Barony of Halton

Barony of Halton
Creation date 1071
First holder Nigel of Cotentin
Last holder Henry Bolingbroke
Status Extinct (merged in the Crown)
Extinction date 30 September 1399
Former seat(s) Halton Castle
Arms Arms of the Baron of Halton (modern).svg
Mesne lord of the Earl of Chester

The Barony of Halton, in Cheshire, England, comprised a succession of 15 barons and hereditary Constables of Chester under the overlordship of the Earl of Chester. It was not an English feudal barony granted by the king[a] but a separate class of barony within the County Palatine of Chester.

After the Norman conquest, William the Conqueror created the three earldoms of Shrewsbury, Hereford and Chester to protect his border with Wales. In 1071, the Earl of Chester, Hugh Lupus, made his cousin, Nigel of Cotentin, the 1st Baron of Halton.[2] Halton was a village in Cheshire which is now part of the town of Runcorn. At its centre is a rocky prominence on which was built Halton Castle, the seat of the barons of Halton.

Nigel of Cotentin

(c. 1071–1080)

Nigel was also the hereditary Constable of Chester. In 1077 he fought against the Welsh at the Battle of Rhuddlan.[3] It is almost certain that he built a motte-and-bailey castle on Halton Hill.[4]

William fitz Nigel


William fitz Nigel, Nigel's son, was also marshal of the Earls' host, which was an important position in the Norman military hierarchy. In addition to his land in Halton, his estate included land in other parts of Cheshire and also in Normandy.[5] He married the eldest daughter of Yorfid, on whose death without a male heir the Lancashire manors of Widnes, Appleton, Cronton and Rainhill came to his son-in-law, William.[2] In 1115 William established a priory of the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular in Runcorn.[6] He was buried at Chester.[7]

William fitz William


William, son of William fitz Nigel, in 1134 he moved the priory from Runcorn to a site to the east of Halton. This became Norton Priory.[8] William died childless in Normandy.[9]

Eustace fitz John


Eustace fitz John succeeded to Halton as husband of the elder sister of William fitz William. He had inherited the barony of Knaresborough and by an earlier marriage had also gained the baronies of Malton and Alnwick.[9] He was killed fighting the Welsh.[6]

Richard fitz Eustace


Richard, son of Eustace fitz John, married the eventual heiress to the de Lacy family of Pontefract, whose inheritance was eventually acquired by their grandson Roger.[10]

John fitz Richard


John, son of Richard fitz Eustace, was a governor in Ireland for Henry II. Being a patron of science, he maintained an astronomer at Halton Castle. He founded a Cistercian monastery at Stanlow.[9] In 1190 he granted the second known charter for a ferry at Runcorn Gap. He served with Richard I in the Third Crusade and died at the siege of Acre.[11]

Roger de Lacy


Born as Roger fitz John, the son of John fitz Richard, he adopted the surname of de Lacy. He was a renowned soldier and was nicknamed "Hell" Lacy for his military daring. In 1192 he was also serving with Richard I in the Third Crusade. Later he served King John in the unsuccessful attempt to thwart the French conquest of Normandy following which he was made High Sheriff of Lancashire. He was buried in the abbey founded by his father at Stanlow.[11][12]

John de Lacy


John de Lacy, son of Roger, opposed King John and was one of the barons entrusted with the duty of ensuring that the king kept the agreements made in Magna Carta. By marriage he gained more titles, including that of the Earldom of Lincoln. He also gained the manor and the castle of Bolingbroke. He was also buried at Stanlow.[13]

Edmund de Lacy


Of Edmund de Lacy, son of John, little is known except that he was also buried at Stanlow.[14]

Henry de Lacy


Henry de Lacy, son of Edmund, was educated at court and became Chief Councillor to Edward I. While the king was engaged on military conflicts with the Scots, Henry was appointed Protector of the Realm.[13] He transferred the monastery from Stanlow to Whalley.[11] He died at his London home, Lincoln's Inn and was buried in the old St Paul's cathedral.[13]

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster


Thomas gained the barony of Halton though his marriage to Alice, Henry's daughter. He took up arms against Edward II in 1322. However this rebellion was unsuccessful. He was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge and then imprisoned in his own castle at Pontefract. A few days later he was beheaded outside the city and his titles forfeited to the Crown. Later a cult of martyrdom developed around him.[11]

Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster or Sir William Glinton


Thomas was posthumously pardoned by Edward III and in 1327, Thomas's titles were restored to his brother, Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster.[15]

It has also been suggested that the title succeeded to Sir William Glinton. He was a distinguished knight who may have held the honour as a non-hereditary arrangement or he may have held it during the life of Alice, widow of Thomas of Lancaster.[13]

Henry Grosmont


Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, nephew of the 2nd Earl and son of the 3rd, next succeeded to the barony of Halton. He was appointed as the 1st Duke of Lancaster, one of the first Knights of the Order of the Garter.[16] He served the king in France and died of the plague.[13] He was buried at Leicester.[17]

John of Gaunt


John of Gaunt gained the barony by his marriage to Blanche, daughter and heiress of the 13th baron. He was appointed regent during the infancy of Richard II.[13] He was also buried in St Paul's cathedral.[17]

Henry Bolingbroke


Henry Bolingbroke was the eldest son of John of Gaunt. He was banished from England by Richard II and at the time of his father's death he was in exile in France. When he returned to England to claim his estates the people rallied round him. Richard II was deposed and Henry was crowned King Henry IV. Henry procured an Act of Parliament to ordain that the Duchy of Lancaster would remain in the personal possession of the reigning monarch and the barony of Halton is now vested in that dukedom.[18]

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