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The Watertons, A Brief History

The Watertons

Charles Waterton was the representative of one of the most ancient of English families. He was justly proud of his heritage.
He could claim descent from Sir Thomas More. Walton Hall once contained a clock that belonged to that famous ancestor. His other ancestors were also of noble stock.

The following account of the Waterton family (1) is based upon an article in the Illustrated London News of 17th June 1865 and had been "revised by a member of the house" shortly after the Squire's death. There are a number of discrepancies between this account and others, these will be pointed out as appropriate. However, it gives a reasonable overall idea of the noble ascentry of the Watertons, even if the odd detail is suspect.


Extract from The Illustrated London News (ILN) dated 17th June 1865. (7)

The good and amiable old Lord of Walton, Charles Waterton, better known for miles around his ancestral domain as "the squire" was the representative of one of our most ancient untitled aristocratic families. His ancestor was Reiner, the son of Norman of Normandy [this should be Normanby in the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire = Normanebi], who became Lord of Waterton [after Waterton in Lincolnshire] in 1159. Reiner was of Saxon origin [not so, he was of Norman origin, read more here]. The Watertons of Waterton became extinct in the male line in the 15th century, when their vast possessions passed away, through Cecilia, wife of Lord Welles and heiress of her brother, Sir Robert Waterton, to her four daughters and co-heiresses. The daughters married Robert, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, Sir Thomas Dymoke, Thomas Laurence Esq., and Sir Thomas Delaware.

[Bit of confusion below with Johns and Roberts - see Johns and Roberts.]

Sir John Waterton was high sheriff of Lincoln in 1401 and master of horse to Henry V at Agincourt [not so.]. His brother was Sir Robert, whose wife was a lady of the garter [Order of the Garter]. Sir Robert was governor or constable of Pontefract Castle whilst Richard II was confined there; the deposed king died there in suspicious circumstances in February 1400. [see next column 'Richard II']

Sir Robert, had been master of horse to Henry IV. Sir Hugh Waterton, another brother, held high offices of state.

Charles Waterton [the Squire] was a descendant of William Waterton, Lord of Waterton, who died in 1255. In 1435 John Waterton [** not John but Richard, see The Wrong Waterton below.] married the heiress of Sir William Ashenhull, and became Lord of Walton and Cawthorne (a village near Barnsley).

Walton (near Wakefield in the West Riding) formed part of the Honour of Pontefract, which was held by Ashenhold, a Saxon thane.. It then passed to his son Ailric in the reign of St. Edward the Confessor [see Johns and Roberts.] St. Edward was the last monarch of the House of Wessex.

After the Norman Conquest it was given by William I, The Conqueror, to one of his supporters, Ilbert de Lacy #. Ilbert granted it back again to Ailric (a Saxon), father of Suein. Suein's son, Adam, was Lord of Brierley, Cawthorne and Walton. Adam founded the priory at Monk Bretton and left two daughters and co-heiresses, Amabil and Matilda. Amabil had Walton and Cawthorne and became the wife of William de Nevile.

[# de Lacy - see Roy A. Lacy's de Lacy Chronicles for a history of the de Lacy family.]

William and Amabil had one daughter and heiress, she married Thomas, the son of Philip de Burgh. Walton and Cawthorne remained in the possession of the de Burghs for seven generations. They then passed with the co-heiress, Joan de Burgh, of Sir John de Burgh to Sir William Ashenhull, whose heiress, Constance, conveyed it to John Waterton** in 1435 when they married.

"Thus Mr Waterton was twenty-seventh Lord of Walton, and sixteenth from John Waterton**, who acquired the lordship of Walton."

[End of ILN extract]


[** The wrong Waterton - but close! According to J.W. Walker's account it was Richard de Waterton, not John, who married Constance in 1435.
Richard was the son of John de Waterton, who was dead by the 5th November 1417. John had married Katherine de Burgh, her sister Joan de Burgh married Sir William Assenhull, Constance Assenhull was their daughter and Katherine was her aunt.
Richard died in 1479. (5). It is this sequence that is supported by more recent research. (6)]

Johns and Roberts

From which branch - the Squire's or the Methley Watertons?

red circle 1. The Squire's Branch (Corringham, Walton, Cawthorne & Penistone)

John de Waterton (b. before 1387 - d. 1417), the High Shefiff of Lincolnshire.

Of Corringham, Walton, Cawthorne & Penistone, ancestor of the Squire, Lord of the Manor of Corringham, Lincs.
He was the son of Richard de Waterton. He was the Constable of the Manor of Kirton in Lindsey, Lincs. and he was High Sheriff of Lincolnshire 1401 and 1409.

His brother was Richard.

This John was not Henry V's Master of Horse, that was Sir John of Waterton & Methley, see below.


blue circle 2. Waterton & Methley Branch

a. Sir John Waterton (b. after 1365 - d. after 1415), Esquire of the Body to King Henry V, but not the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, see John de Waterton, Corringham, etc., above.
He was the younger brother of Robert of Waterton & Methley (b.), who was the husband of Cecily, daughter of Sir Robert Fleming of Woodhall, Methley.
Esquire of the Body to King Henry V, Constable of the Castle of Windsor 28 Jan 1414, Banner Bearer and Master of the King's Horse and Armour at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

b. Robert Waterton (b. 1365 - d. 1424/25,
Constable at Pontefract Castle.

Older brother of Sir John above at (a.).
Lord of Waterton in the Isle of Axholme, Lincs. and Methley, Yorks. (alive in 1398, died 1424). Supporter of the House of Lancaster.

This Robert Waterton was Esquire of the Body to Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford (Henry IV).

He was Constable of the castles of Pontefract (1399-1425), Tickhill & Castle Donnington.

During Robert's tenure as Constable at Pontefract Castle, King Richard II (House of Plantagenet) was imprisoned, subsequently dying in mysterious circumstances, doubtless extremely unpleasant, in 1400.

Charles Waterton's Ancestry
from Waterton's Wanderings
edited by Rev. J.G. Wood
"Through distinct sources, Charles Waterton traced his descent several times over from St Matilda Queen of Germany, St Margaret of Scotland, St Humbert of Savoy, St Louis of France, St Ferdinand of Castile, Wladimir the Great of Russia and St Anne of Russia. Through his grandmother he was ninth in descent from Sir Thomas More." Rev. J.G. Wood (1)

The History and Topography of the Isle of Axholme, Rev. W.H. Stonehouse. The History and Topography of the Isle of Axholme
This ancient and honourable family can boast of ten belted knights, and has furnished three ambassadors to the court of France. They have also, as is evident from this brief sketch of their history, held many offices of great trust and importance under the Crown.

While we regret that the country should, under any circumstances, have been deprived of their services, we cannot but admire the fervour and sincerity of that piety which has led them to make such sacrifices, and to endure such losses and privations, for the sake of their religion. Nor is it easy to conjecture by what other motives they could have been actuated.

Many families complied with all the changes in ecclesiastical affairs, made by Henry the Eighth and during the reign of his son Edward the Sixth, enriched themselves out of the spoils of the Religious Houses, and afterwards, in the reign of Queen Mary, were reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. No such stain, however, can be cast on this honourable house, whose members have always been "Bold and true, Who fraud and falsehood never knew."

Extract from The History and Topography of the Isle of Axholme, by R.B. Stonehouse, 1839. (8)
■ Read the Waterton section in this book (pdf).

Papal Cross.
Staunch Roman Catholics

The Watertons suffered because they adhered to the Roman Catholic faith,
click here to find out more about the Watertons, the Church and the State
in the words of Charles Waterton himself.

1. Wanderings in South America, the North West of the United States and the Antilles in the Years 1812, 1816, 1820 and 1824, Charles Waterton, edited with additional material by the Rev. J.G. Wood, 1880. The account had been "revised by a member of the house".
2. Pontefract Museum (http://www.wakefield.gov.uk).
3. The Dictionary of Heraldry, Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees, Joseph Foster, Studeo Editions 1996.
4. General reference: The Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses, edited by Elizabeth Hallam, Bramley Books 1996.
5. The Burghs of Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire and the Watertons of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. J.W. Walker, OBE, FSA, The Journal of the Yorkshire Archaelogical Society, 1931.
6. Research by David Alexander Richard Waterton-Anderson, 2004. More information about David Waterton-Anderson and the Everingham connection.
7. Illustrated London News of 17th June 1865.
8. The History and Topography of the Isle of Axholme: being that part of Lincolnshire which is west of Trent. Rev. William Brocklehurst Stonehouse. Longman Rees Orme & Co., London 1839.

Coat of Arms from Walton Hall
Waterton Coat of Arms
from Walton Hall
(now removed)


Sir Robert Waterton
Sir Robert Waterton,
effigy in St. Oswald's Church,
Methley, West Yorkshire. (2)


Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter.
An order of knighthood, traditionally founded by the Plantagenet King Edward III in 1348.



Richard II
House of Plantagenet

There are two tales of how Richard II
met his death in Pontefract Castle. According to the Traison et Mort de Richard II he died in a savage fight with Sir Peter Exton and seven men who had been sent to kill him by Henry IV.
In Thomas Walsingham's account, Richard II seeing that all was lost, starved himself to death, dying on 14 February 1400. (Walsingham was the last great chronicler of St Albans Benedictine Abbey, he continued with his chronicle down to the death of Henry V in 1422.

Honour of Pontefract
The Honour of Pontefract


Hugh Waterton
bore this at the siege of Rouen in 1418.
The coat of arms is ascribed to Sir Robert Waterton.(3)


Anglo-Saxon Thane

a man granted land by the king or
nobleman for military service.
Ranks between a freeman and hereditary noble.


Edward the Confessor

St Edward the Confessor
(Edward, King of England, House of Wessex.)

c.1003 - 1066. Lived for a long period in Normandy. He was childless, a fact which ultimately led to the Norman Conquest. He founded a new Westminster Abbey. He was canonised in 1161.

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