From Heron, near Rouen. "Tihel de Herioun was of Essex, 1086. Odonel Heron, temp. William Rufus, witnessed a charter in Durham (Raine, North Durham, App. 3). In 1165 Alban de Hairun held in Hertford, Richard in Essex, Dru in York, and Jordan in York and Northumberland."—The Norman People. In the latter county they were of great note, and held a barony from the time of Henry I., "who enfeoffed them thereof." Sir William de Heron, Governor of the castles of Bamborough, Pickering, and Scarborough, Lord Warden of the Forests North of Trent, and Sheriff of Northumberland for eleven consecutive years under Henry III., married the heiress of Odonel de Ford, and built Ford Castle in 1227. Another Sir William was summoned to parliament by Edward III. in 1371, and was Ambassador to France and Steward of the King's Household, but left no posterity; and his grand-nephew and namesake, "a gallant soldier and eminent diplomatist," who married the heiress of Lord Say, and was a baron by writ in 1404, also d. s. p. The last of the line, Sir William Heron, Sheriff of Northumberland 17 Hen. VIII., was the father of the beautiful Elizabeth, who detained James IV. at Ford, so as to give the Earl of Surrey time and opportunity for advancing towards the Borders with a large army: From its strong position, commanding the bridge over the river Till, the castle had been a constant bone of contention between the English and Scots; and was entirely demolished by the latter in 1385: but its most memorable capture was by King James in 1513, for it thus became for ever associated with "the tale of Flodden, that is written in blood on every Scottish heart." Close beyond

"the dim-light glen
Where flows the sullen Till,"

rises the bleak hill side where perished the whole chivalry of Scotland, and the devoted circle of dead nobles was found lying around their dead King, in the same rank and order in which they had guarded him while living. Only less disastrous were the losses sustained by our own Northern counties. The "white harvest" that succeeded Flodden Field—when none but grey-haired men were the reapers—lived in the memory of the people for many a long year; and many an Englishwoman could say, with her Scottish neighbour,

"Now I ride single in my saddle,
For the Flowers o' the Forest are a'wede away."

Hutchinson goes so far as to assign to that "sweetest of sweet songs" an English origin.

Sir Walter Scott, who tells the story in "Marmion," asserts that it was Lady Heron, the wife of the Castellan of Ford, whose witcheries cost the Scottish King so dear. "He saw her for the first time on his march into England, fell desperately in love with her, and was detained at her Border castle while she came and went between the Scottish and English armies, causing the delays that led to the fatal defeat of Flodden. Sir William Heron was at that time a prisoner at Fast Castle in Scotland, having been delivered up by King Henry as an accessory to the slaughter of Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford, Warden of the Middle Marches,[1] and part of the pretence of Lady Heron's negotiation with King James was the liberty of her husband." But Hutchinson, the historian of the county—a far higher authority—is positive that it was the daughter, and not the mother, that fascinated the King. Nor was she by any means a new acquaintance. "There is a tradition that King James, returning from a visit to Mistress Heron at Ford Castle, found himself in danger of drowning in his passage through the Tweed, near Norham, at the West Ford, which is pretty dead on the Scotch side. Upon which he made a vow to the Virgin Mary, that if she would carry him safe to land, he would erect and dedicate a church to her upon the banks of the Tweed: which he performed in the jubilee year, a.d. 1500, according to an old inscription upon the church, mostly now defaced." The date given—thirteen years before Flodden—would make it a very ancient love-affair, and must be either a mistake or a misprint.

Elizabeth Heron inherited Ford, and married Thomas Carr of Etal. Their granddaughter Mary conveyed it to the Delavals, from whom it passed to the Marquesses of Waterford.

Mackenzie, in his History of Northumberland, speaks of a Cuthbert Heron, then (in 1825) living at South Shields, and "a lineal descendant of the famed knightly family of the Herons; but as it cannot be satisfactorily ascertained whether or no an elder brother of his grandfather left issue, the Heralds' College refuse to acknowledge his right to the title, which, however, he continues to, receive from courtesy." What title can be here meant? surely neither of the two baronies by writ; for both the Sir Williams, as has been already shown, died s. p.

It is at least certain that there were several collateral branches of the Herons of Ford Castle. Cecilia de Lisle brought Chipchase (a member of the barony of Prudhoe) to a younger son of that house in 1366: and their descendant claimed Ford on the extinction of the elder line. This led to a blood-feud with the Carrs, and an affray near the castle, in which Giles Heron, the claimant's brother, lost his life; till at length, "for quietness' sake," one of the manors was ceded to them. Cuthbert Heron, one of the many suffering loyalists in the Civil War, was created a baronet in 1662; and his posterity "continued the possessors of Chipchase until Sir Harry Heron sold it in 1737. On the death of Sir Harry without issue in 1759, Thomas Heron, his first cousin, who had taken his mother's name of Myddleton in addition to his own, succeeded to the title of Baronet."—Betham's Baronetage. Then there were the Herons of Bokenfield, also in Northumberland, who settled at Newark in the seventeenth century, and received a baronetcy in 1778; and the Herons of Cressy in Lincolnshire, which, according to the Visitation of the county of 1562, "came from Ford Castle" in the fifteenth century.

But Morant tells us that they were seated in Essex as far back as 1165, when Hayron's manor in High Estre was held of Geoffrey de Mandeville by Ralph de Heron; and Richard de Heron had an interest in that of Heyron in Danesbury. (Liber Niger). Two other manors—Heron in East Hornden, and Herons in Fifield, retain the name. John Heyroun, who died in 1343, "held in Lackingdon of the King in capite of the Honour of Hagenet." Their principal seat was at Cressy, where Margaret, the mother of Henry VII., was entertained by Sir John Heron, and the bedstead on which she lay is still preserved in a farm-house by the fen side.[2] He was one of her son's Privy Councillors, and later in life Treasurer of the Household to Henry VIII.:—the first ever appointed, for he is named in the Act of 1512, by which the office was created. His son Sir Giles married a daughter of the famous Chancellor Sir Thomas More, and forfeited his estate for refusing to acknowledge the King's supremacy. The last heir, Henry Heron, died in 1730. He was very desirous that his estate should continue in the old name, and failing the issue of his sister and nephew, sought out a successor who bore it. He at first inclined towards Mr. Heron of Newark; but they differed so widely in politics, the one being a Jacobite, and the other a Hanoverian, that he went further afield, and placed a Scotsman, Patrick Heron of Kirouchtree, whose ancestor was said to have migrated from Northumberland during the thirteenth century, in the entail. Patrick's grandson inherited Cressy Hall in 1769. It yet retains the vast heronry established by the family in allusion to the herons on their coat of arms.

  1. It was Sir William's bastard brother John, "a famous soldier in those days," who had slain the Warden in a fray at a Border meeting, and been thereupon outlawed in both kingdoms. He did good service at Flodden; for when, in the first onset, the right wing of the English host gave way, and Sir Edmund Howard was sore beset, he threw himself between the armies with a troop of horse he had raised in the Cheviots, and gave his countrymen time to rally. He fell, not long afterwards, in a Border skirmish.

  2. "It is very large, shut up on all sides with wainscot, and two holes left at the bottom end, each large enough to admit a grown person."

-- Cleveland

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