The Heydon family came from a town of the same name; Thomas de Heydon was an itinerant justice in 1221; the law continued to be a major family occupation. In 1431, John Heydon of Baconsthorpe was made Recorder of Norwich, and was a feoffee (a trustee or legal manager of an estate owned by others) for many great estates in Norfolk, and was executor of the wills of Lady Bardolf and Sir John Clifton of Buckenham Castle. By the time of his death in 1480 he held at least fifteen manors in Norfolk, owing much of his wealth to sheep.
His son Sir Henry Heydon was Steward to the Duchess of York, mother of Edward IV. It was he who completed the sumptuous manor house begun
by his father at Baconsthorpe, now called BACONSTHORPE CASTLE, as well as Salthouse church. He married Ann (or Elizabeth) Boleyn, daughter of Sir Jeffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London. He lies buried in the Heydon family vault adjacent to Heydon church.
His eldest son, Sir John Heydon, was made a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII’s coronation, and after a wild youth, settled down and became a courtier. He and his wife, Catherine Willoughby, are buried in the north aisle of Baconsthorpe church. Their daughters married into the Townshend, Darcy, and Digby families, and his eldest son Sir Christopher married Sir John Heveningham’s daughter; but he died before his father.
His son, another Sir Christopher, inherited from his grand-father; he was highly regarded for his fairness and charity and for a remarkable hospitality – one Christmas he entertained thirty master shepherds of his own flocks at Baconsthorp. His first wife was Lady Anne Drury, and the second was Temperance, daughter of Sir William Carewe; the third was Agnes Crane of Suffolk who survived him. His tomb, and that of his first two wives, was in the south aisle; at his death he owned over thirty manors, ten advowsons, and several rectories.
His heir was Sir William Heydon, eldest son of his first wife. He was a Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Norfolk, a JP, “admiral of the admiralty jurisdiction,” and married Anne Wodehouse (Woodhouse) of Hickling. Despite all his inheritance, he wasted much of it on injudicious projects with “certain citizens of London”. Their monument is in the south aisle (opposite).
His eldest son, another Christopher, travelled widely, became an eminent scholar, and was High Steward of Norwich Cathedral. He was knighted at the sacking of Cadiz in 1596 by Robert, Earl of Essex; this association with Essex led to a brief imprisonment, later pardoned. He was buried in a peculiar tomb at Saxlingham, with his first wife Mirabel. Anne Dodge was his second wife, and she was buried here.
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