1857- 1925

25/08/2008 13:38    


. Maxwell Prideaux, as he became known, was recorded as having been born on 14th October, 1857, at Westbrook near Plymouth. No settlement with that name can be found on any general map, but it may have been a large house or estate in the Holbeton area of the South Hams. His father, Henry, had been born in 1810 to Walter and Sarah (née Hingston). The Hingstons had been resident in Kingsbridge since at least 1600. The Prideaux family were a well-established Devon clan who had been strong Parliamentarians in the Civil War.

Henry Prideaux had married Agnes Maxwell Morris and they had our Pioneer, ensuring that he carried his mother's family name of Maxwell. This puts her in line with the Maxwell family of Devon who, in the 20th century, produced several war heroes, and then became the Maxwell-Hyslops, one of whose sons, Robin, became Member of Parliament for Tiverton. This goes some way to explain why our Pioneer reduced the Henry part of his name to an initial, preferring the Maxwell connection.

He acquired a fondness for the game in his early 20s, but with no opposition nearby, was forced, like so many in rural Britain in the 19th century, to concentrate on solving problems. He moved on to composition, and his strength was in 4-movers, many of them involving a solitary Black King. Most were published in the Morning Post.

Unfortunately for him, the opportunities for over the board chess were growing quickly at the same time and chess addicts had increasingly less time for these complicated problems. So his best work was often under-appreciated, then as now. Also, as his opportunities for actually playing increased, he devoted less and less time to composition, with the result that the quantity of his body of work does not match its quality - not the worst of faults, though.

In fact, there are records of him playing on a high board for Gloucestershire in the 1890s. For example, on 14th April, 1898 he played on Bd. 8 for Gloucestershire against Somerset. On this occasion, the 1st   Women's World Champion, Mary Rudge, played next to him on Bd. 7.  It was noted at the time that of the 20 Gloucestershire players, all but 2 lived in Bristol, and of the Somerset players all but 2 lived 5 miles away in Bath. As the two non-Bristolians were named in the match report, we can deduce that Prideaux was a Bristol resident at this time. On 9th March 1901 he played against Wiltshire on Bd. 5 - the game may be found in the Pioneers' games database. There is no absolute proof to hand that it was he, though the number of chess-playing H. M. Prideauxs in the westcountry in 1901 must be sufficiently limited to make it almost certain it was our Pioneer.

Kelly's Directory for 1919 show him as living at Holcome Rogus, near the M5 where it cuts through the Blackdown Hills. His house was called appropriately, "Bluehills".

He was a solicitor by profession, but gave that up early, saying he knew more about music, books and chess than the law. He wrote several learned articles that appeared in the magazine Notes & Queries. The books in his extensive library bore the family motto, "Toujours prêt" , always ready.

He spent the last few years of his life in Exeter and died there aged 68 on 14th November 1925 at his home, 20, Pennsylvania Road. He had been a fully paid-up Member of the DCCA (12½ p p.a.) for a number of years up to time of his death.

R. H. Jones.