Category Archives: England

Pryors In The Cornish Mines

I’ve been binge-watching Poldark on Amazon Prime. The stories include glimpses into 18th century Cornish mining. It reminded me of a dark tale that involved a Pryor that appeared in British newspapers in 1821.

On Tuesday the 20the inst. a man named James Matthews, who resides at St. Agnes, Cornwall, was apprehended on the information of a person named Simon Pryor, who resides at Redruth, and who charges Matthews with the murder of a man named John James, who was his (Matthews’s) brother-in-law, sixteen years since. The following circumstances have been stated by Pryor on oath, before the Rev. Hugh Rogers, once of the county Magistrates. In 1804, Pryor was employed as an assistant labourer, by Matthews and James, at a min called Crown Dale Mine, near Tavistock. One night Pryor and James descended by a windlass into a shaft of the mine, which was about 22 fathoms in depth. Whilst there, they bored a hole for blasting, and Pryor was drawn up by Matthews. James then laid the match to the train, and called out to his comrades to pull him up, as is usual with miners on such occasions. Matthews and Pryor wound up about five fathoms of rope, when Matthews let go the windlass and desired Pryor to do the same. Pryor refused, on which Matthews threatened to knock his brains out if he did not.–Pryor again refused, when Matthews struck him on the right arm with a pick hilt, which forced him to quit his hold, and James was precipitated to the bottom, and had his skull so dreadfully fractured that he died two days after. Pryor told the facts to his brother, who was a smith on the mine, and to some other men, but they contrived to keep him in small room behind the smith’s shop until a coroner’s jury had returned a verdict of Accidental Death. He as then induced to conceal the affair, on the ground that Matthews had a large family. Pryor had never seen Matthews from that time to the present, but he said he was so distressed on account of the concealment, that he could suppress the circumstance no longer. Matthews was committed to Bodmin Gaol, in order to be transmitted to the Devon County Goal for trial at the ensuing Assizes.

The Mines

If you want to get a feeling of how narrow, how deep and how scary these mine shafts were, there’s a photo online of one of the actual entrances to the Crowndale Mine. (view photo offsite). I have no clue of distance in fathoms so I had to open up a conversion app– the shaft was 132 feet down.

Simon Pryor of Redruth, Cornwall and Location of the Crowndale Mine in Tavistock

Simon Pryor(s)

There were two Simon Pryors counted on the 1841 Census: one in Breage and one in Wendron. Both towns were south of Redruth. Both Simons stated their occupation as copper miners. One was age 53 and the other was 55. If one of them is the Simon Pryor named in the newspaper story, then the miner was 16 to 18 years old at the time of the murder in 1804.

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Pryor Line in Devon and Cornwall, England

I came upon a Richard Pryor who immigrated from England and lived in the US. His biography includes a photograph– cool! (see bio in Google books). Richard H Pryor gave a pretty nice… and complete… account of where he came from and who he was related to. He states he was from Devon, yet I found an Ancestry family tree for him that uses Cornwall census records as sources. We all have some red-faced mistakes in our family trees. I only found this Richard Pryor in Devon– very close to Cornwall, but definitely not in Cornwall.

richard h pryor

The beauty of genealogy blogging is that it’s a journey where ideas evolve over time. As new information is developed it can be pieced together and change how we view a family line. Cool beans!

1861 Census Devon, England
Tavistock, Devon, Brook St., 53, John PRYOR married 35 bonnet and fancy draper, born Tavistock. Kezia wife 27 bonnet maker born Inwardleigh. Mary C Pryor daughter 12 scholar born Tavistock. Richard Pryor son 7 scholar born Tavistock. Francis Pryor son 3 born Tavistock.

1851 Census, Devon, England
Tavistock, Pepper Street John PRYOR married 25 miner and straw dealer born Tavistock. Ann L. Pryor wife 24 milliner born Tavistock. Mary G. Pryor daughter 1 born Tavistock. William A son month born Tavistock. Keziah Pryor sister in law unmarried 17 (this is Keziah Hawking who was in William Hawking’s household in 1841) assistant milliner born Ingwardleigh.
Next household…
Tavistock, Pepper Street #120 Anthony PRYOR married 47 miner grocer and tea dealer born Helston Cornwall, Grace Pryor wife 43 born Laneast. Thomas Pryor son 6 scholar born Tavistock. Elizabeth Pryor daughter 1 month born Tavistock.

1841 Census, Devon, England
Page 20 Pepper St., Anthony Pryor 35 minor tin and copper not born in county, John Pryor 15 miner born in county. Thomas Pryor 13 born in county. Richard Pryor 11 born in county. Grace Easter 65 housekeeper born in county. Mary Ann Hunting 15 not born in county.

The bio of Richard H Pryor states his grandfather was William Hawkins an accomplished wheelwright. I found his grandfather on the 1841 and 1871 Census — on both records he is a Hawking not a Hawkins. Ooops.

1841 Census, Devon
Inwardleigh, The Field Cottage, William Hawking 40 wheelwright born in county, Grace Hawking 35 born in county, Elizabeth Hawking 12 born in county,
Mary Hawking 10 born in county, Kezia Hawking 7 born in county, Sarah Hawking 4 born in county, John Hawking 2 born in county

1871 Census, Devon
Inwardleigh, #23, Elmead, William Hawking 75 married 75 farming 270 acres employing 1 man Devon Buckland, Grace Hawking 65 wife b. devon Hasherleigh, Richard PRYOR grandson 17 born Tavistock, Francis PRYOR grandson 13 born Tavistock

 

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Francis Prior of Hertfordshire, England

uk-flagI’m diverting from our US Pryors to UK Pryors for this post… If you’re interested in the Pryor/Prior name from Herfordshire, England I stumbled across an interesting tidbit of information. I’m passing it also because I suspect someone will find it useful.

From The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 82, Part 1, Published 1812.

pryor-flamstead-hertfordshire

Over one of the arches a framed board, with arms, and the following inscription: “At the upper ende of this midle ile lyeth intered body of GEORGE CORDELL, esquire, who served QUEEN ELIZABETH, and was sergeant of the Ewry to KING JAMES and the late KING CHARLES, in all sixty yeeres, who married DOROTHY, the only daughter and heyre of FRANCIS PRIOR, of this parish, with whom she lived 52 yeares, and deceased the 26th May, 1653, being aged 84 yeeres.”

One ANN PRIOR lived in this parish to the age of 120.

Such a short inscription but such remarkable lives. Cordell served 3 monarchs in such turbulent times — Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and she beheaded her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, James was Mary’s son, and Charles I (James’ son) ascended the throne only to be beheaded in 1649. From 1649 to 1660 England was without a king and functioned as a Republic. I found a definition of his court position:

The ewry was responsible for the provision and storage of linen for the royal tables `and serve up water in the silver ewers after dinner, whence the office has its name.
— from British History Online

Oh, what Mr. Cordell and his Prior wife must have lived through. What he must have heard at queen’s tables and the successive kings. The historical characters he may have seen. It’s remarkable that he kept his position through such turmoil.

Perhaps this inscription may help to take a Prior line into the 16th century.

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Mary Bray Pryor

British Pryor LineI became curious about Mary Bray Pryor who I’d seen mentioned in a book published in 1888. She was a British Quaker who traveled to America shortly after the Revolutionary War. I thought it was interesting that a woman traveled to America on her own in those times, perhaps because it showed that people were traveling for reasons beyond immigration. I’m posting the bits I gathered about her life in case someone is interested in this line of Pryors.

1760 Quaker Marriage – Recorded in London Middlesex. John PRIOR of Hertford, son of William PRIOR, married Mary Bray. The record is signed by witnesses including Andrew Bray, William Pryor, Sarah Pryor, Sarah Bray, Nathaniel Bray, Mary Prior.

25 Jan 1799, Philadelphia, PA, USA Quaker Record. A certificate for our endeared friend Mary PRYOR directed to the board by meeting of Hertford and the Quarterly meeting of Hertfordshire in Great Britain produced from the Mins meeting was read and signed by this being expression of our near sympathy and unity with her and setting for her diligent circumspection in visiting the several meetings in this City the families of diverse friends– her religious labours under the uniting in -ence of diverse love having been truly acceptable and edifying and we hope may prove as bread cast on the waters to be found often (after?) mo- days.

1815 Death Notice in The Times, London. Mary PRYOR aged 77, wife John Pryor of Hertford, “an eminent preacher in the Society of Friends.” Published 18 Feb 1815.

This is likely Mary Bray Pryor the subject of “Mary Pryor; A life story of a hundred years ago“, published in 1888. The short story recounts that Mary Bray married John Pryor of Hertfordshire and became a Quaker evangelist in later life, traveling to America and back.

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Another Prior from Cornwall, England

Falmouth Cornwall I stumbled upon another Prior (or Pryor) from Cornwall. William Prior’s reads that he in North Carolina and his children Ann and Christiana were in the UK.  He named his brother Simon their guardian, yet I haven’t been able to confirm the existence of these Priors in UK records. Hope this helps someone ID the whereabouts of their missing kin.

1829 Will – Mecklenberg Co., NC
The last will and testament of William Prior of the county Cornwall G. Britain witnesseth–
I appoint Capt J P Fell and J L —- at present residents in Mecklenburg Co. No Car’a my true and lawful executors.
I request them to — from — Griffiths A— Co my mark of — appoint and to sell the same to the but advantage.

I give and bequest to my two daughters Ann and Christiana Prior in equal portions all my property.

I appoint my brother Simon Prior now and recently of Parish Waldron County Cornwall G. Britain the guardian of my two daughters.

Witness my hand this fourth day of May in the year of our Lord 1829

Signed by William Prior

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