Prince, John (1643-1723) (DNB00)

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PRINCE, JOHN (1643–1723), author of ‘Worthies of Devon,’ born at the ‘Abbey’ farmhouse in the parish of Axminster, Devonshire, on the site of the Cistercian abbey of Newenham, was the eldest son of Bernard Prince, by his first wife, Mary, daughter of John Crocker of Lyneham in Yealmpton, Devonshire. Bernard was buried at Axminster on 6 Nov. 1689, and a monument to his memory was placed in the church in 1709 by his eldest son. ‘John was related to Mrs. Winston Churchill's family, and Marlborough's maternal uncle, Sir John Drake, was his godfather’ (Worseley, John, Duke of Marlborough, i. 2–6). He matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, on 13 July 1660, and graduated B.A. on 23 April 1664. When the nonconformists were ejected from their fellowships, Lord Petre gave him in 1663–4 a formal presentation to one of the vacancies on the Petrean foundation, but the right of patronage was not admitted by the college (Worthies, 1810 edit. pp. 632–3). He was ordained as curate to the Rev. Arthur Giffard, rector of Bideford in North Devon, and remained there until the rector's death in March 1668–9. His next post was at St. Martin's, Exeter, where he seems to have been curate and minister until 1675, in which year he was incorporated at Cambridge, and graduated M.A. from Caius College. From 25 Dec. 1675—as appears by the articles of agreement between the corporation and himself, which are printed in the ‘Western Antiquary’ (iv. 158–60)—until 1681 Prince received the emoluments of the vicarage of Totnes, Devonshire, being instituted on 4 April 1676, and on 21 April 1681 he was instituted, on the presentation of Sir Edward Seymour, to the neighbouring vicarage of Berry Pomeroy. In this pleasant position he remained until his death, on 9 Sept. 1723, when he was buried in the chancel of the church, and a small tablet was placed in it to his memory. He died intestate, and letters of administration were granted to his widow, Gertrude, youngest daughter of Anthony Salter, physician at Exeter, who had married Gertrude, daughter of John Acland. She was baptised at St. Olave's, Exeter, on 18 Feb. 1643–4, and was buried at Berry Pomeroy on 4 Feb. 1724–5.

Prince's great work was the chatty and entertaining ‘Damnonii Orientales Illustres,’ better known by its further title ‘The Worthies of Devon.’ The first edition came out in 1701, with a dedication ‘from my study, Aug. 6, 1697.’ The manuscript materials on which it is based were a transcript by Prince of the work of Sir William Pole [q. v.], now Addit. MS. 28649 at the British Museum, and a similar transcript of Westcote's ‘Devon,’ now among the manuscripts of Dean Milles at the Bodleian Library (Trans. Devon Assoc. xxiii. 161). His own library was small, but he had the free use of the very good library of the Rev. Robert Burscough [q. v.], his successor at Totnes. A long letter from him to Sir Philip Sydenham, on Sir Philip's family and on the second part of the ‘Worthies,’ is in Egerton MS. 2035, and is printed in the ‘Western Antiquary’ (iv. 45–6). The second volume, which was left ready for the press, is still in manuscript, and belongs to the representatives of Sir Thomas Phillipps [q. v.] of Cheltenham.

A second edition of ‘The Worthies’ came out in 1810, under the editorship of the publisher, Mr. Rees of Plymouth, with the assistance of William Woollcombe, M.D., and Henry Woollcombe, F.S.A. Lord Grenville contributed the materials for the notes on the Grenville family (Davidson, Bibl. Devon. p. 135). The memoranda of George Oliver, D.D. (1781–1861) [q. v.], in his copy of ‘The Worthies,’ afterwards the property of Mr. W. Cotton, are printed in ‘Notes and Gleanings’ (Exeter), iv. 179 sq.

Prince published, in addition to three single sermons: 1. ‘An humble defence of the Exeter Bill in Parliament for uniting the Parishes,’ 1674. 2. ‘A Letter to a Young Divine, with brief Directions for composing and delivering of Sermons,’ 1692. ‘A Catechistical Exposition of the Church Catechism.’ 4. ‘Self-Murder asserted to be a very heinous Crime; with a Prodigy of Providence, containing the wonderful Preservation of a Woman of Totnes,’ 1709. Several unpublished sermons and tracts by him are mentioned by Wood, and the insertions between brackets in the text of Westcote's ‘View of Devonshire, and Pedigrees of most of its Gentry,’ as printed in 1845, were from Prince's notes. They are described as containing many errors (Westcote, View, p. v).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 608–9, Fasti, ii. 277; Rogers's Memorials of the West, pp. 26–9; Davidson's Newenham Abbey, pp. 217–24; Pulman's Book of the Axe, 1875 edit., pp. 403, 666, 707; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Trans. Devon Assoc. xxv. 416–30, by Winslow Jones, embodying the facts collected by Edward Windeatt in the Plymouth Inst. Trans. vol. vi.]

W. P. C.