John Prideaux 1540 – 1620

Yet another John Prideaux story to tell. This John is the father of the Bishop John Prideaux who stars in my book. The Bishop and the Witch.

When trying to find out precisely where this generation of the family of Prideauxs lived in Stowford, I come across differing opinions. The historians of Ivybridge, including Louise Ryan, Gillian Venables and Ivor Martin, state that the house in which the Prideauxs lived was the house known as Stowford House which has currently been converted into flats. Roy Prideaux states that this property was the house of the Speaker Thomas Williams.

Stowford was a 100 acre Royal demesne from Domesday covering the King’s highway to Dartmoor hunting country. Queen Elizabeth conveyed it to Speaker Thomas Williams as a reward for  his services to her. Thomas Williams had many parliamentary duties and legal offices away from home and relied on his mother and sister to deal with his estates. His mother, Alice Prideaux, who had married Adam  Williams of Stowford held a good deal of sway within her marriage and ensured that the Prideauxs were given the long term tenancy of the farm. Alice was related to the Prideaux family via  the Orcharton line. Some cousins of which had moved to Ashburton and become well known there, They held  positions in the church and town and as Justices of the Peace.

John Prideaux had rich grandparents and rich parents and was happy to accept the tenancy of this farm when his father became ill and before he died. This John gained this tenancy when he was 27 years old and likely as not before he married Agnes, whose origins are unknown to me.

It appears that Stowford House and farm consisted of a dwelling house, 60 acres of land, meadow and pasture which lay almost entirely to the east of the Harford Road.

The Prideaux land is now almost completely covered by houses, the railway and a community college. It is bordered on the west by the Harford Road and the south by the Kings Highway which later became the turnpike road through the town and then passes over the Ivy bridge. It seems the only bit of grass which now remains of the Prideaux lands are a few paddocks north of the railway.

Not to worry though, there is a road named after the Prideauxs on the housing estate.

Ivor Martin, whom I visited in his wonderful little cottage when conducting this research lives only a few doors away from the edge of the Prideaux lands. Ivor’s house is full and I mean full,  of nostalgic toys, books and objets d’art. I was made very welcome and he gave me some information which helped further my research. He is a prolific writer of books and keeper of historic artifacts.

Speaker Williams died in 1566 after a short illness. He was a good man who spoke against the owners of parish livings giving very little to the vicar and allowing almost none for teachers. He also tried to encourage Queen Elizabeth to marry and provide an heir. Elizabeth liked and trusted him and rewarded him with extra properties which bordered on his own family lands.

John and his family had much to do with the Williams family, being related to each other.

It is known that this branch of the Prideaux family was Catholic.

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The lane to  Harford Church runs close to these properties and this church was frequented by both families. Many events took place there, including births, marriages and deaths. There are memorials to both families there.

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Across this road flowed water from Well Park, which traveled directly to the farm and its buildings, via an old culvert.

The Prideauxs  made their living from producing bread, dairy products, meat and cloth weaving. A tucking mill stood very near to their property. All these items were used at home or sent to local markets by pack-horse. The family had enough to eat and a roof over their head, but they were relatively cash poor.

It is highly unlikely that their diet was the same as two generations back. No more the storing of oysters and salmon, larks and swan, sometimes a fawn and often sugar candy for the children. No more plays acted in the grounds with dancers and minstrels and pipers at the gate. They would still have cherries, plums and pears, cowslips and cakes from their own orchards and ground. Moorcocks, capon and geese, but times had changed for this branch of the Prideaux family.

John and Agnes produced a large family, ten living children and in some quarters it is recorded that there were another three children who did not make it far into childhood.

The surviving children were as follows, Thomas the eldest. He was born in 1571 and married Blanche. Blanche lived until 1645, but Thomas died before her. He is my ancestor and will be the subject of the next chapter.

Johan was born 1573 and buried on 28th April 1664.

Agnes, born 1576, who eventually married Arthur Dawe and was buried on 7th May 1639.

Henry born in 1577 and buried in 1639, there is documentation about him.

John was born on 17th September 1578. He became the Rector of Exeter and Bishop of Worcester. He married Mary Grace Taylor, then Mary Reynell of West Ogwell and was a very famous and influential man. He is the subject of my  book. The Bishop and the Witch.

Hugh, who married Anne and died in 1663. Anne died on the 1669, leaving Blanche and John in charge of the estate.

Christopher, born in 1582, married Alice who died in 1614.

Francis was born in 1584 and buried on 2nd September 1658 He first married Margaret and then Alice of Brent.

Richard, born around 1585 and who became a mason in 1633.  He married Jane, who was buried on 12th April 1633. He then married Elizabeth who became a widow in 1645.

His son Richard is mentioned in Old Devon Bridges, by C Henderson. In 1672 The Mill bridge over the River Yealm at Cornwood was in decay. Symon Prideaux gave evidence that the bridge had only been a plank bridge, a clam bridge upon which only pedestrians may travel and not horses or carriages. Mr. Hele in 1647 repaired and renewed the bridge with beams and planks from his own mill. The five judges attending the sessions decided therefore that as the bridge had been repaired by John Hele on behalf of the parish of Cornwood, it was not a county bridge and therefore not their responsibility to repair.

Elizabeth was born in 1586 and married James Mitchell on 5th January 1613.

All of their children are on record, but I shall not list them in this story.

Details can be obtained from Roy Prideaux’s excellent work, ‘A West Country Clan.’

All of these events appear to have been celebrated and recorded at the beautiful Harford Church, a church which had gained a reputation for clandestine marriages in the past.

The clerks during the time of John and Agnes Prideaux were John Priest, Andrew Helyer who remained for 56 years and William Hart of whom I shall talk later.

The Prideaux  boys went to Ashburton Grammar School, probably travelling across the moor from their house to Harford church and along the ancient way following the crosses which helped direct the traveler. This grammar school was founded by Bishop Stapledon, the same man who founded Exeter College at Oxford. Many good West Countrymen attended Exeter College. John Prideaux did particularly well there as he was a natural scholar.

The Civil War greatly affected the area in which my ancestors lived. Parliamentarians and Cavaliers buzzing back and forth, fighting each other and upsetting the lives of the ordinary folk.

William Hart, the clerk of Harford Church, was a man involved in the lives of all the local people and the Prideaux family in no lesser way. He witnessed many of their wills in addition to the normal duties of a parish vicar with regard to birth, marriage and death. Mr. Hart was in trouble on several occasions for refusing to swear allegiance from Royalist to Parliamentarian. The local influential people managed to keep this popular man in his job. Once, he was arrested by soldiers intent on persuading him in a more forceful manner. He was eventually released due to pressure but a Major Pierce said

‘Bid the parishioners pay no tythes and if they would knock him off his horse and kill him, his friends should have no law of them.’

It was probably as a result of this that the Prideaux family arranged to have a memorial plaque put on the wall of the church. The plaque is still there to this day and when I first saw it, I had one of those OMG moments.

You know, one of my family actually put this up four hundred years ago.

The plaque states:

Here rests the bodies of John Prideaux of Stoford and Agnes his only wife. The parents of[7] sonnes and [3] daughters.

To Whom

John Prideaux their 4th sonne Doctor of Divinity and their Kings Majesties Professeur thereof in the University of Oxford, Rector of Exceter Colledge and chaplain to Prince Henry King James the first and King Charles the first.

Hath left this filiall remembrance

July 20 1639

The old rectory was at Lukesland, just next door to the Prideaux property, they were neighbours too and hopefully friends.

Harford Church is atmospheric and spooky, and damp. But it is one of the loveliest places I have ever been in. On the very edge of Dartmoor, although within the National Park, it stands on a small green surrounded by a few houses and trees and hedges. It was misty the first time I saw it and I can see how the area was ideal as the location for the Peter Cushing version of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

The Bishop came back to visit his family on many occasions, often surprising them by arriving without warning, but always armed with presents. He was an accomplished archer and would compete with his brother Thomas upon his return.

John senior, died in 1620, leaving his wife Agnes a widow.

There was talk of her retiring to the house at the corner of the property, Bridge End House by the Ivybridge. This has now been demolished and replaced by the London Inn, which has now sadly been closed down for a number of years. She stayed at the farm, which was  being run by Thomas and Blanche. She lasted until 1626 and her will proved on the 15th February 1626, although it had been written soon after the death of John on 16th February 1620.

 My body to be buried in the church of Harford.  To the poor of Harford 2s. To my son Hugh 20s. To my son Richard 20s. To my son Christopher 20s o my son Francis 20s and my greatest brasse panne. To my son Henry 50s and my next greatest brasse panne. To my daughter Johan 20s. To my daughter Agnesse Dow my best chest and all my lynnen. To John Prediaxe his sonne my best cuppe with a silver cover, To Welmont Burt my little silver cupp. To little Elizabeth Mychell my great brasse crocke. To all my children’s children 12d each. To Susan Prediaxe one ewe sheep. The rest to Thomas Prediaxe my son sole executor. Also I give him all my rights in Stover as appears by a lease made by Richard Williams. Sign of Agnes Predyaxe

John Bart of Wedenbury and John Shepherd overseers

Witnesses John Bart and John Shepherd

Inventory made by Richard Prideaux and John Scobble.

The will was written before the time of the popular William Hart, when the long serving Andrew Helyer was in charge. It looks as though Agnes did not approve of Helyer, as she left money to the poor rather than the church. This was often done by Catholics, who did not approve of Protestants and showed their disdain in this way. With regard to some of the beneficiaries of the will, they can be explained as follows.

Susan was daughter of Thomas; Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth, she having married James Mitchell in 1613.

John Prideaux was by then Rector of Exeter College and Canon of Christchurch. He had a son John who was left the silver cup. Henry did not marry but lived until 1639.

Thomas, Richard and Hugh formally resigned their claim to the administration of Henry’s goods in favour of their youngest brother Francis.

This wee doubt not, but our brother the Doctor in Oxford will be ready and willing to do also

We can  assume that Henry was either physically or mentally challenged and perhaps lived with Francis, who looked after his needs, now that his parents were dead.

Richard, the brother of Thomas and John left a will as follows

I Richard Predeaux of the parish of Harford. To my wife Elizabeth one brasse panne which I call Blakes pann, my other brass things, 2 pewter dishes and the porringer with the letters SP on it and £110.

To Agnes Brangall [Bragwell] 10s. To the daughter of my son Simon 10s. To the poor of Harford 3s 4d

The rest to my son Symon Sole executor.

Thomas William of Fillom gent and my cosen John Preddeaux son of my brother Thomas Preddaux overseers.

Signed Richard Preddaux

Witnesses William Hart, Catherine Prowse

Inventory made May 28 1645 by Thomas Pridiuex of the parish of Harford [my Thomas]

William Hart was in favour here, he must have made a good impression on the Prideauxs, the new generation obviously becoming happily Protestant.

Elizabeth, Richard’s wife made a will a year after her husband.

To William Hart Clerk of the parish of Harford a hogshead of cider

To Alexander Lavers a hoggshed of cyder

To Agnes wife of John Prideaux two of my best aprons. To my sister in law Blanche Prideaux my best kerchief. To Richard Roper my calfe. To Anne Kelly my gowne and one hogg. To Phillipe Prideaux my best waistcoats To Elizabeth wife of Thomas Dawe my best petticoat. To Rachell Dawe one hat that was my kinswoman’s Agnes Bragwell.To Grace Ripley my servant my woolen waistcoat and 6lbs of yarn. To Richard Roper’s wife my holiday coats to his daughter and under coate. To Elizabeth Chubb my beste hatte and best apron halfe silke. To Katherine Prowse one of my handkerchiefs and a canvas apron.

To Joane Fox my god daughter 10s

To Thomas some of William Scoble 5s

To the children of Symon Prideaux 5s each to the children of Alexander Lavers 1s each. To the poor of Harford 3s 4d

Witnesses Thomas Collings John Fox The rest to Thomas Williams of Fillom gent sole executor

William Hart Clerk of Hartford and John Fox Ugborough Overseers Elizabeth Prideaux.

This will was written towards the end of the first phase of the civil war. Thomas Williams was of Speakers Williams family.

Alfred Prideaux of Bath researched the Prideaux line also and during this came across the Harford’s Bishop Transcripts and managed to discover several relevant wills. I have copied only the ones relevant to me. Alfred kindly gave me much information and a lovely and detailed hand drawn Prideaux family tree.

The Prideaux family had good views and personal experiences of the tooing and froing of the sailing fleet meeting the Spanish Armada. Their attempted landings around the Cornish and Devon coast must have been as terrifying and exciting as the landing of pirates.

This was the start again of a good time for the tin industry. The tin streams were exhausted so mining began in earnest, the wars required metal production and trade routes were cut off. The tin mining was very dangerous and the inefficient pumps and strenuous work meant that the men could only withstand it for four hours. Agriculture was neglected for the fast buck of mining.

However mining soon began to fail and the men returned to farming and fishing. Unemployment now became a serious problem as people flocked into the towns. The gentry during this time were landowners, magistrate’s, commanders of land and sea forces and members of parliament.

The gap between the two remained as distant as it ever was.

Incidentally, I discovered a prayer that the Prideaux family taught to each generation.  It was thought to be  protection against the plague. I wonder if this prayer was so carefully kept because so many of their ancestors had succumbed. Perhaps even his parents and siblings. It goes like this.

O God, That knowest us to bee set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that for Mans frailenesse we cannot always stand uprightly, guard to us the health of Body and Soul, that all those things which we suffer for sinne, by thy holy wee may well passé and overcome, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I use the prayer as an opener in The Bishop and the Witch

The Bishop and The Witch AA Prideaux
The Bishop and The Witch AA Prideaux

Featuring John Prideaux and available to buy now.

Prideaux Ghost Stories.



John Prideaux 1505 – 1568

John Prideaux, the second son of John and Sybell Prideaux of Adeston and Orcharton married a lady called Ann who died young in her third  childbirth. The baby also died.
Orcharton  remained with the Prideaux family until the 18th century through the line of Hugh Prideaux, John’s elder brother and his ancestors. John Prideaux, although failing to  inherit the big family prize of the Luson  house and estates, nevertheless  inherited a  good part of the other Devonian family lands. He inherited the property known as Woodland and thesurrounding lands near  Stowford. It seems as though the lands at Adeston and Orcharton were either incorporated into the Luson properties and perhaps eventually sold.
John Prideaux and his family remained  at Stowford in  the parish of Harford, according to records.  His children were,  John born in 1540 and William born soon after. William ultimately moved back to Holbeton, while John Junior stayed in Stowford.
It was this John who came into possession of a prayer, which remained with the family throughout the following generations. His grandson,  John Prideaux, who later became the Bishop of Worcester, carried this prayer with him throughout his life. The same prayer was also passed down our family through to me. I used it throughout The Bishop and The Witch.


Cover Version 2

With reference to the short story about John,  I mention King Henry VIII’s staff.  I have not made that up.  This staff was the property of Bishop John and he left it to his son in law, along with many of his possessions.  No one currently knows how the staff came into the Bishop John’s possession. I chose to put my own spin on the tale in, A Ghost Story.

The Prideaux family were now living through further turbulent times,  as Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 and reigned for most of John’s life. Henry began the break with Rome and the country saw the monasteries and churches being defiled, sold off and dispersed. The gentry and merchants of Cornwall and Devon made huge profits and gains from the dissolution of the monasteries. The Prideauxs of Padstow being one of them, gaining the lands and income of the local Priorys and churches.
Henry VIII died in 1547 and was followed by his son Edward VI. Between 1547-1552, Edward continued with the religious and political changes his father had begun. His uncle, the Duke of Somerset became Protector. Edward and his Protector took the rest of the property of the church. Much was lost during this period, including the Cornish language. The new Prayer Book was written in English in order that each person could understand the Word of God. There began the insistence that the new churches must be attended under penalty of arrest and Catholicism must not be practiced in any shape or form. There were further horrible executions all over the country.
Henry VIII had left the country with little money and more tax needed to be  raised from the old churches, where plate and possessions were confiscated. The poor and rich alike were also taxed even more heavily than before. Edward and his Protector happily continued with this policy until Edward’s death.
Mary then succeeded Edward to the throne. Her reign lasted only five years, 1552-1558 and  like her father, she left a bloody trail. She was staunchly Catholic and many innocent people lost their lives and suffered under her reign. She killed people who had killed and pauperised the Catholics who had been persecuted under Henry and Edward. She restored some lands to her Catholic faithful gentry who had lost theirs under the new Protestant rule. She reinstated the old religion and her decision to marry the Spanish Philip,  infuriated her subjects almost as much as her religious beliefs. There were more Catholics in the country than Protestants. Those who had gained from the dissolution had no intention of giving back their estates and most never did.
Mary lasted only five years before she died, paving the way for her sister Elizabeth. Mary  burned 300 Protestants alive, one of whom was Rowland Taylor, another ancestor who features in a novel of mine The Bishop and the Witch. Mary eventually died of stomach cancer in 1558, after imagining that she was at last, pregnant.
She was succeeded by Elizabeth I who reigned until 1603. Elizabeth  stopped the Marian burnings and reinstated Protestantism. She had a remarkable reign, killed a lot of people, beat the Spanish and died depressed of bronchitis, pneumonia and the loss of the will to live. She may or may not have been a virgin…
Elizabeth, intent on removing the Catholics again, nevertheless was prepared to compromise in any way she could. This compromise displeased the Puritan element of her supporters. But you can’t please everyone.
Very little is known about this John Prideaux  in the records I have so far uncovered.  I really don’t know why that should be, although there is not a great deal about his brother’s life either. Whether or not this was a pretty nondescript generation, or whether they were merely keeping their heads down during this particularly turbulent time, we shall probably never know. I do know however, that some in the family were involved in  rebellions including, The Prayer Book Rebellion.  Many of John Prideaux’s family and friends died in horrible and cruel ways while  other friends  made gains at their expense.
The Prideaux families from the time of Paganus, when he made the first deal with the Normans, to this time of John, were always Royalist, so it must have been difficult choosing between King and Religion. I think most Prideauxs even now have respect for the monarchy, although some had the dalliance with Cromwell and his merry men, before seeing that he was not all he was cracked up to be.
Can I also assume that John had some part in the privateering which took place during this period of Tudor influence? The properties John Prideaux  lived in were ideally placed for sailing into the Channel and beyond, potentially being able to rain any Spanish ship in the area. Many of his peers were involved in the same pastime and this act of adventuring was encouraged by the monarchy. His countryman Francis Drake, not yet a Sir, but a favourite of the Queen Elizabeth, was a privateer of note.
John’s family was Catholic and from the constant involvement with the Church and the chapels which were built at their houses, one can assume that they were believers rather than followers. The Prideaux family of my line, who constantly supported the Crown tended towards Protestantism as time went on.
During this time and apparently, to the time of the railways, Devon and Cornwall were almost impossible to get in and out of. As mentioned previously, there were far more creeks and inlets than now and many of these were deep enough for decent sized boats, which could also travel much further inland. This was the favoured method of travel when desiring to go further than the market town. However, for many people over the centuries, the market town and back would be the furthest they would want to travel.
But when it was necessary to venture over the Tamar and towards Exeter, or to the north of either county, then traveling was extremely difficult. The lanes were little more than tracks, that were often barely wide enough for one small horse to travel, let alone two pass each other. The tracks were often wet and muddy due to the fact that the sun and wind rarely came into contact with the ground here. The hedges were very high and the banks under the hedges often collapsed into the track, making progress very difficult. It was almost impossible to see out from the track, to the view beyond and impossible to see who may be traveling along the track.
During the rebellions and battles, one can see how each party could make progress on the other and spring a surprise attack. Cottages were rarely built along the edge of the track, but were sited to one side or the other. Perhaps it was the track which avoided the cottages, rather than the other way around.
There were no carts or traps or carriages, as they would have got nowhere. People and packages were all transported by horse, although some rich people may be transported by sedan, where they could not ride.
Can you imagine riding, walking or being carried along such narrow tracks, through mud, and water, trying not to get stuck? Then, a dinner party at the end of the journey?
You can see why four inch stilettos took a while to be invented. A pair of those would have stayed in the shop window for a while.
Mind you, I might still have bought them.
John died around 1568 survived by his two sons. I know little about William, other than he stayed in Holbeton, had seven children and produced hundreds of ancestors in and around the Holbeton, Yealhampton, Stoke Damerel and Plymouth areas. . He was my ancestor by uncle.
The other son John, stayed in Stowford and was my ancestor.

Modbury (2)


John Prideaux 1461 – 1523

John Prideaux was aware from birth, that he was rich and a member of the great families of Cornwall and Devon. The two counties mixed through marriage, inheritance and business and the Prideauxs have joined with each and everyone of them at sometime or other. John expected to make a good marriage with the responsibilities to Crown and country and family. He must produce an heir and a spare and maintain and increase the Prideaux fortunes. He must be keep aware of the current politics and ensure that he followed the correct leader as that could change at a moments notice. John Prideaux’s lifetime was no different to many before and after him. Fortunes could change on the whim of a new King and soon, religion would make a difference.
During these times ,there were many fights between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. There was a lot of support for the Lancastrians in the West Country and many aligned with their Welsh cousins.The marriages of William Prideaux to Alice Gifford of Theuborough and Fulke to Sir Richard Edgecombes daughter showed where their sympathies and politics lay. Sir Richard was knighted by Henry Tudor for his support in the overthrow of Richard III in 1485. The War of the Roses was over. There is a very strong possibility that Fulke was fighting at the Battle of Bosworth.
Most common people of the time could not care less about the conflicts between Lancastrian and Yorkist nobles. However a number of families in Devon and Cornwall had joined the Duke of Buckingham’s unsuccessful conspiracy to overthrow Richard and among those who fled to Brittany to join Henry Tudor were Sir Thomas Arundel, John Trevelyan, John and William Treffry and Richard Edgecombe. It is said that Edgecombe escaped capture by throwing his hat, weighted with a stone into the Tamar. His pursuers thought he had drowned and he was able to make good his escape.
His family lands in the South Hams including Orcharton and Adeston were willed to him. These were the longest owned and most beautiful and fertile lands, with warm weather and easy access to the sea.  His brother  Fulke Prideaux, inherited Theuborough near Sutcombe on the North  Devon coast. These substantial  manors arrived in the Prideaux household with their mother Alice Gifford. John Prideaux and his heirs were to inherit these lands, should Fulke die childless. Fulke firstly married Jane Edgecombe, the daughter and heir of Sir Richard Edgecombe. She died without issue. Incidentally, you may often see the letters dsp after someones name in a family tree. This abbreviates the Latin phrase, descessit sine prole, which translates  to died without issue. John Prideaux may have thought that he was in with a chance of inheriting the North Devonian lands to add to his  first marriage. John  Prideaux was  named as heir in his brothers inheritance at Adeston and also at Theuborough, should Fulke Prideaux and his wife die childless. But Fulke soon married Katherine the daughter of Sir Humphrey Poyntz and as if to drive it home with a mallet, they produced thirteen children, although not all  survived for many years.
It was a wife’s duty for many centuries, indeed probably until relatively recently, to produce children as regularly and as often as they were able. Their first born son was Humphrey , who became the heir. The name Humphrey Prideaux was given many times in this Prideaux line.
A sister Jane married William Wyke.

Ermington ChurchJohn Prideaux married Sybell of Luson in Ermington which lay less than a mile from Adeston. Sybell, although a neighbour at Adeston would not see John regularly as the Prideaux family had made their home at Theuborough when William married Alice.  But I hope that theirs was a love match. The couple eventually died within a few weeks of each other in  1523. The plague and sweating sickness had been doing the rounds again and it may be reasonable that they had caught one of those illnesses.
When they died in 1523 they were survived by four sons, Hugh, John, Henry and Thomas.
Hugh the heir, perhaps named after his maternal grandfather, died on 6th December 1559, when his son John was only seven. This John stayed in the parish of Harford at Stowford, an area which features strongly in this story for the next few generations.  He died aged 73 in 1625, is buried at Ermington and is named in his grandsons’ marriage settlement.

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His son Thomas was churchwarden at Ermington in 1627 and baptised his own son Arthur in 1628. These cousins were useful to my line during the civil war period and helped each other out. To the left is the author looking at his gravestone.
During the 15th century, parish churches were rebuilt along with manor houses. Stone bridges were built across large rivers and stonemasons and woodcarvers were employed everywhere. The building industry was as important in Devon and Cornwall as tin mining and the production of cloth. The birth rate began to rise along with the prosperity.  Now we can see how the lines of the family keep branching out and shrinking throughout the centuries. This was a trend common through all families, and the Prideauxs were lucky in that they had some branches continuing keeping the blood connection going. So far the family had been mainly on the up, income and land holding going from good to really good. Younger sons and daughters were encouraged to make good marriages trading on the family name and connections. It had always worked. Business dealings helped more as time went on, but now we were heading into a time where it was not so easy to stay rich, even with these connections.  So now some of these younger sons were considering work as stonemasons and carpenters, who were sought out everywhere. The building industry was where our line of Prideauxs found work for three hundred years from the mid 1600’s onwards.
When Henry VIII became King in 1509, many changes took place in the country. Not least the excommunication from Rome.  Now the  dissolution of the monasteries could begin.
The little Benedictine priory of Tywardreath was one of the first to go by the Act of 1536.
It’s condition was terrible. Prior Collins and his six monks were all that were left.  His tenant Thomas Treffry was a friend of Cromwell and he ensured that the Priory was closed and the lands sold to the gentry. The stones of the priory were carried away to build new large houses. The only stone remaining is the gravestone of Prior Collins. The monks went off to live a secular life.
Nicholas Prideaux became Steward to Shere of Launceston and helped dissolve the monasteries there. He was rewarded with very long and cheap leases of the tithes of a number of parishes including Padstow. This was the start of the branch of Prideaux building the huge property there, known as Prideaux Place, which is so famous today. Nicholas was the great grandson of Fulke Prideaux.
John Grenville secured a lease of the Tywardreath estates in the autumn of 1536.
The Protector Somerset took them. The priories and monasteries were stripped down and plundered by gentry and merchants alike,ruining them forever. They increased their own holdings by adding on to their own properties.
John Leland, the Kings librarian, travelled to Cornwall during this period of time and made many notes about the area which have proved invaluable to historians for years. He noted the sheep grazing at Tintagel and that it must have been a large place in its time.  He thought Padstow unclean as it was so full of Irishmen. He considered St Austell famous for nothing but its church and Tywardreath famous only for the Priory which was still standing at this time. Castle Dor he could not find, but the keep was still standing at Restormel. Barges could come within half a mile of Lostwithiel during this time.  The sand from the tin works being blamed for blocking up to the bridge with waste.
Celia Fiennes, traveling in 1698, found St Austell full of comely women and enjoyed West Country tarts with clouted cream, but disapproved of the men, women and children smoking. She was very impressed with the mines and gave a wonderful description of how mining was done.
The times were a’ changing again.

Harford Church (9)

John stars in the story The Terror of the Thunderstorm in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.



William Prideaux 1422 – 1472

William Prideaux became heir apparent to the Devon estates following  the premature death of his elder half brother John.  He was ten years old.
William subsequently named his second son in honour of his brother  John. He must have been greatly affected by losing a big brother at such a young age. For now though, William had everything any young man could wish for. A huge inheritance, plenty of money and lands, well bred and well connected and a well known and respected father. Oh and he was good looking too.
The Prideauxs were and still are a handsome bunch, intelligent and strong. It’s just that most of us are not rich.
William appears to be determined to have children and also to gain even more money than he already possessed. His sisters made good marriages and he obviously intended to, when one looks at the women he did manage to marry.
William’s father died around 1443, when William was almost twenty one years old. His mother Ann was still alive and helped him with his first choice of a bride. They chose Rose Michelstow.  She is highly likely to be the Rose Michelstow who was the daughter of the wealthy John Michelstow of Lanteglos in Cornwall. Lanteglos is very near to the Prideaux lands and again the families would have socialised and known about each other. Rose had a sister called Elizabeth who married Thomas Treffry of Fowey. This wife of Treffry helped her mother in law , also Elizabeth, defend Fowey against the Breton fleet while her husband and father in law were away. They fortified the town and poured boiling oil over the invaders. She is immortalized on one of three brasses in the church at Fowey, though the inscriptions are now vandalized. Captain Symonds a Cavalier, luckily made records of antiquities he spotted and this is one of them.

Poor Rose died, probably in childbirth again, as there are no children from this marriage.

The second wife of William was a daughter of John Fortescue, the future Chancellor and Chief Justice to Henry VI.  Her name was Joan Fortescue.
The Forstescue family owned Fallapit in East Allington .  William’s cousin John Prideaux of Orcharton settled the next door manor of North Allington and the advowson of its church on John’s brother Martin in 1429. The Fortescue and Prideauxs were close neighbours and friends and an alliance between the two families was sensible, indeed the family intermarried on more than one occasion as the centuries passed. Most of the gentry families in Cornwall and Devon have joined with the Prideauxs at some point or other.
They all believed in line breeding. Not that it did any of them any good, as this poor wife appeared to die in childbirth too.
William Prideaux  then married his third wife Alice Gifford, the daughter and heir of Stephen Thomas Gifford of Theuborough and Agnes Churchill.  They married in 1460. The couple eventually moved into the Domesday manor of Theuborough in the parish of Sutcombe near Holsworthy, after all the children were born. Theuborough can be translated as Thieves Hill.  There is a  farm there still has the remains of a Tudor manor house which William’s son Fulke  had built near an earlier house of his.
Their children were Fulke Prideaux born 1462 and who died on 15th January 1530. Joan Prideaux was born in 1468 and John Prideaux was born in 1461.
William’s son Fulke Prideaux was the son  who inherited both Theuborough and Adeston and enjoyed great lands and wealth. Joan Prideaux married well and John Prideaux, my ancestor,  married Sybell who was heir to the property and lands at Luson, Ermington, just up the road from Adeston. His line was very fruitful and produced many more Prideauxs to colonise the county.
A deed states that William died on 15th April 1472 and that following his death, Alice married William Wollacombe, another landed Devon gentleman.
William Prideaux’s children presumably spent their time between Theuborough and Adeston. As Fulke would be inheriting he property, it made sense that his education would be there, learning the family business from the lawyers and estate management. Both Fulke  and John would also be learning French and Latin.
Incidentally, it was one of Fulke’s grandsons who carried on the line which eventually built Prideaux Place at Padstow.
Alice died on 24th February 1512, the lady reaching a great age and seeing her grandchildren grown up. Even if it was from a different house.


Some documentation referring to William


CP 25/1/46/84, number 132. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: The day after St Martin, 15 Henry VI [12 November 1436]. Parties: William Predeaux of Thorleston’ and Philip Morgan, querents, and Thomas Loueney and Margaret, his wife, deforciants. Property: The manor of Nordon’ and 24 messuages, 300 acres of land, 12 acres of meadow, 2 acres of alder and 30 shillings of rent in Aluyngton’, Kyngesbrigge, Dodbroke, Colpyt, Wodehous and Lye. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: William and Philip have acknowledged the manor and tenements to be the right of Thomas, as those which Thomas and Margaret have of their gift. For this: Thomas and Margaret have granted to William the manor and tenements and have rendered them to him in the same court, to hold to William, of Thomas and Margaret and the heirs of Thomas, for life, rendering yearly to Thomas and Margaret for the life of Margaret 10 pounds sterling, to wit, 50 shillings at each of Christmas, Easter, the Nativity of St John the Baptist and St Michael, and for the life of Thomas 6 marks, 6 shillings and 8 pence at the aforesaid feasts if Thomas survives Margaret, and to the heirs of Thomas 1 rose at the Nativity of St John the Baptist for all service, and doing to the chief lords all other services. And after the decease of William, a moiety of the manor and tenements shall remain to Joan, wife of William, daughter of the aforesaid Margaret, and the heirs of her body, to hold of Thomas and Margaret and the heirs of Thomas by the aforesaid services for ever. In default of such heirs, remainder to Margery, wife of William Pillond’, daughter of the aforesaid Margaret, and the heirs of her body, to hold of Thomas and Margaret and the heirs of Thomas by the aforesaid services for ever. In default of such heirs the moiety shall revert to Thomas and Margaret and the heirs of Thomas, quit of the other heirs of Joan and Margery, to hold of the chief lords for ever.

And the other moiety of the manor and tenements shall remain to the aforesaid Margery and the heirs of her body (same tenure and services). In default of such heirs, remainder to Joan and the heirs of her body (same tenure and services). In default of such heirs, reversion to Thomas and Margaret and the heirs of Thomas (as above).

Feet of Fines: CP 25/1/46/91


CP 25/1/46/91, number 4. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: One month from Easter, 2 Edward IV [16 May 1462]. Parties: Thomas Wilcok’ and John Haget, querents, and William Prydeaux’ and Alice, his wife, deforciants. Property: The manors of Yewe, Blacchesburgh’ and Myddelmerwode and 54 messuages, 8 tofts, 400 acres of land, 46 acres of meadow, 80 acres of pasture, 50 acres of wood, 200 acres of furze and heath and 66 shillings and 8 pence of rent in Cryditon’, Chepyngtoriton’, Yewton’, Nymettrace, Claneburgh’, Heyngsthyll’, Blacchesburgh’, Merwode, Sprayton’, Knolle, Seyntsydewillesse, Honyton’, Elyngham, Fyneton’ and Combralegh’. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: William and Alice have acknowledged the manors and tenements to be the right of Thomas, as those which Thomas and John have of their gift, and have remised and quitclaimed them from themselves and the heirs of Alice to Thomas and John and the heirs of Thomas for ever. Warranty: Warranty. For this: Thomas and John have granted to William and Alice the manors and tenements and have rendered them to them in the same court, to hold to William and Alice, without impeachment of waste, of the chief lords for the lives of William and Alice, and after their decease the manors and tenements shall remain to Fulk Prydeaux’, son of William and Alice, and the heirs of his body, to hold of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, successive remainders (1) to John Prydeaux’, brother of Fulk, and the heirs of his body, (2) to the heirs of the bodies of William and Alice, (3) to the heirs of the body of Alice, (4) to the heirs of the body of William and (5) to the right heirs of John Spenser’.


CP 25/1/46/91, number 5. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: One month from Easter, 2 Edward IV [16 May 1462]. Parties: Richard Denys and Thomas Wylcok, querents, and William Prydeaux’ and Alice, his wife, and John Denys and Eleanor, his wife, deforciants. Property: The manor of Thuburgh’ and a third part of the manors of Esseraiffe and Curreworthy, and a third part of the advowson of the church of the manor of Esseraiffe, and 30 messuages, 6 tofts, 5 water mills, 1 fulling mill, 500 acres of land, 60 acres of meadow, 80 acres of pasture, 100 acres of wood, 500 acres of furze and heath, 4 pounds, 13 shillings and 4 pence of rent and rent of 1 pair of spurs and 1 pound of pepper in Esseraiffe, Curreworthy, Hyghanton’, Inwarlegh’ [sic], Romandeslegh’, Estansty, Westansty, Weston’, Knoghtonbeanpell’, Hetherlond’, Wheteford’, Mylton’ Damerell’, Northlewe, Neweton’ Sc’i Petroci, Stoke Sc’i Nectani, Welcombe, Bradeworthy, Whyteley, Suttecombe, Hertelond’, Holdesworthy and Lampford’, which Agnes, who was the wife of Stephen Gyfford’ held for life. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: William, Alice, John and Eleanor have acknowledged the manor, third parts, tenements and rent to be the right of Richard, and have granted for themselves and the heirs of Alice and Eleanor that the manor, third parts, tenements and rent – which Agnes, who was the wife of Stephen Gyfford’, held for life of the inheritance of Alice and Eleanor in the aforesaid vills on the day the agreement was made, and which after the decease of Agnes ought to revert to William, Alice, John and Eleanor and the heirs of Alice and Eleanor – after the decease of Agnes shall remain to Richard and Thomas and the heirs of Richard, to hold of the chief lords for ever. Warranty: Warranty.

For this: Richard and Thomas have granted to William and Alice a moiety of the manor of Thuburgh’ and a moiety of the third part of the manors of Esseraiffe and Curreworthy and a moiety of the third part of the advowson of the church of the manor of Esseraiffe, and also a moiety of the aforesaid tenements and rent in the aforesaid vills, and have rendered them to them in the same court, to hold to William and Alice and the male heirs of their bodies, of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, successive remainders (1) to Fulk Prydeaux’ and the heirs of his body, (2) to John Prydeaux’, brother of Fulk, and the heirs of his body, (3) to the heirs of the body of Alice, (4) to John Denys and Eleanor and the heirs of their bodies, (5) to the heirs of the body of Eleanor, (6) to the heirs of the body of William Prydeaux’ and (7) to the right heirs of the aforesaid Stephen Gyfford’. And Richard and Thomas also granted to John Denys and Eleanor the other moiety [of all the property, as above] to hold to John Denys and Eleanor and the heirs of their bodies, to hold of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, successive remainders (1) to the heirs of the body of Eleanor, (2) to William Prydeaux’ and Alice and the heirs of their bodies, (3) to the heirs of the body of Alice, (4) to John Denys [sic] and the heirs of his body and (5) to the right heirs of Stephen Gyfford’.

CP 25/1/46/91, number 13. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: Two weeks from St John the Baptist, 6 Edward IV [8 July 1466]. And afterwards one week from St Michael in the same year [6 October 1466]. Parties: John Wydeslade, gentleman, and William Eliot, gentleman, querents, and Robert Rokley and Elizabeth, his wife, deforciants. Property: The manor of Orcherton’ and 16 messuages, 2 mills, 2 gardens, 1 carucate and 400 acres of land, 200 acres of meadow and 240 acres of wood in Orcherton’, Roughdon’ in the parish of Modbury in the hundred of Magna Modbury, and Parua Modbury in the parish of Blakauton’ in the hundred of Blakauton’. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Robert and Elizabeth have acknowledged the manor and tenements to be the right of William, as those which William and John have of their gift, and have remised and quitclaimed them from themselves and the heirs of Elizabeth to John and William and the heirs of William for ever. Warranty: Warranty. For this: John and William have granted to Robert and Elizabeth the manor and tenements and have rendered them to them in the same court, to hold to Robert and Elizabeth, of the chief lords for the lives of Robert and Elizabeth, and after their decease the manor and tenements shall remain to the right heirs of Elizabeth, to hold of the chief lords for ever.

CP 25/1/45/76, number 15. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: One week from St Martin, 2 Henry [V] [18 November 1414]. And afterwards one week from St Hilary in the same year [20 January 1415]. Parties: William Prideaux the elder, querent, and John Prideaux the elder, deforciant. Property: The manor of Godeford’. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: John has granted to William the manor [sic] – which Elizabeth, who was the wife of John Prideaux, knight, held for life of the inheritance of John on the day the agreement was made, and which after the decease of Elizabeth ought to revert to John and his heirs – after the decease of Elizabeth shall remain to William and the male heirs of his body, to hold of John and his heirs for ever, rendering yearly to John and his heirs 1 grain of corn at St Michael for all service, and doing to the chief lords all other services.

In default of such heirs the manor shall revert to John and his heirs, quit of the other heirs of William, to hold of the chief lords for ever. For this: William has given him 100 marks of silver.

William stars in the story It is difficult to recognise a Ghost in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.


Sir John Prideaux 1380 – 1443

Sir John Prideaux was born in 1380.
By the time of his birth, his parents were wealthy landowners in the South Hams. In addition to this, John’s father Giles was an MP, well known and respected in his neighbourhood. Giles and Isabella were as well respected for their achievements with their landed properties, as they were with business success. The lines of the family were excellent and noble and could be traced back through their own records to the time before William the Conqueror.
John was a confident boy and man, who expected to have a good life and was unafraid of duty. Brought up in the social circles of the Devonshire county set and the Dartmouth and Totnes business community, how could he be anything else? His parents knew Chaucer and the like and they had strong noble family connections in Cornwall and Devon. We know from his achievements that he intended to follow in the family traditions.
John married Isabella Bromford in 1407. Isabella was the sister and heir of John Bromford of Horilake, a considerable estate. Isabella gave birth to Joan in 1409 and John in 1414. The heir safely born, Isabella faded and died a few months later in 1415. Her estates in Horilake were willed to her son John.
In this same year, Sir John had license to go abroad with Henry V and was more than likely at Agincourt. I hope that Isabella was not alone when she died.
Sir John, not to be downhearted, a trait of many of the Prideauxs male or female, soon married again to Maude French Sharpham.    Maude was the daughter and heiress of Robert French Sharpham and so John acquired an interest in the Sharpham estate, which has a frontage of three miles along the Dart.
John and Maude had three daughters two of whom, Elizabeth and Julian, grew up to marry William and Adam Somaster.  Their parents, Richard and Marjery Somaster, were neighbours and friends of the Prideaux family. The Somasters, another County family, held lands around Devon, including property at de la Port or Old Port. This was an estate slightly nearer the sea than Adeston and had at one time been a castle of defence when the creek was deeper and wider and allowed ships further inland. It is illuminating to see how many of the Devon and Cornwall creeks and inlets went inland much further than nowadays. Many inland villages and properties were at one time by the sea, or at least a ship could be moored almost at the end of the garden. It is no wonder that there was such a fear of pirates and kidnapping. There would be neither means of escape nor chance of help arriving.
Many chose to travel by sea along the coast and further afield. It is clear how much easier it would have been to sail to London, instead of making the long and treacherous route by land. France and Spain don’t seem too far away  and travel within England was so difficult. The narrow lanes, bordered by forest were possibly housing murderous thieves.
I know which way I would travel.
Sir John and Maude had another daughter they named Jane. This Jane Prideaux married William Drew and after his death, she married  Baldwin Acland. Both of these men were famous in their time and the Acland family is still a huge landowner in Devon.
Maude soon died after giving birth to the three children in quick succession.
Sir John was still sailing back and forth to France. In 1423, he had license to travel with Sir John Robeassart. He was Captain of the Castle of Saint Sauvieur le Viscount, so he may also have fought under the Duke of Bedford. It is thought both of these men saw Joan of Arc burnt at the stake. These trips helped Sir John’s business and professional status.
Upon his return, Sir John married Anne Shapton, daughter of John Shapton of Shapton who successfully bore the son and eventual heir, William of Adeston.
John, the eldest boy, came into the Horilake properties when his uncle died on 17th November 1429. He was not to enjoy this for long, as he too died on 27th February 1432, aged only seventeen. The Horilake inheritance then passed to his 23 year old full sister Joan, who was married to Robert Stretchley and who I expect was hugely excited  with all  the extra  money and property coming his way.
Stretchleigh stood in the parish of Ermington. The property was known as Stretchleigh first and gave name to the family which subsequently occupied it. William Stretchleigh was the first one to live there and apparently a William was the last. The property was eventually sold to the Rouses.
Risdon tells us about a strange event which occurred in Stretchleigh.


In this signiory AD 1623, there fell from above a stone of twenty three pounds in weight, which in falling made a fearful noise, first like a rumbling of a piece of ordinance, which in descending lower, lessened, and ended when upon the ground, no louder than the report of a petronel; it was composed of matter like a stone singed or half burnt for lime.

All the Adeston properties were now going to William, who had an education suitable for an heir to an estate. Sir John was known for his military service and was knighted because of his service to the King. He was also a well known gentleman in his locality, administering oaths by 1433.
Perhaps his stomach for war and death had diminished after seeing Joan of Arc killed and his eldest son dead soon after. After losing two wives as well, it is understandable that he would now wish to stay at home and help his community. Perhaps to get God back on side.
Sir John  continued with his business in Totnes and Dartmouth, both of which were now prosperous towns. Giles had made money for many others as well as himself and so the family was most welcome there.

Modbury Church (2)
Sir John died around 1443, having lived a busy and eventful life and went off to  join his ancestors in the great Prideaux Castle in the sky.

CP 25/1/45/78, number 84. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: Three weeks from Easter, 1 Henry [V] [14 May 1413]. And afterwards one week from the Purification of the Blessed Mary, 9 Henry [V] [9 February 1422]. Parties: John Prideaus of Addeston’, querent, and Richard Wodelond’, deforciant. Property: 1 messuage and 1 carucate of land in Torre iuxta Battolysburgh’, which John Carswille holds for life. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Richard has acknowledged the tenements to be the right of John Prideaus, and has granted for himself and his heirs that the tenements – which John Carswille held for life of the inheritance of Richard in the aforesaid vill on the day the agreement was made, and which after the decease of John Carswille ought to revert to Richard and his heirs – after the decease of the same John shall remain to John Prideaus and his heirs, to hold of the chief lords for ever. Warranty: Warranty. For this: John Prideaus has given him 20 marks of silver.

Sir John features in the story Burial Ground in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.


Giles Prideaux 1345 – 1410

Giles was born around 1345 when Edward III was on the throne.
Because Sir John died when Giles was only twelve years old, he was placed under the guardianship of Simon de Longbrooke and it was his daughter Isabella de Longbrooke whom Giles subsequently married. Longbrooke is not far away from Adeston and Simon was no doubt a friend of the family.
Joan of Adeston  appeared to leave most  of Giles’s education to the Longbrookes. Giles, who was sometimes referred to as Gilbert, often visited and stayed at  the house of his guardian. He learnt English, French and Latin, but little else in the academic line. There would have been a basic learning of the law as he would find this necessary while managing his estates in the future. Sir John wanted his son to have the best education and the ability to handle their lands and fortune.
If Sir John had died of the plague or similar,  he would surely have had time to speak to his family and his friend Simon de Longbrooke in order to establish some future for his family. What a sad and moving bedside conversation that would have been.
John wanted his son to continue the same connections within society and court that his cousins and family did. These connections were substantial and impressive and would serve to ensure his future success as a country gentleman and prospective magistrate. The young Giles and Isabella spent a good deal of time together and it is not surprising that they ended up married. Isabella was co heir of her fathers estate and their fortunes combined gave them considerable power.
Lady Joan Prideaux remained Lord of Adeston manor even during her second marriage. She married John Mules, one of the de Moels of Cadbury, another ancient family. It is highly likely that a strong sense of duty to the Adeston estate ran through her blood. She was brought up with the knowledge that the survival of many families were dependent upon the smooth running of  the  large estate.
She gave over control of the estate in 1372, when Giles was 27 years old.  He had been spending the intervening years wisely, working with Prideaux cousins at Dartmouth, building up the family fortunes. He was involved in import and export, tin  and wool out, wine and fancy goods  in.  Times were changing rapidly, bringing  low prices and high wages. The villeins who could at one time be relied upon to farm estate lands, were leaving the area or mining tin. Lords of the manors were having to lower rents and give tenancies to a lower calibre of farmer. The plagues had decimated the population and gave each person more choices than they had  had for years. Children were no longer following their parents and pursued a different and perhaps more prosperous life.
The Lords of the manor felt that it made sense to pursue shipping and trade in order to keep the family estates intact. Giles did a good job and was selected to act as Burgess and so became MP for Totnes in 1368, the 42nd year of the reign of Edward III at the House of Commons.  Indeed members of the Prideaux family were associated with Dartmouth for over 600 years.
Giles must have felt incredibly proud to be summoned to Parliament at the age of 27, the exact age his grandfather Sir Roger was so summoned.
This was also the time of chivalry and romantic stories. Edward III had tried unsuccessfully to revive the story of King Arthur and the Round Table. Chaucer was popular at this time too. Chaucer visited Dartmouth in 1373 while he was visiting a friend of his, John Hawley. Hawley  was a member of the famous and prosperous sea faring family there and would inevitably have known  Giles Prideaux. Perhaps if we reread Chaucer, we can see the likeness of an ancestor. The famous stories of Chaucer only came together in 1386.
Now that  the family were dealing with France, often the south west area, it is understandable that the French sounding Prideaux was used more regularly. It is the business line of the de Pridias who continued the Prideaux name, where other career choosing family members often remained with versions of Pridias. I believe that this time was when the name changes separating the clan properly began.
Giles mother  Joan of Adeston, died in 1373. It is probable that she had some idea of her coming fate and ensured that everything was signed over to her son a year prior. Perhaps she had some difficulty passing the inheritance on prior to that date.



On the political front changes were taking place.
The Knights and Burgess joined together to form the House of Commons. The abbots and bishops sat with the secular Lords in York and Canterbury. Bishops were increasingly men who had achieved high office as servants of the Crown, or at the Papal Court in Rome. Some members were members of the aristocracy whose political services would be rewarded by a bishopric. They did not need to have any religious training. God would not have made them rich if he didn’t think that they were better than everyone else, so the belief of the time went. Some nobility took the responsibility seriously and some merely looked after themselves. Following is a copy of some documentation to do with Giles and Isabella.

CP 25/1/44/61, number 409. County: Devon. Place: Westminster. Date: One week from the Purification of the Blessed Mary, 47 Edward III [9 February 1373]. Parties: John Langebroke, the vicar of the church of Ermyngton’, and William Langebroke, querents, by John Boron’, put in the place of William, and Giles Pridiawes and Isabel, his wife, deforciants. Property: 1 messuage, 2 ferlings of land and 1 acre of meadow in Ermyngton’. Action: Plea of covenant. Agreement: Giles and Isabel have granted to John and William the tenements and have rendered them to them in the same court, to hold to John and William and the heirs of the body of William, of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, the tenements shall remain to the right heirs of John. Warranty: Warranty by Giles and Isabel and the heirs of Isabel. For this: John and William have given them 100 marks of silver.

The reader will note that the name is written as Pridawes, perhaps showing how the name was spoken. If we use the Cornish or Welsh pronunciation of the ‘awes’, it would rhyme with mouse.
The Crown was having the usual turmoil. Richard II was childless and  his cousin Henry IV stole the throne and he was followed by his son Henry V. There were so few male heirs throughout the gentry from this time until the 1600’s that all the castles in Cornwall fell into disrepair and rubble. Tintagel, Restormel and Trematon went from occupied homes then to prisons and finally ruins. Now was the time of 100 Years War and constant challenges to the throne.
There is no evidence that Giles supported the House of Lancaster but he also did not fall foul of the Earl of Devon like his cousin Sir John Orcharton. This cousin had killed William Bigbury and lost most of his estates. The House of Adeston was also on goods terms with the courts of Henry IV and then Henry VII. Giles was a true politician. He made friends with whomever was in power.
This way of thinking continued through the following Adeston generations, as they increased their standing  through excellent marriages and the increase in wealth through business.
As the 14th century began, there were about a dozen hereditary earls and 3000 owners of land worth £20 or more. But, as the century came to a close, many families had fallen from noble status. These families then relied on their coats of arms and their rank as Knights in order to rank above esquire, gentleman and then yeoman. Yeomen were the only ones to work their own land. The Prideauxs were nobility at the beginning of the 1300’s, but by 1400 they were struggling to remain as Knights.
They had to make good marriages and accumulate wealth that way. This is probably why some of the men such as Giles decided to encourage the use of livery. Sometimes the poor youngest sons, who had little or no inheritance, became yeoman and later stonemasons and carpenters. The nobility had to attach themselves to higher Lords in order to maintain any sort of status.
Roy Prideaux discovered documents which showed that Plymouth was plundered in 1403 by a Breton raiding party from St Malo. In 1404 another raiding party was so successfully beaten at Dartmouth that Henry V celebrated with Te Deum at Westminster Abbey. Giles then obtained license to proceed to Aquitaine and soon followed up the British success. His manor and lands were in an excellent position geographically to help with and organize the Aquitaine trade route. This was followed up to greater financial success by his son Sir John.
One assumes that Giles died sometime prior to 1415, when John had license to travel abroad with Henry V. We shall continue his tale in the following chapter. I have settled upon 1410.

Sir Giles features in the story Ghost Ship in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories.


Sir John Prideaux 1320 – 1357

Sir John Prideaux the second son of Roger, married Joan Adeston. in 1344. Joan was the daughter and co heir of Gilbert Adeston. It was their ancestors who signed the Ermington Hundred in 1238 along with the Prideauxs.
The marriage  meant that now two of the largest properties south of Modbury were joined as soon as  Joan inherited. Women, even in those days held land in their own right after marriage at all levels of society, if a lawyer ensured it to be so.
John kept out of the dramas occurring with his brothers and his heirs, preferring to enjoy the lands he had inherited and gained by a good marriage. The Adestons were rich and influential and a marriage to the Prideaux boy who lived down the road was more than essential. Everyone was aware  of the dynamics shifting as one after another Prideaux brother and son died. I doubt very much whether any of these marriages started as a love match, merely arranged over dinner between the parents. I hope that they turned into good matches.
The name Prideaux was used from Sir Roger’s time and has kept through until the present day within our family. Other families use different versions of the surname as described in other blogs. I have argued that  de Pridias had been used mainly to these days of the 1300’s and had quietly changed to Prideaux.
Sir John died as a young man in 1357.
He was only 37 years old and lasted only ten years after the death of his father, who had also died young. John’s  son, Giles was twelve years old and may have felt that there was so much that he still should know about his father. He hadn’t really known his grandfather either and so the Prideaux history and de Pridias name may have broken the link slightly here.  I hope his cousins gave him all the information he needed. Joan was only married to his father for just over two years and knew far less about Roger than the rest of his family. The old guard was history and although respected, the Prideaux family wanted to move forward into  a modern future.
His elder brother Roger, was the heir to Orcharton, Flete and other lands and father of eight. We learnt about him in the last chapter.


1357, the year of their death was the year in which influenza was declared a disease and the Shroud of Turin went on public display for the first time. I doubt the two events were related.
I am considering the possibility of the plague or Great Mortality as it was known then, resurfacing in this area after the major spread of the late 1340’s and early 1350’s. This plague and the ominous sounding Sweating Sickness of which Henry VIII was so afraid, were all prevalent at this time. Some have muted the possibility that it was due to the fact that so many cats had been killed because of the association with witches and so rats were able to breed out of control.
Whenever this plague struck a community, at least 10% of the inhabitants died as a result. There is still no record of the five children Roger had by his second wife, children who would have been the nephews and nieces of John.  John and Roger died in the same year, so it must be more than coincidence that so many members of the family disappeared all at once.
This plague, later referred to as the Black Death, had initially spread from the continent and it can be no surprise that these coastal communities would be affected so readily, when families such as the Prideauxs had ships bringing most of their requirements right to the back door.
The Medieval Warm Period finished in the early 1300’s and several very cold and hard winters and resultant reduced harvests, had added to the general demise in the health and well being of the population. Commencement of yet another war, the war which become known as the Hundred Years War, also increased the depressed state of the nation.
The chances are that the rest of the family who survived, could have been spirited away to a safer place. Perhaps they travelled back to Cornwall for the duration. Any family of a lesser social standing than these, would not have been able to travel anywhere. No one was allowed to arrive in another village without question or a letter of introduction and there was no possible way an entire family could survive for long with no house and no chance of employment. Only young people with a place to go to work were able to leave their home village. So, during any plague, you took your chance. It is no wonder that religion in any form, either official or ancient was high in importance. If the Prideaux family were decimated at this time through such tragedy, I feel for them.
Joan Prideaux inherited the manor on the other side of the River Erme upon the death of her father and their son Giles became his mother’s heir by her deed of 47 Edward III in 1373, when she died. She had remained as Lord of the Manor for 15 years following the death of her husband Sir John Prideaux and during her second marriage to John Mules. The Mules family also owned the manor of Flete during the 15th century. Although it was not as common then as now for parents to be attached greatly to their offspring, as they died so frequently, inheritance always went down the correct blood line where any strong minded woman had her say. Loyalty when it came to marriage and inheritance was very strong.
The feudal system was finished, as more and more peasants succumbed to the plague and died. It hit them more than nobility and gentry as they were not so freely able to move away from the source of plague hot spots and save themselves. They were also undernourished and lived in dreadful conditions. The side effect was that there were fewer people to work the land and the surviving peasants demanded higher wages in order to take over the job. This was a very scary time in which to live. If the plague did not get a body, then wars and accidents would. Starvation only generally happened within the peasantry.
The Prideaux family remained at Adeston for about a hundred years and from this branch of the house of Orcharton nearly all the Prideauxs who survived into the present day are descended. As time goes on with the research I can see just how determined my particular line has been to survive. It explains my bloody- minded tenacity to survive at all costs.
When the property went away through the line of Fulke Prideaux, a story yet to be told, Flete and Orcharton was eventually sold to the Heles, a family determined to buy up everything which was once a Prideaux land.

Finders Hospital

Sir John features in the story Big, black rats in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories. 


Sir Roger de Pridias 1294 – 1347

Sir Roger de Pridias became the heir at 22, upon the death of his father Peter, in 1316.
Roger had livery from 9th October 1315. The wearing of livery had been popular for many years, but during this period was becoming more popular as a means of showing status, both social and financial. Similar colours would be given to servants and squires to denote attachment to the original wearer of the livery. It became a form of badge of honour and support, in a similar way that a football supporter might carry the colours of his team. The wearers though mainly were in the employ or service of the Lord of that particular livery. Roger was also a chosen Knight of Devonshire and summoned to parliament aged only 27 years old. However, travelling to Westminster took a long time and cost a great deal of money. Many MP’s resented the journey when there was so much else more interesting to do.  They enjoyed the title without the work.
Edward I summoned permanent Councillors, businessmen and clergy, to work alongside Knights and burgesses.  The main plan was always to raise money through the taxation of the newly rich merchants and tradesman. The Knights would return to their shires and towns bringing news of additional taxation.  For this reason, Knights often ignored the sheriff’s writ of summons and did not attend. They had to the make the decision to be popular with the neighbours or the King.
Edward III gave Cornwall to his younger brother John. Restormel and Tintagel were becoming tumbledown and Tintagel was roofless and falling down, even though it was only thirty years since Edmund had done his restoration work. John died in 1336 and Edward III raised his son Edward to the rank of the Duke of Cornwall at seven years old. He was also known as the Black Prince. As I said in the last chapter, Edward organised that his son should have the income from the Duchy and this has applied until the present day. The Duchy is given to the eldest son of the Crown upon birth, whereas Wales comes to him later.  Edward III lived for such a long time, that the Black Prince had much control over what went on there for years.
Once Roger de Pridias had inherited, he married Elizabeth, the daughter and co heir of Sir Walter Hugh de Treverbyn. Treverbyn is listed in the Domesday Book as follows

 Land for 3 ploughs, woodland 2 acres, pasture 20 acres, 2 villagers and 3 smallholders 2 slaves.

The families had known each other for centuries and it made complete sense to marry their daughter to a de Pridias boy. Still the family were de Pridias, you will note. The lands at the time were generally referred to as Pridias land. I am using the term Prideaux for the land and property in order to differentiate, but I repeat that Prideaux has been used to name the village and the lands retrospectively. If one considers that, most recording of events was by the writings of clerks and the clergy to this point and printing was yet a little way off, perhaps the theory can be more understood. Also, the vast majority of people could neither read nor write and stories were  mostly word of mouth. Considering the pronunciation and differing accents and use of language,  then it is easy to see how Pridias could become Pridix then Prideaux. This is the most likely explanation of the morphing of the name. It was around this time that surnames were becoming more permanent and an accepted form established. According to R M Prideaux in his Westcountry Clan, he discovered more than 40 versions of the name in his research.  But I can accept this explanation for the different recording of the name  of the same person in different documents.

In the wills of my ancestors’, the name was spelt in versions of Prediaxe, Predyaxe and Prideaux. These spellings referred to brothers and sisters and I can only assume that the spellings were phonetic. The sound of Predyaxe is not very far removed from Pridyas.
It also appears that Sir Roger de Pridias worked regularly with his Cornish properties around Prideaux and would have mixed socially with his new wife and her family. The Treverbyn and Prideaux arms have remained joined since their marriage. The combined coat of arms in sandstone over the main door of the Old Manor at Prideaux is proof of this.

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Roger enjoyed being in Cornwall and he did not pay homage for his lands in Orcharton until 1322. It was directed that seizing should be given after his payment of his reasonable relief. But he did not make payment until 6th October 1322 when he paid 5 marks for his relief for the hamlet of Orcharton which he held of the King in capite by the service of one Knights Fee of the fee of Morteyne.  He presented to  North Alyngton in 1341 and to Brodoke after the death of Reginald in 1343. Roger and Elizabeth had two children, Roger, the heir and John, the continuer of the line to which I belong. Alyngton had come into the hands of the Roger through his wife Elizabeth, the daughter and heir of Walter Hugh de Treverbyn and his wife Theophila.   Roger junior  has a story which is worth the telling. He should have inherited but he predeceased his father. Roger junior had married twice, first to Elizabeth, daughter and heir to Sir John Clifford who bore him two sons and a daughter. These were Peter, his heir, John and Edith.  Elizabeth Clifford was the heiress of Combe in Teignhead. This manor was held in 1274 by Reginald de Clifford of the Earl of Cornwall. The Cliffords had also the manor of Middle Rocombe, which lies between Newton Abbott and Teignmouth. Elizabeth brought the property to the marriage. Elizabeth sadly died soon after giving birth to Edith and so Roger married Johan, the daughter of Peter Clifford.  These women were cousins.  Roger and Joan had five further children, but their names are not known. She survived her husband and claimed dower in Orcharton in 1347.  Of these five children, nothing is known and chances are that they are the parents of some Prideaux children in the future, unless they all died of the plague. I hope not.
Roger senior had granted the lands to Roger and his wife Johan for the term of their lives [Council Book of the Black Prince f. 306] Roger’s widow Johan put to the Council of the Prince of Wales in 1347 that it should be enquired into what estate she had in certain lands in Orcharton and La Wode settled by her husband on her and her child. This is where we can make the deduction that he died that year. In the `Survey of Devon` we note that this same area, where La Wode is situated, is the place known as Woodland. It is said that the land  had been owned by the Wodeland family for generations and that Walter himself was knighted by the Black Prince. It does not mention the Prideaux holdings and one again wonders whether or not Sir Walter managed to get hold of the entire holdings while he was in charge during the wardship of young Sir Peter. Woodland is by Ivybridge and now is covered by houses, industrial buildings and cut straight through by the A38. I will describe the area and my visits there in a later chapter.

On the 18th July 1347 the wardship and marriage of Peter Prideaux, their son and heir together with the advowson of the Church of Come in Thin hide were granted to Walter de Wodeland.

De Wodeland was an usher in the Chamber of the Black Prince and was residing in the hundred of Ermington in 1347. The wardship was ordered personally by the Black Prince in his role as the Duke of Cornwall. This was granted for the period of his minority. A year later, another return was made to the Council where the annual rent of 100s out of lands held at Orcharton, La Wode and the inherited lands were claimed. On 4th December 1361 it was directed that the age of Peter should be verified by the Council and at this time he attained his majority. However, Peter soon died in December 1361 although he had already married Joan the daughter of William Bigbury, before attaining his majority. If Agatha Christie were writing that story, the intimation may have been that Peter met his death suspiciously, dying so soon after becoming eligible to take control of his fortune. That is not saying that de Wodeland was a guilty man, but these things did happen. Perhaps it was just sheer coincidence that he died before providing an heir. Walter de Wodeland had also managed to obtain the manor of Cockington upon the death of James de Cokynton by marrying his sister Lucy, just prior to this. This manor is situated between Woodland and Orcharton. Walter died in 1374.
Wardships were excellent ways to improve one’s lot as decisions within those manors now became under the ward-ship influence. Marriages which were advantageous to the warder were also negotiated. Succession passed to Peter’s brother John, who was also a minor. Again, the lands and fortune could not be placed in the hands of an underage boy and must be supervised and run by a nominated suitable person. On 6th June 1363 the Council decreed that John, his marriage and his lands would be under the wardship of John de Montague. De Montague was the 2nd Earl of Salisbury and lived between 1329 and 1396.

The wardship of the body of John Prideaux and the lands of the said heir in the Kings hands by reason of the minority of the said heir, together with his marriage, were granted to John Montague.

In 1368 the brother John, now married to Elizabeth and come of age, granted some lands to Walter Dabernon. In 1384 John Prideaux Knight charged his lands in Combe in Thynhyde, for £20 per annum.    He presented to the Church of Combe in Tinhead in 1391.  John was Knight of the Shire in 1383 and 1386 He was also MP for Devonshire in the 7th and 11th year of Richard II.

Sir John killed his relative Sir William Bigbury in a duel on Sequers Bridge at Flete, Devon because of a quarrel while out hunting. The duel has also been recorded as taking place at the Five Crosses at Modbury. Sequers Bridge has also been known as Sacas Bridge or Sackers Bridge. It was the highest point at which sacks could be unloaded for transport on and off the river. I owe this piece of information to Christopher Miller of Great Orcherton. However, my son Richard suggested the possibility that the bridge was so named as a result of the sequestration of the lands of the de Pridias by the Crown after the death of Sir William. The road from Ermington to Modbury travels over the bridge now and I am sure that the bridge has been widened on perhaps more than one occasion. There are three arches and the water which passes under it is not very deep. In the days of this family and for hundreds of years after, the water was considerably deeper.

There is a wonderful view of Flete House from the bridge and although the present house was not there at the time we are referring to, a previous house was. The group was apparently out hunting and it is easy to see how the meet was at the property and went through the trees and grounds, alongside the river to this point. Why a duel on the bridge? A natural crossing point, perhaps one knocked into the other and started the argument or perhaps one waited for the other. There is no record about why this duel or fight took place. The only facts known are that Sir William’s daughter Johan, was married to Peter de Pridias, Roger’s brother,  just before his untimely death. There is no mention again of Joan and one wonders how she was treated by the de Pridias family and her brother in law John, when he gained control of the estates. Perhaps there was an axe to grind on the part of her father Sir William.  I would assume though that the fight was personal. We shall never know. Sir John de Pridias killed the older Sir William Bigbury, and  lost much as a result. He had to surrender the greater part of his estates in order to secure a pardon. In the wills left by his son and grandson, it seems that much of his Devon estates were lost in this way. It is stated in The Parochial History of Cornwall in addition to Princes Worthies of Devon and under the Falmouth District, that John of Orcharton was condemned to be hanged. He gave most of his estate to Edward III in order to be pardoned. It was  recorded that William Bigbury’s ancestors  lived for nine descents from the Norman Conquest to 1360 when two daughters and heirs married Champernowne of Beer Ferries and Durneford of Stonehouse. This was the same time as his daughter Joan married Peter Prideaux.

John Leland wrote

‘There dwelleth one Prideaux in Modburi, a Gentleman of an ancient stoke and fair landes until by chance that one of his parentes killed a man. Whereby one of the Courte eis Earls of Devonshire had Colum John and other landes of Prideaux. {Itinerary Vol iii p 25}    

Nancy Savery, a member of Modbury Local History Society, sent me the following.  

There is a tradition that Sir John Prideaux slew his relation Sir William Bigbury at a place called ‘The Five Crosses,’ near Modbury and, being one of the party of the White Rose against Henry IV, in order to secure his pardon was obliged to part with several considerable manors… The above is quoted from The Parochial and Family History of the Deanery of Trigg Minor, Vol. 2. , by Sir John MacLean, re the family of De Pridias Alias Prideaux, pages 194-203.  Five Crosses (OS ref. SX 642513) is quite near the property of the Modbury branch of Prideaux, Orcheton.   Sequer’s Bridge (not mentioned in the above quote from MacLean) is OS Ref SX 634518.   John’s family was almost ruined.

The manors of Cullom John and Comb in Tynhead and other lands were surrendered to the Earl of Devon as punishment. As Sir John was also perceived to have been one of the parties of the White Rose against Henry IV, this would not have gone down in his favour. He was probably caught up in the struggle between the Houses of York and Lancaster and his accusers were on the side of Henry IV while Sir John backed Richard. Not one of the Prideaux families ever presented to the Church of Combe in Tynhead. His will dated 5th June 1403 directs that his body be buried in the aisle of the Church of St Peter in Modbury.  The Prideaux Aisle is also mentioned by Leland.

The will states.

And gives to the same church 100s under the condition that if the parishioners of this Church shall buy within two years a set of Vestments, they shall be paid, but if not then the money shall go for the picture lately bought for the High Altar of Modbury gives to his daughter Thomasia all his pearls , residue to Elizabeth his wife, whom with his said daughter Thomasia, John Coplestone, John Raleigh of Fardel and others he makes executors.[Exeter Bishop Stafford’s Register] 

The will was proved on the 7th August   1403

At Modbury Church there is a book open as follows.

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His monument remains in the church of Modbury.     We visited this church and saw the impressive alabaster monuments of Sir John and his wife Elizabeth.

cornwall march 2009 091

Roger de Pridyas features in the story Ice Day at Sequers Bridge in the book Devon Prideaux Ghost Stories