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St Stephen's Church

St Stephen's was outside the old city wall but enclosed by the later one. The elegance of its 15th Century Perpendicular Gothic style tower has been remarked upon for centuries by travellers and historians.

This tower was paid for by a Mayor of the city, John Shipward, in about 1470. He has been described as 'a merchant of the first respectability in the age in which he flourished ... at his death he bequeathed large estates to charitable purposes'.

The bells installed in the tower led to the formation of St Stephen's Ringers, a society which became very sociable and still exists today. Each May Day at 7 o'clock in the mornting a short service takes place at the top of the tower.
   
Before the Reformation St Stephen's contained several chantry chapels, but these altars were destroyed in the period of religious zeal. The tomb figure of the founder of one of these chantries remains - that of Edmund Blanket who died in 1371. The effigy of his wife lies alongside.

There is also a memorial to Martin Pring who sailed to America and discovered Plymouth harbour in 1603 (shown above)

The figure of Sir George Snygge, resplendent in his judge's robes, rests on his elaboate tomb in the south aisle. He became Recorder of Bristol in 1593, was knighted in 1604 and deid in 1617. See picture below.

The crisply carved lines of the tower still rise above the far less distinguished buildings that the 20th century threw around it.

The church has of course undergone restoration down the centuries. Considerable works were completed in 1865, when the south wall had to be rebuilt from the foundations.

In November 1886 new seats of oak replaced the old pews which had been deemed uncomfortable. Traceried and carved panels decorated the new pew ends and these feature coats of arms of various people connected with the church over the years.

St Stephen's is the official parish church of the city.
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