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John Prideaux 1540 – 1620

Yet another John Prideaux story to tell. This John is the father of the Bishop John Prideaux who stars in my book. The Bishop and the Witch.

When trying to find out precisely where this generation of the family of Prideauxs lived in Stowford, I come across differing opinions. The historians of Ivybridge, including Louise Ryan, Gillian Venables and Ivor Martin, state that the house in which the Prideauxs lived was the house known as Stowford House which has currently been converted into flats. Roy Prideaux states that this property was the house of the Speaker Thomas Williams.

Stowford was a 100 acre Royal demesne from Domesday covering the King’s highway to Dartmoor hunting country. Queen Elizabeth conveyed it to Speaker Thomas Williams as a reward for  his services to her. Thomas Williams had many parliamentary duties and legal offices away from home and relied on his mother and sister to deal with his estates. His mother, Alice Prideaux, who had married Adam  Williams of Stowford held a good deal of sway within her marriage and ensured that the Prideauxs were given the long term tenancy of the farm. Alice was related to the Prideaux family via  the Orcharton line. Some cousins of which had moved to Ashburton and become well known there, They held  positions in the church and town and as Justices of the Peace.

John Prideaux had rich grandparents and rich parents and was happy to accept the tenancy of this farm when his father became ill and before he died. This John gained this tenancy when he was 27 years old and likely as not before he married Agnes, whose origins are unknown to me.

It appears that Stowford House and farm consisted of a dwelling house, 60 acres of land, meadow and pasture which lay almost entirely to the east of the Harford Road.

The Prideaux land is now almost completely covered by houses, the railway and a community college. It is bordered on the west by the Harford Road and the south by the Kings Highway which later became the turnpike road through the town and then passes over the Ivy bridge. It seems the only bit of grass which now remains of the Prideaux lands are a few paddocks north of the railway.

Not to worry though, there is a road named after the Prideauxs on the housing estate.

Ivor Martin, whom I visited in his wonderful little cottage when conducting this research lives only a few doors away from the edge of the Prideaux lands. Ivor’s house is full and I mean full,  of nostalgic toys, books and objets d’art. I was made very welcome and he gave me some information which helped further my research. He is a prolific writer of books and keeper of historic artifacts.

Speaker Williams died in 1566 after a short illness. He was a good man who spoke against the owners of parish livings giving very little to the vicar and allowing almost none for teachers. He also tried to encourage Queen Elizabeth to marry and provide an heir. Elizabeth liked and trusted him and rewarded him with extra properties which bordered on his own family lands.

John and his family had much to do with the Williams family, being related to each other.

It is known that this branch of the Prideaux family was Catholic.

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The lane to  Harford Church runs close to these properties and this church was frequented by both families. Many events took place there, including births, marriages and deaths. There are memorials to both families there.

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Across this road flowed water from Well Park, which traveled directly to the farm and its buildings, via an old culvert.

The Prideauxs  made their living from producing bread, dairy products, meat and cloth weaving. A tucking mill stood very near to their property. All these items were used at home or sent to local markets by pack-horse. The family had enough to eat and a roof over their head, but they were relatively cash poor.

It is highly unlikely that their diet was the same as two generations back. No more the storing of oysters and salmon, larks and swan, sometimes a fawn and often sugar candy for the children. No more plays acted in the grounds with dancers and minstrels and pipers at the gate. They would still have cherries, plums and pears, cowslips and cakes from their own orchards and ground. Moorcocks, capon and geese, but times had changed for this branch of the Prideaux family.

John and Agnes produced a large family, ten living children and in some quarters it is recorded that there were another three children who did not make it far into childhood.

The surviving children were as follows, Thomas the eldest. He was born in 1571 and married Blanche. Blanche lived until 1645, but Thomas died before her. He is my ancestor and will be the subject of the next chapter.

Johan was born 1573 and buried on 28th April 1664.

Agnes, born 1576, who eventually married Arthur Dawe and was buried on 7th May 1639.

Henry born in 1577 and buried in 1639, there is documentation about him.

John was born on 17th September 1578. He became the Rector of Exeter and Bishop of Worcester. He married Mary Grace Taylor, then Mary Reynell of West Ogwell and was a very famous and influential man. He is the subject of my  book. The Bishop and the Witch.

Hugh, who married Anne and died in 1663. Anne died on the 1669, leaving Blanche and John in charge of the estate.

Christopher, born in 1582, married Alice who died in 1614.

Francis was born in 1584 and buried on 2nd September 1658 He first married Margaret and then Alice of Brent.

Richard, born around 1585 and who became a mason in 1633.  He married Jane, who was buried on 12th April 1633. He then married Elizabeth who became a widow in 1645.

His son Richard is mentioned in Old Devon Bridges, by C Henderson. In 1672 The Mill bridge over the River Yealm at Cornwood was in decay. Symon Prideaux gave evidence that the bridge had only been a plank bridge, a clam bridge upon which only pedestrians may travel and not horses or carriages. Mr. Hele in 1647 repaired and renewed the bridge with beams and planks from his own mill. The five judges attending the sessions decided therefore that as the bridge had been repaired by John Hele on behalf of the parish of Cornwood, it was not a county bridge and therefore not their responsibility to repair.

Elizabeth was born in 1586 and married James Mitchell on 5th January 1613.

All of their children are on record, but I shall not list them in this story.

Details can be obtained from Roy Prideaux’s excellent work, ‘A West Country Clan.’

All of these events appear to have been celebrated and recorded at the beautiful Harford Church, a church which had gained a reputation for clandestine marriages in the past.

The clerks during the time of John and Agnes Prideaux were John Priest, Andrew Helyer who remained for 56 years and William Hart of whom I shall talk later.

The Prideaux  boys went to Ashburton Grammar School, probably travelling across the moor from their house to Harford church and along the ancient way following the crosses which helped direct the traveler. This grammar school was founded by Bishop Stapledon, the same man who founded Exeter College at Oxford. Many good West Countrymen attended Exeter College. John Prideaux did particularly well there as he was a natural scholar.

The Civil War greatly affected the area in which my ancestors lived. Parliamentarians and Cavaliers buzzing back and forth, fighting each other and upsetting the lives of the ordinary folk.

William Hart, the clerk of Harford Church, was a man involved in the lives of all the local people and the Prideaux family in no lesser way. He witnessed many of their wills in addition to the normal duties of a parish vicar with regard to birth, marriage and death. Mr. Hart was in trouble on several occasions for refusing to swear allegiance from Royalist to Parliamentarian. The local influential people managed to keep this popular man in his job. Once, he was arrested by soldiers intent on persuading him in a more forceful manner. He was eventually released due to pressure but a Major Pierce said

‘Bid the parishioners pay no tythes and if they would knock him off his horse and kill him, his friends should have no law of them.’

It was probably as a result of this that the Prideaux family arranged to have a memorial plaque put on the wall of the church. The plaque is still there to this day and when I first saw it, I had one of those OMG moments.

You know, one of my family actually put this up four hundred years ago.

The plaque states:

Here rests the bodies of John Prideaux of Stoford and Agnes his only wife. The parents of[7] sonnes and [3] daughters.

To Whom

John Prideaux their 4th sonne Doctor of Divinity and their Kings Majesties Professeur thereof in the University of Oxford, Rector of Exceter Colledge and chaplain to Prince Henry King James the first and King Charles the first.

Hath left this filiall remembrance

July 20 1639

The old rectory was at Lukesland, just next door to the Prideaux property, they were neighbours too and hopefully friends.

Harford Church is atmospheric and spooky, and damp. But it is one of the loveliest places I have ever been in. On the very edge of Dartmoor, although within the National Park, it stands on a small green surrounded by a few houses and trees and hedges. It was misty the first time I saw it and I can see how the area was ideal as the location for the Peter Cushing version of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

The Bishop came back to visit his family on many occasions, often surprising them by arriving without warning, but always armed with presents. He was an accomplished archer and would compete with his brother Thomas upon his return.

John senior, died in 1620, leaving his wife Agnes a widow.

There was talk of her retiring to the house at the corner of the property, Bridge End House by the Ivybridge. This has now been demolished and replaced by the London Inn, which has now sadly been closed down for a number of years. She stayed at the farm, which was  being run by Thomas and Blanche. She lasted until 1626 and her will proved on the 15th February 1626, although it had been written soon after the death of John on 16th February 1620.

 My body to be buried in the church of Harford.  To the poor of Harford 2s. To my son Hugh 20s. To my son Richard 20s. To my son Christopher 20s o my son Francis 20s and my greatest brasse panne. To my son Henry 50s and my next greatest brasse panne. To my daughter Johan 20s. To my daughter Agnesse Dow my best chest and all my lynnen. To John Prediaxe his sonne my best cuppe with a silver cover, To Welmont Burt my little silver cupp. To little Elizabeth Mychell my great brasse crocke. To all my children’s children 12d each. To Susan Prediaxe one ewe sheep. The rest to Thomas Prediaxe my son sole executor. Also I give him all my rights in Stover as appears by a lease made by Richard Williams. Sign of Agnes Predyaxe

John Bart of Wedenbury and John Shepherd overseers

Witnesses John Bart and John Shepherd

Inventory made by Richard Prideaux and John Scobble.

The will was written before the time of the popular William Hart, when the long serving Andrew Helyer was in charge. It looks as though Agnes did not approve of Helyer, as she left money to the poor rather than the church. This was often done by Catholics, who did not approve of Protestants and showed their disdain in this way. With regard to some of the beneficiaries of the will, they can be explained as follows.

Susan was daughter of Thomas; Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth, she having married James Mitchell in 1613.

John Prideaux was by then Rector of Exeter College and Canon of Christchurch. He had a son John who was left the silver cup. Henry did not marry but lived until 1639.

Thomas, Richard and Hugh formally resigned their claim to the administration of Henry’s goods in favour of their youngest brother Francis.

This wee doubt not, but our brother the Doctor in Oxford will be ready and willing to do also

We can  assume that Henry was either physically or mentally challenged and perhaps lived with Francis, who looked after his needs, now that his parents were dead.

Richard, the brother of Thomas and John left a will as follows

I Richard Predeaux of the parish of Harford. To my wife Elizabeth one brasse panne which I call Blakes pann, my other brass things, 2 pewter dishes and the porringer with the letters SP on it and £110.

To Agnes Brangall [Bragwell] 10s. To the daughter of my son Simon 10s. To the poor of Harford 3s 4d

The rest to my son Symon Sole executor.

Thomas William of Fillom gent and my cosen John Preddeaux son of my brother Thomas Preddaux overseers.

Signed Richard Preddaux

Witnesses William Hart, Catherine Prowse

Inventory made May 28 1645 by Thomas Pridiuex of the parish of Harford [my Thomas]

William Hart was in favour here, he must have made a good impression on the Prideauxs, the new generation obviously becoming happily Protestant.

Elizabeth, Richard’s wife made a will a year after her husband.

To William Hart Clerk of the parish of Harford a hogshead of cider

To Alexander Lavers a hoggshed of cyder

To Agnes wife of John Prideaux two of my best aprons. To my sister in law Blanche Prideaux my best kerchief. To Richard Roper my calfe. To Anne Kelly my gowne and one hogg. To Phillipe Prideaux my best waistcoats To Elizabeth wife of Thomas Dawe my best petticoat. To Rachell Dawe one hat that was my kinswoman’s Agnes Bragwell.To Grace Ripley my servant my woolen waistcoat and 6lbs of yarn. To Richard Roper’s wife my holiday coats to his daughter and under coate. To Elizabeth Chubb my beste hatte and best apron halfe silke. To Katherine Prowse one of my handkerchiefs and a canvas apron.

To Joane Fox my god daughter 10s

To Thomas some of William Scoble 5s

To the children of Symon Prideaux 5s each to the children of Alexander Lavers 1s each. To the poor of Harford 3s 4d

Witnesses Thomas Collings John Fox The rest to Thomas Williams of Fillom gent sole executor

William Hart Clerk of Hartford and John Fox Ugborough Overseers Elizabeth Prideaux.

This will was written towards the end of the first phase of the civil war. Thomas Williams was of Speakers Williams family.

Alfred Prideaux of Bath researched the Prideaux line also and during this came across the Harford’s Bishop Transcripts and managed to discover several relevant wills. I have copied only the ones relevant to me. Alfred kindly gave me much information and a lovely and detailed hand drawn Prideaux family tree.

The Prideaux family had good views and personal experiences of the tooing and froing of the sailing fleet meeting the Spanish Armada. Their attempted landings around the Cornish and Devon coast must have been as terrifying and exciting as the landing of pirates.

This was the start again of a good time for the tin industry. The tin streams were exhausted so mining began in earnest, the wars required metal production and trade routes were cut off. The tin mining was very dangerous and the inefficient pumps and strenuous work meant that the men could only withstand it for four hours. Agriculture was neglected for the fast buck of mining.

However mining soon began to fail and the men returned to farming and fishing. Unemployment now became a serious problem as people flocked into the towns. The gentry during this time were landowners, magistrate’s, commanders of land and sea forces and members of parliament.

The gap between the two remained as distant as it ever was.

Incidentally, I discovered a prayer that the Prideaux family taught to each generation.  It was thought to be  protection against the plague. I wonder if this prayer was so carefully kept because so many of their ancestors had succumbed. Perhaps even his parents and siblings. It goes like this.

O God, That knowest us to bee set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that for Mans frailenesse we cannot always stand uprightly, guard to us the health of Body and Soul, that all those things which we suffer for sinne, by thy holy wee may well passé and overcome, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I use the prayer as an opener in The Bishop and the Witch

The Bishop and The Witch AA Prideaux
The Bishop and The Witch AA Prideaux

Featuring John Prideaux and available to buy now.

Prideaux Ghost Stories.

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