Monuments & Art


Our church contains one of the finest collections of 17th century monuments in Devon.  This is thanks to Sir Gilbert Scott, who found them stored away during the 19th century restoration, and remounted them, mainly along the south side of the Church, from the Baptistery to the Lady Chapel. The 1910 guide to the church states that “they afford us a study of the Barnstaple townsfolk in the 17th century during the Commonwealth, showing us the mayors, merchants and Members of Parliament at a time when Barnstaple was most prosperous and important”.

Unfortunately some of the monuments are hidden in dark corners and the inscriptions are barely legible or too high up to read, but their design and the details they contain present an interesting picture of important people in the town’s history.  For example, almost facing you as you enter the church, is a large and highly decorated memorial of the virtues and public spirit of Mr Richard Ferris, who died in 1649.  It is a full length recumbent figure in the costume of the period and full mayoral robes” (Chanter 1882).   Ferris was twice mayor and a Member of Parliament for Barnstaple in the Long Parliament.  The flowery verse below includes the lines “…to write his epitaph must be to picture justice, art, faith, charity” and goes on to encourage the reader “go do thou likewise”.  Associated with Ferris was George Peard, as he too was a Member of the Long Parliament.  He died in 1644 and his monument is to the right of the main door.  It is ironic that these two citizens should appear in the church as they were both staunch Puritans and laid the foundations of one of the Nonconformist congregations in the town.

To the left of the main door and opposite Richard Ferris is Raleigh Chapman, who died in 1636, “with effigies of himself and wife above, facing each other, and nine children in a row kneeling, all in attitudes of prayer and mourning” (Chanter 1882).

Along the south wall are monuments to Elizabeth Delbridge, one of the Chichester family, who died in 1628, and Amy Tooker (d.1656).  On the end wall, before entering the bell tower, is the memorial to Walter Tucker (d.1653). He was a former mayor of the town and is shown as a half-length effigy with a recumbent female beneath, representing his daughter Anna, who died in childbirth.  He is described as “a liberal housekeeper, a bountiful reliever of the poor and a constant helper to poor tradesmen”.

In the Lady Chapel, facing the chasuble case, is the monument to Richard Beaple (d.1643).  He was a merchant and three times mayor of the town.  It is considered by church historians to be one of the most important memorials in the church because of the detail of the dress depicting the fashion of Puritans of the time, but also because of the two cartouches, one illustrating Barnstaple Quay and the other the Litchdon Almshouses which Beaple endowed.

There are other smaller monuments from the period but the most significant and poignant is the one to Nicholas Blake, the 9 year old son of Martin Blake.  Blake was Vicar of the church and designed the memorial himself, and as well as being a tribute to his son it also contains reference to four other children who died in infancy and references to his own tribulations, as he was hounded from the church during the Commonwealth; the bottom right hand corner contains the ironic symbol of the congregation gathered around an empty pulpit, symbolising his exile from the church, to which he returned at the time of the Restoration in 1660.