HEYDON, Sir Christopher (by 1519-79), of Baconsthorpe, 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. by 1519, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Christopher Heydon 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 Gray of Merton, 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 Long Melford, Suff., 1da. suc. fa. 11 Mar. 1541; gd.-fa. 16 Aug. 1551. Kntd. 1549.

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. 1547, q. by 1562, high steward of Norwich cathedral aft. 1557; jt. (with Sir Edmund Wyndham) ld. lt. Norf. from 1560, dep. lt. 1570, sheriff 1556-7, 1569-70, custos rot. from 1564.1


Heydon possessed over 30 manors in Norfolk as well as some property in West Wickham and other parts of Kent acquired by his ancestor Sir Henry Heydon, steward to Cecilia, widow of Richard Duke of York. It was this Sir Henry who built Baconsthorpe, the chief seat of the Heydons, the manor of Heydon, Norfolk, from which they originally came, remaining in the family until 1581. Heydon himself added to his estates by buying the site of Waborne priory with its extensive lands, and leased several manors in Norfolk from the dean and chapter of Norwich cathedral. In November 1561 he received a royal grant, for service rendered, allowing him to empark 200 acres of arable and the same amount of meadow land around Baconsthorpe, where he had a great reputation for hospitality. But for a late change of plan he would have entertained the Queen there on her East Anglian progress in 1578, and there too, at the other end of the social scale, ‘thirty head or master shepherds of his own flocks’ are said to have sat down to a Christmas dinner.2

Heydon was an active local official in the reigns of both Mary and Elizabeth, his name appearing on every important commission in Norfolk for both periods. Under Mary he no doubt conformed to Catholicism, as he and two of his sons were granted the reversion of the high stewardship of Norwich cathedral in October 1557, and he was just as conformable under her successor, advising the bishop of Norwich about the loyalty of justices to the protestant church in 1564, and sitting on the recusancy commission of 1572. In 1578 he supported Bishop Freake against a group of puritan justices. Yet he had in his library the radical Admonition to Parliament of 1574, and the preamble to his will, expressing his hope to be ‘among the elect number of salvation’, might be indicative of puritan leanings. Heydon’s tenure of the shrievalty coincided with the 1570 rebellion in Norfolk, the rebels intending to imprison him (and Sir William Butts) in Norwich cathedral. After the Duke of Norfolk’s disgrace in 1571, it fell to Heydon to take inventories of his possessions and make arrangements for the removal of his children to Essex. Heydon and Butts received the Privy Council letter to supervise the Norfolk election of 1571, and the two men served as knights of the shire. Heydon is not known to have spoken in the House, but he was named to a number of committees, including those concerning the subsidy (7 Apr.), the treasons bill (12 Apr.), procedure (26 Apr.), and the bill against great hosen (14 May). He was named to conferences with the Lords on 21 Apr., 10 May (bill of attainders, bill against bulls), and 21 May (increase of tillage, maintenance of the navy).3

By the time of his death at Baconsthorpe, 10 Dec. 1579, Heydon was in low water financially. He left debts of £2,400, to meet which all his stock and household goods were sold, together with land to the value of over £100 p.a. His will, dated the day before his death, and proved 27 June following, made generous—and presumably void—bequests to the Fishmongers’ Company, to the school which Sir John Gresham had endowed, and to Caius College, Cambridge. A daughter received £500, another £300, and annuities went to the younger sons. The plate included a gilt cup ‘which I had of the Queen for a new year’s gift’. His books were to go to Christopher, the son of his heir William, whose wife Anne was left extensive lands. William, already in debt to the tune of £3,500, was an executor, with his stepmother Lady Agnes and Miles Corbett; Heydon’s ‘very good lord the Earl of Sussex’ was appointed supervisor.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. E150/641/13, 648/4; C142/190/44; Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc.), ii. 188-90; Blomefield, Norf. vi. 507; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists , 84; APC, vii. 359-60; A. H. Smith, thesis, 100-1; SP12/93; A. H. Smith County and Court, 163-4.
  • 2. Blomefield, vi. 178, 244, 505-7; ix. 220; E150/641/13, 648/4; LP Hen. VIII, xxi(2), pp. 346-7; CSP, 1560-3, p. 219.
  • 3. APC, iv. 296, 307, 365, 416; Le Strange, loc. cit.; Add. 48018, f. 294v.; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 58; Strype, Parker, ii. 137; PCC 25 Arundel; CPR, 1569-72, p. 165; N. Williams, Duke of Norfolk, 177-80; Lansd. 14, ff. 150-1; Mason, Hist Norf. 155; D’Ewes, 159, 165, 178, 179, 182, 183, 187, 189.
  • 4. C142/190/44; Smith thesis, 195; PCC 25 Arundel; Lansd. 67, f. 2 seq.; Norf. Rec. Soc. i. 21-2; Blomefield, x. 27