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.


Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux 1180 – 1250

Richard de Pridias Lord of Prideaux,  or Richard Prideaux witnessed a charter sometime between 1230 and 1240, by which Odo, son of Walter de Treverbyn granted certain lands to the Priory of Tywardreath. Treverbyn is a manor to the west of Luxulyan and Prideaux and these families would be joined in marriage at a later date.
Richard had three sons, Baldwin, Reginald and Geoffrey.
There were more records available in this great age than previously. So much was transcribed and so our story becomes clearer I think. So far there have been little records of wives, but I have found out who most of the wives are from here on.
Humphrey Prideaux states that the grandson of Nicholas was called Baldwin and not Richard and that this Baldwin was the father of Geoffrey and Reginald [aka Reynolds] He says that Baldwin married Elizabeth, daughter of Roger Mortimer who died in 1215 and Isabella de Ferrers who died in 1252.
‘A View of Devonshire’ states that he was called Richard as above and married the daughter of the first Earl of March.
Roger Mortimer was the son of Hugh Mortimer, the founder of Wigmore Abbey. Their lines married into those of Llewellyn the Great, the Prince of Wales and were ancestors of Roger Mortimer who ruled England with Queen Isabella before his execution. Eventually the Mortimers were created Earls of March. Their line can be traced back hundreds of years through King John, the 4th Earl of Derby, Osborne de Bolbeke and the Duchess of Normandy who was the great grandmother of the Conqueror and the King of Connaught.  Hugh Mortimer came over with William the Conqueror and was given his lands then.
It may be that Richard was  known as both  Richard and Baldwin after his ancestors, which was a common  practice.  After studying the records available, I shall call this man Richard and his sons, Baldwin, Reginald and Geoffrey.
First  we shall follow the line of the eldest boy Baldwin, as it his family which eventually loses the Prideaux manor through the lack of a male line. After this Baldwin Prideaux there followed Thomas, Robert, Geoffrey, Roger and four Richards. Sadly, the last Richard and his wife Margery could only produce Jane and so she was married off to Philip Arvas. Their son Richard Arvas  became Lord of Prideaux and married Joane Methrose, a local girl from another rich and landed family.
Methrose lies hardly a mile away from Prideaux and became famous later on as the place where John Wesley stayed and preached during the times he travelled the county.
Richard and Joane had a daughter called Johanna and she married Thomas Hearle and in that way, the property left the Prideaux family.
Sir John Hearle, a Knight, was made warder of Johanna because her father Richard died before she came of age. It seems eminently sensible that he should have married her to one of his sons and have the house and lands of Prideaux come into the family. The Hearles eventually lost Prideaux in 1737 when the heir, Northmore Herle died unmarried at Oxford and the property went to his half sisters.
A L Rowse writes in ‘A L Rowse’s Cornwall.`

‘On the western side if the valley, under a prehistoric hillfort and commanding approach from the bay, is Prideaux. A wing of the earlier house of the Herles has been lately restored.

From this came an important Puritan cleric, Charles Herle, Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly of Divines during the Civil War, from which after much argy-bargy emerged the Presbyterian confession of faith, Predestination, Eternal Damnation and all.

His mother was a Treffry, whose sister bore Hugh Peters, chaplain-general to Cromwell and a notorious play actor in the pulpit, for which he paid for his life as a regicide [which he was not]. He did better work in New England, one of the founders of Harvard College.

The new house at Prideaux is a fine Regency mansion, built by the cadet branch of the Rashleighs of Menabilly, who were radical supporters of the Reform Bill of 1832, as against the senior line who were Tories. An endearing park opens out below the house, though it calls for a herd of deer to complete the scene.’

Later he says.A L Rowse

‘Behind Prideaux on the edge of Luxulyan Valley is the unspoiled Tudor house of Methrose within its tiny court; original hall, kitchen etc, though the parlor had its fine carved armorial mantelpiece sold off to America in our time. When in the vicinity John Wesley used to stay there.’

The autobiographies of Mr. Rowse are well worth reading for the descriptive narrative of the whole of this area. I am very grateful to him for writing about his life and experiences, just so that I am able to picture the scenes from years ago.
Reginald the second son, went into law and acted for Isabella of Orcharton, his sister in law. Law was now a lucrative proposition for an educated man and Reginald soon found great success away from Luxulyan. His son made a good life as a lawyer and ended up a Knight of Cornwall and possessed many properties in Truro. He served many times in military service and became influential in Cornwall.The Orcharton connection to the Prideauxs lasts for centuries as will be seen later on in the story.
Reginald  replied to a writ in 1302 with regard to some land ownership, stating that the Prideaux family had held certain lands since before the memory of man without interruption, confirming official acceptance of Prideaux family importance, prior to Domesday. After a few generations, his line also died out at the same time Prideaux Castle passed to Philip Arvas.
It was not unusual in the following two hundred years for family lines to die out. Initially there was the problem with men failing to care for the land and produce food. This was followed by several bad harvests when the  climate altered and as if all of this was not enough, there were terrible plagues. These events served to reduce the country’s  population by half. Survival rates of sons of gentry were less than one per cent, so we have much to be grateful for the health and vitality of the third son Geoffrey and his children.
I descend from Geoffrey and continue his story next. It would seem highly likely that  every blood Prideaux descends from this Geoffrey line when the other legitimate lines died out as explained above.

view from prideaux castle

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



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.


Nicholas de Pridias Lord of Prideaux – 1135-1200

Up to now the Pridias boys were well known in the area in which they lived and had been so for many generations. The day Nicholas de Pridias Lord of Prideaux was born in 1135 on August 2nd, the day darkened over all lands. This was according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicles which also tells us that the sun became as a three day moon, surrounded by stars. This was taken as a sign of impending doom and so it was as King Henry was killed a few weeks later.
All we really know about Nicholas, was that he was amerced [fined by the court] of half a mark in 1189 and again in 1195, both times for making false claims. He had however been paid half a mark by the Sheriff of Cornwall in 1182 when he travelled to London to go overseas with the King.
Because a great deal of money had to be raised in order to pay for the Kings jollies abroad,  William de Wrotham was given the task of raising money from tin mining in Devon and Cornwall by Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed the First Lord Warden of the Stannaries on 20th November 1197.
These new laws meant that anyone connected with tin mining could only deal with the stannary courts and were exempt from parliament in London. This technically still applies, as the position has never been rescinded. A huge amount was raised from this reorganization of the tin miners and their industry in addition to other methods of taxation.
This a good place to list some of the holdings the Prideaux family had. These holdings were listed by Lake in 1284, but are relevant to backdate to the time of Nicholas and prior.

Lake states,

The ancient manor originally comprised Great and Little Prideaux, Lestoon, Levrean, Rosemullen, Trevanney, Trenince, and Ponts Mill in Luxulyan. Stenalees in St Austell, Grediow in Lanlivery, Biscovay in St Blazey, Carroget, Kilhalland, Rosegarth and Penpillick in Tywardreath. Gubbavean in St Issey, Nanscowe in St Breaock, and moieties in Golant, one of which was called Bakers.

According to some writings, Nicholas died leaving twin sons Richard and Hickadon. Hickadon has also been referred to as Herden.
The Prideauxs of Netherton state that Herden’s son was Sir Jeffery who was succeeded by Ralph who married the daughter of Sir William Bigbury. I will tell you a story about a future Sir William Bigbury in another chapter. I descend from Richard and so have only followed that line. That is lucky, as there is far more information about Richard than Herden.
The writings also state that Paganus built Prideaux Castle near Fowey. As discussed, the actual castle was only a fortified hill fort used against invasion and no separate castle was built. It cannot be known yet how much building took place upon the fort and if some sort of investigation takes place one day, we shall have a more complete view of what went on there.  In the meantime we can only draw parallels with the excavation at Castle Dor.
The information above with regard to the Prideauxs at Netherton was taken from The Baronetage of England and the English Baronetage, where it was acknowledged that the Edmund Prideaux of Netherton became a baronet on 17th July 1622.
The Crusades and the cost of that took up most of Nicholas’s life. I wonder of he or any member of his family went there to join in the fight? During his lifetime, he had known about King Richard going to the Holy Land, then coming back and laying siege to Nottingham Castle to claim it back from his brother Prince John. Finally Richard was killed whilst fighting in France.
During the 1100’s and after the First Crusade, many pilgrims went to the Holy Land to see the holy sites and ended up being robbed and murdered. From the necessity of guarding these pilgrims grew the Knights Templar and all the history which went with that story. It is highly likely that Nicholas and his father would have known men who travelled to the Holy Land and others who joined the Templar, if they did not in fact go there themselves. Many stories from the Priory would entertain local people in respect of this news.
Although a large landowner and Lord, Nicholas and his family were under constant threat of taxes and fines and he would have had a great deal of concern about raising money. Complaints were useless and the fine line being trodden almost daily in order to keep ones family and lands safe, must have put a great strain on the man.
Nicholas died in 1200, leaving the next generation to worry about everything.
His eldest son Richard took the reins and launched into dealing with the knotty problem of farming the land.

Castle Dore

More can be read about Nicholas in the story The Hanged Man in the book by A A Prideaux entitled Cornish Prideaux Ghost Stories.


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.