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