We have been contacted by Virginia Noonan to advise parishioners that her new book is to be launched soon.
“From Devon to Australia – A 19th Century Narrative, through the unpublished letters of the Merrifield family” has been recently published and a book launch/signing took place on Saturday 28 April from 11 to 2pm at the Book Stop bookshop in Tavistock, which has copies or sale.
William Merrifield was, from 1832 to 1838, the teacher at the Peter Tavy National School. He and his family lived in one of the cottages at Peter Tavy Coombe and it was there that he and his wife Ann’s (nee Sargent) first three children were born. After leaving Peter Tavy William went on to teach at the national school in Tavistock for a couple of years. He subsequently was appointed the librarian at the Tavistock Subscription Library from 1841 to 1872. William was also a very early Devon photographer and took numerous stereographic views of Tavistock and surrounding areas, many of these photos appear in the book.
(Right – William and Anne Merrifield, c. 1855)
The 19th century context for the narrative, based on the content of over 140 family letters and other archival materials, has provided the background for exploration of a range of historical topics. These topics range from the effect the industrial revolution had on the agricultural labourer, the start of education for the working classes and the resulting opportunities. Also explored is the life of a gold digger and the harsh conditions they endured, along with the brutality inflicted on them at the Eureka Rebellion in 1854. It is through this history of the 19th century that the Merrifield family lives have been discussed.
The writers’ of the letters were mainly William Merrifield, and his son John (William’s second son). The letters written by William and John were in response to William’s eldest son Samuel’s letters. Samuel left England for Australia in 1854 in search of adventure and to make his fortune in the Australian gold fields.
The book has been a labour of love and has been completely self-funded. Virginia Noonan is the great-great-great granddaughter of William Merrifield.