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Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux 1160 – 1225

Richard de Pridias, Lord of Prideaux was the son of Nicholas.view from prideaux castle
He lived through the reigns of Henry II, Richard the Lion heart, John and Henry III, the latter being famous for pointless wars and extortionate taxation. He was however, one of the greatest patrons of medieval architecture such as Westminster Abbey and Salisbury Cathedral. He also contributed to the Oxford and Cambridge teaching establishments. Many Prideauxs have made use of these establishments including John Prideaux Bishop of Worcester, the subject of one of my books.
Richard worked alongside his father, learning and following the ways of keeping one’s head enough above water to float,  but hidden enough so as not to draw unnecessary attention to ones self.
In order to increase tax revenues as discussed in the last chapter, King John chartered four Stannaries in Cornwall in 1201, Fowey moor, [Bodmin] Blackmoor, [Hens barrow and Pridias] Tywarnhaile [Truro to St Agnes] and Penwith with Kerrier.
The manor of our ancestors was now called the Manor of Prideaux of the Priory of Tywardreath. It seems likely that this was the only land they held as they are not mentioned among the Chancery or Exchequer records upon death. The Prideaux holdings would have only had local interest and none to the Crown with regard to any death duties or similar.
But, now it was becoming more difficult to keep the land farmed and looked after. The rights of the tin miners, who had to answer to no Lord except the Warden of the Stannaries, meant that the landowners began to suffer financially and the accepted ways of the villeins and master no longer applied.
It seems more than likely that the Lords of Prideaux were losing money fast and by the time Richard’s grandchildren arrived, the two younger boys needed to leave Luxulyan for good and try and make their fortune elsewhere.

prideaux road sign

Stannary records, charters and the tinners seal were kept in the tower at Luxulyan church for several centuries. They are not kept there now.
On one research trip, we drove to Luxulyan church with the intention of looking for any gravestones, which might be relevant. It was still raining, that soft rain which completely soaks a person, but does not make them cold. Probably very goods for the skin I should think.

We went off in different directions around the churchyard, trying to cover as much ground as possible in a short time. Richard is used to me doing that as I have always seen how much I can fit into as little time as possible. We still recall, upon discovering that there was only eight minutes left on a car park ticket while shopping in Shrewsbury when he was a boy,  that we had plenty of time to look around the museum there. So, we scampered around, saw the mammoth and all the trimmings and were driving back through the car park gate, ticket still in time. I always tell him, that as we don’t know how long we have to live in this life, we have a duty to see how much can be packed in. Trust me, it’s a lot.

Luxulyan Church (2)

Anyway, we only found a couple of graves, but I could not reconcile whose remains they housed, as they were more recent than the time I needed to research. Seeing a light on in the church, we ventured in. I love seeing a light inside a church, the way it becomes altered and coloured through the stained glass, it is disappointing when you go in and find no one there.
This evening we were not disappointed.
Opening the huge door, we were met with the sound of voices and laughter and there sat around a large table were a group of lovely ladies doing flower arrangements. They all looked up and smiled and welcomed us and told us to come in from the rain. A lady to the left of the door was standing by a smaller table and appeared to be making tea. We asked about Prideaux graves and were told exactly where some had been seen and there was plenty of what appeared to be genuine interest shown in the quest.

One lady showed us the old stained glass window in the bell tower which related to an ancestor. It was now in the west window of the tower and bears the remains of an original stained glass window Luxulyan Px Window (2)showing the representations of the arms of Prideaux. I was told that I must say Pridducks and not Preedo as I had always pronounced the name. This is difficult as other relatives in Leeds tell me I must say Priddo. I figure that I shall say what I want.
We carried on passing the time of day, looking around the church and were told that the bell ringers would be here soon if we wished to stop for that. We thanked them and declined the offer. Those ladies were genuinely nice and there was no hint of annoyance about the arrival of  strangers on a rainy evening in May. I am convinced that if churches were living buildings and one could be sure to find a friendly face and voice in them, they would be fuller on a Sunday.
In the village I grew up in, we had to go to chapel and church. There was Sunday school and ordinary school events held there and everyone knew each other. Seems romantic I know, but I am not that old and it all changed so quickly. Where I live now, we struggle to get any people to any villagey events organised and although many pay lip service to the need for a community spirit, few seem willing to do much about achieving it.
I feel for these ancestors of mine, striving hard from generation to generation and worrying how to make money and raise a family and then  get sick and die.
One becomes even more acutely aware of the speedy passage of time while researching ancestry. All those men and women, not doing something they want to because of the trouble it may cause or what the neighbours would think if they pleased themselves and it is all over so quickly. You must have all had the peculiar feeling of disliking someone and perhaps constantly battling with them and then they leave or die and you miss them. You miss the rows and the drama. They were part of your world and your story and now they are gone. Cherish even your enemies then. Apparently.

So back to this lot, Richard died and left a son and heir.  Richard.

There is a record of a Robert de Prydyas witnessing a grant to St Stephen of Launceston, but it is not known whether this is our Richard, with an incorrectly written name, or a brother of his.
The family may have spent time fishing or sailing  in the natural harbour with creeks and inlets creeping inland to  the Priory at Tywardreath, St Blazey, through the marshy land to Trees mill, up the Polmear valley and almost reaching Lower Lampetho. Daphne du Maurier wrote a book about these times. The House on the Strand, English for Tywardreath. The harbour was a busy place, with fishing-boats and trading vessels tacking to and fro, fishermen casting their nets.  The ferry was rowed back and forth all day and into the night allowing travellers and locals to cross to Par.  With geological changes, the level of the ground rose and the harbour which once had fifty or sixty feet of water at high tide, became sand and shingle. In 1773 the tide still reached St Blazey Church, and even up to 1800 the high water reached one mile north of Par. I wrote about this in more detail in prior blogs.

More can be learned about Richard in the story The Jousting Lords in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.

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Baldwin de Pridias Lord of Prideaux – 1109 – 1165

The name Baldwin de Pridias, Lord of Prideaux was introduced into Britain by the Normans, and when Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux named his first born Baldwin he  demonstrated  how enmeshed the Prideaux family was in the new Norman society. The first Norman King of Jerusalem in 1100 was Baldwin of Boulogne and presumably this news  would have reached even this part of Cornwall. The crusades was news everywhere, probably due to the fact that anyone with any money generally had to help pay for the adventure.
Baldwin de Pridias ratified the undated convention shown below in 1130, which had been agreed by his father in 1122, with regard to the priory at Tywardreath. This charter was granted by Osbert, the first canon of Tywardreath to Baldwin de Pridias.

‘One Knights fee in the manor of Pidias, to hold to him and his heirs, except an acre of land in Carnubelbanathel for which the monks of Tywardreath rendered annually to the said Baldwin 20d for all customs, &cc, as written in the charter of convention between Ordagar the Canon and Richard de Pidias, Father of the said Baldwin.’

 I know that there was an Osbert of Clare around during these years, who had been a monk at Westminster Abbey, then a Prior and an Abbott for a short time. He wrote many letters and was thought to have forged some very important charters concerning the King. Osbert ruled the Priory under the care of Lord Robert Fitzwilliam.
It would seem that Richard de Pridias died in 1122, the same year as Eleanor of Aquitaine was born, during the drawing up of the above charter.
Baldwin could only have signed it when he came of age in 1130. There was therefore a considerable time between the agreeing of the details with Richard and the signature of Baldwin.
This also meant that it was necessary for a Pridias to sign the documentation. I am not sure yet whether the King and his representatives were letting the Pridias family have some of the land which had been commandeered for the Priory, or whether Richard and then Baldwin were renting the land to the priory. It seems that the former is most likely.
Anyway, we do know that the Priory at Tywardreath was founded around the same time as St Michaels Mount monastery. The church there was consecrated in 1135.IMG00457-20100401-1240

The changes in their world had been rapid since the conquest, The parents of Paganus would have learned Anglo Saxon in order to communicate with the Saxon overlords in addition to their native Cornish.  Now French must be spoken and written, if the family were to get on in the new world order. There must have been an educational advantage being so near to a monastery, where new theological ideas and political news would circulate. And of course, Latin thrown in.

At Ponts Mill near Tywardreath, where there is evidence of ships being moored, there was a bridge which was the highest point at which anyone could cross the River Par, before it fell into the sea. Although, no longer there, a bridge known as Baldwin’s Bridge was used to cross at this point. It may have been built by this Baldwin Pridias when the lands were owned by the family.
On the site of Luxulyan church, there is evidence of ancient settlement and worship. In a document dated 1162, a chapel dedicated to St Sulian is referred to  and was a halfway house to Tywardreath Priory and the Abbey at Lanlivet. The current church lies in a position which suggests that at one point a religious building stood further away, pointing to a larger territory. As the Prideaux family owned the property at that time, it is sensible to assume that they would have been involved in the positioning. A medieval well dedicated to a relatively unknown Irish Saint Cyrus lies to the east. Many saints travelled this way on a north to south route across Cornwall. The Saints Way which can be traversed today, passes many ancient and mystical sites, including Prideaux Castle.

Henry I died and as his legitimate heir was already dead, Henry tried to secure succession for his daughter Matilda. The Great Council had other ideas and they gave the crown to Stephen, the son of the conquerors daughterStephen sailed around Lands End and landed at White sand Bay in 1135. There was terrible strife between him and Matilda and her supporters. At the same time that Stephen was landing, the Benedictine Priory was founded at Tywardreath. The locals however were not terribly impressed. The monastery was quite small and had to rely for funds on foreign houses. There was little funding from the locals. The Priory was a daughter house of Saint’s Sergius and Bacchus of Angers and although relationships were not good between the two, they worked together for three hundred years. Cornishmen were extremely religious, but did not feel that this imposed Priory tended to their needs.
In later times they were forced to build places of worship elsewhere, such as Golant, in order to escape the unnecessary interference of the Priory upon their lives.
If one reads the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and sees the kind of horrors which occurred in the country during Stephen’s reign by traitors against him and also by his supporters it makes one assume that there was bad and good in the priories. Castles were being built all around the country and were filled with ‘evil men and devils’. The people of the land were greatly oppressed and day and night, men and women were put in prison and tortured for their gold and silver.
Horrible tortures happened, such as being hung by their feet, thumbs or heads and over fires. Some torturers put knotted strings around the heads of the prisoners and turned the knots until the strings reached the brains. Prisons full of toads, adders and snakes housed the poor victims and some went into torture houses, where many dreadful and cruel horrors took place. This lasted for nineteen winters while Stephen was in charge and apparently became worse each year. The devils taxed the local people and when there was no more to take, the villages were burnt and we are told that it was possible to ride for a whole day in some places and never see a person living nor working the land. They had run away in terror while the harvests rotted in the fields.
Food was now so ridiculously expensive that even formerly rich men were forced to ask for alms. No church, land or property was safe and even the writer of the chronicles believed that Christ and all his saints were asleep, while the living were paying for their sins. This was also a time of miracles and magical happenings, probably borne out of the dreadful times in which the people lived.
The Cardinhams and Turstins built their stronghold at Lostwithiel and called it Restormel Castle. Amongst other castles being built was Tintagel, the fabled castle of King Arthur. This was begun around 1140 by Reginald Earl of Cornwall, one of Henry I illegitimate sons and another half brother of Matilda.
Reginald married the daughter of William Fitz Richard the new Lord of Cardinham, This William was the son of Richard Fitz Torold, the steward around Tywardreath.
Stephen appointed William Fitz Richard as lieutenant of the county but instead, he sided with Matilda and Reginald became Earl of Cornwall. This position was lost again in a battle with Stephen and his followers. When Stephen died in 1154 and Henry II took power he tried to undo this damage. Henry II re-instated Reginald as Earl of Cornwall and also destroyed many of the castles, which had been the symbols of terror. He married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and the union brought the areas of south west France under English control. During his reign there began a relatively peaceful time for the lands of England. The people certainly needed it.
Trials were heard by a judge and jury through a system of travelling justices. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire were included from 1166.   This innovation opened up career prospects for ambitious lawyers. Some Prideauxs later made their way in the world this way as law brought in more money than farming.
Richard de Lucy made great profits during the time of strife. He sided with Stephen and rode with Alan of Brittany who removed Reginald in the battle mentioned above. He was granted some confiscated lands and appears to have been given lands around Lantyan near St Blazey.  He was known as Richard the Loyal and was well thought of by Henry.
Against this background lived Baldwin Pridias, a man watching his back constantly while enjoying the benefits of being a landowner alongside the Normans. If during the invasion, his grandfather had sold out in order to merely make money and position for himself and his family, then his descendants would not be greatly admired by their neighbours. If however, he had done so in order to keep his neighbours safe, they probably no longer cared. Either way, as time passed, the ones remembering what happened in 1066 would have died out and it would seem as if things had always been as they were now.
Baldwin’s son Nicholas is the only child of whom there is any record and he was born in 1135 at the same time the Priory was finished at Tywardreath. Perhaps he was named after the revered Saint Nicholas, a favourite of Catholics and protector of sailors and merchants.
The relics of Saint Nicholas had recently, in 1087, been furtively taken to Bari in Italy, the new crypt consecrated by the Pope. The Basilica di San Nicola, a huge castle-like cathedral was built over the relics and is a source of pilgrimage to this day. It is said that the relics were taken from their previous place while the war with the Saracens were going on. The Basilica was also connected to the Benedictine order in Italy and one assumes that as Tywardreath was also Benedictine then these stories would have been heard and understood by the Pridias family. Indeed, we can see in Nicholas’s story following, that he was involved in the Crusades, if only financially.
In this same year as Stephen landed in southern Cornwall, fears would be heightened again about impending battle and trouble, so the family needed all the help a saint could give.
So, times had already changed quite considerably for this family, a couple of generations prior. Paganus was living in buildings made from wood and thatch, defending himself against the Normans and now his grandson, was involved in the building of the Priory.
Cadfael by Ellis Peters is set in a similar monastery in Shrewsbury and the stories told there help us to picture the life and times of the local people.
Local manors would try and sort out local problems, hoping that the Crown’s representative did not become too closely involved and create more problems with their solutions.
A better standard of living than his contemporaries and luck at missing out on plagues and disease ensured that Baldwin lived to a grand age of 54, before leaving his jolly world and properties to his son.
Tywardreath is another beautiful place and the silted up estuary is quite obvious when looked for. As mentioned before, the sea was quite close to the Priory. While this proximity to the sea was incredibly useful in respect to food and travel, it also put the Priory in great danger from pirates. There were many raids and the monks were forced at times, to remove themselves and their treasures elsewhere for safety.

More can be read of Baldwin in ‘The Bridge of Incidents’ in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.