Sir John Prideaux 1320 – 1357

Sir John Prideaux the second son of Roger, married Joan Adeston. in 1344. Joan was the daughter and co heir of Gilbert Adeston. It was their ancestors who signed the Ermington Hundred in 1238 along with the Prideauxs.
The marriage  meant that now two of the largest properties south of Modbury were joined as soon as  Joan inherited. Women, even in those days held land in their own right after marriage at all levels of society, if a lawyer ensured it to be so.
John kept out of the dramas occurring with his brothers and his heirs, preferring to enjoy the lands he had inherited and gained by a good marriage. The Adestons were rich and influential and a marriage to the Prideaux boy who lived down the road was more than essential. Everyone was aware  of the dynamics shifting as one after another Prideaux brother and son died. I doubt very much whether any of these marriages started as a love match, merely arranged over dinner between the parents. I hope that they turned into good matches.
The name Prideaux was used from Sir Roger’s time and has kept through until the present day within our family. Other families use different versions of the surname as described in other blogs. I have argued that  de Pridias had been used mainly to these days of the 1300’s and had quietly changed to Prideaux.
Sir John died as a young man in 1357.
He was only 37 years old and lasted only ten years after the death of his father, who had also died young. John’s  son, Giles was twelve years old and may have felt that there was so much that he still should know about his father. He hadn’t really known his grandfather either and so the Prideaux history and de Pridias name may have broken the link slightly here.  I hope his cousins gave him all the information he needed. Joan was only married to his father for just over two years and knew far less about Roger than the rest of his family. The old guard was history and although respected, the Prideaux family wanted to move forward into  a modern future.
His elder brother Roger, was the heir to Orcharton, Flete and other lands and father of eight. We learnt about him in the last chapter.


1357, the year of their death was the year in which influenza was declared a disease and the Shroud of Turin went on public display for the first time. I doubt the two events were related.
I am considering the possibility of the plague or Great Mortality as it was known then, resurfacing in this area after the major spread of the late 1340’s and early 1350’s. This plague and the ominous sounding Sweating Sickness of which Henry VIII was so afraid, were all prevalent at this time. Some have muted the possibility that it was due to the fact that so many cats had been killed because of the association with witches and so rats were able to breed out of control.
Whenever this plague struck a community, at least 10% of the inhabitants died as a result. There is still no record of the five children Roger had by his second wife, children who would have been the nephews and nieces of John.  John and Roger died in the same year, so it must be more than coincidence that so many members of the family disappeared all at once.
This plague, later referred to as the Black Death, had initially spread from the continent and it can be no surprise that these coastal communities would be affected so readily, when families such as the Prideauxs had ships bringing most of their requirements right to the back door.
The Medieval Warm Period finished in the early 1300’s and several very cold and hard winters and resultant reduced harvests, had added to the general demise in the health and well being of the population. Commencement of yet another war, the war which become known as the Hundred Years War, also increased the depressed state of the nation.
The chances are that the rest of the family who survived, could have been spirited away to a safer place. Perhaps they travelled back to Cornwall for the duration. Any family of a lesser social standing than these, would not have been able to travel anywhere. No one was allowed to arrive in another village without question or a letter of introduction and there was no possible way an entire family could survive for long with no house and no chance of employment. Only young people with a place to go to work were able to leave their home village. So, during any plague, you took your chance. It is no wonder that religion in any form, either official or ancient was high in importance. If the Prideaux family were decimated at this time through such tragedy, I feel for them.
Joan Prideaux inherited the manor on the other side of the River Erme upon the death of her father and their son Giles became his mother’s heir by her deed of 47 Edward III in 1373, when she died. She had remained as Lord of the Manor for 15 years following the death of her husband Sir John Prideaux and during her second marriage to John Mules. The Mules family also owned the manor of Flete during the 15th century. Although it was not as common then as now for parents to be attached greatly to their offspring, as they died so frequently, inheritance always went down the correct blood line where any strong minded woman had her say. Loyalty when it came to marriage and inheritance was very strong.
The feudal system was finished, as more and more peasants succumbed to the plague and died. It hit them more than nobility and gentry as they were not so freely able to move away from the source of plague hot spots and save themselves. They were also undernourished and lived in dreadful conditions. The side effect was that there were fewer people to work the land and the surviving peasants demanded higher wages in order to take over the job. This was a very scary time in which to live. If the plague did not get a body, then wars and accidents would. Starvation only generally happened within the peasantry.
The Prideaux family remained at Adeston for about a hundred years and from this branch of the house of Orcharton nearly all the Prideauxs who survived into the present day are descended. As time goes on with the research I can see just how determined my particular line has been to survive. It explains my bloody- minded tenacity to survive at all costs.
When the property went away through the line of Fulke Prideaux, a story yet to be told, Flete and Orcharton was eventually sold to the Heles, a family determined to buy up everything which was once a Prideaux land.

Finders Hospital

Sir John features in the story Big, black rats 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.


Sir Geoffrey de Pridias 1200 – 1270

The name Geoffrey  (also Galfrid, Galfridus , Joffrey) was a popular choice of name among the gentry. One of the meanings of the name is peaceful traveller.
Sir Geoffrey scampered off to Devon and married Isabella Orcharton in 1220. His brother Reginald had been acting as lawyer for Isabella and this could be one way that Geoffrey made her acquaintance.   She was rich and looking for a husband and he was from noble blood, but lacking a seat. I am saying with no proof, that he was a handsome man and easily caught her attention. His elder brother Baldwin was running the family inheritance at Prideaux, but that was beginning to lose income as the villeins preferred to mine tin and ignore the hard and unrewarding slog of tending the land. There was money to be made, good money, in comparison to money earned previously. But as a result of this change, the food now being produced for the people of the country was not enough. The rest of the Prideaux line died out by the end of the 14th century and the survival of the male bloodline depended entirely on the line created by Geoffrey and Isabella. Isabella was the daughter and heir of John of Orcharton and his wife Alina.  The two houses had done business previously and that connection may also have meant that an introduction between Geoffrey and Isabella would have been eagerly promoted. Isabella was heir to substantial Devonian properties and Geoffrey and she began the Devon Prideaux connection, which lasted for hundreds of years upon  their wedding vows. John Orcharton had died by 1224 when Isabella married Geoffrey. Shortly after it was Alina Orcharton, his wife, who settled one third of Orcharton on her daughter and heirs.

I found many records of Geoffrey and Isabella, mainly over land disputes, proving that with money and property, trouble often follows. At least they had a good lawyer in Geoffrey’s  brother Reginald. I wonder how much he charged them for the service?  Did he come round for meals and halfway through hear, ‘Reggie dear, you couldn’t just give us a bit of advice could you?’
Incidentally, on one of our trips around the South Hams we went from church to church, taking photographs and looking for gravestones. There were a surprisingly large number of graves, memorials and statues dedicated to the family.

Ringmore Church 4One of the churches we visited was at Bigbury, that beautiful place near the coast and haunt of so many Prideauxs. Upon a plaque in the church are a list of rectors and there is Ralph Prideaux, Rector from 1325 until 1347. I tracked down his lineage and believe him to be the great, great grandson of Reginald, brother of Geoffrey and the family lawyer. The dates are a little tight, but would fit. You see, I even want him to fit neatly into the story. I would not like him to be left on the sidelines of the book, all written on a plaque in a lovely old church and no one knowing who he really was. It was this Ralph’s  Uncle Thomas, who was incredibly successful in Truro and introduced our Reginald in the following story to the town.

cornwall march 2009 042

‘The Parochial and Family History of the Deanery of Trigg minor Vol 2 – Family of Pridias alias Prideaux’ relates the following tale.

In 1220, a fine was levied in which Alina the widow of John Orcharton petitioned Geoffrey de Pridyas and his wife Isabella her daughter. Isabella was represented by Reginald de Pridyas, an attorney [the brother of Geoffrey]. The fine was the third part of two parts of a Knights fee in Orcherton. The third part of two parts of the service of two Knights in Brodoke in Cornwall.   Alina claimed this as a dower, the gift of her late husband John. A dower was given to a wife the morning after the wedding night, after it had been established that she was a virgin. She would be entitled to live in the property and enjoy status, even following the death of her husband. Alina subsequently agreed to give over any rights to the property to Geoffrey and Isabella, and their heirs forever. [Pedes finum 8th Henry III Easter Cornwall No 1 – The Pipe Roll of Henry III eighth year, also shows that Geoffrey gave the King one mark in order to have license of concord with Alina.

A Knight’s fee was a feudal term used in medieval England to describe the value of land. Feudalism was a system under which land was exchanged for military service and so valuations were based on a Knights fee. This was the cost of a Knight supplying military service.  Fees could take the form of supplying the equivalent amount of money or the actual service of the Knight. The value could be anywhere from 1/5th of a Knight’s fee to 50 or more Knight’s fees, depending on its size and resources. A Knight was expected to be self-sufficient from the proceeds of the fief, to support his family, arm himself, stable a warhorse, pay his own taxes and duties, and keep up his appearance of gentility as a member of the noble or fighting class The typical Knight’s fee was about £20 per year around 1200. The derivation of the amount probably comes from a minor medieval obsession with the number three, based on the Holy Trinity. The three estates, the Church, the nobility, and the peasantry. Therefore, taxation and fees were assessed in thirds – the ‘third penny’ going to the Crown or local lord – and so on. £20 is 30 Marks, a monetary unit commonly used for assessing taxes, paying ransoms, and other such official usage. The mark was 2/3 of a pound. A free peasant paid for fieldwork around the same period could expect around 3d per day, or as much as £3-4 in a year, meaning that a knight’s fee was about three to five times more than a peasant’s average annual income.
There must have been a dispute between Geoffrey and Isabella and Henry Bonathelek concerning the service due from Henry. This was for half an acre of land with appurtenances which he held in Bonathelek. It was agreed that Henry should render yearly the reaping of one man for one day and that he should find for them one man to hoe their land  and perform for them the service of the 19th part of one Knights fee. He also needed to find for them one horseman at their summons within the county of Cornwall at his own cost and outside of Cornwall one horseman with lance in the army at the cost of Geoffrey and Isabella. This meant that they remitted all arrears of these services and gave the said Henry 5 marks of silver. [Pedes Finum 28th Henry III Easter] Edward I, the son of Henry III was on the throne.
There was so much corruption in the country that Edward ordered a huge enquiry, known as the Hundred Rolls. This was the largest collection of information since Domesday. Because of this enquiry the first Statute of Westminster, was drafted in 1275. Geoffrey Prideaux is mentioned in a Jury Calendar for Ermington Hundred, found among the Crown Pleas of the Devon Eyre of 1238, the earliest record of any family participation in public affairs.   It states:

Ermington Hundred Hugh Peveril has the hundred.Sergeant David de Holecombe. Electors: Geoffrey de Pridias, William de Omnibus Sanctus, Stephen de Luddebrok, Thomas Daniel Walter de Minminlande John de Shirvestone William de Modecumbe Reginald de baucumbe William Spridelle Ralph de Stanebire Gilbert de Adestone Roger de Scotia

This Gilbert de Adestone is the great grandfather of Joan who married the great, great grandson of Geoffrey.  People had brilliant names then.

Another document in the Ermington Hundred.

Answers by Twelve Jurors.   Ralph son of Swan Kilda and Philip son of Gilbert the smith of breach of the Kings peace does not come so he and his pledges Robert Spinbec who has died and another who has also died are in mercy. All the appellees come and the jurors testify that they have made an agreement so let them be taken into custody. Later Thomas de Blackford came and made fine for Robert Crobe and all the other appellees except Walter the servant for four marks because they are poor, pledges Thomas himself and Geoffrey de Pridias.  

There are other documents available showing the servants of the Pridias being fined.  There was one sad case where Cecilia, the daughter of Robert de Pridias a cousin of Geoffrey, was raped by Hugh de la Kage. However, she died before the trial and the rapist was acquitted with no case to answer.  This Cecilia, from Truro, descended from Reginald. Her father Robert Prideaux, holding the manor of Newnham.

An entry in the Plympton Hundred.

Answers by Twelve Jurors.   Cecilia daughter of Robert Pridias who appealed Hugh de la Kage of rape has died. Hugh comes denies all and puts himself on the country. The jurors testify that he is not guilty so he is quit.

Geoffrey choosing Isabella as a bride meant that they were now farming a large area of land covered in red sandstone. For almost two and a half centuries to the time of Fulke Prideaux, the family’s life was looking after this land. They ensured that the land was farmed, cultivated, ditched and drained.  They cleared woodland and created new pasture where before only river estuaries and high tides had flowed. Geoffrey and Isabella had two children, Roger and Piers. Piers married Joan, the daughter of Sir William Bigbury whose descendant was killed in a fight with Sir John Prideaux. I will tell you that story soon.
Isabella died in 1249, but Geoffrey did not remain downhearted for long. Within a few months he was married to Nicholaa Ingelram de Bray. This lady was much younger than Geoffrey and her name makes her sound like a minx. Her people however, were a well-connected family from Cornwall and she probably wanted security and a nice big house, like most girls. I wonder if she was able to buy expensive shoes? Geoffrey’s date of death appears to be unknown, but his name was mentioned in 1255 in documentation. I have made him last until 1270, ensuring that he had a good long time to enjoy his money and to make sure that Nicholaa earned hers.
The ‘Survey of Devon‘ written by Risdon in the early 1600’s, states that Orcharton was held by Jordan de la Warre in King John’s time and eventually came to Gilbert Prideaux, the grandson of Geoffrey.  He means Giles Prideaux. Other good research sources state that the Orcharton lands were in the possession of Sir John, father of Isabella. I have used those sources as there is a greater weight of evidence there.
Richard, the father of Geoffrey is referred to as Roger in these manuscripts. So many names changed in old documentation and history books that it is necessary to double and triple check everything one reads.
Orcharton remained in Prideaux hands for thirteen generations. De La Port or Old Port is the property next door, a little further towards the sea. There, still stands the remains of an 11th century defensive castle, built in ancient times when the sea came to the area via the little creek off the River Erme. The de la Port family owned it for several generations until it eventually descended via a daughter to the Somaster family. Two future Prideaux daughters married into the Somaster family.
I first visited some of these Orcharton lands when allowed to attend the homes of Christopher and Diane Miller at Great Orcheton and Graham and Mary Doidge at Little Orcheton.
Great Orcheton lies just beyond a humpbacked ridge from Little Orcheton and north of Old Port. The ridge road across the top of this ridge, leads to Modbury and used in these ancient times. The Miller family allowed us into their home with great courtesy and showed us around the old building. The Tudor fireplace and old windows, doors and fireplace are in excellent condition. The narrow lane leading to the farm and the adjacent cottage cannot be much wider than it originally was. It is difficult to know exactly where the oldest part of the building would have stood, but the old stone wall, is more than likely medieval. The view from the back of the house is onto a tree lined creek, now dried up, leading to the River Erme. At some point, a Prideaux lived here, but as Flete was the main property, perhaps it was one of the second sons and their descendants. Flete, not the Tudor property now built, but the original medieval place, was more substantial and had a better access to the river and sea although only a little further north up river.

Flete, Modbury

Flete, Modbury

Little Orcheton

Learn more about Geoffrey in the story I Am Rich in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.


The Library

The LibraryQuite a lot happens in the library in Mill Town  and here is one library I visited with friends which was an inspiration for it. I love libraries and books. I have hundreds of them, many first editions and lots are  leather bound.  The oldest book I have was published in 1625 and was written by an ancestor Bishop John Prideaux. He is the one I am currently writing about in ‘The Bishop and the Witch.’ The Prideauxs like writing and talking. That must mean something.


Finders Hospital

Finders Hospital

Finders Hospital

I have already said that I have been researching my ancestry pretty well all my life. Its taken me to many places, one of which was Flete House in Devon, where I was given a tour around the old house. The land and old buildings were once in Prideaux hands. This Prideaux killed one of the Bigburys at Sequers Bridge but I shall tell that tale another time. The house was my inspiration for Finders Hospital. It was easy to imagine the townspeople coming in and out of this place and that night on the lawn.