Hilton Family History

This is not my work. It is the work of the genealogist Eric William Lamberton of England who passed away on August 3, 2011. It is preserved here exactly as he presented it in appreciation of his work, and as a memorial to him. - David Hilton

Ancestry of the family of 


The family of Hylton - Helton - Hilton originates from Monkwearmouth on the north bank of the River Wear in North East England, where Hylton  Castle still stands.

It is situated three miles from Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.

William Hilton of Biddick, near Monkwearmouth was aboard the ship the "Fortune" which sailed for America in 1621 A.D., the year after the "Mayflower" had sailed.. The "Fortune", only 55 tons with 35 passengers on board left England in July 1621 A.D, but did not arrive at Plymouth in America until November 10th. They found that half of the settlers who had sailed on the "Mayflower" had died during their first winter.

"They found the settlers in very low condition - many were ragged in apparel and some little better than half naked. The best dish they could offer their friends was a lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of fair spring water"

It was the arrival of "Fortune" which ensured the future of the first settlement at Plymouth. The Mayflower had returned to England empty, but it was the "Fortune" with a "cargo of good clapboard as full as she could stow, and two hogsheads of beaver and other skins" that sailed back to England and proved the viability of the settlement;

This is the letter that William Hilton wrote to his cousin Anthony Hilton of South Shields after arriving on the "Fortune" in 1621 A.D.

"Loving Cousin,

At our arrival at New Plymouth, in New England, we found all our friends and planters in good health, though they were left sick and weak, with very small means; the Indians round about us peaceable and friendly; the country very pleasant and temperate, yielding naturally, of itself, great store of fruits, as vines of divers sorts, in great abundance. There is likewise walnuts, chestnuts, small nuts and plums, with much variety of flowers, roots and herbs, no less pleasant than wholesome and profitable. No place hath more gooseberries and strawberries, nor better. Timber of all sorts you have in England doth cover the land, that affords beasts of divers sorts, and great flocks of turkeys, quails, pigeons and partridges; many great lakes abounding with fish, fowl, beavers, and otters. The sea affords us great plenty of all excellent sorts of sea-fish, as the rivers and isles doth variety of wild fowl of most useful sorts. Mines we find, to our thinking; but neither the goodness nor quality we know. Better grain cannot be than the Indian corn, if we will plant it upon as good ground as a man need desire. We are all freeholders; the rent-day doth not trouble us; and all those good blessings we have, of which and what we list in their seasons for taking. Our company are, for the most part, very religious, honest people; the word of God sincerely taught us ever Sabbath; so that I know not any thing a contented mind can here want. I desire your friendly care to send my wife and children to me, where I wish all the friends I have in England; and so I rest

Your loving kinsman,

William Hilton

William Hilton was joined by his wife and children, Master William and Miss Mary Hilton who sailed to America on either the "Anne" or the "Little James".in 1623 A.D.

The first family of "Hilton" had arrived in America! They were one of the first pilgrim family's to give birth to a child in America.

John Davenport, (who was later to become the leader of the New Haven colony in America) was preacher at St Katherine's Chapel at Hylton Castle between 1615-1619. He moved to London where he was elected lecturer and curate of the church of St Lawrence, Old Jewry, London.. He preached before the Virginia Company of London and became a member of the company in 1622 

 Source; The New Haven Colony-Isabel MacBeath Calder, Yale University Press

It is thought to be this connection that resulted in William Hilton sailing aboard the "Fortune" to America in 1621 A.D.


Local legend has it that the family of Heltun/Hylton/Hilton was of Viking origin;

"In the year 787 A.D. three ships of Northmen came from Haeretha land to Northumbria, and the king's reeve rode to the place, and would have taken them prisoners, but they slew him then and there"

"A rover from the north, wooed and won a saxon maid with all her lands and towers"

In 924 A.D. Adam of Hilton gave the monastery of Hartlepool a pix or crucifix which weighed 25 ounces in silver, and caused his arms to be engraven on it, viz arg. Two bars az. (Source; Carter"s "Honor Redivivus")

The first authentic written evidence of the Hilton family is in 1157 A.D., on an agreement between Romanus de Hilton and Absolom, Prior of Durham, that Romanus should have an officiating chaplain in his chapel of Hilton, adjoining Hilton Castle. The same Romanus held three knights fees "in ancient feoffment", which suggests he was by no means first in the line, and there had been many generations of Hiltons before him.

In 1180 Alexander de Hilton is expressly called a "Baron of the Bishopric of Durham" and as such is witness to a deed between Bishop Pudsey and Hugh de Kibblesworth in 1180. An MS in the British Museum states that Alexander and his wife were benefactors of St Cuthbert's shrine at Durham.


The following letter, printed in Randall's MS and found in the possession of the last Baron John of Hilton, dated January 14, 1740, outlines the early history of the family;

"There are now some papers before me relating to the antiquity of your family, the genealogy of your ancestors, and their transactions in peace and war, The interest which I conceive I have in my native country, would not suffer me to forego the opportunity of being now in town to aquaint you with what I met within them. You may have records more large and authentic in Hylton Castle, but in case you should not, I thought it not improper that I should send you a short abstract of which, upon perusal of these papers, appears to belong to you. To wit-

  • that 300 years before the Conquest, in the reign of Athelstane, the family of Hiltons were settled in England, as appears by the inscription at Hartlepool.
  • that upon the coming over of the Conquerer, Launcelot de Hilton and his two sons joined him and espoused his cause.
  • that Launcelot was soon after slain at Faversham, in Kent.
  • that to his eldest son Henry the king gave a large tract of land on the banks of the river Were (Wear), not far from Wiranmouth (Wearmouth), as Bede calls it, as a reward for his own and his son's valour.
  • that Henry Hilton built Hilton Castle in 1072 A.D. He was one of the four deputies who treated the king concerning the four northern counties, and in the service of that prince was soon after killed in Normandy
  • that in the reign of King Edward III, John Hilton, who sent four of his sons to the wars of France, under the Black Prince, was first created Baron of Hilton Castle for his defence of it against the invasion of the Scots.
  • that this peerage continued in the family for seven generations until it was forfeited on account of some unguarded words, of which the Bishop of Durham gave information to the court, which William the seventh, the last baron, spoke against the queen and her favorite De la Poole.
  • that on the death of the Baron, which was thought to be violent, the court gave the estate to the informing prelate, who held it for some time to the utter exclusion of the rightful heir.
  • that in the process of time Launcelot, grandson of the aforesaid William, was restored to his castle and part of his estate; no more indeed than the Bishop thought fit to allow him under this hard condition, viz., that his heirs should forever hold the moiety that was given them under certain conditions and services to the See of Durham, and have the title of Baron annexed to their inheritance, but to be Barons of the Bishopric only; and this sir, is the condition under which I suppose it has continued ever since.

This is an historical sketch of what I have gathered from these papers, but I must not forget to observe to you further-

  • that in your pedigree I met with several names remarkable for their learning and piety, but almost innumerably renowned for their valour and martial deeds. The truth is sir, that war seemed to have been the genius and pleasure and recreation of your ancestors. Nor do I know of any family that has been so lavish of its blood in its country's cause as yours. For ever since the Conquest I have remarked of the Hiltons, one as I have said was slain at Faversham, one in Normandy, one at Metz in France, three in the Holy wars under King Richard I, one in the same wars under King Edward I, three at the battle of Bordeaux under the Black Prince, one at Agincourt, two at Berwick against the Scots, two at the Battle of St Albans, five at Market Bosworth, four at Flodden, besides more that my papers do not extend to.
  • I am, sir, &c., &c.,

(Source; A Short history of the Castle, Family and Estates of the Hiltons of Hilton Castle - Rev. William Proctor Swaby M.A. (Chaplain of Hilton Chapel 1884)

The names of the Barons of Hilton (Hylton), appear from time to time as witnesses on various charters, Deeds, and Agreements, together with other surviving documents connected with the County of Durham and the town of Sunderland. (Monkwearmouth is now part of the City of Sunderland).


The Hilton family were always active in affairs of state. One Robert Hilton, became a member of the first English Parliament and was the political representative for the County of Durham in 1239 A.D. during the reign of King Edward I. Another family member, Alexander Hilton, attended Parliament during the reign of King Edward III.

In 1534, Sir Thomas Hilton was one of the leaders of the religious uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Sir Thomas was appointed Governor of Tynemouth Castle during the reign of Queen Mary I.

In 1569, William Hilton supported Queen Elizabeth I during the Rising of the North in support of Mary Queen of Scots. He was knighted by the Earl of Sussex at Carlisle on August 28th 1570. He lent the queen £50 on her privy seal. Sir William died in 1600.

His son Thomas Hilton married Anne Bowes, daughter of Sir George Bowes (an ancestor of the current Queen Mother) and they had seven sons; Henry, Robert, John, George, Matthew, Francis and William and two daughters; Jane and Mary. Thomas Hilton died during the lifetime of his father, and the estate was inherited by Henry Hilton, who became Baron of Hilton in 1600 A.D.


Henry Hilton, was only 13 years of age when he inherited the Hilton estate, and was left in ward to Queen Elizabeth I, and by indenture between the Queen and Thomas Marbery, it was agreed that he should bring the boy to the Bishop of Carlisle, to be reviewed and talked with, "that his manners, education, and profiting in learning may be understood and perceived, upon payne and forfeiture of the said warde (the Hilton Estate)"

(Under feudal laws of the time, the Queen had rights to the feudal dues of the Estate as feudal overlord. The most important of these was the right to enjoy guardianship or "Wardship" of those of her tenants who died leaving heirs under age, and to arrange marriages of their female heirs. Either the estates of those in wardship could be managed direct, and the profits collected on the Queen's behalf, or the wardship, including the right to manage the property, could be sold for a lump sum)

As Carlisle is on the opposite side of the country to Hylton Castle at Monkwearmouth, Henry Hilton will have spent most of his formative early years separated from his direct family and under the influence of Thomas Marbery and the Bishop of Carlisle.

He married Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Wortley from whom he was separated nearly 30 years He was of most melancholy habits, and lived much alone, first at Billinghurst in Kent, and then at Michel Grove in Sussex (scandal affirmed that he lived in too close intimacy with Lady Shelley). He died in 1640 and by a will "such as a madman only could make" he alienated the greater part of the property and ruined his family. He left the entire estate to the Mayor and Corporation of London for 99 years with various conditions which bankrupted the estate. He also stipulated that at the end of 99 years his estate shall go to the heir-at-law, providing "he does not claim remote issue from the testator's body". He also stated that he wanted to be buried in St Paul's cathedral under a "faire tombe".

Henry, was obviously worried someone might lay claim to the estate. He states in his will;

"Yt If anie p'son shall p'tend to be a child of my body begotten, w'ch I hope noe body will be so impudent and shameless, I hearby, calling God and man to witness, yt I have no child living of my body begotten, and if any such person shall p'tend so to be, I hearby declare he or she so doing to be an imposture, and I hope noe body will undertake to doe such a shameless, dishonest and impudent act and he or she soe declaring to be my child, I doe hereby utterly rnounce and disclaim ym"

(actual spelling)

His wife was not named in the will, and Lady Shelley was the sole executor - he didn't get buried in St Paul's cathederal!

Throughout the centuries the Hilton family intermarried within families of their own class structure. Among the more powerful names allied to Hilton are the Bowes ; Heron; Percy (Dukes of Northumberland), Neville (once the most powerful family in the north of England); Vesci, Grey, Eure, Washington (ancestors of George Washington, First President of the United States) Felton and Surtees. Most of these families are recorded with their coats of arms inscribed on the walls of Hilton Castle.


The Hiltons of Hylton Castle

Read the fascinating story of the Heltons/Hyltons/Hiltons families of Hylton Castle in England, and the fascinating part they played in the Great Migration to America


The Helton/Hylton/Hilton Family


North East England

Westmoreland, England

Lancashire, England

London, England

Virginia from 1619

New England from 1621

Bermuda from 1623

Caribbean from 1628

Maryland from 1635

Carolina from 1663

New York from 1690

Meet hundreds of other Helton/Hylton/Hilton family descendents from all over the world at; Hilton Family Net at www.MyFamily.com. To join; email JerryLHilton@SBCGlobal.net





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Further information on British Northern Heritage   www.northern-heritage.co.uk