Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 27, 2021
Webpage updated: October 27, 2021




Mr John Merrifield PhD (1834-1891) was the founder of the Plymouth School of Navigation.

Born at Peter Tavy, near Tavistock, Devon, on August 24th 1834, John Merrifield received his early education at the Tavistock National School.  From there he went to the Exeter Teacher Training School for two years before becoming the master at the Mary Tavy National School, near his birthplace.  During his time there he studied astronomy and navigation.

Mr John Merrifield married Miss Mary Anne Venner, school mistress, of Brook Street, Tavistock, at Tavistock Parish Church, on May 11th 1856.  They had three children.

In 1862 Mr Merrifield founded the Plymouth School of Navigation, which at first was based at Gascoyne House, number 13 Gascoyne Place, off North Street, Plymouth.

Mr Merrifield, in partnership with a Mr Evers, produced a book entitled "Navigation and Nautical Astronomy", which was published by Longman and Company, London, in 1868.  It was followed by several more books.  Mr Merrifield was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy in 1870.  At that time he was responsible for keeping the Board of Trade's Meteorological Records used in weather reports in the local press.  In 1871 Doctor Merrifield won a seat on the first Plymouth School Board with 4,956 votes.  He was re-elected on to subsequent Boards.

Mrs Mary Anne Merrifield died in Plymouth in 1873 at the very young age of 44 years.

Doctor John Merrifield married Miss Anne Maria Palmer, of Bridestowe, Devon, at Lambeth, Middlesex, in 1875.  They had two children.

In 1877 the British Association appointed Doctor Merrifield to a committee that was to obtain information about the phenomena of stationary tides in the English Channel and the North Sea.  Their final report was published in 1880.

Doctor Merrifield gave a lecture to the members of the Plymouth Institution in 1881 about the meteorology and climate of Plymouth.  In 1886 he became a steward of the Royal Literary Fund.

Mrs Annie (sic) Maria Merrifield died in Plymouth on May 15th 1887.  Mr Merrifield seems to have retired through ill health in either 1889 or possibly 1890 as the 1891 census shows that his assistant, Mr Charles Morris (1852-1929) had by then taken charge of the School.

John Merrifield, who was a member of the Unitarian congregation in Plymouth, died on June 27th 1891 at his home, number 7 Hobart Terrace, off Lipson Road, Plymouth.  He was 56 years of age.