Hilton Family History

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

Hiltons of North East England

The Hilton family are first recorded in North East England in 924 A.D. when Adam de Hilton presented a silver crucifix weighing 25 ounces of silver with the arms of Hylton engraven on it to the monastery at Hartlepool. then a major port on the North Sea coast of Britain.  Hartlepool was  in the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria.which stretched from Edinburgh in the north to Hull in the south, on the east coast of Britain, ruled by the kings of Northumbria..  The Hiltons are thought to be of Norse Viking origin and settled in England "in great reputation" 300 years before 1066 A.D. when William the Conqueror invaded Britain from Normandy in France.

This part of Britain was a cradle of Christianity and a Centre of learning in Europe, thanks to a chain of monasteries founded along the Northumbrian coastline from 635 A.D. when the monks from Iona in north west Scotland founded a monastery at Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian Coast where they wrote the Lindisfarne Gospels and converted the local population to Christianity. St Peter's church and monastery was founded at the mouth of the river Wear by Benedict Biscop in 674 A.D. and it was here that Bede wrote Britain's first book, other than the bible, his Ecclesiastical History of Britain, 

St Peters. Wearmouth and St Pauls, Jarrow, both monasteries were once two of the most influential institutions in the western world, because of their contribution to learning, creativity and the shaping of European culture

The Vikings from Norway and Denmark across the north sea raided the monasteries from 793 A.D. and eventually settled in the region. Legend has it the founder of the Hilton line was a Norse Viking who married the daughter of a Anglo Saxon noble.

Hylton was an enclosure on a hill upstream from the Monkwearmouth monastery of St Peter on the river Wear. It was built on the side of a hill overlooking the river, and thought to have been built in a defensive position to stop boats sailing up river to the Community of St Cuthbert at Chester le Street where the monks and their families who had fled with the treasures from Lindisfarne and settled in 885 A.D. The Hiltons had become defenders of the religious community. The monks spent 100 years at Chester le Street before moving further upstream to Durham where they built Durham Cathedral and founded Durham Priory, which became the center of learning in the North East of England which was acknowledged throughout Europe.

Durham became a Palatinate, virtually a kingdom within a kingdom, ruled by the Price Bishops and the Hiltons became Barons of the Bishopric of Durham,  responsible for upholding the laws of the church and defending Durham from attack. In 1190, William de Wessyngton (Washington) who married to the sister of the King of Scotland became their next door neighbors when William settled at Wessyngton, 3 miles upstream from Hylton Castle.

The first mention of a castle on the site was in 1072 A.D., no trace of which survives today. The castle gatehouse which still stands was built between 1390-1410 and commemorates by heraldry, the Northern rebellion of 1403, when the Bishop of Durham joined forces with the northern noble families led Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland and "Hotspur" his son. They joined forces with Owen Glendower of Wales to fight for control of England north of the river trent.

Scotland, seventy miles north of Hylton Castle, had gained their freedom from England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1315 when they defeated the English, but the northern rebels of 1403 were defeated by King Henry IV forces when "Hotspur"was killed on the battlefield at Shrewsbury. Another rebellion took place in 1405 which also failed and resulted in the execution of the Archbishop of York and the Baron of Hylton being outlawed in London.

Descendents of the Hiltons of Hylton Castle married well throughout the north of England. Robert Hilton, c.1208  the brother of the Baron of Hylton Castle married into a Westmoreland family, which gave them control of the strategic main route from York to Carlisle across the country along the old roman road, now known as the A66. Many of his descendents settled in Lancashire and South Durham. Descendents of the Baron of Hilton are recorded in London as early as the 15th century and in the 16th century, William Hilton was recorded as body tailor to King Henry VIII and one of his daughters as seamstress to Queen Elizabeth I.

In Medieval times the Hiltons earned their living from sheep farming, fishing and saltmaking and shipbuilding. In Elizabethan times over 400 people were involved in the saltmaking industry using the local coal to heat and evaporate sea water. It was a  monopoly granted by the queen and it enabled the Hilton family to take advantage of the fishing grounds off Newfoundland, using salt carried on board their ships to preserve the fish for sale on the London fish market at Billingsgate.

In 1543, Sir William Hylton was involved in another northern rebellion called the Pilgrimage of Grace. As Baron of the Bishoprick which included Monkwearmouth and Durham priories, he was responsible for defending and upholding the laws of the church and was probably excecuted as one of the leaders of the rebellion.

In the middle of the 16th century, Sir Thomas Hylton was made Governor of Tynemouth Castle and Priory, a royal castle, and with family descendents at Hull and at Hartlepool he controlled all the ports along the north east coastline from Hull to Berwick. He married four times but died childless. His second marriage brought 3 stepsons of the Lamberton family into the Hilton family and his third marriage,  the heir of Gascoigne of nearby Ravensworth Castle. Sir Thomas Hylton was Sheriff of Durham and the most powerful man in the north east of England at the time.

In 1569, the northern families rebelled yet again, in the "Rising of the North", led by the Earls of Northumberland and the Earl of Westmoreland, in support of Mary Queen of Scots and the Catholic religion. The Hiltons of Hylton Castle supported Queen Elizabeth I. The rebellion failed and the 7th Earl of Northumberland was executed at York in 1572, and the Earl of Westmoreland was forced to flee abroad where he died in poverty.

In 1602, the Hiltons of Hylton Castle lost control of their estates, by the wardship of 13 year old Henry Hilton. He was married off to Mary Wortley of Yorkshire whom he never lived with, and settled at Billingshurst in Sussex and lived with Lady Shelley at Michelgrove..

In 1621 William Hilton of North Biddick Hall, in the "Original" Washington, England, a descendent of the Hiltons of Hylton Castle, sailed on the "Fortune" to Plymouth in New England in America and started the "Great Migration". His wife and two children joined him there where they founded Hilton's Point in what is today, New Hampshire. William Hilton became the founding father of New Hampshire in America, and his cousin Anthony Hilton became Governor of Nevis and St Kitts in the Caribbean in 1628. They were joined by their London cousin, Edward who became a founding father of what is today the State of Maine, U.S.A.

"They called themselves the "Pilgrim Fathers" and sailed off to the new land in the year 1620. The first ship to leave England was the "Mayflower". In the following year a second ship left this country and it carried the name of "Fortune". One of the pilgrims on board was William Hylton of Biddick Hall, who held the estate and farmed the lands Biddick." Many descendents of the Hylton family are to be found in the United States, and this Willam Hylton was referred to as the "Biddick Pilgrim Father" - Source; History and Folklore of Old Washington, Albert L Hind, 1976, Sir James Steel C.B.E., J.P., F.B.I.M. states "his roots go back sufficiently far in the century to recall the colorful characters of an earlier age.

During the Bishop's Wars and the English Civil Wars, the Hiltons of Hylton Castle fought on the Royalist side, and Hilton Manor which was built behind the current Castle Gatehouse was razed to the ground. Many of the Hilton family dispersed during the civil war, and Henry Hilton left his estates to the City of London in an attempt to protect them for future generations.

John Hilton Esquire inherited Hylton Castle and Estates. He married Dorothy Musgrave of Hayton Castle in Cumberland, daughter of Sir Richard Musgrave. John died in 1712 and the estates were inherited by Sir Richard Musgrave who married Anne, daughter of John Hilton. The estates were then inherited by Richard Musgrave, son of Sir Richard Musgrave on condition that he changed his name to Hilton which he did. The Hilton and Musgrave families had landholdings and roots stretching back centuries in Westmoreland and Cumberland. Hylton Castle was put up for sale in 1750 and bought by Lady Eleanor Bowes who did not live there, and the castle slowly fell into disrepair.

Read the fascinating story of the Hiltons of Hylton Castle  in the book "The Hiltons of Hylton Castle" by E. W. Lamberton, which includes a complete family pedigee of the Hylton Castle family from 1172-1769  published by Family |Heritage International. Available by post Price US$30 plus US$10 P&P from; Family Heritage International, P.O. Box 90, The "Original" Washington, England, NE37 0YP. or Order online at DreamlaneLimited.com

Join the the locals in a day of celebration at Hylton Castle to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the Founding of America on the 3rd Helton Hylton Hilton Family Reunion at Hylton Castle, Monkwearmouth, City of Sunderland on May 1st 2007.

Join a group of Helton, Hylton, Hilton Family History and Geneaology enthusiasts on a tour of all the Hilton venue of interest in England, Scotland, London and Sussex - A Unique opportunity to walk in your forefather's footsteps.

North Biddick Hall, The "Original" Washington, England

North Biddick Hall,
The "Original" Washington, England