Tag Archives: Camera of Adam of Jesmond

Dorothy of Heaton

‘Her funeral was the most remarkable ever seen on —‘

‘[The] obsequies were celebrated with great splendour and solemnity. Several thousand  Catholics were at her residence on the day of her death. A great banquet was provided by her son for all the neighbouring gentry and the poor received bountiful largesses of meat and money… ‘

‘Her body was transported on a barge surrounded by twenty other barges. The streets were lined  with lit tapers.’

‘At – the magistrates and alderman with the whole glory of the town, attended at the landing place to wait on the coffin before the interment at -.’

Not Mary Tudor, England’s Catholic queen – her burial was a MUCH more subdued affair – but even if we tell you that the words represented by dashes are ‘Tyneside’, ‘Newcastle’ and ‘All Saints’, you might struggle to come up with an educated guess. This is the story of a woman often referred to (if she’s spoken of at all)  as ‘Dorothy of Heaton’.

Catholic background

Dorothy Constable was born around 1580 probably at the home of her maternal grandfather at Wing in Buckinghamshire, (The estate is now a National Trust property) although her parents’ own home was Burton Constable in East Yorkshire, also now open to the public. The Constables were descended from a Norman knight who came to twelfth-century England and acquired an estate at Burton (later Burton Constable) by marriage. By the 16th century the estate comprised over 90,000 acres.

DorothyBurtonConstable_edited-1

Burton Constable Hall

Dorothy’s father was Sir Henry Constable (1559-1608) who, despite a marriage into a strongly Catholic family, was appointed a Justice of the Peace then Sheriff before serving in Parliament twice for the borough of Hedon, which was surrounded by his estates, and then Knight of the Shire for Yorkshire in 1589. His subsequent career is said to have been hindered by his wife’s religious convictions.

British School; Sir Henry Constable (c.1559-1608)

Sir Henry Constable (British School)

Dorothy’s mother was born Margaret Dormer, daughter of William Dormer of Eythrope, Buckinghamshire and his second wife, Dorothy Catesby. Margaret was described as ‘a beauty in the external, full of majesty, tall in stature, sweet in countenance, fair in complexion’. This is a portrait of her.

Gheeraerts the younger, Marcus, 1561/1562-1635/1636; Lady Margaret, Daughter of Sir William Dormer, Wife of Sir Henry Constable

Dorothy Constable nee Dormer by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

The Dormer family were staunchly Catholic. Persecution of Catholics had begun in the reign of Henry VIII but it was under Elizabeth I that the Recusancy Acts of 1558 became law. The acts imposed various types of punishment, such as fines, property confiscation, and imprisonment on those who did not participate in Anglican religious activity, This was the world into which Dorothy was born in around 1580.

About  200 Catholics are thought to have been executed during Dorothy’s lifetime for refusal to comply with or openly opposing religious restrictions. They  included 7th Earl of Northumberland, 1st Baron Percy, executed in 1572 after leading the 1569 Rising of the North, an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. But many were executed simply for being ordained or harbouring Catholic priests, an example being Margaret Clitherow, crushed to death in her home town of York in 1586. Indeed, when Dorothy was just twelve years old, her own mother was imprisoned and spent several  further spells in jail.

Heaton

On 10 March 1597, young Dorothy left Yorkshire to marry Roger Lawson, son of Sir Ralph Lawson of the Manor of Byker and Elizabeth Brough of Brough Hall, near Catterick. Roger’s mother had also been imprisoned for recusancy but then began to conform  as did Roger. However, it appears that Dorothy soon had converted most of the Lawson family, apart from Roger, who remained Anglican until his deathbed.

It seems that Dorothy became increasingly aware of the threat her activities posed to her in-laws and so, while Roger practised the law mainly in London, Dorothy moved with their children away from Brough to Heaton Hall, another property of the Lawson family, described as ‘a convenient house and reasonably good seat’.

Here, Dorothy is said to have arranged for a priest to say mass once a month in the house. This necessitated carrying him in by night and ‘lodging him in a chamber’. She gradually employed Catholic servants and raised her children as Catholics. What we don’t know is whether the still standing King John’s Palace / Camera of Adam of Jesmond was used by Dorothy and her family at this time or was it already a ruin?

King Johns Palace

House of Adam of Jesmond, built around 1255

Despite seeming to have lived apart much of the time, the Lawsons had at least fourteen children (Her biographer says 14 but reports the family as giving the number as 19) including: Henry, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Edmund, Catherine, Mary, Ralph, George, Margaret, John, Roger, Thomas, James and Anne.

Dorothy junior, born in Yorkshire in 1600, joined an English Augustinian convent in Louvain as a choir nun. She died there aged only 26.

In 1624, Margaret, born in Heaton Hall in 1607, joined a Benedictine convent in Ghent which had been founded just a year earlier. She became an ‘infirmarian, dean and prioress’ before she died in 1672. The convent was  politically active, supporting both Charles and James Stuart during their exile.

Mary, born in Heaton Hall in 1608, went to the same convent in Ghent, where she also died in 1672.

Ralph attended the English College, a seminary in Douai.

We don’t know much detail about the Lawsons’ life in Heaton, except that Roger was rarely here and there is a mention of a ‘visitation of sickness’, which seems to have taken place sometime between her husband Roger’s death in c 1614 and 1623. (There are independent references to outbreaks of coughs, colds and headaches in the north east between 1615 and 1617.)

St Anthony’s

In 1623, Dorothy moved her household to St Anthony’s near Walker. The name, still used today of course,  derives from the area being dedicated to St Anthony ‘in Catholic times’. A picture of the saint was said to have been placed in a tree near the river for the comfort of seamen. St Anthony’s at this time was apparently an ‘ infinitely more pleasant spot’ than Heaton and had the advantage to her of being more remote but with easy access by boat. There was, however, no house there. Dorothy had to have one built.

In this appropriate spot, the Lawson house became a dedicated refuge for Jesuit priests. Dorothy was said to have spent a lot of time in prayer and also examined local children on their catechism. Not only did she invite her tenants and neighbours to mass and visit other Catholic recusants in jail, seemingly even taking in their washing (although she certainly had servants so maybe this didn’t involve actually getting her hands wet!), she is also said to have tended the sick and the poor, often on horseback. ‘Because she was a widow herself, she kept a purse of tuppences for widows’ and, as a result, was highly thought of in the area. Whether because of her popularity locally or the remoteness of her home, Dorothy was never prosecuted for her religious activities.

But on 26 March 1632, aged 52, after 6 months illness, ‘a languishing consumption or cough of the lungs’, Dorothy died. The following day, according to her biographer, one of her sons invited the local gentry to dinner and, the day after, the poor of the neighbourhood were served with meat and given money. Her body was then carried to her own boat, which ‘accompanied by at least 20 other boats and barges, and above twice as many horse’  sailed towards Newcastle where ‘they found the streets shining with tapers, as light as if it had been noon’.

‘The magistrates and aldermen, with the whole glory of the town, which for state is second only to London, attended at the landing place to wait on the coffin, which they received covered with a fine black velvet cloth and a white satin cross, and carried it to the church door, where with a ceremony of such civility as astonished all (none, out of love for her and fear of them, daring to oppose it), they delivered it to the Catholics…  who… laid it with Catholic ceremonies in the grave….’   (at All Saints Church, an Anglican church).

DorothyAllSaints

Transcript of burials at All Saints including that of Dorothy Lawson

Charles I

National politics at this time might have been a factor in the liberal response of the authorities to Dorothy’s burial ceremony. Charles I was now on the throne and, at this point, seemed to be quite tolerant of Catholicism and even accused of being too close to non conformists.

Four years earlier he had prorogued parliament, whereupon MPs held the speaker down in his chair so that the ending of the session could be delayed long enough for resolutions against Catholicism and other matters to be read out and acclaimed by the chamber. Charles responded by dissolving parliament and had nine parliamentary leaders imprisoned over the matter turning them into martyrs. (Certain parallels with today became apparent in the course of this article being finalised!)

The year after Dorothy’s death, however, Charles appointed a new Archbishop of Canterbury and together they initiated a series of reforms aimed at ensuring religious uniformity. The courts once again became feared for their censorship of opposing religious views. There were riots and unrest when Charles attempted to impose his religious policies in Scotland. There were difficult times ahead for both Charles and Catholics.

Legacy

Naturally, miracles were attributed to Dorothy: her husband was said to have seen her in two places at once (working in the kitchen and at prayer in the bedroom) – though that would presumably have entailed him being in two places at once too! Her music was heard after her death and her rosary beads were said to have restored a sick woman to health.

It’s difficult to know the exact details of Dorothy’s life – and we haven’t yet even found any portraits of her or her husband, Roger Lawson, or illustrations of Heaton Hall or St Anthony’s at this time –  with contemporary impartial writing or even modern research about those with religious convictions not easy to find, but Dorothy seems to have been a strong, capable woman whose bravery at a time of religious persecution not generally considered to have been in doubt. She features prominently in academic works about this period and yet is forgotten in her own neighbourhood. As an early notable one time female resident of Heaton, we believe she deserves to be better known.

Can you help?

If you know more about Dorothy Constable, Roger Lawson or their family especially any contemporary images, we’d love to hear from you. Please either leave a reply on this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Chris Jackson, Heaton History Group.

Sources

A Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: exemplary lives / edited by Carole Leevin, Anna Riehl Bertolet, Jo Eldridge Carney; Taylor and Francis, 2016

Castle on the Corner: Heaton Hall and King John’s Palace / Keith Fisher, 2013

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/constable-sir-henry-15567-160

The Life of Mrs Dorothy Lawson of St Anthony’s near Newcastle upon Tyne / William Palmes; Dolman, 1855.

Solitary Sparrows: widowhood and the Catholic community in post-reformation England, 1580-1630 / Jennifer Ashley Binczewski; Washington State University Ph D submission, 2017

Who Were the Nuns? a prosopographical study of the English convents in exile 1600-1800 / Queen Mary University of London

Who’s Who of Tudor Women?

 

King John’s Heaton

2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which led us to wonder about the many references to King John in these parts. Did the illustrious King John actually visit Heaton? Why would he? There are no real clues in the street names, King John Terrace and King John Street. You can ascribe them to Victorian and Edwardian romanticism: it used to be common to name all manner of things after King John to give an allusion of antiquity. There are many examples all over England but there again, why here and not in Jesmond, Byker or Benton? Did a long-held folk memory come into play?

King John by Unknown artist

King John by unknown artist, oil on panel, 1590-1610 (by kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery).

The same explanation could be used to account for ‘Ye Well of King John’ in Heaton Park. Although the spring is natural and so presumably known to a few locals and passers-by back when the Magna Carta was signed, the structure and inscription we see today are the work of Lord Armstrong’s nineteenth century landscapers and we don’t know for sure whether the association with King John predates them. But did the Armstrongs have specific reasons for cementing the association? Most of the family archives were destroyed so we don’t know.

King John's Well, Armstrong Park

King John’s Well, Armstrong Park

As an aside, note the drinking cups in the photograph above. Who remembers them?

King John’s Palace

But the so-called King John’s Palace, also known as the ‘Camera of Adam of Jesmond’ was built much nearer to the reign of the king known as John Lackland.

Nineteenth century engraving of King John's Palace

Nineteenth century engraving of King John’s Palace

Photograph of King John's palace, 1929

Photograph of King John’s palace, 1929

There is documentary evidence that it was in existence by 1267 and there were apparently other buildings including a medieval manor house in the vicinity even earlier, so we asked Heaton History Group member and author of ‘Castle on the Corner’, Keith Fisher, to dig a little deeper. Over to Keith:

It was during my determined attempt to establish the existence of Heaton Hall as a medieval baronial manor-house, that I came face to face with our illustrious King John – a man vehemently but, in my view, wrongly maligned in the minds of a public familiar only with Shakespeare and the Robin Hood myth – and it was only then that I realised that Heaton really had been associated with King John back in the 13th century, when we had a fortified baronial manor-house on the doorstep.

John was crowned on the 26 May 1199 and reigned until his death on 19 October 1216. He was another example of our peripatetic monarchs; but unlike his predecessors, every letter that he ever sent (and obviously there were many: see the link below) was diligently and publicly recorded by the Chancery, and still exists to this day – so we know exactly where he was, and when. While in England, and not fighting in France (he spent about five years over there during his brief reign – but then he was French after all), he rarely sojourned for too long. Principally, because powerful barons, countrywide, needed to be constantly kept in check and paying their taxes: never popular with the locals. Up here John was yet another foreigner; we’d already had enough trouble with Vikings and Scottish kings, then William the Conqueror who sent his prissy son Curt-hose to build a castle and try to subdue us unruly elements; stuck between the Geordies and the Scots he wouldn’t stand a chance nowadays: one sad fop of a Frenchman would be found in the gutter on his first Friday night up here.

I did find medieval mention of Heaton Manor: in 1135 Henry 1st gave it [as part of the Barony of Ellingham] to Nicholas Grenville (a trusted Yorkshireman, by all accounts; quite probably related to Ralph de Glanville, who was Sheriff of Yorkshire and scourge of William the Lion of Scotland) and he passed it to his nephew William; they appear to have lived in Jesmond – presumably at Jesmond Manor. Both those Grenvilles died without issue, so after William Grenville it descended via the marriage of his sister Mabel into the hands of Ralph de Gaugi. Ralph’s old man, Sire de Gaugi, allegedly fought alongside William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings. I say allegedly, because the original Battle Abbey Rolls were lost (before and after lists of participants) so copies had to be made by monks – after the fact – when it is said that many noblemen ‘persuaded’ these monks to include their names on the list in order to reap the considerable rewards.

Because the seignory of a barony was not partible, but the manors were, Ralph’s eldest son, Ralph II, became baron and took the manor of Heaton, while his brother Adam got Jesmond Manor. Ralph II had a son, Robert, who inherited the title from his father and lived in the manor of Heaton. It is at all events certain that this Robert de Gaugy had special trust reposed in him by his sovereign John, who made him Constable of the castles of Lafford in Lincolnshire, and Newark in Nottinghamshire, and obtained for him the hand of an heiress, Isold Lovel, who brought him a considerable estate in the Bishopric of Durham.

There is no doubt that King John was up in Newcastle some of the time. A visit to the spectacular website: http://neolography.com/timelines/JohnItinerary.html (a truly exemplary reference work of the 21st century) shows him to be north of Yorkshire for a total of 84 days: in 1201 he spent two weeks moving between Hexham, Newcastle and Bamborough. In 1208 he was in Newcastle for a week. 1209 he was a week in Alnwick, a week in Newcastle, and a week up on the borders. 1213 he spent two weeks on the borders. Finally, in 1216, he spent the entire month of January fighting his way up from Durham into Scotland and back again; brave soul – it’s a wonder the weather didn’t see him off.

Of the issues that brought him up here, it was generally war with the kings of Scotland; but rebellious Northern barons demanded an endless assertion of his position of power, which meant supporting those men who were loyal to him and harassing those who weren’t; so, while constantly raising money for his ongoing war with France, much of his malevolence towards rebel barons was in the form of punitive taxation.

Kings of Scotland

The two kings maintained a friendly relationship until it was rumoured in 1209 that William (The Lion of Scotland) was intending to ally himself with Philip II of France. John invaded Scotland and forced William to sign the Treaty of Norham. This effectively crippled William’s power north of the border and, by 1213, John had to intervene militarily to support the Scottish king against his internal rivals.

In January 1216, John marched against William’s son Alexander II of Scotland who had allied himself with the rebel cause. John took back Alexander’s recent possessions in northern England in a rapid campaign that pushed him back as far north as Dunbar over a ten-day period; definitely saw him off – though-but!

The Northern Barons

The barons had seen their local powers much hindered through laws put in place by Henry II, then strengthened by Richard the Lionheart, that made everyone (except the crown – of course) subject to an independent justice which utilised local bailiffs, coroners and judges – and ultimately, the crown – rather than a judicial system administered by themselves. As I said: ultimately, the King could deal out justice – but was himself immune to it. A system of ‘Ira et malevolentia’ or ‘anger and ill will’ was a trend much used by John to punish those who did not wholeheartedly support him. Consequently, many accusations made against John during the baronial revolts are now generally considered to have been invented for the purpose of justifying said revolts; but there was no doubt that many of the barons rightly felt that if they had to come under the jurisdiction of the law – then so should the crown, which gave rise to one of the more crucial aspects of the Magna Carta.

However, John had his very strong and loyal ally in the North, and he lived in Heaton manor-house – when he was at home. It has been stated by historians in the past, and there is no doubt in my mind, that the king would have stayed at Heaton Manor when he was up here. The Keep in Newcastle was both uncomfortable and unsafe – he was constantly surrounded by English or Scottish enemies – and there is also the fact that his retinue and army was enormous, and could not possibly have camped within the city perimeter, so his marra’s gaff in Heaton was a perfect choice. It wasn’t the building we call King John’s Palace today – that was built between 1255 and 1265, 50-60 years later – but the manor house was a stone’s throw away. It was later incorporated into Heaton Hall by the Ridleys. The Hall, of course, as you can read in ‘Castle on the Corner’ stood approximately where Tintern Crescent is now.

In return for John’s trust and generosity, Robert de Gaugy remained faithful to his king right till the end – and beyond: King John died of dysentery at Newark Castle: protected by ‘Heatonian‘ Constable Robert de Gaugy. Very soon, ex-rebels and native loyalists were working easily together and finding a common interest and a common bond in unseating John’s foreigners: namely, breaking the grip which Robert de Gaugy, William de Fors, and Faulkes de Breauté still had on the sovereign’s administration. As Henry III tried to bring order to the country, Robert de Gaugy refused to yield Newark Castle to the Bishop of Lincoln, its rightful owner, leading to the Dauphin of France laying an eight day siege on behalf of the king in 1218. The siege was finally ended by an agreement to pay de Gaugy £100 to leave… and go back home with this booty; a true Geordie to the last!

Footnote:

Considering that the remains of a medieval manor-house were incorporated into Nicholas Ridley’s rebuild in 1713, I think it is telling that when, in 1778, Matthew Ridley decided to embellish this recent but distinctly unprepossessing squat, brick house – to give an appearance of feudal heritage – he ended-up with what looked exactly like a medieval, fortified, baronial manor-house.

Heaton Hall, illustrated in 1795

Heaton Hall, illustrated in 1795

Heaton Hall c1907

Heaton Hall c1907

Can you help?

if you know any more about the topic of this article, please get in touch either by leaving a comment on this website (Click on the link immediately below the article title) or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Castle on the Corner

If you’ve ever wondered where Heaton Hall stood, what it looked like, who lived there and when it was demolished, look no further. Heaton History Group member, Keith Fisher, has produced a gem of a book which is packed with information, painstakingly researched. Among the many fascinating drawings, photographs and maps, Keith’s modern photos, on which he has superimposed the hall, particularly stand out.

Cover of Castle on The Corner

The history of King John’s Palace (or The Camera of Adam of Jesmond as it’s now officially known) is inextricably linked to that of the hall and so the book gives two histories for the price of one.

Back cover of Castle on the Corner

And Keith brings the story up to date with a brief history of Tintern Crescent and Shaftesbury Grove, which now stand on the site of the hall’s grounds, and where Keith was born and grew up.

The 24 page, full colour, spiral-bound book costs £5.00 including postage and packing and is available from Keith Fisher. Email keithfisher@blueyonder.co.uk

It is also available at Newcastle City Library for £3.99.

And copies are on sale at Heaton History Group talks at a specially discounted price of £3.60 with £1 from every sale going to the group.