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Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons

Magna Charta Baron Page
William De Huntingfield
A feudal baron in Suffolk

Huntingfield Shield

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WURTS’ MAGNA CHARTA provided a brief accounting of the feudal headquarters of some of the Magna Charta Barons. Some of the castles have been badly damaged. Some have disappeared entirely. Often we can learn of them through Medieval and Renaissance accounts, and some of them require the discerning eye of the archeologist. Others await the evidence brought out with a shovel and pick, by the trained archeological historian.

A portion of the information concerning Surety Baron WILLIAM de HUNTINGFIELD is as follows:

Dover Castle, the stronghold which William de Huntingfield held in the Barons' War, is a famous one, fulfilling the dream of the grim place of nameless cruelties and horrible prisons. It was built near the site of the ancient Roman Pharos or lighthouse. Legends attest that once William the Conqueror advised Harold to fortify it, then to deliver it up to the Normans when the time came, for it was a stout coastal defense. Harold was allegedly enticed to swear to do this, but if he did swear it, he took his oath lightly.

The Castle was completed by the son of Godwin, and was set high upon a rock above the sea. The rock was cut so that it was flush with the wall. By 1066 Dover Castle was thoroughly established, but there is no doubt that the wide encircling walls, the sturdy watch towers and massive keep are Norman. Even so, there were probably Roman and Saxon forts on the same site. The keep is believed to have been erected by Henry II about 1154. But the whole Castle, as we can envision it today, dates to a much earlier period.

WILLIAM de HUNTINGFIELD, the Surety, born about 1165, married Isabel Gressinghall, widow of Osmond de Stuteville. He was made constable of Dover Castle in 1204, and delivered up his son and daughter as hostages for his loyalty to the King. The son was to remain with the Earl of Arundel, the daughter with Earl Ferrers.

He was one of five wardens of the Ports of Norfolk and Suffolk from 1210 to 1212, and the following year he was one of the itinerant justices of Lincoln. He was high sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk until the end of 1214. He witnessed King John's grant of freedom of election to churches in 1214. He was governor of Sauvey Castle in Leistershire when he joined the cause of the Barons in arms against King John, and was excommunicated by the Pope. His lands were then given to Nicholas de Haya. According to the close and patent rolls he was one of the men actively in rebellion against King John before the issuance of Magna Charta. Very likely the cause of the Protector's severity toward Huntingfield was that he was one of those who plotted to have the Dauphin come to England and, after the Dauphin's landing, was very active in reducing the Courts of Essex and Suffolk to French authority. He fought at Lincoln 20 May 1217, and was taken prisoner by the King's forces. William had a daughter, Alice Huntingfield, who was married twice, but the name of her first husband has not been preserved. Her father paid the King a fine of "six fair Norway Goshawks," in the 15th of King John, for permission to marry Alice, his daughter, then a widow, to Richard de Solers. William de Huntingfield, the Surety, died 25 January 1220/1 on a Crusade.

Appreciation is expressed to Reed M. W. Wurts, one of the Heralds of the Society for furnishing the Baron’s Shield on this page.

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