The Prance Family

CHRISTOPHER PRANCE  1927





    I was born on 16th October 1927 in the village of Rudgwick, Sussex. My full name is Christopher Paul Macfarlane Prance. Paul was to have been my first name but at the time A.A.Milne's book 'Christopher Robin' was in fashion and this, I daresay, influenced a last minute change before the baptism. Macfarlane was my Mother's maiden name. My father was Bertram Stanley Prance, a Bideford man, who had become a well known humorous cartoonist by the time I was born. He contributed to countless magazines and periodicals of which probably the best known was 'Punch'. In later life he was an accomplished painter and in 1998 I had the privilege of arranging a large retrospective exhibition of his work at the Burton Museum and Gallery, Bideford which has a number of his works in its permanent collection.

    At seven years old I was packed off to Fernden, a boarding preparatory school at Haslemere, Surrey, not far from where we lived, but in 1940 when it was expected that England would be invaded I was evacuated to Canada along with many other boys and girls. After the tragic sinking of a shipload of evacuees in the Atlantic by enemy U-boats (only about four children survived) the evacuation of children abroad was abruptly stopped and our ship, The Monarch of Bermuda, already loaded up in Greenock, was probably one of the last of these to sail. In Canada I went to Ashbury College in Ottawa until 1943 when I sailed back to England. It was still very risky in the Atlantic. The canadian adventure was wonderful and I shall be forever grateful for the generosity and friendship shown me by the canadians during my three and a half years there. Back in England I went to Malvern College for a year before joining the Royal Navy where I served for two and a half years in HMS Sheffield (the one before the one that was sunk in the Falklands war). Sheffield was the flagship of the small West Indies Fleet and we visited most countries of the American continent north and south.

    Back home I studied painting and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art for four years but when it became obvious that I wasn't going to make much of a living from painting I became an art teacher, to begin with at Harrow School then at King's College Wimbledon..From there to lecturing at a teacher's training college in Twickenham where I also ran the pottery department. As pottery seemed to be my natural talent I eventually left the college in 1978 to start my own pottery and shop in Kingston-upon-Thames, south London. This we ran successfully for about eight years. We then spent two years converting a coach house beside our home in Kingston before escaping the south and east altogether to rediscover the countryside in North Devon where we have been living since 1993. Our house is in a rural farming community and having a bit of land of our own we keep some shetland ponies , a few sheep (not now!) and chickens. The house was previously owned by a well known naturalist photographer and a number of BBC. wild life films were made here and in the immediate vicinity.



Church Cottage

                                                                              That thing at the back is the church tower!

    My wife Shirley (nee Denning, who was also an artist and teacher) was born 23rd October 1934 and we married in 1960. We have three children: Donald 1962 (Sutton), Jeanette 1965 (Sutton), and Elizabeth 1968 (Richmond). We have always had a keen interest in spiritual matters and in the 1950's were intimately connected with the Gurdjieff study groups under J.G.Bennet. From 1958 onwards we were also much involved with the movement known as Subud and the last twelve years we have been active members of the Anglican Church and am secretary of the local PCC. (now church warden). As for hobbies I have so many that I never have a chance to indulge in any of them properly!! As we get older, and with our many responsibilities, we seem to have less time to pursue our own interests, not more, which is a shame but this is mostly our own fault! As for ambitions...I hope I live long enough to see our grandchildren grow up and start their way in the world.

    I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life and dread to think how I would cope as a youngster in today's fast moving and competitive world. One consolation is that our own children seem to be coping very well indeed. Lastly, living here as we do in North Devon, I feel a very strong affinity with the forbears who worked and dwelt along this coastline. Life certainly must have been hard for those who worked on the land also for those who risked their lives on the sea. But there were rewards, for many went on to make names for themselves and prosper. Many, of course, left the Devon ports of Bideford and Plymouth for the New World and Australia. There have been Prances in America for nearly four hundred years. If you have a story to tell we would love to hear from you so let us have it to share with other Prances around the world.  

PS. As we are both now beyond elderly we have forsaken the idyllic pastures of Church Cottage and the village life at Bradford for the convenience and facilities of Bideford.  A practical move, we shall miss the friendly and rewarding village life at Bradford but Bideford is all right,  we now have the river and wonderful walks by the sea near at hand. There is plenty to do and we shall not be bored.

A few examples of my pottery..........CP.CERAMICS