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Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons

Magna Charta Baron Page
John De Lacie
Lord of Halton Castle, Cheshire

Lacie Shield

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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 de LACIE is as follows:

The Lacie strongholds on the Welsh border are Beeston, Chester and Halton Castles. Beeston is now a crumbling ruin. It is hard even to identify the keep, but it could be the large wall tower East of the gate house. The Castle is perched on a height bounded on three sides by sheer drops, and a steep slope on the fourth. Its strength as a defense lay in its inaccessibility. There are two baileys, the innermost on a summit and the other situated on the sloping ground. The inner bailey was guarded on the approachable side by a gate house, two wall towers and a ditch thirty-five feet wide and thirty feet deep, which cut across the promontory. It is important to note that the artificial ravine was fashioned two hundred fifty years before blasting was known. The date of founding was in the 13th Century, and it was founded by Randolph de Blondevill, Earl of Chester.

Chester was the last City to yield to William the Conqueror, and the surrender came in 1070. Once the Normans had the Castle, William's nephew, Hugh Lupus, Palatine Earl of Chester, was appointed as head of the border patrol.

Chester Castle was originally built by the first Norman Earl of Chester, and now consists of modern buildings, the assize-court, jail and barracks. The one remaining Norman relic is "Julius Caesar's Tower," standing by the River. It is a square tower which has been used as a powder magazine, but is scarcely recognizable as a Norman building, because it has been recently recased in red stone. With the exception of this tower, another of the round style, and adjacent buildings in the upper ward, the Castle was dismantled at the end of the 18th Century. From Julius Caesar's Tower one can see the ruins of Beeston Castle, which met a like fate in 1646. Of Halton Castle nothing is left. But Lincoln Castle, on the other side of the Island(l, is an important monument.

Lincoln was the fourth City of the Realm when the Normans invaded, and it seemed to William to be a logical site for a castle. The Domesday Book states that one hundred sixty-six houses were torn down to make way for it. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle held that on his return to York in 1068, William erected the Castle on the site of a Roman fort. Since the land was rather flat, a great bank was built up around it. There are two mottes, the larger one crowned by a polygonal shell wall, which may have been built by Ralph de Gernon's widow. In 1140 King Stephen captured the Castle and, in 1216, the Surety Barons had charge of it.

JOHN de LACIE, the Surety, born 1192, seventh Baron of Halton Castle and hereditary constable of Chester, was one of the earliest Barons to take up arms at the time of Magna Charta. He was also appointed to see that the new statutes were properly carried into effect and observed in the counties of York and Nottingham. He was excommunicated by the Pope. Upon the accession of King Henry III, he joined a party of noblemen and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, rendering valuable service at the Siege of Damietta.

In 1232 Lacie was made Earl of Lincoln and, in 1240, governor of Chester and Beeston Castles. He died 22 July 1240, and was buried in the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw in co. Chester. The monk, Matthew Paris, records: "On the 22d day of July, in this year (1240), which was St. Magdalen's Day, John, Earl of Lincoln, after suffering from a long illness went the way of all flesh." His first wife was Alice, daughter of Gilbert 'd’Aquila, but by her he had no issue. She died in 1215 and he married second, after his marked gallantry at the Siege of Damietta, Margaret, only daughter and heiress of Robert de Quincey, a fellow Crusader, who died in the Holy Land, eldest son of Saire de Quincey, the Surety. They had three children, Lady Margaret survived him and married second Walter Marshall, Earl of Pembroke.

Appreciation is expressed to Reed M. W. Wurts, one of the Heralds of the Society for furnishing the Baron’s Shield on this page.

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