Thomas Peter Prideaux 1768 – 1842

Thomas Peter Prideaux was born on 26th December 1768, although his parents Peter and Mary were not married. If you have been reading my previous articles and blogs about the Prideauxs , you will see that Christmas dates play a big part in family events.

Ringmore Altar

Thomas Peter Prideaux  was baptized on 10th May 1769 at Ringmore Church on the day his parents decided to put things right. When it came to his turn to start a family, Thomas did not wait until his first child was born before he married, but his wife was certainly heavily pregnant. Charity Strong of Bishopsteignton married him on 13th November 1792. She was born on 2nd January 1770 at Bishopsteignton. Charity lived there when the last man was hanged in the parish in 1783. His name was Greenslade and he had been the gardener to Reverend Yarde in Bishopsteignton. Greenslade murdered his employer after he gave him a bad reference which he had written in Latin. The gardener did not discover the real meaning of it until informed later. He was only caught because he showed off the gold watch he had stolen. He was hanged at Haldon near Exeter. It is a pity the Reverend is not around now as I have some 500 year old documents written in Latin and I am having difficulty getting them translated…
Back to the story. The trio soon moved to Chudleigh, a village through which many travellers passed either by horse, foot or coach in order to reach Exeter or Plymouth. There was work to be found there.

I have discovered legal documentation concerning Thomas Peter Prideaux when he was examined with regard to the lease of a property in Chudleigh. This case took place in 1794, shortly after the family had arrived and apparently been cheated at a property they were renting from a local man. Perhaps Mr. Burnell underestimated the education and self confidence of the young Thomas Prideaux.

It is as follows.

The examination of Thomas Prideaux touching his legal place of settlement. Who saith that he was born in the parish of Ermington in the said county. Never served any apprenticeship but lived with his parents in the said parish of Ermington until he was about twenty years of age and afterwards worked at several different places in the carpenters employ and when he was about twenty one years of age he went into the parish of Chudleigh in the said county and worked therein the carpenters business about twelve years. After that he rented a house in the said parish of Chudleigh of one William Burnell at sixteen guineas per year part of the said house. This examinant never had any possession of the said William Burnell promised he would have it But never performed his promise. This examinant lived in that****** possession of about five months and offered to pay him for the time. But the said William Burnell refused to take it without he would pay him the whole years rent.This examinant further saith that what he occupied of the said house was about fourteen guineas per year and that he occupied it about five months and then gave up the possession as the said house was never put in repair.

The statement Thomas Prideaux signed is below. Where he wrote and the words were then crossed out, is underlined. Thomas signed this statement in a very neat and educated hand.

The examination of Thomas Prideaux residing in the parish of Chudley in the County of Devon touching his legal place of settlement taken before us two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said County this 21 day of November 1794 who on his oath saith.

That he is an illegitimate child and was born in the parish of Ermington as he hath been informed and believes but he has heard and believes that his fathers legal place of settlement is in the parish of Modbury in which said last mentioned parish his said father now resides. That he this deponent is a married man is a carpenter and about the age of twenty six years. That he lived with his father until he attained the age of about twenty one years but he never  was never apprenticed or lived as a servant for a year Nor hath the he this deponent done any act to his knowledge and belief other man as aforesaid whereby to gain a settlement.

Sworn before us                                    Thomas Prideaux

The Day and year


Rt Lydeton Newcombe Esq.

John Barry

William Burnell lived in Fore Street, Chudleigh and he was a builder.

Robert Lydeton Newcombe Esq. had lands at Starcross, Exmouth and is mentioned in `The History of Chudleigh’  by Mary Jones, where she informed us that Montague Edmund Parker, a well to do gentleman living at Whiteway, Chudleigh, married the daughter of Robert Newcombe. Mr. Newcombe was a JP and 75 years of age when he listened to Thomas pleading his case. He died in 1808 at his home in Starcross. The Newcombes were gentry and well respected in the area.
Thomas and Charity Prideaux won the case and Thomas now set up his soon to be successful business in the town. Most craftsmen lived where they worked, and Thomas was no exception. The cottage had a yard and small field at the back, housing chickens, ducks, a cow and a horse. There was a good deal of work to be had in the constantly busy and bustling town where travellers and coaches, sailors and horses made their steady way up the street, all day and every day.
The main street was narrow with houses almost touching each other at the first floor level. At times coaches had difficulty in passing and the main thoroughfare was a dangerous place to be. The houses were irregular in shape and size and some houses with farms at the back were extended from time to time towards the front.
However, just off the street and into the countryside, the views were and are still magnificent. Ugbrooke, home of the Cliffords, is stunning and the rocks and caves famous for pixies are worth visiting. The woods here were as good, if not better than anywhere in Devon. The climate was excellent and at one time it was said that the refreshing and healing breezes travelling straight across from Dartmoor could mend the sickest person within a month.
“Six views of Chudleigh, Devonshire, engraved by George Hollis, from drawings by Henry Le Cort. Made previously to the Fire, 1807”

These drawings show exactly what the town was like at the time Thomas lived there.

A great part of the town was destroyed by the fire which occurred on 22 May 1807. It started in a baker’s house in Culver Street, where Thomas Peter Prideaux lived. The fire spread from thatch to thatch and at one time three streets were on fire at once. At 2pm a forgotten barrel of gunpowder blew up and soon the only fire engine was burnt. Much of Culver Street and Fore Street burned down. 180 houses in total were destroyed at a cost of £60,000.
By the end of the day, the coaches which usually took travellers through the centre of the town had to be diverted around its perimeter. These travellers told everyone they met and by the end of the day, well wishers and help was arriving from miles around.
Much kindness and relief was given by surrounding gentry and parishes. A subscription list was started and a committee headed by Lord Clifford distributed monies.
The town was soon rebuilt and there is little doubt that my ancestors began to make some money using their talents during the rebuilding of the town. Many Prideauxs remained and traded as builders and carpenters during the 19th century.
Thomas Prideaux and his family were living there at the time of the fire and the children all state on future documents that that is where they were born.
Anyone who lived in Culver Street and Fore Street suffered quite considerable losses initially. But their job skills should have ensured that they were able to build their own properties and the properties of their neighbours.  Most of the fire damage occurred in Culver and Fore Street where their ancestors eventually  settled.
Thomas and Charity Prideaux had seven children, six of whom were born at Chudleigh.
Thomas Prideaux who was born on 11th May 1793 at Bishopsteignton and married Elizabeth Stranger Tapper on  8th  November 1814 at West Teignmouth and died in March  1862 at Kingsbridge . He worked as a joiner.
John was born on the 23rd March 1796 in Chudleigh. His story is in detail in the following section, as he is my direct relative. Seeing the life he had here in Chudleigh, with such a tight knit community, it must have been a hard decision for him to leave.
Ann Prideaux  the first daughter of Thomas and Charity was born on 4th November 1798 and she married Jonas Adams on 5th January 1820 at Chudleigh. Jonas was the sexton at the church.

William Prideaux , the next son was born on 8th June 1801 and he worked as a builder. He married Lucy Warren on 9th June 1824 at Shaldon St Nicholas. They lived on Back Street.

Peter Prideaux , another son for Thomas and Charity was born on 30th January 1805. He married Elizabeth Hogg and moved to Chamber Street; St Mary’s Whitechapel London and worked as a carpenter. They had a daughter called Mary Ann and also lived with Mary Hogg, Elizabeth’s mother.
Fenchurch Street railway line runs straight through Chamber Street, so I wonder whether Peter went to work on the railways as our John may have done. Peter Prideaux died in 1884 at Bethnall Green aged 81, but was listed as Prieudi. That is the only time I have seen the surname in that spelling, I am not entirely sure how one would pronounce it. Like John, he did not return home to Chudleigh once he left, or there is no record of it. He could write, so for his mother’s sake, I hope he wrote to her.

Mary Prideaux the final daughter of Thomas was born on 24 Dec 1809 at Chudleigh married Thomas Luscombe Ball 18 Jul 1830. Another Christmas connection.

James Prideaux , the final baby was born in June but sadly died in Aug 1811.

Charity Prideaux the mother of all these children died after a very busy and prolific 62 years and was eventually buried in Chudleigh on 10th January 1832.

Grace Swales became housekeeper to Thomas Prideaux after his wife’s death. She was present at his death on the 22nd February 1842 when he suffered an affliction of the chest. Grace made her mark on the death certificate, and it is interesting to note that none of his family was present at his death and willing to sign. Perhaps they did not approve of his relationship with Grace Swales.

Now, the usual snippets of information which provide you with a background to the times I am speaking about.
The practice of wrecking still took place around the coastline. Cornwall has always been a well known graveyard of ships and many were forced to wreck in order that their cargoes could be stolen.

Smuggling was also rife. By 1770, 470,000 gallons of brandy and 350,000 pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall at a cost of £150,000 to the Exchequer. Smugglers were lauded as generally honest men and it was very difficult to get a jury to convict them and magistrates turned a blind eye.
It was at this time of lawlessness that John Wesley advanced with his religious beliefs. He traveled all over the country converting ‘sinners’ wherever he went. This was the time when he stayed at Methrose near to Prideaux Castle.
Although by the end of the eighteenth century the area was much more civilized , working conditions and wages were still terrible. When in 1793 England began yet another war with France, the poor were hit again as markets were lost and the fishing industry affected. Men went to fight in the Navy although many  were encouraged by the  press gang. By the time John Prideaux was born in Chudleigh, The government was demanding that hundreds of men should be press ganged into joining the navy. These men were taken from the unemployed miners and so the incentive was always to work.
The early 19th century was the time of the railway engine. Victoria ascended the throne and railways were springing up everywhere. It was a bad time for farming with wages below poverty level. People began leaving for the New World in larger numbers than ever. It was a time of high food prices and few job prospects when John left Chudleigh and went to work on the railways in the grimy north.
George IV was a greedy and unpopular King who reigned until 1830. His brother William IV succeeded him and reigned until 1837. He died of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and reigned until 1901. She was the daughter of Edward Duke of Kent, the brother of George and William.
I have just gone out of my writing room into the hall. I had noted from the large clock in front of me on the wall that it is gone midnight again. This is the clock next to the antique mirror which has deer scenes on it. I have no idea what is going on with that. It reminded me of Bambi and my grandfather reading the book to me when I was a girl and so I let the man in the antique shop sell it to me. I had only gone in because it was raining and I had no coat with me.
I still have the first edition of Bambi from which granddad Clifford Prideaux  taught me to read. He also used some cigarette cards which had horrible war scenes on them from what I can remember.  What was I talking about?
I have just gone out into the hallway and my current husband has turned off all the lights again. He does that all the time. He likes to go to bed really early and that means the house should be shut up I suppose. So he decides to go to bed and turns off the telly, turns off all the lights and goes into his room. Then I am supposed to stagger about, feel my way along the wall until I find the light switch. It is guaranteed to make me feel cross and all I wanted was a cup of coffee. I got a cup, let the dogs out for a wee and have come back in here, under the pool of light from the lamp over my desk, and am listening to the torrential rain against the windows.
Another lovely July evening, I don’t know about climate change, I thought it was supposed to be hot.
It’s my birthday on Saturday, but I am going to my sister’s in Lincolnshire. The week after is another trip to Devon and Cornwall and I have some exciting appointments with the current owners of Flete and Orcheton and Prideaux House and Place. So I shall write about that visit in earlier chapters. If you are confused, try and imagine what is going on in my head.
Original article written by APx in 2009

Footnote.   She got a divorce in 2010…

More Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux
More Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux

Thomas Prideaux 1610 – 1680

Thomas Prideaux was the youngest child of Thomas and Blanche Prideaux. It must have been hard, knowing that his eldest brother would take over the family home and farm and he must find his own way in the world. He may have asked his Uncle John in Oxford about what he should do.
However, all may not have been lost as Thomas is referred to several times as Thomas of Woodlands, which points to the fact that he farmed the land to the west of the Ivy Bridge. He signed the 1641 Protestation Returns at Ermington as Thomas Junior of Woodland. No doubt to differentiate himself from his father and cousin Thomas, the churchwarden at Luson.

Ermington Church (13)

The property at Woodlands has been mentioned many times during 300 years of Prideaux generations and one can assume that there was still the ability for a Prideaux to tenant the land. We can see that when Peter was under the care of Sir Walter de Wodeland, the association has been going on since that time. Now whether this was as a result of cousins owning the properties and wishing them to go to family members, or whether Woodlands had moved with John when he left Luson, it will be impossible to say.
Woodlands now hardly exists as farmland, being mainly A38, houses and industrial buildings. If the Prideaux ghosts are haunting there, they no doubt keep being run over by holiday traffic. Perhaps that is how ghosts seen on highways at night occur. Innocent spirits trying to walk their own lands, and not understanding any sort of time slip.
The family are each mentioned in the other’s will. They signed the Protestation Returns together and as they lived in the small community, spent much of their time together. The Prideaux family was still one of influence and renown in the area. With their rich and influential cousins, the family would have felt a cut above the other farmers, finding more in common with the landowners than the peasantry. Going to church and seeing the plaque dedicated to Bishop John would have reminded anyone not quite sure.
But the outcome of the Civil War was to leave its mark on this branch of the family. The manor at Woodlands may have been sequestered by the State. That was generally done because of support for the Crown. The Prideaux Farm was not however taken and remained in the family for several generations, so this is where I have a problem with the theory. Perhaps the owners , had caused no problems to the state.
The timing of Thomas Prideaux leaving Woodlands suits the time of sequestering. Perhaps, then, if the leases were owned by cousins at Orcherton or Luson, were some taken because they had supported the Royalist cause?
Thomas Prideaux  married Joane at Ermington around 1646 and together they produced James Prideaux in 1647, Andrew Prideaux in 1649 and Peter Prideaux  in 1651. These three boys were christened in the church at Ermington, where Cousin Thomas Prideaux was churchwarden. This Thomas was the son of John, son of Hugh of Luson, son of John and Sybell of Luson. No nepotism here.  Cousin Thomas Prideaux, the churchwarden has his tomb at Ermington Church joining the many Prideaux graves there.

cornwall march 2009 112

This Thomas, along with his parents and siblings could not fail to have been involved in the many skirmishes which took place in their close neighbourhood during the time of the Civil War. It is reasonable to assume that Thomas and his brothers were present at Modbury during the fighting there. Plymouth was held by the Puritans and the Royalist forces laid siege to the town. Neighbouring villages were familiar with men from either side, riding to and fro and the battles and killings taking place all over the countryside. Food and shelter had to be supplied and so the Prideauxs at Stowford and Woodlands would have seen these comings and goings first hand as one of the main routes passed through and adjacent to their lands. Modbury was an important strategic town and the great Sir Bevill Grenville was conscious of its importance in respect of the town peoples’ ability to supply food and shelter. It was a place which needed holding and Sir Bevill among others wanted to keep hold of the town.

Arthur Prideaux, the son of churchwarden Thomas Prideaux did not sign the Protestation at Ermington and neither did his father.  It seems unlikely that my line was sympathetic to the Puritan cause and so may merely have signed in order to keep the peace. Memories of what happened to the Tudors who refused to sign for Henry and Elizabeth would have been to the forefront of their minds.
John Pym was MP for Tavistock and  would  know which family supported whom. Many poor families would be able to live incognito, but well connected families such as the Prideauxs had some celebrity status and their political persuasions would be known by others. Tenant farmers would follow their landlord, whereas a cottager could not care less who won. Unless he was forced to fight or was paid to do so. Arthur Prideaux commanded a troop of horse for the King and the Stowford Prideauxs are highly likely to have fought with them. Those who did not would have contributed funds in some way. This issue was not just personal in that their noble lineage meant that they would support the King, but their properties were directly involved in the fighting and it would have been impossible not to have been affected. How could they not fight? When there were soldiers and friends riding and walking back and forth along the road outside your house and sometimes across your land. How could you not be involved?
Family lands still held in Cornwall and the close kinship felt by West Countrymen, meant they had to come down on one side or the other. There were Prideaux cousins at Theuborough, Luson, Ermington, Holbeton, all within a few miles of Stowford and all involved in  the fighting. It seems that whatever had caused Granddad John Prideaux  to lose money and property was now dismissed in the minds of the family. At one point there was rebellion against the King in South Devon and some fighting took place around Tavistock, so Hopton decided to move to Modbury where a posse was being raised. They saw the following scene, as described in one of the many letters Bevill Grenville wrote to his wife.
We must be  grateful to him for bothering to write with so much detail and also to his family for retaining the records.

A great concourse of people, yet it was rather like a great fair than a Posse, there being none but the Gentlemen that had any kind of arms or equipage for war, insomuch as Sir Ralph Hopton …… could not procure above twenty men armed, nor so much as a Patrol of twenty horse to ride out. All the Gentlemen of the County being so transported with the jollity of the thing that no man was capable of the labour and care of discipline.

Was Thomas present? It is comforting to think that perhaps he was alongside his brothers and uncles. I hope they were the armed men on horses, even if they were laughing and joking. It is highly likely as no one of any standing would be able to miss this excitement.
Hopton asked for half of Grenville’s men to be transferred from Totnes to Modbury to help in its defence. But Ruthven, the military strategist, now fighting for Pym, got within half a mile of Modbury, with 800 men.
When I think of the narrow lanes mentioned before, it is somehow easier to understand how that could happen. The Posse at Modbury ran away and the split Grenville army were less able to help. Grenville and Hopton got away and Arthur Prideaux rode away with them. Presumably Thomas and his family went home speedily.  They didnt have far to go. I hope they went and hid under the bed and did not defect to the Puritan cause.
Later on in the war, after great Royalist success in Cornwall, there was another assault on Modbury. Sir John Berkeley had to defend the area against more than 8000 men in a dual attack from Plymouth and Kingsbridge. It was dreadful, with hand to hand fighting taking place through the streets of the town. A final stand was made at the Champernowne manor house before retreat was necessary, surrendering the town to the Puritans. Several were killed, but according to the records, none of the family of Thomas Prideaux were.
Flete, owned by Sir Thomas Hele had been used as a Royalist outpost and was taken by the Puritan men on their march from Plymouth, where they took horses and prisoners. The former Orcherton lands formed part of the Flete estate which had been sold to the Heles by the last surviving Prideaux there. By the time Charles was beaten at Naseby and Charles II sent out to France from Falmouth, the two counties of Devon and Cornwall were glad to be finished with the fighting. They were sick of the Royalist forces constantly borrowing, in order to survive and approved of the Puritan way of paying for goods used. It was at this time, that Thomas lost the properties at Woodlands. This is also why I found it impossible to understand how it was lost, as discussed above. All I know is that the property was lost. The family as a whole, were aware of the position of Uncle John, Bishop of Worcester and his eventual retirement.
The death of the King in such a barbaric way was probably treated in the same way they did over the loss of Grenville, Slanning, Trevanion and Godolphin. What an utter waste. We can say this of each war there is. Only this week, I watched the funerals and processions of more coffins through Wootton Basset of brave soldiers who lost their lives on politician’s whims. God bless them and their families.
The Prideaux family must surely have remembered with nostalgia, the King riding through their neighbourhood alongside the four brave noblemen mentioned above and Sir Ralph Hopton and the others. These were the sexy and dandily dressed men with passion and fashion sense. They had long hair and feathers about their faces. Now they were surrounded by staid looking men and women, dressed in black and white with monotone voices threatening eternal damnation.  Even I am missing the Cavaliers and I was not even there!

Bishop Prideaux memorial plaque

Thomas Prideaux had now lost his property, his father and various other members of the family. Years of strife in addition to all this must have taken its toll. Uncle John Worcester, the Bishop Prideaux had lost one of his sons during the fighting at Marston Moor. I imagine that he was feeling pretty depressed. This generation was a definite progression downwards to average income from such a high rolling family. Thomas and his sons must have struggled with this fact when so many close family members were doing quite nicely thank you.
Of Thomas’s  three children, two stayed in Ermington and the third, Peter eventually left through marriage.
Thomas’s son James Prideaux who was born in 1647 married Sarah and they had Sarah and Agnes. James died very young in 1680.
Andrew Prideaux  born in 1649, married Joan Wake and they had Joan and Marjery. Joan was granted the administration of Andrew’s  effects on the 30th September 1696. Andrew, like his brother,  was not very old either when he died. There was a lot of sickness around in those days, but I imagine that the downturn of fortunes did not help.
Peter Prideaux was born on 22nd October 1651. We learn about him in the next story. All of these events took place at Ermington, where the Prideaux cousins were still church wardens. Thomas Prideaux died in the region of 1680, the same time as his eldest son and was buried at Ermington. These facts points to illness or plague.  There is no record of how he survived financially. I am assuming that his sons helped pay for the upkeep of their parents, as they now turned their hands to carpentry and similar trades.

Ermington Church

Once  England became a republic,  Cromwell ordered the sale of all lands held by the King. There were virtually no takers among the gentry, although parliamentary officers bought up lands such as Tintagel and other areas in Cornwall and Devon. Much of this land was returned after Charles II was crowned. And scores settled by him.
Scotland recognized Charles II as their King. At one time Charles II had hidden up an oak tree in Boscobel in Shropshire, while Cromwell’s solders looked for him in the bushes beneath, but could not find him. Many an inn has been called the Royal Oak since. The Royalist exiles in Jersey and Scilly proclaimed him Charles II. The government became worried and arrested many gentry in Cornwall including Nicholas Prideaux.
Cromwell ruled with a rod of iron, turning the country into a virtual police state, persecuting religion and protest. Many began to realise that he was not so good after all and began to pine for their King. Britain likes the monarchy really. It is in our blood. Suddenly it stopped with the death of Cromwell in September 1658. By the next year, Charles II was back on the throne. Revenge was taken on Cromwell, who was dug up and hanged at Tyburn and those who had signed the King’s death warrant were also killed in the usual terrible way.
Charles II died in 1685 of a stroke or poisoning. He had many mistresses, one of whom was Nell Gwyn, so he obviously liked oranges too.

Original Article written by APx in 2009

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Prideaux Ghost Stories



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.