HEYDON, Christopher (c.1560-1623), of Baconsthorpe and Saxlingham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1560, 1st s. of Sir William Heydon of Baconsthorpe by Anne, da. of Sir William Woodhouse of Hickling. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1576, BA 1579. m. (1) Mirabel, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Rivett, alderman of London, ?3s.; (2) Anne (d.1642), da. and coh. of John Dodge, wid. of John Potts of Mannington, 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 1594. Kntd. at Cadiz 1596.

Offices Held

High steward, Norwich cathedral; j.p. Norf. from c.1583, commr. musters 1597.


The Heydons, by the profits of ‘law and stewardship’, had, by the first half of the sixteenth century, built up extensive estates in Norfolk and Kent, their chief seat being that ‘spacious, sumptuous pile’, Baconsthorpe manor. Heydon himself was placed on the commission of the peace when still in his early 20s, and stood for the senior Norfolk county seat in the Parliament of 1586. He was defeated by his enemy Thomas Farmer but his father and his fellow deputy lieutenant (Sir) Edward Clere appealed to the Privy Council, who ordered a new election at which Heydon was returned. This was invalidated by order of the House, which seated Farmer, so Heydon did not sit in that Parliament. Two years later, after canvassing the support of the Gawdy family, he successfully gained the junior seat. On 17 Feb. the knights for Norfolk were appointed to a legal committee, and two days later it was put in Heydon’s charge. He was named to a conference concerning the Queen’s dislike of the purveyors bill, and was on the committee appointed 27 Feb. to consider the Queen’s message on this subject. He was appointed to a committee on a private matter (13 Mar.) and to a conference to urge a declaration of war on Spain, 29 Mar.

Next he quarrelled with his father, who wished to sell estates to repay part of £11,000 owing to London moneylenders. Heydon claimed that these had been entailed on him by his grandfather, Sir Christopher, and petitioned the Privy Council, which so angered Sir William that he decided to ‘put down, raze and deface his principal house called Baconsthorpe’. The Privy Council told him not to proceed in ‘this resolution’, but to ‘leave the same as you found it of your ancestors to your posterity’. In 1592, the matter was tried in the courts ‘by their mutual assent’, but it was never settled, as Sir William died in 1594, leaving Heydon a diminished patrimony and large debts to add to some £3,000 worth which he himself had accumulated. Heydon now plunged further towards ruin by attaching himself to the Earl of Essex, which at least brought him a knighthood. But court factions were reflected in county quarrels, and in 1600, Heydon, supporter of Essex, challenged (Sir) John Townshend, follower of Lord Howard of Effingham, and taxed him ‘in his private value and public service’. This led to a censure by the Privy Council, an injunction to keep the peace, and a duel between Townshend and Heydon’s brother, which lowered the family prestige still further. Heydon had introduced his brother John to Essex in 1599, for service in Ireland, and only absented himself because of ‘the death of four of my wife’s nearest friends and allies, all whose estates nearly concern mine’. His promise to Essex, that it would ‘not be long before I wait on you myself, with some testimony of my devotion’, was kept when he took part in Essex’s abortive rebellion of February 1601. Both Heydon and his brother were in Essex’s house and led his company ‘to Ludgate, and were there repulsed, and after shifted for themselves’. While Heydon was in hiding, his house and goods were seized by the sheriff of Norfolk. The ever watchful Privy Council, hearing of pillaging, ordered the restoration of the goods and the taking of ‘a perfect inventory’. Heydon was lucky to get off with a fine of £2,000. Baconsthorpe had to be mortgaged, the remainder of the estates were sold in 1614, and Heydon died intestate in 1623.

Blomefield, Norf. vi. 224, 504, 508; W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 341-2; H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 84; Lansd. 52, f. 201; 67, ff. 2-7; Add. 23024, f. 173; H. Trevor Roper, The Gentry 1540-1640 (Econ. H.R. Supp. i), 19; A. H. Smith thesis; D’Ewes, 396, 397, 433, 435, 440, 445, 454; APC, xxii. 160-1; xxiv. 11, 371-2; xxviii. 307; HMC Hatfield, ix. 24; x. 458; xi. 44, 88, 214; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 548; 1601-3, pp. 16, 111; 1603-10, p. 377; HMC Gawdy, 32, 71; N. and Q.(ser. 3), vii. 416.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: G.M.C.