Thomas Peter Prideaux 1768 – 1842

Thomas Peter Prideaux was born on 26th December 1768, although his parents Peter and Mary were not married. If you have been reading my previous articles and blogs about the Prideauxs , you will see that Christmas dates play a big part in family events.

Ringmore Altar

Thomas Peter Prideaux  was baptized on 10th May 1769 at Ringmore Church on the day his parents decided to put things right. When it came to his turn to start a family, Thomas did not wait until his first child was born before he married, but his wife was certainly heavily pregnant. Charity Strong of Bishopsteignton married him on 13th November 1792. She was born on 2nd January 1770 at Bishopsteignton. Charity lived there when the last man was hanged in the parish in 1783. His name was Greenslade and he had been the gardener to Reverend Yarde in Bishopsteignton. Greenslade murdered his employer after he gave him a bad reference which he had written in Latin. The gardener did not discover the real meaning of it until informed later. He was only caught because he showed off the gold watch he had stolen. He was hanged at Haldon near Exeter. It is a pity the Reverend is not around now as I have some 500 year old documents written in Latin and I am having difficulty getting them translated…
Back to the story. The trio soon moved to Chudleigh, a village through which many travellers passed either by horse, foot or coach in order to reach Exeter or Plymouth. There was work to be found there.

I have discovered legal documentation concerning Thomas Peter Prideaux when he was examined with regard to the lease of a property in Chudleigh. This case took place in 1794, shortly after the family had arrived and apparently been cheated at a property they were renting from a local man. Perhaps Mr. Burnell underestimated the education and self confidence of the young Thomas Prideaux.

It is as follows.

The examination of Thomas Prideaux touching his legal place of settlement. Who saith that he was born in the parish of Ermington in the said county. Never served any apprenticeship but lived with his parents in the said parish of Ermington until he was about twenty years of age and afterwards worked at several different places in the carpenters employ and when he was about twenty one years of age he went into the parish of Chudleigh in the said county and worked therein the carpenters business about twelve years. After that he rented a house in the said parish of Chudleigh of one William Burnell at sixteen guineas per year part of the said house. This examinant never had any possession of the said William Burnell promised he would have it But never performed his promise. This examinant lived in that****** possession of about five months and offered to pay him for the time. But the said William Burnell refused to take it without he would pay him the whole years rent.This examinant further saith that what he occupied of the said house was about fourteen guineas per year and that he occupied it about five months and then gave up the possession as the said house was never put in repair.

The statement Thomas Prideaux signed is below. Where he wrote and the words were then crossed out, is underlined. Thomas signed this statement in a very neat and educated hand.

The examination of Thomas Prideaux residing in the parish of Chudley in the County of Devon touching his legal place of settlement taken before us two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said County this 21 day of November 1794 who on his oath saith.

That he is an illegitimate child and was born in the parish of Ermington as he hath been informed and believes but he has heard and believes that his fathers legal place of settlement is in the parish of Modbury in which said last mentioned parish his said father now resides. That he this deponent is a married man is a carpenter and about the age of twenty six years. That he lived with his father until he attained the age of about twenty one years but he never  was never apprenticed or lived as a servant for a year Nor hath the he this deponent done any act to his knowledge and belief other man as aforesaid whereby to gain a settlement.

Sworn before us                                    Thomas Prideaux

The Day and year


Rt Lydeton Newcombe Esq.

John Barry

William Burnell lived in Fore Street, Chudleigh and he was a builder.

Robert Lydeton Newcombe Esq. had lands at Starcross, Exmouth and is mentioned in `The History of Chudleigh’  by Mary Jones, where she informed us that Montague Edmund Parker, a well to do gentleman living at Whiteway, Chudleigh, married the daughter of Robert Newcombe. Mr. Newcombe was a JP and 75 years of age when he listened to Thomas pleading his case. He died in 1808 at his home in Starcross. The Newcombes were gentry and well respected in the area.
Thomas and Charity Prideaux won the case and Thomas now set up his soon to be successful business in the town. Most craftsmen lived where they worked, and Thomas was no exception. The cottage had a yard and small field at the back, housing chickens, ducks, a cow and a horse. There was a good deal of work to be had in the constantly busy and bustling town where travellers and coaches, sailors and horses made their steady way up the street, all day and every day.
The main street was narrow with houses almost touching each other at the first floor level. At times coaches had difficulty in passing and the main thoroughfare was a dangerous place to be. The houses were irregular in shape and size and some houses with farms at the back were extended from time to time towards the front.
However, just off the street and into the countryside, the views were and are still magnificent. Ugbrooke, home of the Cliffords, is stunning and the rocks and caves famous for pixies are worth visiting. The woods here were as good, if not better than anywhere in Devon. The climate was excellent and at one time it was said that the refreshing and healing breezes travelling straight across from Dartmoor could mend the sickest person within a month.
“Six views of Chudleigh, Devonshire, engraved by George Hollis, from drawings by Henry Le Cort. Made previously to the Fire, 1807”

These drawings show exactly what the town was like at the time Thomas lived there.

A great part of the town was destroyed by the fire which occurred on 22 May 1807. It started in a baker’s house in Culver Street, where Thomas Peter Prideaux lived. The fire spread from thatch to thatch and at one time three streets were on fire at once. At 2pm a forgotten barrel of gunpowder blew up and soon the only fire engine was burnt. Much of Culver Street and Fore Street burned down. 180 houses in total were destroyed at a cost of £60,000.
By the end of the day, the coaches which usually took travellers through the centre of the town had to be diverted around its perimeter. These travellers told everyone they met and by the end of the day, well wishers and help was arriving from miles around.
Much kindness and relief was given by surrounding gentry and parishes. A subscription list was started and a committee headed by Lord Clifford distributed monies.
The town was soon rebuilt and there is little doubt that my ancestors began to make some money using their talents during the rebuilding of the town. Many Prideauxs remained and traded as builders and carpenters during the 19th century.
Thomas Prideaux and his family were living there at the time of the fire and the children all state on future documents that that is where they were born.
Anyone who lived in Culver Street and Fore Street suffered quite considerable losses initially. But their job skills should have ensured that they were able to build their own properties and the properties of their neighbours.  Most of the fire damage occurred in Culver and Fore Street where their ancestors eventually  settled.
Thomas and Charity Prideaux had seven children, six of whom were born at Chudleigh.
Thomas Prideaux who was born on 11th May 1793 at Bishopsteignton and married Elizabeth Stranger Tapper on  8th  November 1814 at West Teignmouth and died in March  1862 at Kingsbridge . He worked as a joiner.
John was born on the 23rd March 1796 in Chudleigh. His story is in detail in the following section, as he is my direct relative. Seeing the life he had here in Chudleigh, with such a tight knit community, it must have been a hard decision for him to leave.
Ann Prideaux  the first daughter of Thomas and Charity was born on 4th November 1798 and she married Jonas Adams on 5th January 1820 at Chudleigh. Jonas was the sexton at the church.

William Prideaux , the next son was born on 8th June 1801 and he worked as a builder. He married Lucy Warren on 9th June 1824 at Shaldon St Nicholas. They lived on Back Street.

Peter Prideaux , another son for Thomas and Charity was born on 30th January 1805. He married Elizabeth Hogg and moved to Chamber Street; St Mary’s Whitechapel London and worked as a carpenter. They had a daughter called Mary Ann and also lived with Mary Hogg, Elizabeth’s mother.
Fenchurch Street railway line runs straight through Chamber Street, so I wonder whether Peter went to work on the railways as our John may have done. Peter Prideaux died in 1884 at Bethnall Green aged 81, but was listed as Prieudi. That is the only time I have seen the surname in that spelling, I am not entirely sure how one would pronounce it. Like John, he did not return home to Chudleigh once he left, or there is no record of it. He could write, so for his mother’s sake, I hope he wrote to her.

Mary Prideaux the final daughter of Thomas was born on 24 Dec 1809 at Chudleigh married Thomas Luscombe Ball 18 Jul 1830. Another Christmas connection.

James Prideaux , the final baby was born in June but sadly died in Aug 1811.

Charity Prideaux the mother of all these children died after a very busy and prolific 62 years and was eventually buried in Chudleigh on 10th January 1832.

Grace Swales became housekeeper to Thomas Prideaux after his wife’s death. She was present at his death on the 22nd February 1842 when he suffered an affliction of the chest. Grace made her mark on the death certificate, and it is interesting to note that none of his family was present at his death and willing to sign. Perhaps they did not approve of his relationship with Grace Swales.

Now, the usual snippets of information which provide you with a background to the times I am speaking about.
The practice of wrecking still took place around the coastline. Cornwall has always been a well known graveyard of ships and many were forced to wreck in order that their cargoes could be stolen.

Smuggling was also rife. By 1770, 470,000 gallons of brandy and 350,000 pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall at a cost of £150,000 to the Exchequer. Smugglers were lauded as generally honest men and it was very difficult to get a jury to convict them and magistrates turned a blind eye.
It was at this time of lawlessness that John Wesley advanced with his religious beliefs. He traveled all over the country converting ‘sinners’ wherever he went. This was the time when he stayed at Methrose near to Prideaux Castle.
Although by the end of the eighteenth century the area was much more civilized , working conditions and wages were still terrible. When in 1793 England began yet another war with France, the poor were hit again as markets were lost and the fishing industry affected. Men went to fight in the Navy although many  were encouraged by the  press gang. By the time John Prideaux was born in Chudleigh, The government was demanding that hundreds of men should be press ganged into joining the navy. These men were taken from the unemployed miners and so the incentive was always to work.
The early 19th century was the time of the railway engine. Victoria ascended the throne and railways were springing up everywhere. It was a bad time for farming with wages below poverty level. People began leaving for the New World in larger numbers than ever. It was a time of high food prices and few job prospects when John left Chudleigh and went to work on the railways in the grimy north.
George IV was a greedy and unpopular King who reigned until 1830. His brother William IV succeeded him and reigned until 1837. He died of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and reigned until 1901. She was the daughter of Edward Duke of Kent, the brother of George and William.
I have just gone out of my writing room into the hall. I had noted from the large clock in front of me on the wall that it is gone midnight again. This is the clock next to the antique mirror which has deer scenes on it. I have no idea what is going on with that. It reminded me of Bambi and my grandfather reading the book to me when I was a girl and so I let the man in the antique shop sell it to me. I had only gone in because it was raining and I had no coat with me.
I still have the first edition of Bambi from which granddad Clifford Prideaux  taught me to read. He also used some cigarette cards which had horrible war scenes on them from what I can remember.  What was I talking about?
I have just gone out into the hallway and my current husband has turned off all the lights again. He does that all the time. He likes to go to bed really early and that means the house should be shut up I suppose. So he decides to go to bed and turns off the telly, turns off all the lights and goes into his room. Then I am supposed to stagger about, feel my way along the wall until I find the light switch. It is guaranteed to make me feel cross and all I wanted was a cup of coffee. I got a cup, let the dogs out for a wee and have come back in here, under the pool of light from the lamp over my desk, and am listening to the torrential rain against the windows.
Another lovely July evening, I don’t know about climate change, I thought it was supposed to be hot.
It’s my birthday on Saturday, but I am going to my sister’s in Lincolnshire. The week after is another trip to Devon and Cornwall and I have some exciting appointments with the current owners of Flete and Orcheton and Prideaux House and Place. So I shall write about that visit in earlier chapters. If you are confused, try and imagine what is going on in my head.
Original article written by APx in 2009

Footnote.   She got a divorce in 2010…

More Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux
More Prideaux Ghost Stories A A Prideaux