Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 30, 2019
Webpage updated: January 04, 2020



JOHN PRIDEAUX (1787-1859)

John Prideaux was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs John Prideaux, a solicitor in Plymouth, where he was born on December 25th 1787.

When his father died in 1795, when John was only eight years of age, and was brought up by his mother.

Both his parents were members of the Society of Friends, a body which he subsequently joined, too.  For some reason his father had expressed the wish that his son not be brought up in his own profession so it was decided to apprentice him to a medical gentleman.  However just before that could happen the said gentleman died and so he was apprenticed to a chemist, Mr (later Doctor) Charles Whittel at Chester, where he is said to have spent a large portion of the money allowed him for clothes on purchasing materials for scientific experiments.

At the age of twenty-two (1809), having completed his apprenticeship, he returned to Plymouth and set up his own business as Chemist and Druggist in Old Town Street.  The premises were later occupied by Mr Dyer, a cutler.   Whilst there he inherited a grocery business that had been founded by his maternal grandfather, Mr James Fox, and in about 1820 moved both shops to East Street, adjacent to the Plymouth Pannier Market.

He spent little, if any, of his spare time on personal pleasure.  When he was not carrying out experiments of his own, he was doing work to improve the life of other Plymothians.  Following the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, when many local men were thrown in to unemployment by lack of work at the Royal Dockyard, he became an active member of a committee formed to organise relief.  He originated the gathering of seaweed and its conversion in to kelp until more favourable employment was once again available.

His father had been one of the first members of the Plymouth Anti-Slavery Committee set up by Mr Thomas Clarkson and John followed in his footsteps by continuing this work.  Indeed, he not only supported the deliverance of the slaves from their bondage but refused, wherever possible, to purchase or partake of anything which was connected with the employment of the slaves.

Mr Prideaux retired from business at the early age of 47 (1834), having spent many years purchasing property to provide for his old age.  He then devoted his energy his favourite occupation, chemistry.  From 1839 until 1841 he was Professor of Chemistry at the Cornish Mining School.  He was known to be an early riser and was seldom in bed after 5am.

At the time of the 1851 census, the Prideaux family were living at number 10 Regent Street, Plymouth.  The property was owned by his mother, Lydia, who at that time was 85-years-old.  Also in the house with John, 63, were his unmarried sisters Lydia, 61; Jane, 60; and Susanna, 57, and three female servants, Miss Susan Allen from Sampford Peverell, Miss Jane Rowse from Brixton, and Miss Louisa N Osborne from Kingsbridge. 

Mr John Prideaux died at around Midday on Monday October 24th 1859, following a sudden seizure that had taken place while he was in his laboratory on the Saturday evening.  He was 72-years-old.