Joe Prance appears in Chapter 2 of Barefoot on the Cobbles, when the action moves from the rural tranquillity of the North Devon coastline to the bustling town of Bideford. He was primarily a fishmonger and game dealer, with a shop at 26 Mill Street but he also sold dried goods. He had been born in 1834 in the fishing hamlet of Peppercombe, where his father was a fisherman. He was involved in a childhood accident, which left him with one leg longer than the other. Perhaps surprisingly, in an era before compulsory schooling, he received a good education. The 1861 census finds him lodging in Bideford in order to attend school. He returned to fish from Peppercombe and married a local girl, Susan Found; they had eight children, two sons and six daughters.
In the 1870s, the family moved to Bideford and initially the fishmongers was at 25 Mill Street. It appears that at some point during the next decade, the business absorbed the greengrocer’s at 26. In old age, Joseph and his wife lived at Lower Meddon Street with their married daughter. Joseph died in 1912.
‘Uncle Prance was at the counter arranging the dried goods to his satisfaction and awaiting the delivery of crabs, lobsters, and shimmering bass to lay temptingly in the window.’
Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.