Peter Prideaux 1733 – 1810

Peter Prideaux was born on 1st August 1733 at Ringmore where he lived with his parents, Peter Prideaux  and Joan Prideaux and four siblings, Joan, Elizabeth, Anne and Thomas.
They lived in a cottage with a workshop attached and this enabled Peter senior to carry on with his carpentry work and feed the family.

Ringmore Church 4

Unfortunately Peter Prideaux senior died when Peter Prideaux junior was only fifteen years old. This was enough time to teach him woodworking skills, but not enough time for him to complete an apprenticeship.
At home were three unmarried young women and a ten year old brother, so young Peter had to take what work he could get. Their mother relied on the girls and the money they could earn working as maids or on local farmsteads. Thomas could earn money only by doing work such as crow scaring and stone picking until he was a little older.
Joan Prideaux  refused to let any of her children go into mining or any other such backbreaking work and so  the family managed to stay together and maintain a modicum of their dignity. They were dreadfully poor and thought often of what should have been their lot.
Peter was able fill his father’s shoes and do at least some of the work which his father had been expected to do. Whatever work it was, it would be a while before he was able to earn enough to keep them all. They managed to keep the cottage roof over their heads with help from friends and family. The repairs and maintenance were done by Peter and the girls organised the growing of vegetables and fruit and looked after the animals. It was essential that most of their food could be supplied in-house. Any surplus was sold to their neighbours or taken to market. Clothes were made at home from cloth bought cheaply or donated. Many families lived this way. Make do and mend was not just experienced during 20th Century war years.
The sisters, Joan and Elizabeth helped their mother keep house and appeared to have no time to court the local young men. It was not until the death of Joan in August 1756 that they were able to get out more. By the end of September the following year, both girls had married and left home. It was not possible for any woman to marry and leave home unless her intended was in a position to house, feed and clothe her. He had to have  a job or trade and not just good intentions.
Thomas Prideaux did not marry until 1761 and Anne Prideaux never left the cottage. People rarely married until their twenties, even though their life expectancy was quite low. There was a general lack of intention to marry young, but when they did marry, they got down to the business of raising a family as soon as they could. They often did not marry until the girl was pregnant anyway. There was a desire to prove fertility.
Peter Prideaux, as the eldest and main breadwinner, was master of the house and worked solidly earning money as a carpenter. Work was coming in more regularly now that Peter was older and more experienced, but he managed to stay away from the altar. He preferred his sister Anne’s company to that of any other woman who may want to take over the house. Anne kept house calmly and without question and was easy to manipulate, because that is what Peter did. He told her that he was lost without her and could not manage without her running the household and that he was so grateful that he was able to continue the business of their father. And Anne in her own opinion,  was the only one to be able to manage at the cottage. It was not in her interest for another woman to come in and take over the housekeeping reins. A wife for Peter was more than likely the end of her role there. There was no man on the horizon and it was unlikely that a new wife would allow Anne to stay on at the cottage.
However, the arrival of a son to  local girl Mary Wills on Boxing Day 1768 changed all that. The child was called Thomas Peter after his father (Peter) and his maternal grandfather (Thomas). But it was not until 10th May 1769, that Peter finally married the girl and made his son legitimate.
That was not such a surprising thing to do back then. Often a man would want to know that he would have children by the girl he was to marry.  It was almost impossible to get rid of a wife, unless by murderous means.  As pregnancy may still not force a marriage in itself, the girl’s family would force the guilty to the altar in order to enter into the apparently unbreakable vows that the Church had convinced them of. Many women were pregnant as they took their vows. Peter may not have wanted marriage for many reasons, but he did marry and the church records prove it.
There would be a time in the future when this resultant son, Thomas Prideaux wrote down in a court hearing that he was a bastard.
Learning that kind of information can send this family research historian into a bit of a loop, as it was now possible that no Prideauxs in my family were related to the Prideauxs of old. But it turned out to be alright in the end. Hurrah!

Ringmore Altar 3

On the marriage certificate and church record of Peter and Mary’s marriage, Peter was described as a sojourner to show that he was not one of the gentry Prideauxs. How sad, because  if things had turned out a little differently, he would have been one of the gentry. It was in his blood. Maybe this small act would be enough to reignite within him the feeling that the family were from better roots than their current social position might intimate. He must have loved that little touch from the clerk at the church.

Thomas Peter was born on 26th December 1768 at Ermington. He is listed in the parish Records there, as

`Thomas Peter base born son of Mary Wills born 26th December 1768 baptized May 10th 1769`

This was the same day that his parents eventually married and made him legitimate.
They settled down together happily enough, as on 14th November a second son Peter, was born at Ermington. It is interesting to see that the name Peter was used again, this time as a first name. Now Mary could be sure that she had her man and did not need to keep her own father on side. The social penalties for a girl having a child out of marriage could be severe when not supported by her own family.
It was also agreed between Peter Prideaux and Mary Prideaux that his sister,  Anne Prideaux could remain at the cottage and help with the raising of the children and the work which needed to be done. Anne was grateful to them for the chance to keep a roof over her head. Not all families would be so generous, even to their own flesh and blood. However, soon the son of the butcher asked Anne to marry him and when she accepted, Peter and Mary could get on with their own lives.
N.B. This Ann Prideaux would never marry a butcher, being a veggie and all.
The family soon increased in size and Jenny Prideaux was born on 31st December 1775 at Ermington and their fourth child, John Prideaux was born on 23rd March 1779 at Modbury, but he died young and was buried in 1784.
Peter Prideaux appears in the churchwarden’s accounts at Ermington in 1816. He was paid 1s 6d for the carriage of sand for William Prideaux, who was the sexton of the church at Modbury.
There were many Prideauxs around Kingsbridge, Modbury and Ermington, and a surprisingly large number of them were Quakers. I found gravestones of several at the Catholic Church in Kingsbridge when I visited there. The place used to be a Quaker meeting house.


Peter Junior is in the 1841 census living in 14 Back Street Modbury. He was on a Navy Pension and lived with his sister Jenny who was sixty five. She appears to still be unmarried. Also there were a Maria Prideaux aged 25 and John Prideaux aged 1. Maria was his daughter and John her illegitimate son.  The house was also home to Jenny Wakeham aged 55 and Mary Wakeham aged 15. Perhaps they were lodgers. Money was tight for everyone, so it was not uncommon to share houses.
Next door at no 13 lived John Prideaux who was 30 and a carpenter. He was Peter’s son. He and his wife Charlotte lived there with their children, Mary 4, Jane 2, and Sarah aged 1.
By 1851, Peter was dead and the property let to someone else.
His father, Peter senior was buried on 17th June 1810 in Modbury. He moved there to be near his son and daughter, after Mary had died a few years prior.  Jenny and Peter were very close to their father, indeed Jenny lived with her mother and father all her life. She ensured that they were never alone, even during their final illnesses.
Considering that so many ancestors had ships and sailed often to the continent and around the English Channel, this Peter is the only relative I have found so far, who went to sea. I don’t think it was in a pea green boat – though it may have been.

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

Featuring Thomas Prideaux and available to buy now.

Prideaux Ghost Stories