorough cleansing of the seats, walls, pillars and windows.

 At a Council Meeting held in the early part of the Summer, the Vicar and Churchwardens were authorised to consult Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne as to the first and second points mentioned above.  His Report and Plan have been recently received, and were considered at a Meeting of the Council on Tuesday, December 1st.  It was unanimously resolved to issue an appeal for the necessary funds, and to proceed with these alterations, as well as with the cleansing of the Church, as soon as possible.

The estimates for carrying out the above improvements are –

(1) – Work at west end, £72 15s

(2) – Relighting the Church throughout, £180-£200

(3) – Cleansing, Architect’s Charges, and Sundries £50

 Total £322 15s

The vicar and churchwardens thus launched their appeal for money to carry out this work.

The article then continued with the full text of George Fellowes Prynne’s response.  As regarded the opening up of the west end, he suggested extra chairs could be brought in should further accommodation be required.  He also included in his plans (and estimate) a new base step for the font, and marble paving in the newly-formed baptistry.

The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 29 June 1903 reported on the re-opening of the church following its renovation.

In 1896 the font was moved to what was probably its original position – the west end of the south aisle – and was bordered by new marble paving, forming a small baptistery.  Three years later plans for alterations in the chancel were submitted to his Grace the Duke of Bedford, and were approved.  The work consisted of placing three new Sicilian marble steps and marble paving to the sanctuary, and the removal of the choir stalls.  New oak altar rails and new stone base to the pulpit were carried out.  The present scheme of renovation was set on foot in 1902, when Mr. Fellowes Prynne was consulted as to some cracks in the walls and the condition of the floors, roofs, and gutters, and as to the re-lighting and ventilation of the building.  The result was that the church underwent restoration.  The nave and aisles have been re-floored, the roofs thoroughly overhauled, and dejected ribs and wall plates and carved bosses made good or renewed.  New figures of angels have been restored to the positions occupied previously by similar figures.  The question of ventilation has received attention.  The lighting arrangements include new brass pendants, suspended from the roof, and the seating has been altered and replaced.  The work has been carried out by Mr. J. A. Dennis, of Tavistock.

The same journal, on 5 January 1904, in its summary of local events in the past year, mentioned that the floor had been infected with dry rot – hence the need for replacement.  It also noted that the cost, raised by public subscription, was £1,500.

In his report dated 30 November 1896, prior to the above appeal being launched, Fellowes Prynne had made suggestions regarding three pieces of work:

1st. The opening up of the West End by removal of the inconveniently placed and unsightly platforms…and refixing Font in a more suitable and convenient position…
2nd.  As to the best method of re-lighting
3rd.  As to possible enlargement of Vestries

Fellowes Prynne had at this stage already sent his plan for the first job to the vicar. It included a new base step to the font, and marble paving in the newly formed baptistry, and the cost would be about £70. As regards the second item, he expounded at length on the merits of pendants from the roof:

It must not be thought for one moment that I propose large Coronae in the centre of the nave. What I suggest is a double row of pendants in the Nave and a single row in the Aisles, with very small Coronae, with about seven fairly powerful burners to each Corona… I should approximately estimate the cost at about £180 complete.

As for item 3 on his list, Fellowes Prynne reckoned £300 would allow him to do a …very acceptable addition to the Vestry.

He concluded his report:

The possibilities of rendering your fine Parish Church more beautiful by decoration and otherwise are very great, but the most important and practical part of the work is included in the items particularly noted on this report. 

It would seem that the vicar and churchwardens decided not to go for the enlargement of the vestries at this stage, as there is no mention of this in their appeal, or in any other information I have found.

In subsequent years it seems that the parish agreed with Fellowes Prynne over the possibilities of rendering the fine Parish Church more beautiful, as the Dart and Francis records that were available to me show the following sequence of correspondence:

  • 16 Sep 1919 – estimate sent for oak reredos, 2 riddels and angels: £187
  • 28 Jun 1920 – order to go ahead
  • 30 Jun 1920 – design for riddels and wall panelling on the way
  • 07 Jul 1920 – design of gradine returned
  • 17 Jul 1920 – oak riddels, 2 angels, 2 panels for east wall: £135
  • 03 Aug 1920 – letter re. the above, plus reredos
  • 08 Nov 1920 – design for War Memorial
  • 14 Feb 1921 – inscription on panelling
  • 06 Dec 1922 – drawing returned of panelling and reredos

The Dart and Francis records were incomplete, but it is evident that the altar and altar rails are also to Fellowes Prynne’s design, and these were presumably in situ prior to the planned reredos. It is not clear whether the reredos was ever installed, as it is not there now.

The Lady Chapel has a communion rail which is clearly to a design by Fellowes Prynne, and it is possible that he did other work here.

The undated postcard, and close-up from it, clearly shows a number of features of Fellowes Prynne’s work here, some of which can no longer be seen. Note the carved altar with frontal showing through, the reredos and riddels, complete with angels, the sanctuary panelling, the wooden altar rail, the stalls and the prayer stall. The sanctuary was redesigned in 1952, and the wood panelling presumably removed then.