The name Baldwin de Pridias, Lord of Prideaux was introduced into Britain by the Normans, and when Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux named his first born Baldwin he demonstrated how enmeshed the Prideaux family was in the new Norman society. The first Norman King of Jerusalem in 1100 was Baldwin of Boulogne and presumably this news would have reached even this part of Cornwall. The crusades was news everywhere, probably due to the fact that anyone with any money generally had to help pay for the adventure.
Baldwin de Pridias ratified the undated convention shown below in 1130, which had been agreed by his father in 1122, with regard to the priory at Tywardreath. This charter was granted by Osbert, the first canon of Tywardreath to Baldwin de Pridias.
‘One Knights fee in the manor of Pidias, to hold to him and his heirs, except an acre of land in Carnubelbanathel for which the monks of Tywardreath rendered annually to the said Baldwin 20d for all customs, &cc, as written in the charter of convention between Ordagar the Canon and Richard de Pidias, Father of the said Baldwin.’
I know that there was an Osbert of Clare around during these years, who had been a monk at Westminster Abbey, then a Prior and an Abbott for a short time. He wrote many letters and was thought to have forged some very important charters concerning the King. Osbert ruled the Priory under the care of Lord Robert Fitzwilliam.
It would seem that Richard de Pridias died in 1122, the same year as Eleanor of Aquitaine was born, during the drawing up of the above charter.
Baldwin could only have signed it when he came of age in 1130. There was therefore a considerable time between the agreeing of the details with Richard and the signature of Baldwin.
This also meant that it was necessary for a Pridias to sign the documentation. I am not sure yet whether the King and his representatives were letting the Pridias family have some of the land which had been commandeered for the Priory, or whether Richard and then Baldwin were renting the land to the priory. It seems that the former is most likely.
Anyway, we do know that the Priory at Tywardreath was founded around the same time as St Michaels Mount monastery. The church there was consecrated in 1135.
The changes in their world had been rapid since the conquest, The parents of Paganus would have learned Anglo Saxon in order to communicate with the Saxon overlords in addition to their native Cornish. Now French must be spoken and written, if the family were to get on in the new world order. There must have been an educational advantage being so near to a monastery, where new theological ideas and political news would circulate. And of course, Latin thrown in.
At Ponts Mill near Tywardreath, where there is evidence of ships being moored, there was a bridge which was the highest point at which anyone could cross the River Par, before it fell into the sea. Although, no longer there, a bridge known as Baldwin’s Bridge was used to cross at this point. It may have been built by this Baldwin Pridias when the lands were owned by the family.
On the site of Luxulyan church, there is evidence of ancient settlement and worship. In a document dated 1162, a chapel dedicated to St Sulian is referred to and was a halfway house to Tywardreath Priory and the Abbey at Lanlivet. The current church lies in a position which suggests that at one point a religious building stood further away, pointing to a larger territory. As the Prideaux family owned the property at that time, it is sensible to assume that they would have been involved in the positioning. A medieval well dedicated to a relatively unknown Irish Saint Cyrus lies to the east. Many saints travelled this way on a north to south route across Cornwall. The Saints Way which can be traversed today, passes many ancient and mystical sites, including Prideaux Castle.
Henry I died and as his legitimate heir was already dead, Henry tried to secure succession for his daughter Matilda. The Great Council had other ideas and they gave the crown to Stephen, the son of the conquerors daughter. Stephen sailed around Lands End and landed at White sand Bay in 1135. There was terrible strife between him and Matilda and her supporters. At the same time that Stephen was landing, the Benedictine Priory was founded at Tywardreath. The locals however were not terribly impressed. The monastery was quite small and had to rely for funds on foreign houses. There was little funding from the locals. The Priory was a daughter house of Saint’s Sergius and Bacchus of Angers and although relationships were not good between the two, they worked together for three hundred years. Cornishmen were extremely religious, but did not feel that this imposed Priory tended to their needs.
In later times they were forced to build places of worship elsewhere, such as Golant, in order to escape the unnecessary interference of the Priory upon their lives.
If one reads the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and sees the kind of horrors which occurred in the country during Stephen’s reign by traitors against him and also by his supporters it makes one assume that there was bad and good in the priories. Castles were being built all around the country and were filled with ‘evil men and devils’. The people of the land were greatly oppressed and day and night, men and women were put in prison and tortured for their gold and silver.
Horrible tortures happened, such as being hung by their feet, thumbs or heads and over fires. Some torturers put knotted strings around the heads of the prisoners and turned the knots until the strings reached the brains. Prisons full of toads, adders and snakes housed the poor victims and some went into torture houses, where many dreadful and cruel horrors took place. This lasted for nineteen winters while Stephen was in charge and apparently became worse each year. The devils taxed the local people and when there was no more to take, the villages were burnt and we are told that it was possible to ride for a whole day in some places and never see a person living nor working the land. They had run away in terror while the harvests rotted in the fields.
Food was now so ridiculously expensive that even formerly rich men were forced to ask for alms. No church, land or property was safe and even the writer of the chronicles believed that Christ and all his saints were asleep, while the living were paying for their sins. This was also a time of miracles and magical happenings, probably borne out of the dreadful times in which the people lived.
The Cardinhams and Turstins built their stronghold at Lostwithiel and called it Restormel Castle. Amongst other castles being built was Tintagel, the fabled castle of King Arthur. This was begun around 1140 by Reginald Earl of Cornwall, one of Henry I illegitimate sons and another half brother of Matilda.
Reginald married the daughter of William Fitz Richard the new Lord of Cardinham, This William was the son of Richard Fitz Torold, the steward around Tywardreath.
Stephen appointed William Fitz Richard as lieutenant of the county but instead, he sided with Matilda and Reginald became Earl of Cornwall. This position was lost again in a battle with Stephen and his followers. When Stephen died in 1154 and Henry II took power he tried to undo this damage. Henry II re-instated Reginald as Earl of Cornwall and also destroyed many of the castles, which had been the symbols of terror. He married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and the union brought the areas of south west France under English control. During his reign there began a relatively peaceful time for the lands of England. The people certainly needed it.
Trials were heard by a judge and jury through a system of travelling justices. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire were included from 1166. This innovation opened up career prospects for ambitious lawyers. Some Prideauxs later made their way in the world this way as law brought in more money than farming.
Richard de Lucy made great profits during the time of strife. He sided with Stephen and rode with Alan of Brittany who removed Reginald in the battle mentioned above. He was granted some confiscated lands and appears to have been given lands around Lantyan near St Blazey. He was known as Richard the Loyal and was well thought of by Henry.
Against this background lived Baldwin Pridias, a man watching his back constantly while enjoying the benefits of being a landowner alongside the Normans. If during the invasion, his grandfather had sold out in order to merely make money and position for himself and his family, then his descendants would not be greatly admired by their neighbours. If however, he had done so in order to keep his neighbours safe, they probably no longer cared. Either way, as time passed, the ones remembering what happened in 1066 would have died out and it would seem as if things had always been as they were now.
Baldwin’s son Nicholas is the only child of whom there is any record and he was born in 1135 at the same time the Priory was finished at Tywardreath. Perhaps he was named after the revered Saint Nicholas, a favourite of Catholics and protector of sailors and merchants.
The relics of Saint Nicholas had recently, in 1087, been furtively taken to Bari in Italy, the new crypt consecrated by the Pope. The Basilica di San Nicola, a huge castle-like cathedral was built over the relics and is a source of pilgrimage to this day. It is said that the relics were taken from their previous place while the war with the Saracens were going on. The Basilica was also connected to the Benedictine order in Italy and one assumes that as Tywardreath was also Benedictine then these stories would have been heard and understood by the Pridias family. Indeed, we can see in Nicholas’s story following, that he was involved in the Crusades, if only financially.
In this same year as Stephen landed in southern Cornwall, fears would be heightened again about impending battle and trouble, so the family needed all the help a saint could give.
So, times had already changed quite considerably for this family, a couple of generations prior. Paganus was living in buildings made from wood and thatch, defending himself against the Normans and now his grandson, was involved in the building of the Priory.
Cadfael by Ellis Peters is set in a similar monastery in Shrewsbury and the stories told there help us to picture the life and times of the local people.
Local manors would try and sort out local problems, hoping that the Crown’s representative did not become too closely involved and create more problems with their solutions.
A better standard of living than his contemporaries and luck at missing out on plagues and disease ensured that Baldwin lived to a grand age of 54, before leaving his jolly world and properties to his son.
Tywardreath is another beautiful place and the silted up estuary is quite obvious when looked for. As mentioned before, the sea was quite close to the Priory. While this proximity to the sea was incredibly useful in respect to food and travel, it also put the Priory in great danger from pirates. There were many raids and the monks were forced at times, to remove themselves and their treasures elsewhere for safety.
More can be read of Baldwin in ‘The Bridge of Incidents’ in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.