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Matthew Prideaux 1838 – 1888

By the time Matthew Prideaux  arrived back in Leeds, he was feeling very depressed and worried about his future. Already he had led a more than interesting and much travelled life.
Born in Nottingham, the son of John and Mary Prideaux and younger brother to Edwin from his father’s previous marriage, he had yet to feel relaxed and at home anywhere. He knew that he had a dead sister called Charity who had been named after his grandmother and the tales he had been told of the Prideaux family history fascinated him. The stories of Devon and Cornwall and Lords and Ladies gave him an urge to travel back there and visit. His father had never wanted to return, probably  because of the shame of how he had allowed his family to end up.  John’s family were always poor and  lived in terrible conditions. They had suffered almost every day of their lives.  John even told them that the family would not be welcome back in Devon. His son Matthew decided that he would wait until he had made something of his life before he made a visit to Chudleigh.. Matthew told his children the stories of the rich and powerful Prideaux family but in the end, he never went to visit. These stories were passed down through the generations, became watered down and a little distorted until they reached my ears.
I decided that I should write them down, add the stories to various records I discovered and visit the past myself.  I have never regretted doing that. I just wish that my granddad and mother could be with me. But then I wish David Coulthard would drive me around a racing circuit very fast, and I doubt that will happen either. Will you ask him for me Mrs Coulthard?
When Matthew Prideaux was a boy, the Prideaux family travelled to Leeds where the four of them lived in one room, which was airless and damp and the tiny window at the front of the house let in very little light. His mother Mary he remembered, was always cross and tired and he often felt hungry and worried. He was not very old when they left the Leeds house in the middle of the night, his mother shushing him as they walked briskly away through the dark streets and out of the town. At the time he never knew why, but as he got older and realised how often the family were in debt, he presumed that they would have been evicted soon anyway.
The trip down to London took many days, walking the muddy roads and begging for food at different cottages along the way. Sometimes work would be given to John in exchange for food and shelter for the family, but generally it was hard. Mary managed to keep the family fairly clean, insisting that the boys washed in streams, even when it was very cold. A couple of times, sympathetic women gave them some clothes and once a pair of old boots was given to Matthew. Oversized and rubbing his feet dreadfully as they were far too big for him, Matthew wore them for two more years.
London was terrifying and Matthew wanted to leave as soon as they arrived. Children younger than him tried to rob him, even though he had nothing. He tried to learn as much as he could about wood and working with it, because he knew that one day he would walk straight out of London and down to his rich family living in Devon somewhere. John had told the family all about the Prideaux past on that long walk to London.
It was the longest time John had spent talking to any of them. He never did again, often dismissing questions with a rough push. Many times he was  drunk and Mary waited until he was asleep before going through his pockets for money. As soon as he was old enough, sixteen years, Mary asked Matthew to accompany her as she went back to her family in Scarborough. They had moved there just before she left to work in Stalybridge in the mills.She had no intention of going to Devon to visit John’s family and so Matthew Prideaux found himself going north instead of south west. Matthew still hoped to travel to Devon and Cornwall later.
Scarborough did not work out for them and with a tearful parting, Matthew Prideaux  decided to make his way back to Leeds and  try and find work in the mills there. Perhaps he could make enough money to go to Devon. The trip over to Leeds was not too bad. He managed to get some lifts and met one very nice young lady at a farm on the journey
He arrived full of the positivity of youth and called on an acquaintance of his mother’s. Mary had given him a list of people to call on and ask for a job. He knocked on the door and the lady who answered cried when she saw Matthew and asked with feeling, how everyone else was. He told her that his father was dead as Mary had advised and the sympathy which this news brought forward, made him thank his mother for such a good idea.
Within a week, he had a job as a joiner at a local workshop and was soon living at Atkinson Street in Leeds. His mother followed him to Leeds soon after the death of her own parents. Mary took in needlework and some dressmaking and they were happier than they had been for many years.
The Jackson family became their friends and in particular Sarah, who turned up constantly on the pretence of being helpful to Mary, but having her eye on Matthew. Mary did not mind as she found the girl pretty and hardworking. The two women  got on very well and that boded well for any future marriage.
The Jacksons, who lived in 29 Spa Street, had moved from Ferriby in Lincolnshire where George Jackson worked as an agricultural labourer. He had done what many poor people had done and travelled to the town for work. Now he had a job as a blue slate worker and his children either worked in the mill or in the brickyard. George and his wife Margaret had Charles, Emma, Helen, John, Joseph, Robert, Selena, Ann, Dinah, Mary, Sarah. They had their first child when they were both 15 years old.  Mary Jackson married George Kitchen and they ran a pub together. Sarah saw how happy her sister was and compared her crowded home with that of Mary and Matthew and set about catching him. Who could blame her? Matthew did not mind being caught.
Matthew and Sarah Jackson married in 1863 and lived at 16 Spa Street.  Mary Prideaux decided to stay at 18 Atkinson Street, telling the young couple that a mother in law living with them would not help their marriage.I expect she also did not fancy the idea of sharing with a newly married couple and she took in a lodger, a single woman, who kept her company.

atkinson street


Here is Atkinson Street. No 18 is the second door from the left. The small buildings to the left of 22 are the toilet blocks. It was common for the toilet blocks to be used by many families on the street. I can’t imagine that anyone spent longer than necessary in this small room. Hence chamber pots, to save walks during the night.
Although these properties would be later pulled down and referred to as slum housing, compared to the properties which John and Mary Prideaux had lived in previously, this was a move upmarket. I doubt very much that Sir John Prideaux would have considered that there was any connection between him and this little family, however.
Soon after the marriage, during the winter of 1863 and 1864, Mary began to suffer with her chest. In these poor times, the doctor was only called twice. The first time was when Mary started to get quite ill in the early stages and then later in April when she started going rapidly downhill.
Sarah nursed her as though she was her own mother and the Jackson family helped where they could. The lodger stayed in the background, working out how she could keep the place on as soon as her landlady died.
On the 4th May 1864 after suffering from bronchitis for 7 days, Mary Prideaux died at home with Sarah Prideaux present at her death. They wrote  that Mary was the widow of John Prideaux, a carpenter, on her death certificate. I wonder what was going through the couple’s mind about this death of the other spouse business.  Matthew must have known he was lying when giving the information to the coroner, unless the story about John’s death had seemed more  real over the years.
Life went on for Matthew and Sarah Prideaux . They had nine children in total, but only six made it to adulthood. Until they settled in Hunslet, there were no other Prideaux in the area. Matthew and Sarah were the first. All Prideauxs in Leeds descended from them, unless they moved into the town in later years.

Essex Street

Matthew and Sarah moved to 5 Essex Street, a delightful little property, shown below. No 5 shares the toilet block with No 3.
Mary Emma Prideaux was born in 1865 and she began work at 12 as a flax spinner.
Agnes Jane Prideaux born in 1867, Edwin John Prideaux , named after the uncle he was never to know, was born in 1868. There was George Herbert Prideaux who was born 23rd August 1871. Then William Prideaux arrived in 1873, followed by Alfred Prideaux  in July 1875, then Thomas Alfred Prideaux who was born 1878. Finally Eliza Prideaux was born 4th September 1880 alongside  her twin Charles Edward Prideaux. There were also a further three children who were born dead.
Alfred sadly died on the 3rd November 1876 at home. He had been suffering from Tabes Mesenterica for one month and was attended by Dr Green.  This is a wasting disease of childhood characterised by chronic swelling of the lymphatic glands of the mesentery. No doubt this is why Thomas was given Alfred as his second name. His death was registered the same day, so maybe Matthew had taken time from work and had to do it all in one day.When the twins were born, Charles did not fare well and he died after 14 days of Debility on the 17th September. This meant he was very weak of mind and body and would not have been expected to live. A Dr Dobson attended him and certified his death. Matthew again registered it as Sarah would no doubt have been fairly weak herself.
The other twin Eliza Prideaux lived almost two years, but she  too was sickly and  died on the 27th July 1882 after suffering from decline for a month. Decline was sometimes referred to as Tabes and meant that there was a gradual wasting away of the physical faculties often from pulmonary consumption or similar. Dr Dobson was in attendance again. This time Sarah registered the death on the following day.
The funerals were small and poor events, but attended with much love. Sarah picked flowers from grass verges and fields to put on the grave as they could not afford to buy any. It was a great source of sadness that each beloved child who died could not be given respect by society, put into little more than a pit in a thin badly made coffin. Did God not care so much for these dead children?
That thought, along with an innate fear of the dreaded workhouse if bills were not paid meant that there was never any rest and relaxation. My granddad would tell me how these worries were paramount in the lives of his grandparents. It was a real fear as going to the workhouse was the only help from the government.
It seemed odd when I first started this research that stories I had from my granddad and mother stretched back 150 to 200 years. Now I have matched the people to the names and made them real in my head and my life, I can see how my life and beliefs came to be what they are. For example, it might seem unusual that granddad, a man brought up in such dreadful poverty and lack, should vote Conservative and believe in education for all. He also wanted his descendants to strive for more than he had. He was concerned about poverty, but adamant that the Prideaux family were better than the situation he had been born into. He was right, of course.
Interestingly, Matthew could write his name but Sarah could not. The Prideauxs insisted on educating their children through all the generations and when the family fell on hard times, that must have been all the more difficult. I learned most of these stories from granddad when he sat me on his knee and taught me how to read. He talked to me constantly. Although, I was very young  when he died, everything he told me has remained and I find I am able to recall it all and write about it here. Mother filled in some other details during later years.
Sarah Prideaux did not recover from all the illness and death she was surrounded by. She died from capillary bronchitis of which she had suffered for two weeks before she succumbed on the 21st September 1884. She was only 46 years old. The symptoms are frightening. This disease was common in those days, the cramped, damp living conditions and poor food ruined the basic health of everyone. She died gasping for breath and coughing up blood. Just prior to her death they had moved to 22 Ambler Yard at Holbeck. Sarah was worried about the devil cursing the family and arranged for a cross to be buried in the chimney in order to ward off evil. She had Matthew remove a brick and put the cross in the hole and replace the brick. I wonder if it was found when the houses were eventually demolished? The cross did not help and Sarah died. Matthew stayed at this property for a while before he too died at the Hunslet Union Workhouse on the 21st January 1888 of Phthisis.
That was quite a shock for me, discovering that my grandad’s grandad died in a workhouse. Grandma and Grandad lived in such a lovely, neat  house and my mother spoke so well, it did not make sense. I know that Grandma had an innate fear of poverty and paying bills and not wasting money, but I did not for one minute imagine that the workhouse experience could have anything to do with my family.  It was a lesson learned.
Sarah Prideaux  was nursed at the end by her daughters and sisters, but particularly Mary Emma Prideaux. Was it a coincidence that the girl she named after Mary, her mother in law was now looking after her on her deathbed as she had done twenty years earlier to her dear friend? Perhaps the cross helped the final circle come round and send her to a better place.
Mary Emma Prideaux was walking out with a lovely man called Arthur Kay, but she told him that she could not marry him while her father was so sick . Mary Emma nursed her father for as long as she could. But it was becoming increasingly difficult to look after him, the children and pay bills. When Matthew became too sick, he was taken to the Hunslet Workhouse where he died. Arthur stayed with Mary until the end and she married him as soon as she could afterwards. This Prideaux family would become homeless now that their parents were dead. The problem must be solved. No time to grieve, practicalities needed to be dealt with.
I have records of all the wives and children of the brothers and sisters, but this is not the place for so much detail. Due to the fact records were kept of all births from 1837 and a census taken every ten years from 1841, it is possible with a lot of detective work, to trace most members of any family. This has meant that I have details of all the marriages, births and deaths of the brothers and sisters and grandchildren of Matthew and Sarah. Add to this, the contacts I have made with other descendants, has forced me to be quite brutal with the editing of this chapter.
So, homes and new lives must be found for the Prideaux children. Everyone ended up somewhere, as I shall show now.
Mary Emma married Arthur Kay in 1888 in the summer following the final nursing of her father. They moved into 24 Grape Street just down the road from George. They lived next door to the Queen Inn. Their house has been demolished, but The Queen was still standing in this photograph, looking rough.

24 grape street

Arthur Kay was a steam engine fitter and allowed the orphaned boys William Prideaux and Thomas Alfred Prideaux to live with them. The boys started work as boot riveters as soon as they were able.

When George Prideaux and Mary Ann [my great grandparents] married on 21st January 1893 at St Silas Church, Arthur and Mary Kay were witnesses. They also became parents to John and Helen Kay and moved to 7 Boyne Terrace, shown below.

7 Boyne Terrace

Mary’s bad luck remained and Arthur died leaving her a widow in 1894 aged only 29. Arthur had been 31. She did not appear to remarry.

Edwin John Prideaux moved into lodgings after the death of his parents. He went to stay with Thomas and Ellen Clarke at 3 Endon Terrace.  Ellen was ten years older than her husband Thomas, her first husband being a Mr Long. She had a daughter Elizabeth A.S. Long and a son John Long. There was also another boarder, a Rose A Hill. The girls worked in the mill, Edwin Prideaux worked in the brickyard, John Long was a glass blower and Thomas Clarke worked in the forge. Edwin Prideaux  married Elizabeth Long in 1892, after all she was handy.  It seemed a shame to let a good home go to waste and Elizabeth was cute.
William Prideaux soon married and left the home of his sister Mary Emma, where he had stayed until that point. He married Lily Ledgard in 1892.
Thomas Alfred Prideaux married Love Townend in 1900 and appears to have lived with his big sister Mary Emma until then, supporting her through the birth of her children and the sad death of Arthur. Love and Thomas Prideaux moved to 2 Heed Street after the wedding.
The last child of Matthew and Sarah not yet discussed was Agnes Jane Prideaux . She had gone to live with her aunt and uncle when she was 14 years old.  Her aunt and uncle were Mary and George Kitchen who lived with  their four children at 10 Alfred Cross Street, which was a pub. Mary  Kitchen was Sarah Prideaux nee Jackson’s, sister.  The pub was later known as the  Oatlands Inn and had been previously run by George’s father, Robert. I don’t know whether Agnes  looked after the children or whether she worked in the pub.  It is stated in 1891 census that she was their niece and she still lived with them and their eventual nine children. Agnes left them when they took over the White Stag Inn at Sheep scar Leeds. I can’t find her after that.

Oatlands Inn

I hope she had a good life.

Edit: I was contacted by a relative of Agnes and she led an interesting life. She married the son of the Kitchens (Charles her cousin). They had a daughter Gladys, but divorced soon after and the girl was brought up by her father and his family.

Agnes joined another branch of the Jackson family as Mary Winter and Sarah Prideaux had a sister who married a John Henderson and they spent a lot of their time on the stage. Agnes used the surname Henderson following her divorce and became an entertainer. There is no record of a further marriage, but she died as Agnes Henderson.

Her daughter Gladys remembered;

“My parents were Charles Winter and Agnes Henderson. They divorced when I was small and I lived with my father and other members of his family. My mother visited me a few times while I was very young but after that I never saw her or heard from her. Her father was French. Before marrying she lived in a pub with some people called Kitchen who she was related to. One of them was on the stage”

Gladys Winter

Gladys and her family knew only that Agnes (Gladys’s mother) was a Prideaux and made an assumption that she was French and she was on the stage.

Collected Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux
Collected Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux