garner FitzAlans and Eatons

The FitzAlans and Eatons in

The County Palatine of Cheshire, England

By Alan Garner, Eaton Hall, Blackden, Cheshire




It starts, since we must start somewhere, fairly arbitrarily in the township of Wimbolds Trafford in the Hundred of Roelau, in Domesday, now the modern Hundred of Eddisbury, Cheshire. At an early period, this township became annexed to the estates of the FitzAlans, Earls of Sussex. (It is not possible, under English law, to be the Earl of anything but a County. Cheshire is peculiar, in that it is, properly, "The County Palatine of Chester.") The FitzAlans held the township in right of their court at Dunham, under whom the Bruyns of Bruen Stapleford held the manorial estate of Wymbolds Trafford in the reign of Henry III. IPQ [Inquisition post mortem] 35 Edward III [1362]: Roger de Bruyn holds jointly with his wife, Lucia, a fourth part of the lordship of Wymbaldestroghford from Richard, Earl of Sussex, by military service.


Dunham on the HillThe FitzAlans, connected by marriage to the Earls of Chester, appear to have been the first grantees of this manor. Dunham now became head of an extensive local seigniory, comprising the manors of Alvanley, Helsby, Mickle, Trafford, Wimbolds Trafford, Hoole and Hapsford. John FitzAlan, between 1208 and 1226, confirms an alienation of Alvanley to Philip de Orreby, as capital lord in right of Dunham, John had earlier assigned to his mother, Matildis de Verdun, "domina de Arundel," all his rights in the manor of Troghford, as a dower, but she gave them back to him. John died in 1226 or 1229. He was the son of William FitzAlan, Baron of "Clun and Oswaldestre," and married Isabel, sister and heir of Hugh de Albini (d.1243), whose elder brother, William (d.1235), married Mabel, daughter of Hugh, Earl of Chester John's line descends as follows: John (b.14 Sept. 1245, d.20 March 1272), married Isabel, daughter of Roger Mortimer, who survived him and married secondly Ranulph de Arderne, and died at Marham, 1282 John left issue Richard FitzAlan, (b.2 Feb. 1265, d.1301) Richard's sister, Alianor, married successively Sir Richard de Arundel and Henry, Lord Percy. By his wife, Alisia, daughter of the Marquis of Saluzzo, Richard FitzAlan had: Edmund FitzAlan, Earl of Sussex, who was taken prisoner at Shrewsbury (by means of Roger, Lord Mortimer), and was beheaded at Hereford, or possibly Bristol. 20 Edward II [1327]. Richard FitzAlan, son of Edmund, subsequently recovered his estates and was restored in blood by Edward III. This Richard granted in trust to Thomas Yonge, escheator of Cheshire, the manors of Hoole, Mickle Trafford, and Dunham, 29 Edward III. [1345] Richard's son, Richard, Earl of Sussex, was born 1347/8, and was beheaded for treason 21 September 1397 His son, Thomas, Earl of Sussex, died without issue, at Agincourt, 13 October 1415, and was buried at Arundel. He held in demesne, as of fee tail, Stony Dunham and Mykull Troghford from the King as Earl of Chester, by military service. The line continued, through male cousins, but does not concern this present account, except to add as an aside that the Talbots later acquired a good part of the estates of FitzAlan above.

The other townships mentioned at the start are all similarly intertwined feudally, but what they add to the drive of the story must wait. The exception is Alvanley. The Earls of Chester removed the Domesday Saxon holder of Alvanley, Leuric, and took the place briefly into their own hands; but by the time of King John the FitzAlans were lords of Alvanley. Philip Orreby the Elder, afterwards Justice of Chester, bought the entire vill from the FitzAlans between 1208 and 1226, and John FitzAlan confirmed the sale to him by charter. The witnesses were: Lord Hugh, Abbot of Chester; Warin de Vernon; William de Venables. Philip de Orreby, son of the above Philip, married Leuca, daughter and sole heiress of Roger de Montalt, and of his wife, Cicely, the daughter and eventual coheiress of William, Earl of Sussex. Philip had one child, a daughter, who married Walkelin de Arderne, son of Sir John de Arderne of Aldford. By this match with Orreby, the Grosvenor MSS. authenticate this connection with the Orrebies (leading through coheiresses to the blood of the Earls of Sussex and Chester, and the Dukes of Normandy. All that needs to be recorded here is that the Ardernes had always been powerful, and remained so for centuries hereafter -- and that, the IPM of Sir John de Arderne of Alford and Alvanley, record that he married 23 Edward III [1350], as second wife, Joan, or Jane, daughter and coheir of Sir Richard de Stokeport, Baron Stokeport, and widow of Sir Nicholas de Eton. She bore: 1. Sir Nicholas de Eton, who died without issue (4 Edward III [1331]); 2. Robert de Eton, living, married to Isabel (14 Edward III [1341]); 3. John de Eton (all died without issue); 4. Richard de Eton, whose only child died in infancy; 5. Cecily de Eton, who married John de Arderne but was divorced by him (he died without issue), and she married Sir Edward Warren of Poynton. All the preceding has been a prologue to Pulford.


Pulford, in Domesday, was divided between the secular canons of St. Werbugh [Chester Cathedral-to-be] and Hugh FitzOsborne. Within a generation or two, Hugh's portion had itself been divided between the Ormesbees (who are said by some authorities to be the same family as Orreby, but spelt differently. [In the end it doesn't matter, unless your hobby is counting angels on the heads of pins.]); and they are the same family as the Pulfords.


The Pulfords were the blood descendants of Hugh FitzOsborne, who was himself the son of Osberne FitzTezzon, who was the direct ancestor of the Boydells. The estates of Ormesbee/Orreby and Pulford were united by a grant of Ralph de Ormesbee, 28/9 Henry III [1245], to Robert de Pulford, of the castle of Pulford, and all the lands within and without the vill of Pulford, for his homage and service. (Grosvenor MSS, XXI, 5, p.102.)


Brother, and/or cousin, of this Robert was Hamo(n) de Pulford, the ancestor of the Etons of Eton. Hamo was followed by three successive Roberts [this may be where the missing Robert (De Eyton) is hiding], the last of whom was father of John de Pulford, in whom the male line failed, but was carried on by a cadet line who had retained the name of Orreby, not Ormesbee and had quietly been getting on with begetting. This produced a confusion that must be mentioned but is too tortuous to unravel here. In 1190 and in 1210, Richard, son of Richard de Pulford, was a grantee of Orreby lands; and in the reign of Richard I, or possibly John, Herbert de Orreby granted land to Richard de Pulford and his wife Sibil; then, in 1261, Fulk de Orreby granted land to "Sybil de Pulford widow". The logic, though tortuous, leads to the conclusion that the one Richard was identical with the other. To the point: Richard-the-son was the direct ancestor of the Eton Pulfords, by marriage to the heiress of the original Etons of Eton.


That is so complex that it should be stated more simply. However, simplicity does not do away with accuracy. A family tree would have a main trunk as follows: Richard de Pulford, alias de Orreby has a son, Richard, who marries Sybil, daughter of William, son of William de Eton, and heiress of her brother William de Eton. Their son is Hamo(n) de Pulford, whose son is Richard de Pulford, ancestor of the Etons of Eton. And it is here that heraldry is clearer than language. And so to Eaton . . .


The main candidate for the first mention of this place name is in "Codex Diplomaticus", vol. vi, pp.253; which describes how Leofric, duke of Mercia [husband of Godiva], in 1043 granted by charter to the monks of Coventry: "Eton iuxta aquam quae dicitur Dee in Cestriae provincia": "Eton next to the water that is called Dee in the county of Chester."


In Domesday, Eaton is held by Ilbert; but not for long, since, by implication, the Pulfords were soon in the saddle. The implication lies in a Pulford's grant of land in Eaton within three generations; and in order to be able to give land away you must first possess it; which, in this case, would mean not long after Domesday. Eaton came to the Pulfords through grants by the Pichot and Rullos families, who were the immediate male descendants of Domesday Ilbert.


The potential for further confusion in Eaton lies in the strong implication that there was, quite normally, a family called Eaton living there who were in no way related to the main Eaton power that became established through Pulford. The convergence of Pulford/Eaton is best done by a family tree.


William de Eton, lord of Eton (and called son of William) fails immediately in the male line, and his daughter, Sybil de Eton, living a widow 1261, had married Richard de Pulford, alias de Orreby, who was the son of Richard de Pulford, alias de Orreby, known 1190, alive 1210 and 1220. From them: Hamon de Pulford, lord of Eton, living 1217 and 1286. From him: Richard de Pulford, alias de Eton, lord of Eton. From him: Richard de Pulford alias de Eton, living 1300. From him: Richard de Eton, lord of Eton, with whom the name of Pulford stopped. And so on, until the present wealthiest individual in Britain, the Duke of Westminster. (And he earns every penny.)



The family known as Eaton is ancient and well attested. However, it would be confusing to think in modern terms that the first-mentioned Eaton is the earliest. We have to remember that we are dealing with a feudal society of extraordinary complexity. To take a name could be an act of fealty, an act of opportunism, an act of prudence. Here is where heraldry reigns, because the laws of heraldry are stringent, and are explicit in their visual detail and imagery. It is noted in the Grosvenor MSS. that the Etons, Pulford and Boydells bore the same coats of arms, with their heraldic "differences," but all are variations of the cross patonce: the square cross with trefoil ends to the arms. It is said that the three families did this to show their lineage direct. This has survived most categorically in the Boydell line, simply because of the happy chance of history. The cross patonce belongs to Osbert FitzHugh, to his father Hugh FitzOsberne, to his father Osberne FitzTezzon, who came from Normandy in 1066. There is one objection here, which has to be accepted, but can then be set aside, with reservations.


The objection is that the earliest known example of a heraldic device dates from 1128, in France. So it is, strictly, not possible to say that the Cheshire Anglo-Norman families are, at the time we know them to have been active, connected on the evidence of their shared heraldic coats. However, the date of 1128 can't have sprung out of nothing. The device is a fully developed piece of heraldry; and so it is fair to argue that heraldic coats were in use in Cheshire at the time of Domesday (1086), although no heraldic decoration is to be seen on The Bayeux Tapestry, which was embroidered by English women. We should look at the list of townships involving the heraldic "kin" on the map. Something then becomes plain. The townships are strategically placed for the defense of the Cheshire boundary between England and Wales. And the toughest man held the hottest seat in Cheshire. I don't want to say much about this until you have responded to the names I slung at you, other than that I think the resolution of your being self-styled "stuck" in Shropshire may lie here. The Baron of Malpas, Robert FitzHugh in 1086, held Malpas. Although it is not stated in Domesday, the Grosvenor MSS record him as holding Eaton, too, before the Orreby/Pulfords were in charge. This is not the conflict that it may seem. Robert had plenty to chew on without taking rents from Eaton. A plausible reason for his having a finger in the pie is that he could call on men to help him look after his estates in Cheshire and Shropshire. His coat of arms was a cross patonce, at its plainest, which is always a sign of seniority. The various cadet lines had to "difference" themselves. Big Daddy had no need. My "best fit" working hypothesis at the moment is that there was a knitted family of nobles who had every reason to look after each other, both at home and in battle. They were an élite, with whom nobody messed. They had castles at Malpas, Doddleston, Alford and Pulford. On the ground, it all makes military sense. But what can an Eaton get from all this apart from indigestion? Quite a lot, I'd say.


On the present evidence, and the evidence that is coming together, any Cheshire or Shropshire Eaton, who can produce documentary proof of origin in that area, must be a direct descendent of that gang of frontier Viking thugs. I find it immaterial, and futile, to go chasing after any given scrap of royalty. Whether an Eaton should be a Pulford, an Orreby, a Boydell or a FitzAlan is nit picking of the most blinkered kind, which prevents the wider, more wonderful landscape from unfolding. I shall, no doubt, change my mind when the next bit of vellum appears and undoes my world. But, until then, I don't think that better can, or should, be done. It is one enormous story that any Eaton should embrace with joy. I do, and I merely live in one of their halls.


Editor's Note (Rick Eaton): Alan Garner, a former Oxford scholar, lives at Eaton Hall, near Goostrey, in Cheshire, UK. He was born in Cheshire in 1934. Goostrey is near Alderly Edge, the setting for most of his mythological fantasies, most popular in the U.K. and, unfortunately, not as well known in the U.S. Because of his intense interest in the people, history and lore of the setting for his works (Cheshire), including his own modernized, 15th century home, Alan has taken an interest in the Eatons and has been generous in sharing information and offering guidance to us. He is a close friend of our Association's (acting) president, Rick Eaton, who requested and received permission to reprint the above essay. Rick indicates that, again with permission, he intends to post other informative information and comment provided by Alan as our web site progresses. Garner does not believe the Stockport Eatons referenced in this essay are actually Eatons and has successfully presented that position against some assertions to the contrary. His research, including inspection of an original deed, suggests to him that the writing of the name Stone was mistaken as Eaton and, possibly, since the latter name was of considerable importance in Cheshire, the Warwickshire Stone elected to keep the misnomer. Also, he looked at the question from the perspective of heraldry found that his conclusion was supported by armorial bearings.

The following novels to his credit, including his first, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Others are: The Moon of Gomrath (1963), Elidor (1965), The Owl Service (1967), Red Shift (1973) and The Stone Quartet (1988). Other work includes a collection of stories, A Bag of Moonshine (1986) and works of short fiction, Feel Free (1967) and The Edge of the Ceiling (1978). Working with archaeologists in his home country, Alan is conducting a dig on the grounds of his Blackden property, with evidence to date suggesting a documentable history dating to the Iron Age.


P.S.: As a tribute to the contributions made by Alan Garner, not only for this essay, but also for his support of all our association's genealogical endeavors, I would like to pass on the following letter sent recently to Mr. Garner:


"Dear Alan:

On behalf of the Eaton Family Association and as a result of receiving word from Don Eaton of his receipt of a unanimous vote approving a motion to this effect, I am delighted to announce to you that you have been elected a non-voting Honorary Member of the Eaton Families Association.

No other person has been accorded this honor and I seriously doubt that any other will achieve such status in the near future.

While this award is clearly in recognition of your benevolent interest in and support of Eaton Families genealogical study, the motion recommending the award gave no reason for it; that is, the reasons were so obvious and compelling, and underlying regard for you so high, that no explanation was needed.

I might add that the good character, clear vision and sensibilities of the Eaton peoples is evidenced by the unanimous vote.

It is important to note that your name will be listed among Charter (founding) Members (which membership will no longer be available after June 30) on the Association web site,
indicating also your honorary status.

You will otherwise be entitled to all benefits and privileges of Membership, including unobstructed access to the web site and its archived material, receipt of the newsletter and use of the chat room and bulletin board features.

The web site will be launched on June 30. The URL will be; also  Either may be used.

We have been enhanced by your generosity and now, and in the future, we may be proud to have you with us as an honored member of our family circle.

Rick Eaton"


Eaton Families Association