Friday, July 18, 2014

Heron of Thornton and Ford


The published pedigrees of the family of Heron of Ford, Northumberland all contain errors of one kind or another due to the lack of contemporary documentation and confusion between various members of the family with the same name. The account in Complete Peerage also has errors, many of which are corrected and discussed here: Some corrections and additions to the Complete Peerage: Volume 6: Heron.

These clarifications can also be a bit confusing and I thought it would be interesting to look at the family in a different way, from the perspective of the family of Heron of Thornton, who eventually became the heirs of the family of Heron of Ford.

Thornton, or more correctly Thrunton, is a hamlet in the parish of Whittingham, Northumberland. There are other places in Northumberland called Thornton and they are easily confused in the early records.

The Herons of Thornton descended from John, a younger son of Sir William Heron of Ford (1304-1379). Raine in his pedigree of the family[1] says that he died in 1408, but as John was born in the early 1330’s and the John Heron of Thornton who died in 1408 left a 12 year old son, this seems unlikely. The most probable explanation is that John Heron of Thornton who died in 1408 was the son of the John Heron of Thornton who was born about 1332.

John Heron of Thornton I

John Heron of Thornton, third son of Sir William Heron of Ford, Northumberland by Isabel de Gray his wife was born about 1332. On 25 November 1337, his father, William son of Roger Heron settled the manor of Ford on himself and Isabel his wife, for their lives, with successive remainders to their sons Roger, William, John and Thomas in tail male [2].

Sometime in the early 1350’s John Heron married Elizabeth, the widow of Robert de Eslington of Eslington, Northumberland, who died of the plague on 10 October 1349, leaving three daughters and co-heirs, one by Isabel his first wife, and two by Elizabeth [3].  In her right John Heron was tenant of Elizabeth’s dower lands in the manor of Eslington and half of the vills of Whittingham, Thrunton and Barton, Northumberland. These lands were held of the king in chief.

Elizabeth’s daughters were Elizabeth de Eslington, who married Gilbert Heron and died childless in 1362, and Isabel de Eslington who married Robert de Bowes. After the death of Robert de Bowes, and her sister Elizabeth, Isabel sold her father’s lands in Whittingham to Donald de Heselrig. The other half of Whittingham, Thrunton and Barton which was not held by the Eslingtons and later the Hesilrig family was held by Beatrice, daughter of Henry fitz John, who inherited her nephew’s lands in 1349 [4]. In May 1370, Beatrice and her second husband, Sir Robert de Hauley sold their share of Whittingham and land in Great and Little Riyal to six trustees, all clergymen, including William, the parson of the church of Ford for 200 marks [5]. The trustees were acting on behalf of Sir William Heron of Ford. In 1371, after an inquisition ad quod damnum, Robert Haulay, knight, and Beatrice his wife had licence to settle the manor of Whittingham on William Heron knight, John his son, and their heirs [6]. Sir William appears to have given half of these lands to his son John. John Heron thus became the king’s tenant in Little Riyal, quarter of the manor of Whittingham, and quarter of the vills of Thrunton and Barton.

In the records it is difficult to distinguish John Heron of Thornton from other men named John Heron living in Northumberland, notably his uncle Sir John Heron of Crawley, who also had a younger son named John and a grandson John. It appears that John Heron of Thornton became a soldier. In September 1359 he had letters of protection until Easter, about to proceed with Henry de Percy to Gascony [7]. In March 1362, John son of William Heron was a deputy to Sir Richard Tempest, keeper of the castle of Roxburgh when they were accused of various wrongdoings [8].

Sir William Heron of Ford, his brother Sir John Heron and his sons Sir Roger Heron and John Heron, esquire (of Thornton) were among those implicated in the murder of Sir John de Coupland who was killed on 30 December 1363. In November 1364, the king ordered their imprisonment [9], but they were later released on payment of heavy fines. On 20 June 1366, the king confirmed to John Heron, at his request and on his petition, a messuage and a carucate of land in Thornton late of Thomas Graunt, which the escheator had wrongly taken into the king’s hand [10].

On 3 December 1378, a commission of oyer and terminer was ordered on the complaint by  Donald de Hesilrig, knight, that William Heron, knight, and John his son, with others, broke his house at Whittingham, Northumberland, felled and carried away his trees, depastured his corn and grass there and at Thornton and Barton, and assaulted his servants [11]. Apparently relations between the two neighbouring families were not always neighbourly.

On 27 May 1379, John Heron of Thornton was named as one of the assessors of a tax in Northumberland [12]. In 1382, John Heron of Thornton, Walter Heron, and Edward Heron, executors of the will of Sir William Heron of Ford, who died in December 1379, claimed a debt of £60 from Sir John Heron, senior (of Crawley) [13].  About 1385, John Heron of Thornton and Elizabeth his wife sued William Bishopdale, mayor of Newcastle and others for abducting Alice del Chambre, their ward, from the manor of Whittingham [14].

John Heron of Thornton is said to have died in March 1386, although I can find no source for this. He was succeeded by his son (or possibly his grandson) John.

John Heron of Thornton II

The second John Heron of Thornton hardly appears sparsely in the records.  On 20 June 1386, John Heron of Thornton with the earl of Northumberland, defending Berwick castle had letters of protection for one year [16].

John Heron of Thornton died on 5 October 1408, leaving William his son and heir aged 12. He was seised of the vill of Little Riyal, one quarter of Whittingham manor, and one quarter of the vills of Thrunton and Barton [17]. On 18 May 1412, the escheator in Northumberland was ordered to assign dower to Katherine who was wife of John Heron of Thornton [18].

William Heron of Thornton and Ford

William son of John Heron was born at Whittingham on 12 March 1397 and baptised in the church there on the same day [19]. After the death of his father in 1408, his lands were entrusted to Sir Robert Harbottle.

The inquisition for his proof of age was taken at Newcastle on 6 June 1418 and on 10 February 1419, the escheator in Northumberland was ordered to take the fealty of William Heron, son and heir of John Heron, and to give him seisin of his father's land [20].

William Heron married before 1418, Isabel, whose parentage is unknown.

On 1 September 1425, Sir William Heron of Ford, the second cousin of William Heron of Thornton, died leaving as his heir a daughter Elizabeth, aged three and no male heirs [21]. In 1337, Sir William Heron of Ford had entailed Ford on his male heirs. William Heron of Thornton was Sir William’s closest male relative and thus inherited the manor and castle of Ford. Between late 1425 and his death in early 1428, he became known as William Heron of Ford, a source of confusion in many histories of the family. He was however, never knighted.

William Heron of Ford was killed in a skirmish between his men and those of his neighbour Sir John Manners of Etal on 20 January 1428 when he was aged 30.

The inquisition post mortem for William Heron of Ford, for the lands which he held of the Bishop of Durham, was held at Norham on 22 January 1428, which found that his heir was John his son, aged 13 [22]. On 8 February 1428, the king commissioned Robert Umfraville, knight, William Tempest, knight, William Elmeden, knight, William Lampton, esquire, Emery Heryng and Robert Lampton, and to any two or more of them., including either Heryng or Robert Lampton, to enquire by sworn inquest of the county of Northumberland, as to the malefactors who lately slew William Heron, esquire, and Robert Atkynson his servant, and into the circumstances of the deed [23].

The inquisition post mortem of William Heron, esquire for the lands which he held in chief of the king was taken at Alnwick on 18 June 1428 which found that he died on 20 January 1428 and that his heir was John, his son, “aged 10 and no more.” He held the castle and two-thirds of the manor of Ford as well as other lands in Northumberland including, two thirds of 1/4 manor of Whittingham with the hamlets of Barton and Thrunton [24]. Presumably the other third of Ford was held in dower by Isabel, the widow of Sir William Heron and the other third of Whittingham was held in dower by Katherine, William Heron esquire’s mother.

His widow Isabel had assignment of dower on 22 April 1429 [25].

John Heron of Ford

John son of William Heron of Ford was born about 1418. His father died in January 1428 and custody of his lands and his marriage were granted to Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, William Carnaby and Henry Trollope on 14 September 1428 [26].

He married, it is said, by a papal dispensation dated 11 July 1438, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Heron of Ford, his third cousin [27]. Although Raine says that they had a dispensation for marriage and gives the date, I can find no record of it in the surviving papal registers.

There does not appear to have been any writ for the inquisition of John’s proof of age around 1439-40, but John and Elizabeth took possession of their lands when he reached maturity, without licence from the king. Nine years later, they received a royal pardon for this. The entry in the Patent Rolls states that on 4 July 1449. “Pardon to John Heron, esquire, son of William Heron, late of Ford, and to Elizabeth his wife, daughter of William Heron, knight, of all entries and intrusions made by them into their inheritances or any lands or possessions without suing livery thereof out of the king's hands, and of all felonies, misprisions and contempts, accounts, debts, prests, arrears of accounts, impeachments and respites, and all actions and demands which the king could have against them” [28].

John Heron of Thornton and Ford held various posts under Henry VI, he was appointed  as constable of Bamburgh castle on 7 February 1438 [29], when presumably he was of age. He was appointed receiver-general of the castle and lordship of Bamburgh on 18 May 1449 [30]. On 17 July 1459, the office of constable of Bamburgh castle was granted to John Heron of Ford, knight, and Roger his son [31]. He was escheator in Northumberland in 1439-40 [32], sheriff in 1440-41,  1451-52,  and 1456-7 and M.P. in 1442, 1447 and  1449 [33].

He fought for Henry VI at the battle of Towton, Yorkshire on 29 March 1461, where he probably died. On 2 May 1461, Robert Ogle, knight, was commissioned to take into the king’s hands his castle of Harebotell and lordship of Reddesdale and also the castle of Forde and other possessions late of John Heron of Forde, knight, deceased, and to seize Roger, son and heir of John, and keep the same; and to crush any of the county of Northumberland who may resist [34].

[1] James Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), 305.
[2] CP 25/1/181/12, number 52.
[3] Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 9, Edward III (1916), No. 454.
[4] Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 9, Edward III (1916), No. 417.
[5] CP 25/1/181/13, number 148.
[6] List of Inquisitions ad Quod Damnum, Part II, Lists and Indexes, 22 (1906), 579
[7] Charles Purton Cooper, ed., Appendix to a Report on Rymer's Foedora, vol. 3. (1869), 49.
[8] Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), vol. 3 (1937), 186, No. 501.
[9] Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward III: vol. 12: 1364-1369 (1910), 84.
[10] Calendar of Fine Rolls, vol. 7, Edward III: 1356-1358 (1923), 334.
[11] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Richard II, vol. 1: 1377-1381 (1895), 311.
[12] Calendar of Fine Rolls, vol. 9, Richard II: 1377-1383 (1926), 144
[13] Archaeologica Aeliana, Third Series, vol. 6 (Newcastle: 1910), 63, citing de Banco, R. 484, m. 96.
[14] L. C. Hector, ed., Year Books of Richard II.: 8-10 Richard II, 1385-1387, Ames Foundation, 1987, 96-8.
[16] Grant S. Simpson and James D. Galbraith, eds., Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland Preserved in the Public Record Office, vol. 5, 1968, 536.
[17] Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 19, No. 504.
[18] Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry IV: vol. 4: 1409-1413 (1932), 274.
[19] J.C. Hodgson, 'Proofs of Age of heirs to estates in Northumberland in the reigns of Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI', Archaeologia Aeliana, vol. 22 (1900), 122.
[20] Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry V: vol. 1: 1413-1419 (1929), 498
[21] Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (1885), Appendix I, 220.
[22] Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (1885), Appendix I, 220.
[23] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VI, vol. 1: 1422-1429 (1901), 467.
[24] Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, vol. 23, 6-10 Henry VI: 1427-1432 (2004), 8, No. 17
[25] Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VI: volume 1: 1422-1429 (1933), 431
[26] Calendar of Fine Rolls, vol. 15, Henry VI: 1422-1430 (1935), 241
[27] Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham, 305.
[28] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VI, vol. 5: 1446-1452 (1909), 259
[29] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VI, vol. 3: 1436-1441 (1907), 179
[30] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VI, vol. 5: 1446-1452 (1909), 247
[31] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VI, vol. 6: 1454-1461 (1947), 512
[32] Calendar of Fine Rolls, vol. 17, Henry VI: 1437-1445 (1937), 130
[33] Josiah C. Wedgewood, History of Parliament, Biographies of the Members of the Commons House, 1439-1509 (London: HMSO, 1936), 446.
[34] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward IV, vol. 1: 1461-1467 (1897), 29


  1. The Complete Peerage corrections were later consolidated into an article outlining the correct pedigree.
    Tony Ingham, Chris Phillips and Rosie Bevan, "Additions and Correction to The Complete Peerage: The Herons of Ford and Thornton" in Foundations 1 (2): 132-135.

    Regarding Elizabeth widow of Robert de Eslington, Hedley (II:79) has her as wife of John Heron of Eshott, who was first cousin of John Heron of Thornton, however if an Elizabeth was named as wife of John Heron of Thornton in 1385, perhaps you have the correct placement. I'm assuming Elizabeth was widow of Gilbert Heron of Ford (d.1301 s.p.), which does not help much. The date of death for John Heron as 1387 perhaps comes from a misreading of an entry in the patent rolls (CPR, 1385-1389, 384), which says " was found that Elizabeth late the wife of John Heron and now deceased held the premises as dower of Robert de Eslyngton...". The wording is somewhat ambiguous but could be interpreted that Elizabeth was widow of John Heron and is now herself deceased.

  2. My ancestor was Sir John Heron who lived at Edgcumb,Kent and Croyden,Surrey.He had children Alice and Sir Nicholas.
    I know he was connected to the Herons of Ford Castle,Northumberland but what else can anyone tell me about him?

  3. thanks for doing this . Still find it complicated. But I think that I will will finally figure out who's who. Dealing with Elizabeth and John Heron. I think its also interesting that all these people are related to each other . Henry Percy is also one of my ancestors. will be interesting to see how he fits in. Lorraine