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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 JOHN FITZROBERT is as follows:
JOHN FITZROBERT, the Surety, married Ada Baliol, and in her right became lord of Barnard Castle, whose founder was Barnard Baliol. The Castle is now a scanty ruin, but the remaining walls stand high on a cliff scarped, so that wall and bank are one, dropping down to the River Tees. The Castle looms over the town, and may be approached through a gate in the yard of the King's Head Inn.
The date of the Castle's founding is between 1112 and 1132. The keep, known as Baliol's Tower, stands fifty feet high and served as a background for Sir Walter Scott's Rokeby. The surrounding property extends over six acres.
This same Surety, FitzRobert, was also lord of the handsome Warkworth Castle in the border country of Northumberland. It is an excellently preserved fortress built, at the earliest, in the 12th Century. It is situated near the mouth of the Coquet River. One approaches it from a double arched bridge and finds that it is bounded on three sides by water. The walls, gateway and Great Hall are intact, as are the Lion Tower of the 13th Century and the 14th Century keep. Robert FitzRichard probably added to it in Henry II's reign. It became the property of the Percy family in the reign of Edward III, and is now held by the Dukes of Northumberland.
When the Barons met at Saint Edmondsbury, John FitzRobert, the Surety, was still loyal to King John and was, with John Marshall, joint governor of the Castles of Norwich and Oxford. Subsequently he joined the insurrection, and took such a prominent part that his lands were seized by the King. He returned allegiance in the next reign, his Castles and vast estates were returned to him, and he was constituted high sheriff of co. Northumberland and governor of New-Castle-upon-Tyne. He died in 1240, the same year as his father. The monk, Matthew Paris, records: "In this year died John FitzRobert, a man of noble birth, and one of the chief Barons of the Northern provinces of England."
Appreciation is expressed to Reed M. W. Wurts, one of the Heralds of the Society for furnishing the Barons Shield on this page.