HERON, Sir Gerard (d.1404), of Twizell, Northumb. and Eppleton, co. Dur.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

yr. s. and coh. of Sir John Heron (d. Mar. 1386) of Eshott, Northumb. and Eppleton by his w. Elizabeth (d. Oct. 1385); yr. bro. of William Heron, Lord Say (d.s.p. 30 Oct. 1404), steward of the household to Hen. IV (1402-4). m. (1) by 1385, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Cecily Taillour of Little Usworth, co. Dur.; (2) by Nov. 1399, Isabel, s.p. Kntd. by Jan. 1385.1

Offices Held

Commr. to arrest persons exporting wool to Scotland May 1380;2 array the men of Sir Henry Percy at Berwick-upon-Tweed Nov., Dec. 1385;3 execute statutes for the preservation of salmon, Northumb. Jan. 1386; receive ransom money from Robert II and Robert III of Scotland Dec. 1389, Mar. 1391;4 of inquiry, Northumb. Mar. 1392 (evasion of customs), Dec. 1392 (repair of defences at Bamburgh castle), Mar. 1393 (suicide), July 1393 (water supply at Bamburgh), Apr., Nov. 1396 (defences at Berwick-upon-Tweed and Roxburgh),5 July 1396 (concealments and evasions), Nov. 1396 (smuggling into Scotland),6 June 1399, July 1401 (estates of John del Chamber), Aug. 1403 (possessions forfeit from Sir Henry Percy); array Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Aug., Sept. 1403; oyer and terminer Nov. 1392 (evasion of customs); to prevent forestalling of wool supplies Mar. 1393; survey the estates forfeited by the Lords Appellant of 1388, Cumb., Northumb., Westmld., Yorks. Oct. 1397; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Northumb. May 1402; take oaths of loyalty to the Crown Aug. 1403.

Constable of Norham castle and steward, sheriff, escheator and c.j. of the bp. of Durham’s liberty of Norhamshire and Islandshire, Northumb. 14 Apr. 1385-20 Dec. 1395; justice of special assize, Norhamshire and Islandshire c.1389.7

Envoy to Scotland on various diplomatic missions 3 July, 2 Oct., 18 Dec. 1389, 1 Mar., 27 May-28 June, Dec. 1390, 12 Mar., 27 June, 13 July 1391, 26 Jan., 30 May, 20 July, 15 Nov. 1392, 27 June, 22 Aug., 26 Oct. 1393, 9 Feb., 20-27 Aug. 1394, 12 Feb., 6 May 1395, 16 Mar., 22 Sept. 1398, 14 Jan., 22 Oct. 1399, 7 Aug., 4 Dec. 1400, 18 Mar., 10 Apr., 1-28 Sept. 1401, 6 Aug. 1403.8

Chancellor and chamberlain of Berwick-upon-Tweed 4 Dec. 1391-d. 9

Supervisor of murage and pontage, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Roxburgh 2 Mar. 1392.10

J.p. Northumb. 12 Nov. 1397-1403.

Collector of customs and subsidies, Berwick-upon-Tweed 9 Dec. 1397-6 Dec. 1403.


A figure of some influence in the north, Sir John Heron owned the manors of Eshott, East Duddoe and Twizell, as well as extensive farmland in Tillmouth, Thornton, Clifton and Colwell in Northumberland, and the manor of Eppleton in the palatinate of Durham. He had at least three sons, who were presumably all of age by May 1369, when they together witnessed a grant of £5 p.a. made by him to a local chaplain. Four years later, in July 1373, Sir John succeeded Sir Nicholas Dagworth* in the five offices which gave him virtual control over the bishop of Durham’s liberty of Norhamshire and Islandshire. As constable of Norham castle on the Scottish border, he had a particularly important part to play in defending the north from raiding parties, and he often took up arms against the enemy. In 1378, for example, several members of the Heron family helped to recapture Berwick-upon-Tweed for the English, fighting under the command of Henry, earl of Northumberland. In the following year, which saw his first and only return to Parliament, Sir John decided to settle his manor of Twizell in Norhamshire upon his second surviving son, Gerard, the subject of this biography. Gerard had previously acted as a trustee of land in Great Chilton, in the palatinate of Durham, for his kinsman, John Bowes, but little else is known about him before this date. It seems likely that his father also gave him land in Tillmouth at the same time, his failure to obtain the necessary licence from his feudal overlord and employer, Bishop Hatfield, being overlooked as a special mark of favour. Towards the end of his life, Sir John divided up the rest of his estates on an equal basis between the two sons who remained to him, giving William, the elder, all the other Northumbrian properties and Gerard the manor of Eppleton with its appurtenances. By a series of deeds, drawn up in 1385, each brother secured a reversionary interest in the other’s holdings, a further entail being made upon their three young nephews in the event (as was to prove the case) of their both dying without issue. It was, however, upon Gerard alone that Sir John bestowed his offices in Norhamshire and Islandshire, with the full permission of Bishop Fordham, who confirmed the new appointment, for life, while at the same time excusing Gerard and his wife their unlicenced entry into Eppleton. Through his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter and coheir of Cecily Taillour, Gerard acquired other estates in the palatinate, comprising land in Helton (conveniently near his new manor of Eppleton) and half the manor of Usworth, so his income from property was already quite substantial.11

By the time of Sir John’s death, in March 1386, both of his sons had been knighted and both were busy pursuing careers in local government. Sir William represented Northumberland in the Parliaments of 1382 and 1385; and Sir Gerard had already served on at least three royal commissions in the north. Since their mother (or perhaps stepmother), Elizabeth, had predeceased their father by some six months, the problem of assignment of dower did not arise, and the two brothers lost none of their patrimony. Sir Gerard actually served as a juror at one of the inquisitions held to determine the extent of the holdings which Elizabeth’s previous husband, Sir Robert Eslington, had settled upon her, although he did not, of course, stand to inherit any of this property. Meanwhile, in July 1386, his name appeared on the list of Northumbrian gentry who were ordered by the Crown under threat of serious penalities to observe the truce with Scotland, although before too long hostilities had once again broken out on the border. We do not know if Sir Gerard fought at the battle of Otterburn, in August 1388, when the earl of Douglas inflicted a crushing defeat on the English, but he was certainly involved, from 1389 onwards, in almost every major round of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries for the next 14 years. It was in the spring of 1389 that he consolidated his influence in Norhamshire even further by promising 40 marks, in cash, for land in Scremerston, with additional guarantees worth 1,000 marks as an earnest of his good faith. The sale must have been transacted smoothly, for just a few months later Sir Gerard acquired other property from the same vendors in Bednell, Lilburn and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.12

Following what had by then become an established family tradition, Sir Gerard entered Parliament for the first time in 1391, and was still up at Westminster when Richard II made him chancellor and chamberlain of Berwick-upon-Tweed. His sterling work as a royal envoy to Scotland earned him a further reward in March 1393, with the grant of an annuity of 40 marks payable for life ‘for good service on the King’s messages and treaties in the north and in Scotland’. Sir Gerard’s various diplomatic missions brought him into close contact with John Mitford, who sat with him in four out of the five Parliaments to which he was returned. In February 1394, when both men were representing Northumberland in the Lower House, they joined in standing surety for a group of merchants from Berwick-upon-Tweed, whose ship had been driven ashore and confiscated at Yarmouth. Three years later, during the recess of the second 1397 Parliament, of which he was again a Member, Sir Gerard was appointed to serve as a collector of customs at Berwick-upon-Tweed. The post, which brought many opportunities for self-enrichment, was no doubt intended as a reward for his loyalty to the court party, now triumphant over its former enemies. Yet, despite his evident attachment to Richard II, who not only entrusted him with the task of surveying the northern estates confiscated from his old enemies, the Lords Appellant of 1388, but also gave him a seat on the Northumbrian bench, Sir Gerard was quite prepared to espouse the Lancastrian cause once resistance seemed hopeless. At the time of Henry of Bolingbroke’s return from exile, in the summer of 1399, Sir Gerard was probably on garrison duty at Roxburgh, where he had contracted to serve just a few months previously. His experience as a diplomat and crown servant made him invaluable to the new regime, which had great need of able administrators. His original fee of 40 marks p.a. was confirmed by Henry IV in October 1399, within a month of his coronation, and in the following August an additional allowance of £20 p.a. was made to Sir Gerard from the customs at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was, moreover, allowed to keep all the offices assigned to him by King Richard, and soon resumed the task of negotiating for peace with the Scots. In an act of remarkable generosity, King Henry even agreed to reward Sir Gerard and his colleague, John Mitford, for their work as ambassadors in the previous reign, assigning them a gift of 100 marks as recompense for their labour.13

Family connexions certainly made it easier for Sir Gerard to change allegiance so quickly and completely. His brother, Sir William, had acquired the title of Lord Say in the right of his first wife, Elizabeth Say, who died childless in the summer of 1399. His second wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Thomas Butler* of Sudeley, added further to his prestige, although his most important source of influence came through his close relationship with Henry IV himself. From the very beginning of the new reign, Sir William was despatched on a number of important missions overseas, and in June 1402 he became steward of the royal household. He was thus well placed to help Sir Gerard in his dealings with the house of Lancaster, which were clearly amicable from the start. Sir Gerard’s life at this time was eventful in many respects, as he, too, remarried in 1399, obtaining a papal licence for the remission of sins at the hour of death for himself and his new bride. Although he had surrendered his various offices in Norhamshire some years previously, a quarrel had continued between him and Sir Nicholas Dagworth, who, as a former occupant of these posts still laid claim to over £63 in unpaid revenues. In December 1400, Sir Gerard obtained a writ of supersedeas from the Crown, temporarily halting the action, and two years later he was pardoned the outlawry which he had incurred for failing to appear in court when being sued by Sir Nicholas.14 Meanwhile, in the spring of 1400, Sir Gerard and two of his kinsmen gave evidence at an inquisition post mortem held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the estates of their neighbour, Sir Henry Heton. Being a figure of such authority in the local community, Sir Gerard was naturally one of the representatives for Northumberland summoned in August 1401 to attend a great council at Westminster. He had, indeed, just sat for the county in his fourth Parliament, and was to serve again, albeit for the last time, in the following year. His status in the north is reflected in a variety of private and semi-official transactions undertaken at this time. In February 1402, for example, he offered sureties that the prior of Tynemouth would abide by the terms of a royal licence permitting him to ship grain; and a few months later he agreed to act as a trustee of Sir Thomas Gray’s* castle and manor of Wark in Northumberland. It was in his capacity as a feoffee that Sir Gerard became involved, on behalf of Sir William Tempest, in a dispute over the manor of Washington, which was submitted to the arbitration of the bishop of Durham. Bishop Skirlaw took recognizances from him on other occasions, too, but their purpose is not now clear. The marriage of John Manners* to Agnes, the sister of Sir John Middleton*, saw the alliance of two important marcher families, and Sir Gerard was called upon to witness the settlement made, in February 1403, on the day of their wedding.15

Like his brother, Lord Say, Sir Gerard remained staunchly loyal to the government during the rebellion mounted in the north, in the summer of 1403, by the Percys and their adherents. He may, perhaps, have helped to crush the insurgents at the battle of Shrewsbury in July; and he certainly played a major part, along with his old friend, John Mitford (who had by now been knighted), in restoring order afterwards in Northumberland. He, his brother and Mitford were together present at a council meeting held at Durham priory on 25 Sept., when detailed plans were laid for the surrender of the earl of Northumberland’s castles in the north. Sir Gerard was assigned temporary custody of Alnwick (which Lord Say actually received on behalf of the King), while Mitford took possession of Warkworth castle. Sir Gerard was with him when the earl’s constable surrendered the keys, although he had, up to then, been busy taking oaths of loyalty from the county gentry. Henry IV was naturally anxious to reward those who had stood by him, and in November Sir Gerard and Mitford shared a grant of the wardship of the estates of another member of the family, Thomas Heron.16

Sir Gerard died, in or shortly before July 1404, while probably still involved in litigation over a debt of £10 which he had claimed in the previous year from two local men. Since he left no children, his estates passed to his brother, Lord Say, who survived him by no more than a few months. Their nephew, Nicholas, the son of Sir John Heron, thus inherited all the property which had been shared between them.17

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix (7), 232-6; DKR, xxxii. 305; xlv. 216-17; CIPM, xvi. no. 251; Newcastle-upon-Tyne Rec. Ser. vii. 97, 102; CPL, v. 229; CCR, 1385-9, p. 384.
  • 2. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 22.
  • 3. Ibid. 76, 78.
  • 4. Ibid. 102, 110.
  • 5. Ibid. 131.
  • 6. Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. no. 572.
  • 7. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix (7), 232; DKR, xxxiii. 63.
  • 8. Rot. Scot. ii. 98, 101, 103-5, 107-9, 112, 115-18, 121-3, 125-7, 142, 146, 151, 155-6, 159, 164; Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. nos. 396, 409, 502, 554, 589; PPC, i. 27, 33; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 351; Dip. Corresp. Ric. II (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlviii), nos. 167, 179; Letters Hen. IV, i. 15, 61-64.
  • 9. Rot. Scot. ii. 113; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. nos. 909, 916.
  • 10. Rot. Scot. ii. 115.
  • 11. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix (7), 232; Newcastle-upon-Tyne Rec. Ser. vii. 97, 102; DKR, xxxii. 305, 316-17; T. Walsingham, Hist. Angl. ed. Riley, i. 388; R. Surtees, Durham, i. 217; iii. 288; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xxi. 81-82.
  • 12. CIPM, xvi. no. 251; CPR, 1385-9, p. 384; Rot. Scot. ii. 84; CCR, 1385-9, p. 670; 1389-92, pp. 79, 132; DKR, xxxiii. 80.
  • 13. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 240, 244; 1399-1401, pp. 30, 331; 1401-5, p. 103; CCR, 1392-6, p. 206; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. no. 894; J. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. i. (2), 48; E404/16/397.
  • 14. J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, i. 126, 259, 369, 397; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix (7), 234-6; CPL, v. 229; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 291; CPR, 1401-5, p. 142.
  • 15. C137/1/4; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 44, 182; PPC, i. 157, 160; DKR, xxxiii. 62, 66; HMC Rutland, iv. 74.
  • 16. PPC, i. 211, 213-14; CFR, xii, 235-6.
  • 17. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), vi. 67; DKR, xlv. 216-17.