HEYDON, Christopher (1518/19-79), of Baconsthorpe, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. 1518/19, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Christopher Heydon of Baconsthorpe by Anne, da. of Sir John Heveningham of Ketteringham. m. (1) by 1540, Anne (d.1561), da. of Sir William Drury of Hawstead, Suff., 3s. 4da.; (2) lic. 23 July 1563, Temperance (d.1577), da. of Sir Wymond Carew of Antony, Cornw., wid. of Thomas Grey of Merton, Norf., s.p.; (3) lic. 4 Oct. 1578, Agnes, da. of Robert Crane of Chilton, Suff., wid. of John Smith of Halesworth, Suff. and of Francis Clopton of Melford, Suff., 1da. suc. fa. 11 Mar. 1541; gd.-fa. 16 Aug. 1551. Kntd. 1549.1

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. 1547-d.; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1556-7, 1569-70; jt. (with (Sir) Edmund Wyndham) lt. Norf. 1560, dep. lt. 1570, custos rot. 1564-d.; high steward, Norwich cathedral aft. 1557.2

Biography

Christopher Heydon inherited landed wealth accumulated by a succession of long-lived ancestors, beginning with the John Heydon familiar from the Paston Letters. This John Heydon’s son Sir Henry acquired much land and built the house at Baconsthorpe. His son Sir John lived to a great age, outliving his own son Sir Christopher, so that Sir Christopher’s son and namesake had to wait until his grandfather’s death before succeeding to the extensive property in north-east Norfolk and the manors elsewhere in that county and in Kent.3

Heydon’s election as a knight of the shire when in his mid twenties and before attaining the headship of the family is the more unexpected in that, so far as is known, he was the first of his line since his great-grandfather to sit in Parliament and the first since its founder to do so for the shire. The fact that his kinsman and fellow-knight Sir Thomas Paston was similarly deficient in local standing suggests that both enjoyed some particular advantage. In Heydon’s case this is likely to have accrued from his first marriage, for the sheriff at the time of his election was his father-in-law Sir William Drury. Himself a Suffolk man, Drury would doubtless have secured the approval of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, with whom he had worked in the north; Heydon is not known to have served Norfolk, but his grandfather was to ask the duke to oversee the execution of his will, and a Lady Heydon, probably the younger Christopher’s mother, had an annuity of £3 6s.8d. out of one of the Howard manors. If Norfolk had any share in his election, Heydon’s inclusion in the jury which on 13 Jan. 1547, the day before the opening of the Parliament’s second session, found the Earl of Surrey guilty of treason may have signified more than his availability in London for that invidious duty.4

Heydon’s knighthood in 1549 could mean that he attached himself to the Earl of Warwick and in the succession crisis of 1553 he certainly began by rallying support for Jane Grey. His appearance on a list of men who were relied upon to do so is borne out by the action of Queen Mary’s Council in summoning him and Sir Edmund Wyndham on 18 July to repair to her headquarters, and commanding two others to mobilize the armed strength of the hundreds concerned notwithstanding orders by Heydon and Wyndham to the contrary; a week later they were ordered to come to London and to stay there during the Council’s pleasure. Although Sir William Drury had also appeared on the list in question, he was one of the first to declare for Mary and it may have been his influence that saved Heydon from penalty and turned him into a trusted local official of the new government. Pardoned in October 1553, Heydon quickly earned the thanks of the Council for tracking down certain ‘lewd talkers’ in Norfolk and thereafter gave no hint of disaffection.5

Heydon’s career under Elizabeth was to reflect similar shifts in attitude but they did not shake the pre-eminence which he enjoyed in the county until his death on 10 Dec. 1579.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558