Rev. John Prince (1643–1723), vicar of Totnes and Berry Pomeroy in Devon, England, was a biographer. He is best known for his Worthies of Devon , a series of biographies of Devon-born notables covering the period before the Norman Conquest to his own era. He became the subject of a sexual scandal, the court records of which were made into a book in 2001 and a play in 2005.
John Prince was born in 1643 in a farmhouse (now called Prince's Abbey) on the site of Newenham Abbey, in the parish of Axminster, Devon. He was the eldest son of Bernard Prince (died 1689) (to whom John erected a monument in Axminster Church) by his first wife Mary Crocker, daughter of John Crocker,of the ancient Crocker family seated at Lyneham House in the parish of Yealmpton, Devon. Lyneham was, After Hele the second earliest known home of the Crocker family, one of the most ancient in Devon according to the traditional rhyme quoted by Prince himself which he called "that old saw often used among us in discourse":
Crocker, Cruwys, and Coplestone,
When the Conqueror came were at home
John Prince had a family connection to his great contemporary John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722). Prince's father Bernard Prince had married secondly (as her second husband) to Jane Drake,a daughter of Philip Drake of Salcombe, third in descent from John Drake of Axmouth, father of John Drake (died 1558) of Ash, in the parish of Musbury. Jane was thus 3rd cousin of Sir John Drake (died 1636) of Ash, the father of Sir John Drake, 1st Baronet (died 1669), whose sister was Elizabeth Drake, mother of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722). Sir John Drake, 1st Baronet (died 1669) was John Prince's godfather, and one of Prince's Worthies was Sir Bernard Drake (died 1586) of Ash, son of John Drake (died 1558).
He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and became curate of Bideford. He then became minister of St. Martin's Church in Exeter. He was vicar of St Mary's Church, Totnes from 1675 until 1681, when, at the invitation of the Duke of Somerset, he was made vicar of St Mary's Church, Berry Pomeroy, a post he held for over forty years. Here he seems to have authorised much building work, as the church and vicarage have several period features.[ citation needed ]
While at Berry Pomeroy, Prince worked on his magnum opus: a biography of his home county's many notable figures, which he probably finished in 1697. The book ran to 600 pages, with woodcuts to illustrate the 191 biographies, and he struggled to get it published because most publishers able to handle such a large book were based in London or Oxbridge. Funding was also a problem, as a scandal (see below) had temporarily deprived him of his living. The printer was forced to advertise for subscribers, while the book languished for four years. It was first published in 1701 under the title (no doubt inspired by the Worthies of England (1662) by Thomas Fuller (1608–1661)):
Danmonii Orientales Illustres: or, the Worthies of Devon. A work, wherein the lives and fortunes of the most famous divines, statesmen, swordsmen, physicians, writers, and other eminent persons, natives of that most noble province from before the Norman Conquest, down to the present age, are memorised, in an alphabetical order out of the most approved authors, both in print and manuscript. In which an account is given, not only of divers very deserving persons, (many of which were never hitherto made publick) but of several antient and noble families; their seats and habitations; the distance they bear to the next great towns; their coats of arms fairly cut; with other things, no less profitable, than pleasant and delightful.
The Dumnonii , Danmonii or Dumnones were a British Celtic tribe which inhabited Dumnonia, the peninsula now containing in its west the county of Cornwall and in its east Devon. Prince's Latin title signifies "Illustrious Eastern Dumnonii".
It is evident that Prince was over-ambitious in his work. The alphabetical entries from A to H fill half the book, while L to Z are squeezed into the final quarter, as money problems took their toll on his inclusions. A second volume, detailing 115 entries chosen by Prince to redress the balance, was never published, though a manuscript exists in the Devon Record Office.This manuscript was discussed, and its biographies listed, by J. Brooking-Rowe in an article in the 1900 volume of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association.
A further edition was published in 1810 by Edward Upham, Exeter and Longman and Hurst, Rees and Orme, London, printed for Rees and Curtis, Plymouth. It was inscribed to "The Right Hon. Hugh, Earl Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington and Baron Fortescue of Castle Hill, Lord-Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of the County of Devon", whose "ancestors claim a distinguished place" in the work. It was funded by subscription, with a list of subscribers included after the list of contents.
Prince married Gertrude Salter (1644–1725), youngest daughter of Anthony Salter, a physician of Exeter, by his wife Gertrude Acland, a daughter of John Acland(died 1641), of the parish of St Olave, Exeter, Mayor of Exeter in 1627. Prince included in his "Worthies" an uncle and a great-uncle of his wife. John Acland was the 2nd son of Baldwin Acland (died 1572) of Hawkridge, Chittlehampton, a junior branch of the later prominent Acland family which originated at Acland, Landkey, North Devon, later seated at Killerton. Gertrude Acland's eldest brother was Baldwin Acland (1607–1672), Treasurer of Exeter Cathedral, whom Prince made one of his "Worthies of Devon", which biography he termed a "slender monument to the memory of a good man and a worthy divine". Gertrude's mother was Elizabeth Duck, sister of Nicholas Duck (1570–1628), Recorder of Exeter, whom Prince also made one of his Worthies, whose biography also contained a substantial biography of her other younger brother Arthur Duck (1580–1649), a lawyer and MP.
In 2001 Todd Gray published the court depositions of Prince's church trial as The Curious Sexual Adventure of the Reverend John Prince, [ citation needed ] The records of the trial were hitherto unpublished, partly due to the coarse language used by some of the witnesses; it was not until the modern age that such language became less shocking and could be included in a popular work. In 2005 the book was adapted as a play, The Tale of John Prince, which was performed by the South Devon Players theatre company in 2006, at two venues relevant to the story: The Seven Sisters Hotel in Totnes (next door to the former site of Angel's inn); and also in Berry Pomeroy Church.which awakened interest in Prince. It was while serving as vicar of Berry Pomeroy that a scandal occurred. In April 1699, Prince arranged a meeting with a local woman, Mary Southcote, in the back room of an inn. Their dalliance was witnessed through a broken window, they were interrupted, and a court case followed later that year. However, despite many statements against him, Prince was allowed to keep his post (from which he had been suspended), as the main witnesses were deemed to be unreliable. He returned to Berry Pomeroy and lived out his years as vicar. A plaque in St Mary's Church in Totnes states that he was well connected, and it is possible that the trial was set up by his enemies.
Yealmpton is a village and civil parish in the English county of Devon. It is located in the South Hams on the A379 Plymouth to Kingsbridge road and is about 8 miles (13 km) from Plymouth. Its name derives from the River Yealm that flows through the village. At the 2001 census, it had a population of 1,923, falling to 1,677 at the 2011 census. There is an electoral ward of the same name. The population of this ward in 2011 was 2,049.
Beaford is a village and civil parish in the Torridge district of Devon, England. The village is about five miles south-east of Great Torrington, on the A3124 road towards Exeter. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 393, compared to 428 in 1901. The western boundary of the parish is formed by the River Torridge and it is surrounded, clockwise from the north, by the parishes of St Giles in the Wood, Roborough, Ashreigney, Dolton, Merton and Little Torrington.
Berry Pomeroy is a village and civil parish in the South Hams district of Devon, England, about two miles east of the town of Totnes. The parish is surrounded clockwise from the north by the parishes of Ipplepen, Marldon, Torbay, Stoke Gabriel, Ashprington, Totnes, and Littlehempston. In 2001 its population was 973, down from 1193 in 1901. The main road access is via the A385 road between Paignton and Totnes that runs through the parish, south of the village.
Tristram Risdon was an English antiquarian and topographer, and the author of Survey of the County of Devon. He was able to devote most of his life to writing this work. After he completed it in about 1632 it circulated around interested people in several manuscript copies for almost 80 years before it was first published by Edmund Curll in a very inferior form. A full version was not published until 1811. Risdon also collected information about genealogy and heraldry in a note-book; this was edited and published in 1897.
Nicholas Duck, of Heavitree and of nearby Mount Radford in the parish of St Leonards, both next to Exeter in Devonshire, was an English lawyer who served twice as a Member of Parliament for Exeter, in 1624 and 1625. He was one of the Worthies of Devon of the biographer John Prince (1643–1723), whose wife was his great-niece.
Sir John Acland of Columb John in the parish of Broadclyst, Devon, was an English knight, landowner, philanthropist, Member of Parliament and Sheriff of Devon. He was one of John Prince's Worthies of Devon.
The Feudal Barony of Berry Pomeroy was one of eight feudal baronies in Devonshire which existed during the mediaeval era, and had its caput at the manor of Berry Pomeroy, 20 miles south of the City of Exeter and 2 miles east of the town of Totnes, where was situated Totnes Castle, the caput of the feudal barony of Totnes. The exact location of the 11th-century baron's residence is unclear, perhaps it was next to the parish church on the site of the present former rectory known as Berry House, as it is now believed that the present surviving nearby ruined Berry Pomeroy Castle was not built until the 15th century.
John Acland was described as "the first of the [Acland] family to emerge from the shadows of history as a visible human being". His great-grandson was the Royalist colonel Sir John Acland, 1st Baronet of Columb John. Little if anything is known of his life and career, he was possibly a minor Tudor official, but he is chiefly remembered for his surviving portrait which is displayed at Killerton House, the earliest surviving image of an Acland and one of the most cherished in that family's former collection, now owned by the National Trust.
John Rolle (1522–1570) of Stevenstone, in the parish of St Giles in the Wood, near Great Torrington, Devon, was the eldest son and heir of George Rolle, MP, founder of the great Rolle family of Stevenstone, by his second wife Eleanor Dacres. Three monuments survive in memory of his immediate family in the churches of St Giles in the Wood and Chittlehampton.
The estate of Acland in the parish of Landkey, near Barnstaple in North Devon, England, was from 1155 the earliest known seat of the influential and wealthy family of Acland, to which it gave the surname de Acland. It is situated about 3/4 mile north-east of the village of Landkey, from which it is now cut off by the busy A361 North Devon Link Road.
Ash in the parish of Musbury in the county of Devon is an historic estate, long the residence of the ancient Drake family, the heir of which remarkably was always called John, only one excepted, for ten generations. It was formerly believed to have been the birthplace of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722), whose mother was Elizabeth Drake, but was in fact probably in ruins at the time of his birth. The future Duke was however baptised in 1650 in the Chapel at Ash, which had been licensed by the Bishop of Exeter in 1387. Ash was "burnt and demolished" during the Civil War and "lay long in ruins" during which time the family moved one mile away to Trill, Axminster. John Drake (1625–1669), the wartime occupant who had suffered so greatly for the Royalist cause received some recompense at the end of the troubles by being created a baronet by King Charles II on the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. Ash was rebuilt "to a greater perfection than it was of before" by Sir John Drake, 2nd Baronet (1647–1684). The last in the male line was Sir William Drake, 6th Baronet, who died without children and bequeathed all his estates to his widow Anne Williams, who remarried to George Speke, MP, and had by him a daughter Anne Speke, who brought the Drake estates, including Ash and the advowson of Musbury, to her husband Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford (1732–1792), who sold them piece-meal to various persons. Ash House survives today as a grade II* listed private residence in much the same form as depicted by Swete in 1795.
The Manor of Poltimore is a former manor in Devon, England. The manor house known as Poltimore House survives in its 18th-century remodelled form, but has been dilapidated for several decades. A charity named the "Poltimore House Trust" has been established for the purpose of its restoration. The manor was situated within the historic Wonford Hundred and was largely coterminous with the parish of Poltimore and contained the village of Poltimore, 4 miles (6.4 km) north-east of the historic centre of the City of Exeter. It should not be confused with the eponymous Devon estate of Poltimore in the parish of Farway, 16 miles (26 km) east of Exeter. Poltimore was the principal seat of the Bampfylde family from c. 1300 to 1920.
The Manor of Copleston was a manor in the parish of the parish of Colebrooke in Mid Devon, England, now centred on the village of Copplestone.
Sharpham is an historic estate in the parish of Ashprington, Devon. The Georgian mansion house, known as Sharpham House, overlooks the River Dart and is a Grade I listed building. The house was commenced in about 1770 by the Royal Navy captain Philemon Pownoll to the designs of the architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788). In the opinion of Nikolaus Pevsner it contains "one of the most spectacular and daring later 18th century staircase designs anywhere in England". The park and gardens are Grade II* listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Part of the descent of Sharpham is shown on the Palmes family heraldic pedigree roll.
Hawkridge in the parish of Chittlehampton in North Devon, England, is an historic estate, anciently the seat of a junior branch of the Acland family which originated at nearby Acland, in the parish of Landkey and later achieved great wealth and prominence as the Acland Baronets of Killerton, near Exeter. The former mansion house is today a farmhouse known as Hawkridge Barton, a grade II* listed building. The Devon historian Hoskins (1959) stated of Hawkridge: "Externally there is nothing remarkable except a decaying avenue of ancient walnuts, so often the first indication of a 16th or 17th century mansion". The interior contains a fine plaster heraldic overmantel showing the arms of Acland impaling Tremayne, representing the 1615 marriage of Baldwin Acland (1593–1659) of Hawkridge and Elizabeth Tremayne.
Lyneham in the parish of Yealmpton in Devon, is an historic estate. The surviving grand mansion house known as Lyneham House is a grade I listed building. It was built c.1699-1703 by Sir Courtenay Croker, MP for Plympton Morice in 1699. A drawing of Lyneham House dated 1716 by Edmund Prideaux (1693–1745) of Prideaux Place, Padstow, Cornwall, survives at Prideaux Place. It shows formal gardens in front with flanking pavilions and an orangery.
Richard Crocker (fl.1335) of Devon, England, was a Member of Parliament for Tavistock in Devon in 1335. His descendants were the prominent Crocker family of Crocker's Hele in the parish of Meeth, Devon, later seated at Lyneham in the parish of Yealmpton, Devon until 1740.
William Crocker, living during the reign of King Edward III (1327-1377), of Crocker's Hele in the parish of Meeth, Devon, was a Member of Parliament. His descendants were the prominent Crocker family seated at Lyneham in the parish of Yealmpton, Devon until 1740. William Crocker is the earliest member of the family recorded in the Heraldic Visitations of Devon, although one of his ancestors is known to have been Richard Crocker (fl.1335) of Devon, England, a Member of Parliament for Tavistock in Devon in 1335.
Weycroft is an historic manor in the parish of Axminster in Devon, England. The surviving manor house known as "Weycroft Hall" is a Grade I listed building which includes elements from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, with a great hall of circa 1400, and was restored in the 19th century.