Sir John Prideaux was born in 1380.
By the time of his birth, his parents were wealthy landowners in the South Hams. In addition to this, John’s father Giles was an MP, well known and respected in his neighbourhood. Giles and Isabella were as well respected for their achievements with their landed properties, as they were with business success. The lines of the family were excellent and noble and could be traced back through their own records to the time before William the Conqueror.
John was a confident boy and man, who expected to have a good life and was unafraid of duty. Brought up in the social circles of the Devonshire county set and the Dartmouth and Totnes business community, how could he be anything else? His parents knew Chaucer and the like and they had strong noble family connections in Cornwall and Devon. We know from his achievements that he intended to follow in the family traditions.
John married Isabella Bromford in 1407. Isabella was the sister and heir of John Bromford of Horilake, a considerable estate. Isabella gave birth to Joan in 1409 and John in 1414. The heir safely born, Isabella faded and died a few months later in 1415. Her estates in Horilake were willed to her son John.
In this same year, Sir John had license to go abroad with Henry V and was more than likely at Agincourt. I hope that Isabella was not alone when she died.
Sir John, not to be downhearted, a trait of many of the Prideauxs male or female, soon married again to Maude French Sharpham. Maude was the daughter and heiress of Robert French Sharpham and so John acquired an interest in the Sharpham estate, which has a frontage of three miles along the Dart.
John and Maude had three daughters two of whom, Elizabeth and Julian, grew up to marry William and Adam Somaster. Their parents, Richard and Marjery Somaster, were neighbours and friends of the Prideaux family. The Somasters, another County family, held lands around Devon, including property at de la Port or Old Port. This was an estate slightly nearer the sea than Adeston and had at one time been a castle of defence when the creek was deeper and wider and allowed ships further inland. It is illuminating to see how many of the Devon and Cornwall creeks and inlets went inland much further than nowadays. Many inland villages and properties were at one time by the sea, or at least a ship could be moored almost at the end of the garden. It is no wonder that there was such a fear of pirates and kidnapping. There would be neither means of escape nor chance of help arriving.
Many chose to travel by sea along the coast and further afield. It is clear how much easier it would have been to sail to London, instead of making the long and treacherous route by land. France and Spain don’t seem too far away and travel within England was so difficult. The narrow lanes, bordered by forest were possibly housing murderous thieves.
I know which way I would travel.
Sir John and Maude had another daughter they named Jane. This Jane Prideaux married William Drew and after his death, she married Baldwin Acland. Both of these men were famous in their time and the Acland family is still a huge landowner in Devon.
Maude soon died after giving birth to the three children in quick succession.
Sir John was still sailing back and forth to France. In 1423, he had license to travel with Sir John Robeassart. He was Captain of the Castle of Saint Sauvieur le Viscount, so he may also have fought under the Duke of Bedford. It is thought both of these men saw Joan of Arc burnt at the stake. These trips helped Sir John’s business and professional status.
Upon his return, Sir John married Anne Shapton, daughter of John Shapton of Shapton who successfully bore the son and eventual heir, William of Adeston.
John, the eldest boy, came into the Horilake properties when his uncle died on 17th November 1429. He was not to enjoy this for long, as he too died on 27th February 1432, aged only seventeen. The Horilake inheritance then passed to his 23 year old full sister Joan, who was married to Robert Stretchley and who I expect was hugely excited with all the extra money and property coming his way.
Stretchleigh stood in the parish of Ermington. The property was known as Stretchleigh first and gave name to the family which subsequently occupied it. William Stretchleigh was the first one to live there and apparently a William was the last. The property was eventually sold to the Rouses.
Risdon tells us about a strange event which occurred in Stretchleigh.
In this signiory AD 1623, there fell from above a stone of twenty three pounds in weight, which in falling made a fearful noise, first like a rumbling of a piece of ordinance, which in descending lower, lessened, and ended when upon the ground, no louder than the report of a petronel; it was composed of matter like a stone singed or half burnt for lime.
All the Adeston properties were now going to William, who had an education suitable for an heir to an estate. Sir John was known for his military service and was knighted because of his service to the King. He was also a well known gentleman in his locality, administering oaths by 1433.
Perhaps his stomach for war and death had diminished after seeing Joan of Arc killed and his eldest son dead soon after. After losing two wives as well, it is understandable that he would now wish to stay at home and help his community. Perhaps to get God back on side.
Sir John continued with his business in Totnes and Dartmouth, both of which were now prosperous towns. Giles had made money for many others as well as himself and so the family was most welcome there.
CP 25/1/45/78, number 84. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: Three weeks from Easter, 1 Henry [V] [14 May 1413]. And afterwards one week from the Purification of the Blessed Mary, 9 Henry [V] [9 February 1422]. Parties: John Prideaus of Addeston’, querent, and Richard Wodelond’, deforciant. Property: 1 messuage and 1 carucate of land in Torre iuxta Battolysburgh’, which John Carswille holds for life. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Richard has acknowledged the tenements to be the right of John Prideaus, and has granted for himself and his heirs that the tenements – which John Carswille held for life of the inheritance of Richard in the aforesaid vill on the day the agreement was made, and which after the decease of John Carswille ought to revert to Richard and his heirs – after the decease of the same John shall remain to John Prideaus and his heirs, to hold of the chief lords for ever. Warranty: Warranty. For this: John Prideaus has given him 20 marks of silver.
Sir John features in the story Burial Ground in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.