Peter Prideaux was born on 1st August 1733 at Ringmore where he lived with his parents, Peter Prideaux and Joan Prideaux and four siblings, Joan, Elizabeth, Anne and Thomas.
They lived in a cottage with a workshop attached and this enabled Peter senior to carry on with his carpentry work and feed the family.
Unfortunately Peter Prideaux senior died when Peter Prideaux junior was only fifteen years old. This was enough time to teach him woodworking skills, but not enough time for him to complete an apprenticeship.
At home were three unmarried young women and a ten year old brother, so young Peter had to take what work he could get. Their mother relied on the girls and the money they could earn working as maids or on local farmsteads. Thomas could earn money only by doing work such as crow scaring and stone picking until he was a little older.
Joan Prideaux refused to let any of her children go into mining or any other such backbreaking work and so the family managed to stay together and maintain a modicum of their dignity. They were dreadfully poor and thought often of what should have been their lot.
Peter was able fill his father’s shoes and do at least some of the work which his father had been expected to do. Whatever work it was, it would be a while before he was able to earn enough to keep them all. They managed to keep the cottage roof over their heads with help from friends and family. The repairs and maintenance were done by Peter and the girls organised the growing of vegetables and fruit and looked after the animals. It was essential that most of their food could be supplied in-house. Any surplus was sold to their neighbours or taken to market. Clothes were made at home from cloth bought cheaply or donated. Many families lived this way. Make do and mend was not just experienced during 20th Century war years.
The sisters, Joan and Elizabeth helped their mother keep house and appeared to have no time to court the local young men. It was not until the death of Joan in August 1756 that they were able to get out more. By the end of September the following year, both girls had married and left home. It was not possible for any woman to marry and leave home unless her intended was in a position to house, feed and clothe her. He had to have a job or trade and not just good intentions.
Thomas Prideaux did not marry until 1761 and Anne Prideaux never left the cottage. People rarely married until their twenties, even though their life expectancy was quite low. There was a general lack of intention to marry young, but when they did marry, they got down to the business of raising a family as soon as they could. They often did not marry until the girl was pregnant anyway. There was a desire to prove fertility.
Peter Prideaux, as the eldest and main breadwinner, was master of the house and worked solidly earning money as a carpenter. Work was coming in more regularly now that Peter was older and more experienced, but he managed to stay away from the altar. He preferred his sister Anne’s company to that of any other woman who may want to take over the house. Anne kept house calmly and without question and was easy to manipulate, because that is what Peter did. He told her that he was lost without her and could not manage without her running the household and that he was so grateful that he was able to continue the business of their father. And Anne in her own opinion, was the only one to be able to manage at the cottage. It was not in her interest for another woman to come in and take over the housekeeping reins. A wife for Peter was more than likely the end of her role there. There was no man on the horizon and it was unlikely that a new wife would allow Anne to stay on at the cottage.
However, the arrival of a son to local girl Mary Wills on Boxing Day 1768 changed all that. The child was called Thomas Peter after his father (Peter) and his maternal grandfather (Thomas). But it was not until 10th May 1769, that Peter finally married the girl and made his son legitimate.
That was not such a surprising thing to do back then. Often a man would want to know that he would have children by the girl he was to marry. It was almost impossible to get rid of a wife, unless by murderous means. As pregnancy may still not force a marriage in itself, the girl’s family would force the guilty to the altar in order to enter into the apparently unbreakable vows that the Church had convinced them of. Many women were pregnant as they took their vows. Peter may not have wanted marriage for many reasons, but he did marry and the church records prove it.
There would be a time in the future when this resultant son, Thomas Prideaux wrote down in a court hearing that he was a bastard.
Learning that kind of information can send this family research historian into a bit of a loop, as it was now possible that no Prideauxs in my family were related to the Prideauxs of old. But it turned out to be alright in the end. Hurrah!
On the marriage certificate and church record of Peter and Mary’s marriage, Peter was described as a sojourner to show that he was not one of the gentry Prideauxs. How sad, because if things had turned out a little differently, he would have been one of the gentry. It was in his blood. Maybe this small act would be enough to reignite within him the feeling that the family were from better roots than their current social position might intimate. He must have loved that little touch from the clerk at the church.
Thomas Peter was born on 26th December 1768 at Ermington. He is listed in the parish Records there, as
`Thomas Peter base born son of Mary Wills born 26th December 1768 baptized May 10th 1769`
This was the same day that his parents eventually married and made him legitimate.
They settled down together happily enough, as on 14th November a second son Peter, was born at Ermington. It is interesting to see that the name Peter was used again, this time as a first name. Now Mary could be sure that she had her man and did not need to keep her own father on side. The social penalties for a girl having a child out of marriage could be severe when not supported by her own family.
It was also agreed between Peter Prideaux and Mary Prideaux that his sister, Anne Prideaux could remain at the cottage and help with the raising of the children and the work which needed to be done. Anne was grateful to them for the chance to keep a roof over her head. Not all families would be so generous, even to their own flesh and blood. However, soon the son of the butcher asked Anne to marry him and when she accepted, Peter and Mary could get on with their own lives.
N.B. This Ann Prideaux would never marry a butcher, being a veggie and all.
The family soon increased in size and Jenny Prideaux was born on 31st December 1775 at Ermington and their fourth child, John Prideaux was born on 23rd March 1779 at Modbury, but he died young and was buried in 1784.
Peter Prideaux appears in the churchwarden’s accounts at Ermington in 1816. He was paid 1s 6d for the carriage of sand for William Prideaux, who was the sexton of the church at Modbury.
There were many Prideauxs around Kingsbridge, Modbury and Ermington, and a surprisingly large number of them were Quakers. I found gravestones of several at the Catholic Church in Kingsbridge when I visited there. The place used to be a Quaker meeting house.
Peter Junior is in the 1841 census living in 14 Back Street Modbury. He was on a Navy Pension and lived with his sister Jenny who was sixty five. She appears to still be unmarried. Also there were a Maria Prideaux aged 25 and John Prideaux aged 1. Maria was his daughter and John her illegitimate son. The house was also home to Jenny Wakeham aged 55 and Mary Wakeham aged 15. Perhaps they were lodgers. Money was tight for everyone, so it was not uncommon to share houses.
Next door at no 13 lived John Prideaux who was 30 and a carpenter. He was Peter’s son. He and his wife Charlotte lived there with their children, Mary 4, Jane 2, and Sarah aged 1.
By 1851, Peter was dead and the property let to someone else.
His father, Peter senior was buried on 17th June 1810 in Modbury. He moved there to be near his son and daughter, after Mary had died a few years prior. Jenny and Peter were very close to their father, indeed Jenny lived with her mother and father all her life. She ensured that they were never alone, even during their final illnesses.
Considering that so many ancestors had ships and sailed often to the continent and around the English Channel, this Peter is the only relative I have found so far, who went to sea. I don’t think it was in a pea green boat – though it may have been.