Rothbury, History Society

View of Rothbury
Picture Jane Coltman

View of Rothbury Picture Jane Coltman

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Old families

Dr Peter Regan gave a talk to Coquetdale History Society on Some Old Families Of Northumberland.

Originally this talk was to be The History of Northumbrian Families Before The Norman Conquest. However, in Northumberland there are few surviving records earlier than the 12th century. Even the existence of a town at Newcastle (Monkchester) before 1080 is in some doubt.

With no Doomsday record for Northumberland it means that it is more difficult to disentangle the family histories.

Anglo-Saxon names (Uchtred, etc) went out of fashion within a few generations after the Conquest and Norman names, such as William, Robert and Richard, were adopted by the ‘natives’.

During the Harrying of the North (1068-72), when about 100,000 were killed, allegiances were tested. Waltheof II, the last Anglo-Saxon aristocrat (1075), and Malcolm III of Scotland were killed in 1095. It was wise to accept the Normans.

A few families today claim Anglo-Saxon ancestry, such as the Ogles, the Roddams, the Mitfords and the Greys.

The Roddams, of Roddam Hall, are said to have had an ancient charter sealed and signed by King Athelstan, c.930. Anchetil de Greye is believed to be the common ancestor of the Greys. He was of Viking stock and came to England as a vassal of William the Conqueror. The Mitfords are said to derive their land and title from Edward the Confessor.

However, intermarriage quickly took place between the old families and the new Normans. Many of their surnames included other family names. Marrying into the new aristocrat ruling class ensured their position and their ambitions.

The same names keep reappearing as representatives supporting the King and Government, nationally and in Northumbria: Baronies (1520) include Percy, Neville, Greys of Chillingham, Ogles of Bothal and Bishops of Durham. High Sheriffs have included the Percys, Fenwicks, Widdringtons, Greys, Collingwoods, Selbys and Mitfords. Lords Lieutenants were mainly Percy, but also Grey, Cavendish, Lumley and Clifford.

Families often in Parliament were the Selbys, Ogles and Greys, who were dominant Whigs in the 19th century. Wardens of the English Marches, the Borders, were dominated by the Percy, Neville, Grey and Ogle families. Border Reivers (or Ruffian) families included the Selbys, Greys and Ogles, among other familiar names.

Dr Regan also showed slides and lists of the many castles, halls and estates these families owned and own, many granted and licensed as a result of service to a king. They have made a considerable contribution and left their influence on the development of Northumberland. Many monuments have been erected to them and their work.

With limited time Dr Regan concentrated on the names appearing most frequently down the years since the Norman Conquest, but many others whose families are current today also made their contribution.

The next meeting will hear about The Life and Times of Bessie Surtees by Bill Saunders tomorrow (Friday), with refreshments, wine and Christmas cake. All welcome. Admission £2.