Tywardreath Priory

Tywardreath Priory

There is no current visible trace of Tywardreath Priory.
There have been recent attempts by the local people of Tywardreath to find it again using modern means. But it has been so flattened and all top stones and other artefacts taken away over the centuries, that discovery is difficult.
A gentleman of the parish wrote the following article in an edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1922,
‘The ancient priory of Tywardreath has long been so entirely levelled with the ground, that it is not very easy even to ascertain its site. Some time ago the present vicar obtained leave to dig the ground on its supposed site in search of stones for erecting a vicarage house. The place where he made an excavation for this purpose appears to have been the east end of the priory chapel; and as some measurements were taken at the time , and I have, with the permission of the landlord, opened the ground in several places, partly of throwing some light on its architecture, the following particulars may not be unacceptable.
The chapel appears, so far as could be ascertained by measurement, to have been eighty feet long, by fifty seven wide, with a semi-circular end towards the east; strengthened by four buttresses of wrought Pentewan stone, two feet wide, and ornamented by four pilasters; within the shafts are a single half-column, four inches in diameter. At each angle was a handsome piece of architecture, as it was described to me, of which pilasters, resembling those already described, formed a part, but with the base five inches wide, and the mouldings in proportion.
In the vicarage garden, adjoining the west end of the chapel, a fragment of a stone arch was found, with a fleur-de-lis elegantly carved in deep relief; the same devise appears on the church stile, and in a coat of arms in one of the windows of the church, and appears from tanner to have been part of the arms of the priory. The wall of the chapel is the south wall of the churchyard.
The chapel was paved with beach pebbles, and was built partly of common clay slate raised on the spot; the wrought stones were of compact hard porphyry, from Pentewan Quarry in the parish of St. Austell, and hornblende from the cliff between Duporth and Charlestown in the same parish. All the carved work is executed with much skill and taste.’
Although nothing now remains above ground, there is a story which abounds that the last stone was shipped back to France by the last Prior. There is no proof of this, although the story has been passed down by oral tradition.
The Priory stood at the water’s edge and ships would dock and leave from here. Much of Par and St Blazey was underwater and the sea fingered its way inland to Prideaux and further at high tide. The monks built a causeway from Tywardreath to St Blazey, but three men, one a monk, died one day when they failed to check the tides. A ferry was used at other times.
As the Priory expanded, so did the satellite houses, farms and alehouses which would normally surround such a place. The waterside was busy and sea travel and fishing occurred here in addition to Fowey.
It has often been reported since the fall of the Priory, that monks are seen to wander about the church and the area and their chants heard.
The seal of the convent was a saltire or St. Andrews cross. Sometimes the seal was displayed between four fleurs-de-lis.

It is stated in the Monasticon Anglicanum the following;
‘Tywardreit a cell to Angiers in France.
Robert de Cardinham gave divers Lands and Revenue in Cornwall to the church of St Sergius of Angiers and to the Church of St Andrew in Tywardrait and to the monks there all which was confirm’d by King Henry III.’

This entry gives the impression that Robert de Cardinham built the Priory at Tywardreath, however deeper investigation shows that the priory was already built and in use by the ‘black monks’ of France and that Cardinham made substantial financial contribution to the priory’s upkeep and extension.
Prior to 1066 the lands of Tywardreath were in the control of the Saxon Lord Cola before the Conqueror and then fell to Richard FitzTorold, the steward of Count Robert, the King’s brother.
Robert FitzWilliam who died sometime between 1169 and 1177, is recorded in 1166 Cartae Baronum as the holder of the lands which had been formerly been held by Richard FitzTurold. In 1169, he and his son Robert made a gift to Tywardreath Priory.
Following his death, his son Robert de Cardinham was forced to pay a large feudal relief in Devon in order to gain his inheritance. He owned at least 71 Knight’s fees in Cornwall, from the successor of the Count of Mortain. One of his holdings was a mill at Cardinham which serviced the Tywardreath Priory.
It was his son, Robert de Cardinham (died 1230) – heir of Robert FitzWilliam (de Cardinham) – who made gifts to the already established priory at Tywardreath, written of in the Monasticon Anglicanum.
Establishment of Tywardreath Priory.
A long term and well established trade route passed through the area from the Camel to Fowey. Goods were shipped from Ireland to Cornwall and then from Fowey to Britanny and the Mediterranean and back. This was a hugely influential area where monks and travellers came to make secret meetings and where smugglers and pirates abounded.
King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine had great connections to her ancestral inheritance in Angers and it may have been this connection to the house of SS Sergius and Bacchus which encouraged the French monks to arrive and establish a daughter house at Tywardreath. Sergius and Bacchus were two Romans violently executed and martyred when they refused to approve of their leaders murderous violence.
Henry and Eleanor wanted a spy satellite in this faraway edge of his kingdom.
According to the History of Glasney College (James Whetter); the foundation date for Tywardreath Priory is given as 1088, although the building was not completed until 1135. Osbert was the first prior who ruled by the favour of Lord Robert FitzTorold. Henry’s chief agent, the Bishop of Salisbury set in motion the beginning of the priory.
The Tywardreath connection is the first documented reference I have so far found to the Manor of Pridias (later Prideaux), although many connections are documented in retrospect.
Osbert, the Prior at Tywardreath granted to Baldwin de Pridias;
‘One knight’s 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, &c, as written in the charter of convention between Ordagar the Canon and Richard de Pidias Father of the said Baldwin.’
The charter was initially drawn up in 1120-1122 between Canon Ordagar and Richard de Pridias, the son of Paganus, but Richard died in 1122. This document remained unsigned until 1130 when Baldwin, the son of Richard, came of age and was rewritten.
The Benedictine priory initially housed about seven monks, the endowment being sufficient for that number. The priory, although poor, controlled the port of Fowey and had lands scattered over Cornwall. They rented some of the Pridias lands and I assume that this is what the charter was for.
The Crown began to mistrust the monks, an opinion which continued until its eventually downfall during the purges of Henry VIII. They were believed to be passing on gossip and finances to the French Abbott and assisting traitors. For this reason the Crown often took the monastery under its protection and confiscated money and goods, leaving the monks poor and reliant upon the goodwill of their neighbours. These neighbours were rather suspicious of the French monks, but used them for their skills with herbs and their ability to work in harmony with the more ‘natural’ practices of the first people of Cornwall.
There was an annual charge on the priory’s income, which was known as a corrody. This was to pay for the board and lodging of founders when they visited. Originally a voucher, later money, was used and this could then more easily be transferred to the Crown as a pension. In 1486 Henry VII recommended that his servant William Martyn be granted a corrody of 5 marks a year to be charged on the manors of Tywardreath and Trenant. A corrody was held in Tywardreath Priory in 1509 by Hugh Denys of Osterley Groom of the King’s Close Stool to Henry VII. On the death of Denys, Henry VIII transferred the corrody (“in the King’s gift by death of Hugh Denys”) to John Porth, another courtier.
All the French monks were expelled between 1400 and 1405 and in 1406 it became the home for English monks, who built up a thriving community until 1536 when it was supressed. In 1535 the Valor Ecclesisticus drawn for King Henry VIII, the priory had been valued at less than £200 annually,
Records show that there were 19 unsuccessful attempts to persuade Prior Thomas Colyns to retire gracefully from office shortly before the Dissolution, but he would not. It is not known whether the Priory documents went into the Arundell archive from the Prior or the King’s agent.
At the time of the Dissolution the Arundells were vying with the Grenvilles and Godolphins to obtain the lands of Tywardreath (see AL Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, pp. 209-10.). Thomas Arundell came into possession of the priory documentation. He was for a while in charge of the commission for dissolving the monasteries and would thus have been one of the few people in a position to remove the documents from the priory. Thomas could arrange to have the documents removed to Lanherne hoping that his family would acquire the priory lands. They didn’t succeed however. Grenville held them instead.
At Tywardreath Priory, newly writ documents were often smoked to make them look old and substantiate a claim.
Oliver’s Monasticon displays a document indicating that Grenville held the lands and then leased them to Sir John Arundell and Arundell sub-let the lands to Laurence Courtenay in 1542 (Oliver, Monasticon, p. 45, no. XXIV.). The documentation regarding the priory still remain in the Arundell Archive. John Grenville (CRO, CA/B44/1) eventually sold the lands to the Rashleigh family and the Earl of Hertford (Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, p. 205 and p. 210.).
List of Priors
1. Michael c.1250 – 1263
2. Galfridus 1263 – c. 1278
3. Philip c.1297 – 1324
4. William Bouges 1333 – 1371
5. William de la Hay 1371 – 1399
6. John Masselyn 1399 – 1406
7. John Roger 1406 – 1433
8. John Brentyngham 1433 – 1450
9. Walter Barnecot 1450 – 1496
10. Richard Martyn 1496 – 1506
11. Thomas Colyns 1507 – 1536

Tywardreath Priory lands were organised into eight manors for purposes of administration:
1. Manor of St Austell: seat of manor was in St Austell; tenements also in St Stephen in Branel.
2. Manor of Fentrigan: not an original manor but created as a means of administering the priory’s scattered lands in Altarnun, Davidstow, Lesnewth, Otterham, Treneglos, Warbstow, Week St Mary and Whitstone.
3. Manor of Fowey: seat of manor and all tenements were in Fowey. The borough of Fowey belonged to Tywardreath Priory. The court rolls here are for Fowey manor; it is not clear whether there was also a separate borough court.
4. Manor of Gready: not an original manor but formed from scattered lands in St Austell, Cardinham, Lanlivery, Lanivet and Luxilian.
5. Manor of Porthia: not an original manor but formed from scattered lands in St Anthony in Meneage, Gulval, St Ives, Lelant, Madron, Manaccan, Towednack, Zennor and possibly Ludgvan.
6. Manor of Trenant: seat of manor was in Fowey; tenements also in Tywardreath.
7. Manor of Trevennen: seat of manor was in Goran; tenements also in St Erme, Goran, St Michael Carhays and Probus.
8. Manor of Tywardreath Prior: seat of manor was in Tywardreath; tenements also in St Austell, St Endellion, St Enoder, St Sampson Golant, Lanlivery, St Martin by Looe and Menheniot.

The tenements of each manor,
• St Austell Manor
• St Austell town (Austoll, Austolle, Austolus) in St Austell parish
• Fentrigan Manor
• Carneglos in Altarnun parish [presumably]
• Fentrigan (Fentregan, Fentygan, Ventregan, Ventregan) in Warbstow parish
• Froxton (Forkeston) in Whitstone parish
• Helset in Lesnewth parish
• Penaton (Peneton) in Davidstow parish
• ‘Trehybyow’ [unidentified]
• Tredarrup (Tretharap) in Warbstow parish
• Witheven (Withefenne) in Warbstow parish
• Fowey Manor
• Fowey (Fawy) in Fowey parish
• Gready Manor
• Cardinham Mill (Cardinan, Cardynam) in Cardinham parish
• ‘Le Forthynglond’ [presumably] in Lanlivery parish
• Goom (Le Gomm) in Lanlivery parish
• Upper Gready (Gredyou superior) in Lanlivery parish
• Lanlivery (Lanlevery, Lanlyuery) in Lanlivery parish
• Layhays (Leslof?) in Cardinham parish
• ‘Lebiri’ [unidentified] in Cardinham parish
• Tretharrup (Trewartharape) in Luxilian parish
• Porthia Manor
• St Anthony in St Anthony in Meneage parish
• Bolenna (Bolaynow, Bolenowe) in Towednack parish
• Boscobben (Boscum) in Zennor parish
• ‘Boscomol 1′ [unidentified; possibly Boskennal in Ludgvan parish ?]
• Bosilliack (Boswolsekk) in Madron parish
• Bosoljack (Boswouleck) in Gulval parish
• Carn Bolenna (Carn Bolenow) in Towednack parish
• Carnelloe (Carnellow) in Zennor parish
• Chyangweal (Chyangwele) in Towednack parish
• Dennis (Dynese) in St Anthony in Meneage parish
• Hendra in Lelant parish
• St Ives (Ias) in St Ives parish
• Lelant (Lanant, Lananta, Lananth, Lannantha) in Lelant parish
• Malinnan (Melyn Manan,
• Myllenan) [lost] in St Anthony in Meneage parish’Melyncres’ (Myllyncrees) [unidentified]
• ‘Parkemane at Carnsu’ [unidentified]
• Pednolva (Penwolva) in St Ives parish
• Penbeagle (Penbygell) in St Ives parish
• ‘Placenor or Placetorten’ [probably in St Ives town and parish]
• Porthminster (Polmester) in St Ives parish
• Rosecaddon (Rescaden) in Manaccan parish
• Skyburrier (Scuburyowe) in St Anthony in Meneage parish
• ‘Torrm’ [?] [unidentified]
• Tregenna (Tregene) in St Ives parish
• Trewey (Trethewe) in Zennor parish
• Trevail (Treveel, Trevell) in Zennor parish
• Treveglos in Zennor parish
• ‘Treveylla’ [unidentified]
• Trenwith (Trevnwyth) in St Ives parish
• Trenant Manor
• Caffa Mills (Caghmylle, Caigthmyll, Caigthmylle) in Fowey parish
• Coombe (Comb, Combe, Legom?) in Fowey parish
• ‘Drenek’ [unidentified, presumably near to Trewalls in Fowey parish]
• Fowey in Fowey parish
• Lankelly (Nankilly) in Fowey parish
• Little Lawhyre (Lawhire Parua, Litellawhyra, Lityll Lawhere, Lytell Awhyr, Lytill Awhyre) in Fowey parish
• Lescrow (Lescrawe, Lescrowe, Loscrowe) in Fowey parish
• Long Stone (Langestone, Langiston) in Fowey parish
• Trenant Barton in Fowey parish
• Trewalls (Trewale) [lost] in Fowey parish [near Coombe]
• Trevennen Manor
• Godarricks (Godarek) in Goran parish
• Pengelly (Pengelly Pryour) in St Erme parish
• Trevaskus (Trevalscoys) in Goran parish
• Trevennen (Tremaignon, Tremanion, Tremanyon, Tremaynon, Trevanyon) in Goran parish
• Trewalla or Trewolla (Trewalaveour, Trewalavighan, Trewalemur) in Goran parish
• Tywardreath Prior Manor
• ‘Bowete’ [unidentified; possibly compare Bovewood in St Sampson Golant parish]
• Caruggatt (Carogat, Carregot, Carrogat, Carulgad, Corrogat) in Tywardreath parish
• Coldharbour (Trefory alias Coldeherber, Trevory) [lost] in Tywardreath parish
• Par (le Par) in Tywardreath parish
• Kilgogue (?Keligog, Kellygoke) in Tywardreath parish
• Lancrow moor (Lancrowemor) in Lanlivery parish [tin-works in, adjacent to Trevorry in Lanlivery parish]
• Trefingey (Trefrongye) in Tywardreath parish
• Treesmill (Treysmyll) in Tywardreath parish
• ‘Tressaveour’ (Tresaveour, Trusavor) [lost in the north part of St Austell parish]
• Tywardreath town in Tywardreath parish
• Tywardreath Manors by Parish
• Altarnun parish – Fentrigan Manor
• St Anthony in Meneage parish – Porthia Manor
• St Austell parish – St Austell Manor, Tywardreath Prior Manor
• Cardinham parish – Gready Manor
• Davidstow parish – Fentrigan Manor
• St Erme parish – Trevennen Manor
• Fowey parish – Fowey Manor, Trenant Manor
• Goran parish – Trevennen Manor
• Gulval parish – Porthia Manor
• St Ives parish – Porthia Manor
• Lanlivery parish – Gready Manor, Tywardreath Prior Manor
• Lelant parish – Porthia Manor
• Lesnewth parish – Fentrigan Manor
• Ludgvan parish – Porthia Manor
• Luxilian parish – Gready Manor
• Madron parish – Porthia Manor
• Manaccan parish – Porthia Manor
• St Sampson Golant parish – Tywardreath Prior Manor
• Towednack parish – Porthia Manor
• Tywardreath parish – Tywardreath Prior Manor
• Warbstow parish – Fentrigan Manor
• Whitstone parish – Fentrigan Manor
• Zennor parish – Porthia Manor


John Prideaux 1461 – 1523

John Prideaux was aware from birth, that he was rich and a member of the great families of Cornwall and Devon. The two counties mixed through marriage, inheritance and business and the Prideauxs have joined with each and everyone of them at sometime or other. John expected to make a good marriage with the responsibilities to Crown and country and family. He must produce an heir and a spare and maintain and increase the Prideaux fortunes. He must be keep aware of the current politics and ensure that he followed the correct leader as that could change at a moments notice. John Prideaux’s lifetime was no different to many before and after him. Fortunes could change on the whim of a new King and soon, religion would make a difference.
During these times ,there were many fights between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. There was a lot of support for the Lancastrians in the West Country and many aligned with their Welsh cousins.The marriages of William Prideaux to Alice Gifford of Theuborough and Fulke to Sir Richard Edgecombes daughter showed where their sympathies and politics lay. Sir Richard was knighted by Henry Tudor for his support in the overthrow of Richard III in 1485. The War of the Roses was over. There is a very strong possibility that Fulke was fighting at the Battle of Bosworth.
Most common people of the time could not care less about the conflicts between Lancastrian and Yorkist nobles. However a number of families in Devon and Cornwall had joined the Duke of Buckingham’s unsuccessful conspiracy to overthrow Richard and among those who fled to Brittany to join Henry Tudor were Sir Thomas Arundel, John Trevelyan, John and William Treffry and Richard Edgecombe. It is said that Edgecombe escaped capture by throwing his hat, weighted with a stone into the Tamar. His pursuers thought he had drowned and he was able to make good his escape.
His family lands in the South Hams including Orcharton and Adeston were willed to him. These were the longest owned and most beautiful and fertile lands, with warm weather and easy access to the sea.  His brother  Fulke Prideaux, inherited Theuborough near Sutcombe on the North  Devon coast. These substantial  manors arrived in the Prideaux household with their mother Alice Gifford. John Prideaux and his heirs were to inherit these lands, should Fulke die childless. Fulke firstly married Jane Edgecombe, the daughter and heir of Sir Richard Edgecombe. She died without issue. Incidentally, you may often see the letters dsp after someones name in a family tree. This abbreviates the Latin phrase, descessit sine prole, which translates  to died without issue. John Prideaux may have thought that he was in with a chance of inheriting the North Devonian lands to add to his  first marriage. John  Prideaux was  named as heir in his brothers inheritance at Adeston and also at Theuborough, should Fulke Prideaux and his wife die childless. But Fulke soon married Katherine the daughter of Sir Humphrey Poyntz and as if to drive it home with a mallet, they produced thirteen children, although not all  survived for many years.
It was a wife’s duty for many centuries, indeed probably until relatively recently, to produce children as regularly and as often as they were able. Their first born son was Humphrey , who became the heir. The name Humphrey Prideaux was given many times in this Prideaux line.
A sister Jane married William Wyke.

Ermington ChurchJohn Prideaux married Sybell of Luson in Ermington which lay less than a mile from Adeston. Sybell, although a neighbour at Adeston would not see John regularly as the Prideaux family had made their home at Theuborough when William married Alice.  But I hope that theirs was a love match. The couple eventually died within a few weeks of each other in  1523. The plague and sweating sickness had been doing the rounds again and it may be reasonable that they had caught one of those illnesses.
When they died in 1523 they were survived by four sons, Hugh, John, Henry and Thomas.
Hugh the heir, perhaps named after his maternal grandfather, died on 6th December 1559, when his son John was only seven. This John stayed in the parish of Harford at Stowford, an area which features strongly in this story for the next few generations.  He died aged 73 in 1625, is buried at Ermington and is named in his grandsons’ marriage settlement.

Cornwall March 2009 119


His son Thomas was churchwarden at Ermington in 1627 and baptised his own son Arthur in 1628. These cousins were useful to my line during the civil war period and helped each other out. To the left is the author looking at his gravestone.
During the 15th century, parish churches were rebuilt along with manor houses. Stone bridges were built across large rivers and stonemasons and woodcarvers were employed everywhere. The building industry was as important in Devon and Cornwall as tin mining and the production of cloth. The birth rate began to rise along with the prosperity.  Now we can see how the lines of the family keep branching out and shrinking throughout the centuries. This was a trend common through all families, and the Prideauxs were lucky in that they had some branches continuing keeping the blood connection going. So far the family had been mainly on the up, income and land holding going from good to really good. Younger sons and daughters were encouraged to make good marriages trading on the family name and connections. It had always worked. Business dealings helped more as time went on, but now we were heading into a time where it was not so easy to stay rich, even with these connections.  So now some of these younger sons were considering work as stonemasons and carpenters, who were sought out everywhere. The building industry was where our line of Prideauxs found work for three hundred years from the mid 1600’s onwards.
When Henry VIII became King in 1509, many changes took place in the country. Not least the excommunication from Rome.  Now the  dissolution of the monasteries could begin.
The little Benedictine priory of Tywardreath was one of the first to go by the Act of 1536.
It’s condition was terrible. Prior Collins and his six monks were all that were left.  His tenant Thomas Treffry was a friend of Cromwell and he ensured that the Priory was closed and the lands sold to the gentry. The stones of the priory were carried away to build new large houses. The only stone remaining is the gravestone of Prior Collins. The monks went off to live a secular life.
Nicholas Prideaux became Steward to Shere of Launceston and helped dissolve the monasteries there. He was rewarded with very long and cheap leases of the tithes of a number of parishes including Padstow. This was the start of the branch of Prideaux building the huge property there, known as Prideaux Place, which is so famous today. Nicholas was the great grandson of Fulke Prideaux.
John Grenville secured a lease of the Tywardreath estates in the autumn of 1536.
The Protector Somerset took them. The priories and monasteries were stripped down and plundered by gentry and merchants alike,ruining them forever. They increased their own holdings by adding on to their own properties.
John Leland, the Kings librarian, travelled to Cornwall during this period of time and made many notes about the area which have proved invaluable to historians for years. He noted the sheep grazing at Tintagel and that it must have been a large place in its time.  He thought Padstow unclean as it was so full of Irishmen. He considered St Austell famous for nothing but its church and Tywardreath famous only for the Priory which was still standing at this time. Castle Dor he could not find, but the keep was still standing at Restormel. Barges could come within half a mile of Lostwithiel during this time.  The sand from the tin works being blamed for blocking up to the bridge with waste.
Celia Fiennes, traveling in 1698, found St Austell full of comely women and enjoyed West Country tarts with clouted cream, but disapproved of the men, women and children smoking. She was very impressed with the mines and gave a wonderful description of how mining was done.
The times were a’ changing again.

Harford Church (9)

John stars in the story The Terror of the Thunderstorm in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.



Giles Prideaux 1345 – 1410

Giles was born around 1345 when Edward III was on the throne.
Because Sir John died when Giles was only twelve years old, he was placed under the guardianship of Simon de Longbrooke and it was his daughter Isabella de Longbrooke whom Giles subsequently married. Longbrooke is not far away from Adeston and Simon was no doubt a friend of the family.
Joan of Adeston  appeared to leave most  of Giles’s education to the Longbrookes. Giles, who was sometimes referred to as Gilbert, often visited and stayed at  the house of his guardian. He learnt English, French and Latin, but little else in the academic line. There would have been a basic learning of the law as he would find this necessary while managing his estates in the future. Sir John wanted his son to have the best education and the ability to handle their lands and fortune.
If Sir John had died of the plague or similar,  he would surely have had time to speak to his family and his friend Simon de Longbrooke in order to establish some future for his family. What a sad and moving bedside conversation that would have been.
John wanted his son to continue the same connections within society and court that his cousins and family did. These connections were substantial and impressive and would serve to ensure his future success as a country gentleman and prospective magistrate. The young Giles and Isabella spent a good deal of time together and it is not surprising that they ended up married. Isabella was co heir of her fathers estate and their fortunes combined gave them considerable power.
Lady Joan Prideaux remained Lord of Adeston manor even during her second marriage. She married John Mules, one of the de Moels of Cadbury, another ancient family. It is highly likely that a strong sense of duty to the Adeston estate ran through her blood. She was brought up with the knowledge that the survival of many families were dependent upon the smooth running of  the  large estate.
She gave over control of the estate in 1372, when Giles was 27 years old.  He had been spending the intervening years wisely, working with Prideaux cousins at Dartmouth, building up the family fortunes. He was involved in import and export, tin  and wool out, wine and fancy goods  in.  Times were changing rapidly, bringing  low prices and high wages. The villeins who could at one time be relied upon to farm estate lands, were leaving the area or mining tin. Lords of the manors were having to lower rents and give tenancies to a lower calibre of farmer. The plagues had decimated the population and gave each person more choices than they had  had for years. Children were no longer following their parents and pursued a different and perhaps more prosperous life.
The Lords of the manor felt that it made sense to pursue shipping and trade in order to keep the family estates intact. Giles did a good job and was selected to act as Burgess and so became MP for Totnes in 1368, the 42nd year of the reign of Edward III at the House of Commons.  Indeed members of the Prideaux family were associated with Dartmouth for over 600 years.
Giles must have felt incredibly proud to be summoned to Parliament at the age of 27, the exact age his grandfather Sir Roger was so summoned.
This was also the time of chivalry and romantic stories. Edward III had tried unsuccessfully to revive the story of King Arthur and the Round Table. Chaucer was popular at this time too. Chaucer visited Dartmouth in 1373 while he was visiting a friend of his, John Hawley. Hawley  was a member of the famous and prosperous sea faring family there and would inevitably have known  Giles Prideaux. Perhaps if we reread Chaucer, we can see the likeness of an ancestor. The famous stories of Chaucer only came together in 1386.
Now that  the family were dealing with France, often the south west area, it is understandable that the French sounding Prideaux was used more regularly. It is the business line of the de Pridias who continued the Prideaux name, where other career choosing family members often remained with versions of Pridias. I believe that this time was when the name changes separating the clan properly began.
Giles mother  Joan of Adeston, died in 1373. It is probable that she had some idea of her coming fate and ensured that everything was signed over to her son a year prior. Perhaps she had some difficulty passing the inheritance on prior to that date.



On the political front changes were taking place.
The Knights and Burgess joined together to form the House of Commons. The abbots and bishops sat with the secular Lords in York and Canterbury. Bishops were increasingly men who had achieved high office as servants of the Crown, or at the Papal Court in Rome. Some members were members of the aristocracy whose political services would be rewarded by a bishopric. They did not need to have any religious training. God would not have made them rich if he didn’t think that they were better than everyone else, so the belief of the time went. Some nobility took the responsibility seriously and some merely looked after themselves. Following is a copy of some documentation to do with Giles and Isabella.

CP 25/1/44/61, number 409. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: One week from the Purification of the Blessed Mary, 47 Edward III [9 February 1373]. Parties: John Langebroke, the vicar of the church of Ermyngton’, and William Langebroke, querents, by John Boron’, put in the place of William, and Giles Pridiawes and Isabel, his wife, deforciants. Property: 1 messuage, 2 ferlings of land and 1 acre of meadow in Ermyngton’. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Giles and Isabel have granted to John and William the tenements and have rendered them to them in the same court, to hold to John and William and the heirs of the body of William, of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, the tenements shall remain to the right heirs of John. Warranty: Warranty by Giles and Isabel and the heirs of Isabel. For this: John and William have given them 100 marks of silver.

The reader will note that the name is written as Pridawes, perhaps showing how the name was spoken. If we use the Cornish or Welsh pronunciation of the ‘awes’, it would rhyme with mouse.
The Crown was having the usual turmoil. Richard II was childless and  his cousin Henry IV stole the throne and he was followed by his son Henry V. There were so few male heirs throughout the gentry from this time until the 1600’s that all the castles in Cornwall fell into disrepair and rubble. Tintagel, Restormel and Trematon went from occupied homes then to prisons and finally ruins. Now was the time of 100 Years War and constant challenges to the throne.
There is no evidence that Giles supported the House of Lancaster but he also did not fall foul of the Earl of Devon like his cousin Sir John Orcharton. This cousin had killed William Bigbury and lost most of his estates. The House of Adeston was also on goods terms with the courts of Henry IV and then Henry VII. Giles was a true politician. He made friends with whomever was in power.
This way of thinking continued through the following Adeston generations, as they increased their standing  through excellent marriages and the increase in wealth through business.
As the 14th century began, there were about a dozen hereditary earls and 3000 owners of land worth £20 or more. But, as the century came to a close, many families had fallen from noble status. These families then relied on their coats of arms and their rank as Knights in order to rank above esquire, gentleman and then yeoman. Yeomen were the only ones to work their own land. The Prideauxs were nobility at the beginning of the 1300’s, but by 1400 they were struggling to remain as Knights.
They had to make good marriages and accumulate wealth that way. This is probably why some of the men such as Giles decided to encourage the use of livery. Sometimes the poor youngest sons, who had little or no inheritance, became yeoman and later stonemasons and carpenters. The nobility had to attach themselves to higher Lords in order to maintain any sort of status.
Roy Prideaux discovered documents which showed that Plymouth was plundered in 1403 by a Breton raiding party from St Malo. In 1404 another raiding party was so successfully beaten at Dartmouth that Henry V celebrated with Te Deum at Westminster Abbey. Giles then obtained license to proceed to Aquitaine and soon followed up the British success. His manor and lands were in an excellent position geographically to help with and organize the Aquitaine trade route. This was followed up to greater financial success by his son Sir John.
One assumes that Giles died sometime prior to 1415, when John had license to travel abroad with Henry V. We shall continue his tale in the following chapter. I have settled upon 1410.

Sir Giles features in the story Ghost Ship in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.


Peter de Pridias 1260 – 1316

In 1281, Roger settled land in Orcharton and Bradoc on his eldest son and heir, Peter de Pridias
Roger also gave land to his son Reginald who was the Rector of Bradoc a parish between Bodmin and Liskeard. Their second cousin Thomas is on record as having presented Reginald to St Mary’s in Truro in 1333. This Thomas was the son of Reginald, second son of Richard and brother of Baldwin and Geoffrey Reginald and who died in 1343.
Just before his death, Roger the Sheriff executed a deed, dated 29th September 1291, which gave his son Thomas an inheritance. This had not been arranged at any time prior to Rogers deathbed scene. What had Thomas done?
However, six weeks later, on 15th November, Thomas signed over all his lands and tenements to Peter his brother, leaving his own son and grandson without anything. There is no stated reason why this happened. The grandson of Thomas ended his line, as he had no family. Perhaps there was something wrong with his health or maybe he was no good, or had no chance of producing children and Thomas did not want to risk losing the family lands that way. There is a novel in just that story alone. (Oh wait – I wrote their story in The Mothecombe Coven in Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories. See below)
Peter was the closest to his father Roger and took part in all of these arrangements. The allocation of land and dealing with family problems were as much to do with Peter as with Roger. Peter was 31 years old when his father died and the mantle of responsibility passed easily to him.
Now Peter was the patriarch of the family.
He ran the finances and supervised the running of the farms. The problems of the farm tenants were brought to him to deal with; he would have had an estate  manager of some sort to help him with this. It is likely that he would ride on his own horses to visit tenants and check the work of the men and women he employed. As his family before him, the workers were reliant on Peter and his good graces in order to live somewhere and eat. They were in awe of him and I hope he respected them too.
Peter and his family would know about the births, marriages and deaths of each of his tenants and they in turn would have known all about their masters.
Peter died in 1316 leaving a young son called Roger.
It is likely that he was buried at Ermington whether he lived at Flete or Orcheton. I have not found his grave, but few from this period in time are visible. The tenants and workers would have attended his funeral along with his peers.

As far as the county of Cornwall was concerned, now was a turning point in history. Edward III set out in a constitution that the Duchy should come to the eldest son upon birth. It is still in force today. After his death in 1307, Edward II installed his very close and personal friend Piers Gaveston, as Earl of Cornwall.  Edward II was killed in a terrible way, and one of the supposed traitors Roger Mortimer fled to France and became the lover of the Queen Isabella. They returned to England and took the throne as guardians of Edward III. It was this Roger Mortimer that some believe was the father in law of one of our direct relatives, as mentioned in a previous chapter. Some historians are also convinced that Edward II was not killed, but fled to Europe and became a monk and hermit. This connection cannot be definitely proved and it seems more likely that it was an ancestor of Roger Mortimer, who married into the Prideaux family. The connection though has been repeated in several pedigrees over the years.

During the early years of the reign of Edward III, the French were constantly raiding Cornwall and the southern coats of Devon. The Cornish were called upon to repel the French and Bodmin was forced to supply four ships. The Crown  imprisoned the burgesses at Lostwithiel until they proved to the government that Bodmin was not a port…
This branch of the de Pridias family still had lands in Cornwall, which were included in  the holdings of Geoffrey. The link with Cornwall carried on for centuries. Even though the eldest son of Richard, brother of Geoffrey, inherited the vast majority of lands in Cornwall, subsequent Devonian Prideauxs kept some Cornish land either by inheritance or by marriage.
On a fact-finding mission, we had been driving around for a number of hours, visiting churches and photographing churches.  Again. I was playing my irritating game of pointing at places and saying, we used to own that. Mainly, because we did. Then, after going over a bridge and passing a driveway to a castle like building to the left, I said we used to live there, and meant it.

It was Flete House.

Flete, Modbury

Flete, Modbury

I have been to visit the building and grounds. The main building is converted into luxury apartments and it is spectacular. I arranged to visit this house, one rainy afternoon in August. David Sparks met us at the main door and showed us around. This house was built after my ancestors moved away from the area. The site of the original house was on higher ground only a little further away from the place I visited that day.

 Flete House, built mainly in Tudor times is on a raised ground above the creek, an inlet from River Erme and the sea. In times past, it was possible for small ships to navigate their way to the bottom of the very large grounds. Limestone, coal and other supplies were brought from the continent and other areas of England.

The barges came as far as the weir until quite recently and there were two carriage drives, one either Fleteside of the River in order to bring goods to the house. Access by sea was so much easier than by the narrow lanes of the countryside. These lanes were impassible by anything other than a pack horse. There are still lanes in the locality, where it is only just possible to get a car through, that being only possible when the hedges are cut well back. Without standing on top of the car, one cannot see over the top of the hedge. It is perfectly understandable that during the Civil War, one band could get within feet of another without being noticed.
Flete Estate and the bridge over the river known as Sequers Bridge created a very dramatic event in the future for the Prideaux family.

sequers bridge modbury

More can be found out about Peter in the story The Mothecombe Coven in the upcoming book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories to be published in June 2017.


Roger Pridyas 1224 – 1291

Roger Pridyas, son of Geoffrey, married a widow called Gilda. Gilda is an Old English name, and means golden. I do not know whether she was a blonde or had a lot of money.   Gilda was born at Hayleford, aka Heylffordd aka Helford. Heyl is Cornish for estuary and ffordd is road. Richard, the High Sheriff of Cornwall had control of these lands at Merthen (later Reskymer property) and exchanged them for lands at Tintagel where he built the castle. Both Roger and Gilda knew Richard , the second son of King John of England. Roger and his men fought alongside Richard in the Second Barions War with his cousin Thomas de Pridias and was rewarded by his stint as High Sheriff of Devon.
You will note that the family was now being recorded as de Pridyas in addition to de Pridias. You will also note that the family  was yet to be referred to as Prideaux even  two hundred years after the invasion. The land near Tywardreath was called Prideaux, but remember that the name was given retrospectively . This furthers my case for the family not having arrived with the Conqueror.
Roger’s marriage, in all likelihood, took place in 1247, as this was the year in which Geoffrey and Isabella, settled on Roger and his heirs forever, two carucates of land.
A carucate was as much land as could be tilled with one plough and the beasts belonging to one plough in a year.  It might have had attached to it a meadow or pasture and dwellings for the labouring man or cattle that went with it. Meadow or pasture for other use was calculated separately. This measure was introduced into England by William I and had little accuracy and varied from manor to manor. It came into common use for settlements where no boundaries were in dispute. As a carucate was often around 120 acres, it is possible that they were given 240 acres and the means to work the same land.

The document states,

With appurtances in Orcharton in Devon. One carucate of land in Rodewell in Cornwall at the rent of one pair of white gloves or one penny during the lives of the said Geoffrey and Isabella with remainder in fee.


There was also to be the service of one Knights Fee in Rodewell [Pedes Finum Div Cos 31st January III Easter No 4]
Roger was much better off both financially and time wise than his parents. This was due mainly to the hard work done by them and the estate they had built up over the years.  Roger was able have an education that would enable him to consider other options. Becoming a man of affairs and entering into local politics and social climbing was the sensible path to take. They helped in establishing the borough of Modbury which by 1238 had a weekly market and two annual fairs.Modbury Church (2)

Later in his life, Roger encouraged development by granting charters to peasants who were able to extend their holdings field by field as they colonised waste land. The younger sons of these free peasants and of the yeoman and the gentry went into trade and shipbuilding. They were now populating the new towns or worked on the tin ore at Dartmoor.
We do now that he first became Sheriff in 1271 during the last year of Henry III, 56-year reign. He was recorded as Rogerus de Pridias.
His deputies in 1271 and 1272 while acting for the King Richard of Almaine were Ralph de Teygnemus and John de Wilton, both clerks. King Richard, also Earl of Cornwall, and brother of Henry III, a famous and good man who fought in the crusades, had suffered a stroke and needed assistance. Richard died in December 1271, nine months after his own son Henry had been cruelly murdered by his de Montfort cousins while attending mass.  As Roger also acted on Edmund’s behalf in 1272 and 1273. Roger Pridyas had taken Edmund’s side during the power struggle which followed the deaths of Henry and Richard.
Richard, the King of Almaine, had acquired several properties in Cornwall, including Tintagel. He successfully persuaded Gervase de Hornicote to swap the castle in exchange for some manors. Then in 1236 he added the curtain wall and the great ward on the mainland which was linked to the island by a bridge. He did this to encourage the link with the area to King Arthur in line with the legend of Geoffrey of Monmouth.  Richard also obtained Restormel from the heiress Isolda de Cardinham and all lands on the east of the road between Bodmin and Lostwithiel.
Our ancestors, the Lords of Prideaux from the line of Geoffrey’s brother, Baldwin, would have borne witness to all of this. Times were changing fast.
The new Earl of Cornwall Edmund, spent most of his time at Restormel, although he also liked Tintagel and Trematon. He loved Restormel so much that he made Lostwithiel the capital of his county. It became his seat of government where tinners came with their blocks of metal and was the site of the gaol where many suffered the ultimate penalty of hanging. Edmund however would not help the poverty stricken and tumbledown Tywardreath Priory. Instead he relied on the hermits who were spiritual descendants of the early saints for his spiritual progress.
Roger may have won favour with the Earl by fighting alongside him during the crusades or taking his side during baronial battles, which occurred constantly. He certainly was doing all right politically, managing to hold the job for three years, until eventually dismissed.
The Knights of Devon however, wanted another Knight of their own county and made many petitions, which were finally heard and acted on.
His misdeeds made an impressive list in the Rotuli Hundredor um 3 Edward I.
As Roger tended to work for the Crown rather than for the area, raising taxes on their behalf, he made himself very unpopular. He often sat on the Shire courts and made judgments against his fellow countrymen. Because of this, there was an attempt to balance loyalty to local areas by the Lords and there was more emphasis on the idea that no Lord has the right to do wrong.
His unpopularity did not last and his daughters made good marriages. Obviously, no one was going to walk away from the chance of making good marriage matches for their children with a well-connected and rich family such as the Pridias.
In 1281, for the rent of £60 during his life, to be paid annually, Roger settled one messuage and two carucates of land in Orcharton and one messuage and one carucate of land in Brodoke to his son Peter and the heirs of his body. In default remainder to Reginald, brother of Peter with the same limitation in default remainder to Marjery Chartery and the heirs of her body. She was engaged to Reginald but died before the wedding and so Reginald became a priest. He must have been so in love. Unless of course he killed her and this was the only way to escape justice. I have no proof of that and am only making wild accusations. He may have really, really loved her.
There was still a lot of land about within the family to settle on their children.
The surviving children of Roger and Gilda were as follows.
Reginald, the son who became the Rector of Brodoke and presented to St Mary’s Truro in 1333 by his second cousin Thomas, as mentioned in the previous chapter. He died in 1343, an unmarried priest after Marjery his fiancée died.
Alice, a daughter was born in 1248 at Hayleford, Cornwall. This must have been where their mother Gilda came from as she could only have been visiting family to give birth other than at home. There is no way a risk was taken with a woman so near her time.  Alice married Sir Richard Reskymer who was also born in Hayleford and so perhaps related through her mother’s line.
Thomas another son, married Isolda.
As Thomas was a second son, it would have suited all for him to marry money and position. There may have been little coming from home. He and his wife had Roger who married Joan and they in turn had Roger, Thomas refused his inheritance, signing everything over to Peter, although we have no way of knowing why that would be.
He may have sold the inheritance to Peter or was blackmailed or tricked into it. He may have disliked his own heirs so much that he wished to leave them with nothing,  How great to find a diary written by everyone.
Lucy, another lovely daughter made an excellent match to Benedict Reynward.
Marjery, married Richard Heligan, but died in 1302. Her husband survived for another twenty four years until 1326.
Peter de Pridias, the last surviving son, upon whom Roger made a settlement of land in Orcherton and Bradoc in 1281 and left the remainder to Reginald. Peter married Clarice and died in 1316.
Roger was alive in 1290 [Pipe Roll 19th Edward I] but it is not known when he died.
The way the surname of the Prideaux family was written and recorded seems to depend on how each family wanted to be known as and to some extent how they were referred to by others.
There is still much evidence of the many forms of surname, Pridias, Prydyas, Prydas and so forth in the documents and writings in reference to the family at this point in time. These names often altered throughout the lives of the individual, going from one version to another. Although, this hinders research slightly, it is comforting to know that any combinations of the surname probably fall from the same Prideaux tree. Pronunciations of the word alter not only from each district, but equally within each family. I feel that all versions are acceptable.

More can be read about Roger in the story The Sheriff of Devon in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories 


Nicholas de Pridias Lord of Prideaux – 1135-1200

Up to now the Pridias boys were well known in the area in which they lived and had been so for many generations. The day Nicholas de Pridias Lord of Prideaux was born in 1135 on August 2nd, the day darkened over all lands. This was according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicles which also tells us that the sun became as a three day moon, surrounded by stars. This was taken as a sign of impending doom and so it was as King Henry was killed a few weeks later.
All we really know about Nicholas, was that he was amerced [fined by the court] of half a mark in 1189 and again in 1195, both times for making false claims. He had however been paid half a mark by the Sheriff of Cornwall in 1182 when he travelled to London to go overseas with the King.
Because a great deal of money had to be raised in order to pay for the Kings jollies abroad,  William de Wrotham was given the task of raising money from tin mining in Devon and Cornwall by Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed the First Lord Warden of the Stannaries on 20th November 1197.
These new laws meant that anyone connected with tin mining could only deal with the stannary courts and were exempt from parliament in London. This technically still applies, as the position has never been rescinded. A huge amount was raised from this reorganization of the tin miners and their industry in addition to other methods of taxation.
This a good place to list some of the holdings the Prideaux family had. These holdings were listed by Lake in 1284, but are relevant to backdate to the time of Nicholas and prior.

Lake states,

The ancient manor originally comprised Great and Little Prideaux, Lestoon, Levrean, Rosemullen, Trevanney, Trenince, and Ponts Mill in Luxulyan. Stenalees in St Austell, Grediow in Lanlivery, Biscovay in St Blazey, Carroget, Kilhalland, Rosegarth and Penpillick in Tywardreath. Gubbavean in St Issey, Nanscowe in St Breaock, and moieties in Golant, one of which was called Bakers.

According to some writings, Nicholas died leaving twin sons Richard and Hickadon. Hickadon has also been referred to as Herden.
The Prideauxs of Netherton state that Herden’s son was Sir Jeffery who was succeeded by Ralph who married the daughter of Sir William Bigbury. I will tell you a story about a future Sir William Bigbury in another chapter. I descend from Richard and so have only followed that line. That is lucky, as there is far more information about Richard than Herden.
The writings also state that Paganus built Prideaux Castle near Fowey. As discussed, the actual castle was only a fortified hill fort used against invasion and no separate castle was built. It cannot be known yet how much building took place upon the fort and if some sort of investigation takes place one day, we shall have a more complete view of what went on there.  In the meantime we can only draw parallels with the excavation at Castle Dor.
The information above with regard to the Prideauxs at Netherton was taken from The Baronetage of England and the English Baronetage, where it was acknowledged that the Edmund Prideaux of Netherton became a baronet on 17th July 1622.
The Crusades and the cost of that took up most of Nicholas’s life. I wonder of he or any member of his family went there to join in the fight? During his lifetime, he had known about King Richard going to the Holy Land, then coming back and laying siege to Nottingham Castle to claim it back from his brother Prince John. Finally Richard was killed whilst fighting in France.
During the 1100’s and after the First Crusade, many pilgrims went to the Holy Land to see the holy sites and ended up being robbed and murdered. From the necessity of guarding these pilgrims grew the Knights Templar and all the history which went with that story. It is highly likely that Nicholas and his father would have known men who travelled to the Holy Land and others who joined the Templar, if they did not in fact go there themselves. Many stories from the Priory would entertain local people in respect of this news.
Although a large landowner and Lord, Nicholas and his family were under constant threat of taxes and fines and he would have had a great deal of concern about raising money. Complaints were useless and the fine line being trodden almost daily in order to keep ones family and lands safe, must have put a great strain on the man.
Nicholas died in 1200, leaving the next generation to worry about everything.
His eldest son Richard took the reins and launched into dealing with the knotty problem of farming the land.

Castle Dore

More can be read about Nicholas in the story The Hanged Man in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.


Baldwin de Pridias Lord of Prideaux – 1109 – 1165

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.IMG00457-20100401-1240

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 daughterStephen 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.


Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux – 1070 -1122

Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux lived between 1070 and 1122.

The documentation negotiated by Richard Pridias, shows how involved the family swiftly became with the Normans. The Priory was built within five years of the agreed documentation, so it can be assumed that both Richard and Baldwin were instrumental in the completion of the building. It was to be another priory connected to SS Sergius and Bacchus of Angers. Tywardreath was one of eight monasteries in Cornwall, which were maintained outside of Cornwall.
Richard Pridias had seen many changes in the county of Cornwall. The people were exploited by their new masters and their meagre resources taken and used elsewhere. I hope the unique good humour of the Cornish helped them cope.
William Mortain the son of Robert, received two thirds of the county, but he was not happy with that and constantly stole lands from the church and others. William Mortain then married the daughter of Turstin, the builder of Restormel, whose male line had failed. Richard Fitz Torold was steward to Robert and ruled vast swathes of land around Bodmin.
Turstin ruled over the areas around the Pridias family near Lostwithiel. Robert Mortain systematically took from the county, making values drop hugely in the 20 years between invasion and Domesday and left Cornwall the poorest county in the country at this time. Robert Mortain died in 1090 after rebelling against William Rufus.
After the death of his father, William Mortain demanded the Earldom of Kent in addition to Cornwall. When this was refused he rose with Robert, Duke of Normandy against the King. This attempt failed and William was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment and his eyes to be put out. Apparently due to a miracle he was freed and he became a monk at Bermonsdey and died there in 1140. Henry I then took the Earldom of Cornwall for himself.
Henry I was on the throne when Richard died. He was a king who had already reorganised the judicial system and method of raising taxes. He created the Curia Regis [Lion of Justice] from which all government institutions evolved. Members of the Curea Regis were sent out and tax was imposed on even the very poor. These people then resorted to eating horses, dogs and herbs.
The king had decided a few years previous that all land was his and all the animals within it. He decreed that the manors could punish those who broke his rules and these punishments were wicked.
This time was grim. People lived in houses in the forest reminiscent of mud huts. Filth, poverty and disease made this place terrible to survive in. Traveling along the narrow uneven tracks through the wood meant taking ones life in ones hands. Penalties for theft were so horrifying, that an offender was much more likely to kill than just to rob. Hung for a sheep as a lamb as the saying goes.
Richard de Pridias died leaving Baldwin his heir and by now the lands were referred to as the manor of Pridias. This meant that the Pridias family had authority over the lives and conduct of the inhabitants of that manor. It was a Norman given right to do what the family had been doing before. Richard, I expect was a tough master in order to keep control of the lands.
I hope he wasn’t cruel.
It is also important to note that no documents of this time refer to the family as Prideaux.


More can be read about Richard de Pridias in ‘The Pattern of One‘ in the  book by A A Prideaux, Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.



Paganus Prideaux 1040 – 1100 Lord of Prideaux

Sir John MacLean wrote

The name and family of Prideaux is of great antiquity in Cornwall. Soon after the Norman Conquest we find a family seated at Prideaux Castle in the parish of Luxullion and some have attributed to it a British origin. The first of the name of whom we have any record is Paganus or Pagan Pridieaux who in the pedigree registered in the Heralds College is described as Pagan Prideaux, Lord of Prideaux in the Conquest time. 

There has been much debate about whether Paganus came to Cornwall with the Conqueror or whether he was already here. This stems from the fact that the family have been known by the French sounding Prideaux for so many years.There are various points of view on the origination of the name Prideaux. In French it could mean ‘praying or worshipping God’, or ‘by water’. I have also considered the idea that the Cornish Tredwr which means settlement by the water, could have been an origin of the name. The sea certainly used to lap the edges of the Prideaux holdings at one time, although no longer, as will be examined later.
However, the family were known as Pridias before they became Prideaux and later some branches of the family became Priddis, Priddy and combinations thereof.  The Prideaux name was attached to Lord Paganus retrospectively. I have come to the conclusion that Pridias developed from the Old Cornish Prid (clay) and als/aus (cliff). The land stopped at what is now St. Blazey and the se came inland beyond Tywardreath and further inland.
Paganus Prideaux is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, the famous census of lands and its occupants which was drawn up twenty years after the Norman invasion as a means of collecting taxes. If Paganus came to this country with William, then his Prideaux name was dropped immediately he took over the lands around Tywardreath and Luxulyan, for his descendants were known as Pridias during the next generation. Had Paganus been a French invader, there would have been a more detailed family history and as there does not appear to be any record of a Prideaux on the continent prior to the invasion, I am convinced the roots of the family are Celtic. Indeed, the  Normans would have been happy to write about the origins of Richard and his father, had they travelled from France. It was the Normans who wrote about Paganus when referring to Richard Pridias, a man accepted as an associate only a generation later. Richard was refered to as Richard Pridias in all documentation of the time.
Until relatively recently, people were known by the name of their trade or their land or their master. It was a way to identify one man from another. In Saxon times the clan would take the name of their chief. R.M. Prideaux who wrote the wonderfully researched work, ‘A West Country Clan’, considers the Prideauxs to be a clan. This book rarely comes on the market, but  must be read by any serious family tree researcher of the Prideaux line. They will learn  that every blood Prideaux descends from this man.
I believe that Paganus was living in Cornwall at the time of the invasion. He was a clan chieftain of a long established line, surrounded by  family and neighbours and used to dealing and negotiating with invaders.

A Coat of Arms was granted to the Prideauxs on the 9th March 1874 by the College of Arms, making Paganus officially recognised.  A Pedigree was submitted by Stephen Isaacson Tucker, Rouge Croix Pursuivant [junior office at arms] of the College. This was taken from the heraldic visitation of Cornwall in 1620.
Paganus was the father of two sons, Richard and Philip. Little  is known of Philip, so I assume he did not survive long enough to produce a family.
The Domesday entry for the area reads,

Richard holds TYWARDREATH from the Count. Cola held it before 1066 and paid tax for one hide, 2 hides there, however land for 12 ploughs, in Lordship 4 ploughs, 7 slaves, 8 villagers and 18 small holders with 3 ploughs and the rest of the land. Woodland 6 acres, pasture 100 acres. Formerly £4, value now 40s, 11 cattle, 12 pigs, 200 sheep.

A hide tended to be about 120 acres and the pasture and woodland would have been in addition to that.
Domesday also notes that.

Lanescot is a much smaller manor and was held by Albert before 1066

Albert would have been another Saxon.
If Paganus was born in 1040, then he would have been around 26 years of age when William the Conqueror arrived. If he had his son Richard around 1070 and Richard died in 1122, Richard would have been aged 52 years old.   Richard’s son Baldwin died in 1169 and he must have been born in 1109, because of a charter he signed when he just come of age. I admit to fitting these ages around the facts I know, Baldwin dying in 1169 and Paganus being around as a man when the Conqueror invaded, but I doubt they are far wrong.

More can be read about Paganus in ‘Blood of the Lyon Men’ in the book by A A Prideaux, Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories  which is now available.


A L Rowse. A Clever Boy.

It would be easy to list all the  achievements of Dr Rowse, but as his Bibliography is simple to find online along with his many honours, I don’t need to add to them. Instead, I shall add here, a few links and comments not readily available elsewhere.  I include a copy of the photograph and postcard I discovered in a book I bought,  along with a copy of a letter. In another blog about him on this site, I wrote that many of his peers had a problem with him and his attitude. But these personal notes show that he had many friends and admirers, who thought of A L Rowse as a clever boy and kind man.

A L Rowse

He sent a lovely photograph of himself on the Malpas Ferry and wrote on the reverse side

Malpas Ferry on the Fal, where, according to the medieval French chronicle . Tristram crossed over to Iseult on the bank, in the wood of Morois.  Moresk we call it today .ALR

On a postcard sent to Mrs. Richard Hatchwell of Chippenham on 27th March 1980, he wrote.

You are both sweet  to me. Delighted to have G’s book. I have most of his but this will make it complete. I have a  Corn Childhood  for you, but now when you come down will have some early Vols of  Poetry O.P. + unobtainable instead. You must go and see this place near Totnes. Nice old town too. Splendid! Medieval house and gardens. Love Leslie.

Rowse postcard

Richard and Mary Hatchwell were great friends of his and the interview and obituary below describe Mr. Hatchwell as the well known and respected antiquarian book seller that he was.

Richard Hatchwell Interview
Richard Hatchwell Obituary

The house he insisted they visit was Darlington Hall at Totnes. A L Rowse loved grand houses and the grand  families who lived in them and was friends and acquaintances with many in that circle. He was allowed access to many private libraries and family papers in order that he could complete the required research for his books. If anyone reading this wants to discover historical facts written in a flowing and easy to understand style, then read A L Rowse. He researched in great detail and his knowledge was second to none, especially with regard to Elizabethan,  Carolean and Jacobean history.

A letter he wrote to them from his home at Trenarren on 25th October 1994, shows their easy friendship.

Dearest Richard and Mary, Both,

Slow in sending you my horrible Regicides. But hope you approve my Shakespeare article in Daily Telegraph Week End Supplement, Oct 22.

When you come down again shall I sort out as last time – the mixture as before, some old rare books along with the moderns [though no fiction all good academically.]

All my friends are having ops, and Phyllis shingles – worried with re-decorating after dry rot! No worries of that sort when I lived in College. College life for me.

Wilts is not so damp as Cornwall – so hope you are spared re-decorating and shingles.

Much love Leslie.

Phyllis Candy was his housekeeper and looked after him for years. She was very protective of him, although Dr. Rowse was perfectly capable of looking after himself.

If you want to hear his voice, there are some lovely recordings on the BBC Archive website.

Desert Island Discs

Women of Mystery

and lately on You Tube.

He had such a wonderful speaking voice, which he honed himself at Oxford. He was never ashamed of his Cornish roots  or the thick accent, but he needed to be taken seriously.  He found himself mocked for having improved himself by some of his contemporaries, but he did not let it bother him unduly. Alan Bennett wrote a particularly cruel and unnecessary obituary about A L Rowse, soon after his death. alan bennett

Rowse does not appear to have had a great fondness for his mother, although he let her live with him in later years in spite of her nasty words and ingratitude. Their awkward relationship was discussed in Richard Ollard’s ‘A Man of Contradictions.’
Some of Rowse’s friends have also written books about him and all talk of him honestly and with great affection.

Tregonissey to Trenarren
Dr A L Rowse
A Man of Contradictions

Although a prolific and brilliant writer, his peers did not praise or revere him as they should have done. Dr Rowse certainly had a high opinion of himself and I feel the resentment he sometimes felt didn’t help his humour. A L suffered for years with stomach ulcers and in spite of  medication and operations,  at one time it was thought that he would die.  He seemed to live in a perpetual state of anxiety and perhaps a psychologist would point to the difficult relationship he experienced with his parents. We may decide, upon learning that a local butcher, Fred May , one day found it highly amusing to temporarily imprison the young boy inside a warm carcass, that here was another reason to create an underlying anxiety. There was also a strong rumour, not without foundation, that Fred May was, in fact, his real father. Sadly, in the end Rowse acknowledged that he was probably fathered by the butcher. He did visit some of the May descendants during one of his many USA lecture tours, but found little in common.
A L Rowse had no patience with some members of his family and neighbours in the small, tight community of Tregonissey. When he discovered that his eldest sister was born before his mother wed his father,  he romanced that he was really the son of  a St Aubyn. His mother had worked for them at St. Michael s Mount. The girl’s father was probably the daughter of a doctor where Rowse’smother had worked as a maid.
As he was writing one of his books  when living at Polmear Mine, his house overlooking Sr. Austell Bay, he noted that there was no one now left in Tregonissey from his childhood. That tight community had lived and worked and argued together for generations, but were now all gone. He experienced nostalgia as much as any of us do.
The personal reminiscences of his friends in the books detailed above confirm that his real friends and family genuinely loved and respected him. I am glad about that. I think he enjoyed his life and made sure that he got as much of of it as he could. Can everyone say that….
I am seriously thinking about starting a campaign to have Dr. Rowse properly recognised for his great works.
What do you think?


A L Rowse 1903 -1997

rowseMy roots are Cornish and I have spent a good deal of time roaming and living in Cornwall during my life. Many of the greatest writers of our country were either born in the West Country  or lived there at some point. The land brings such inspiration to creative people and I am sure that  others feel the magic of the Universe when they stand on a misty moor or take a  walk through Luxulyan.

But, perhaps they don’t. The Cornwall I think of when I hear it’s name, are the narrow leafed lanes and the small communities who speak in guttural  tones. This I why I love reading A. L. Rowse. His ‘Cornish Childhood’ was a bestseller in its day and is still read now. In it, Rowse writes only about his young life before he leaves Cornwall for Oxford. But through his words, the reader soon understands the Cornish society, its people and its landscape.

Rowse came back to his Cornwall following his Oxford years and lived in the house by the sea at Trenarren, where he always thought he would.

He wrote many books in addition to his meticulous diaries, which were  historical non fiction and in my humble opinion, he  has never been given satisfactory recognition for his works. He had the rare skill of weaving facts  with expert story telling  and so as we read, we walk with him along the  streets and meet those he describes, as if they were in our lives right now. Then, as if by magic we discover that we have learned and understood some  interesting history.  If I had been given his books to read at my school, instead of listening to the constant droning of teachers who obviously understood little of what they taught me, I should have learnt a lot more, a lot sooner.

A L Rowse quickly dropped out of fashion  and out of the Oxford set in the 20’s and 30’s due to his forthright and often rude manner. He could be arrogant and suffered no one he considered a fool. I only recently met a man who knew him at University when they were both lecturers and he told me a tale of an unpleasant conversation they had had. I will not repeat it here, but have heard similar reports on different occasions.

When you read his early work it is possible to see what turned this rather clever boy from a relatively poor background, into the capricious and complicated man he became. I believe his attitude was the classic defence mechanism of a man who did not want to let anyone in.

He collected a great library of books, many first editions, which he bequeathed to the University of Exeter, The Royal Institution of Cornwall selected some and others were sold to dealers. I have quite a few of his books, many signed. It is rumoured that some wag said that in the latter years, a book not signed by A L Rowse would be worth more as it was rarer than a signed one. One of the books I bought from a dealer had a personal photograph of Rowse alongside a  letter written by him. Just an everyday letter, but I treasure it.

When I go to Cornwall, I visit his grave and place flowers. He has other friends living in the area still, who tend his grave and his memory and another book is being written about him now. It seems he is not forgotten.

Although so much of old home ground has been altered by new roads and  buildings,  if you read his work and that of his friends, such as Dr James Whetter,  it is possible to find the lanes and the fields he talked about. You can eat your lunch under the viaduct at Luxulyan as he did at Christmas with his good friend David Treffry . Or you could walk up the high lanes and sit and look at the spectacular view. I have done that. Rowse’s Cornwall is the Cornwall I think of, for it changed little from his younger day to my childhood. It has changed dramatically since then.

I don’t know how many times I have read ‘A Cornish Childhood’, but I do know that it’s not too many.




Fowey/Seaside quayside

This is Seaside. I love Seaside.
It’s a pity that we couldn’t stay too long there in SHUDDER. I suppose I didn’t want to taint the memory of the place. I want to live near there soon.
I have said before that I remembered SHUDDER in a dream and then just had to type it out. But you really have to be dedicated to pulling every word out of your mind and getting it down on paper in a form that’s acceptable to readers. If people pay money to read your work, that’s an honour and it’s the writers duty to put all their energy and thought into the story.  Writing is not easy, but like running a marathon, you feel great when you cross the finish line labelled.



Seaside Cottage

cornwall march 2009 260

Lydia’s cottage?

A tiny little cottage by a harbour in Cornwall was the inspiration for Lydia’s cottage at Seaside.

I have travelled a lot around our country and been abroad once. I don’t like abroad. I like flying but I can’t relate to other countries. I am told

that if I travelled abroad more often, I would find many places I like. But I don’t think so. I want the old churches and houses and fields where I can see what used to be there. I am pretty good at that, seeing what places used to be like.  Then I imagine who lives there and what they do and why they do it and so it goes on. Another story comes to mind before long and I file it away in my mental database for later. The story always knows when to appear again.