Monday, February 21, 2000

John Sutton Baron Dudley 1361-1395/1396

John Sutton Baron Dudley
b. 6 Dec 1361  Malpas, Chester, Cheshire, England
d. 10 Mar 1395/1396
   John Sutton (2nd Baron Dudley)  1329 – 1357
   Catherine Stafford 1340 – 1361
   Alice Le Despencer 1364 – 1392
   John Sutton Baron Dudley 1380 – 1406

The baronage of Dudley
John Sutton a soldier who served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. According to Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage he was actually summoned to Parliament as "Johanni de Sutton de Duddeley militi", whereby he is held to have become Baron Dudley. The title is sometime referred to as Baron Sutton of Dudley. The peerage was created by writ, which means that it can descend through both male and female lines.

It is in fact arguable that the title arose even earlier, as his ancestor John Sutton (died 1359) had a writ of summons to the Council on 25 February 1342, but neither he nor his son (died c.1370), grandson (died 10 March 1396) or great grandson (all called John Sutton of Dudley) were summoned] so that they can probably not be regarded as peers.

Lord Dudley's great grandson, the third Baron, managed to get himself severely into debt and lost the family seat of Dudley Castle to his cousin John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. He became known as "Lord Quondam" ("Lord Has-been" or "Lord Formerly"). However, Dudley Castle and the other family estates were restored to his son, the fourth Baron. He was succeeded by his son, the fifth Baron, who like his grandfather came heavily into debt. To clear his debts he married off his granddaughter and heir, Frances, to Sir Humble Ward, the son of a wealthy jeweller. Frances succeeded him and became the sixth holder of the title. In 1644 her husband Humble Ward was created Baron Ward, of Birmingham in the County of Warwick, by letters patent.

They were both succeeded by their son, the seventh and second Baron respectively. On the death in 1740 of the latter's grandson, the tenth Baron Dudley and fifth Baron Ward, the two titles separated. The barony of Ward, which could only be inherited by males, was passed on to the late Baron's kinsman, the sixth Baron (see the Earl of Dudley for later history of this title). The barony of Dudley was inherited by the Baron's nephew, Ferdinando Lea, 11th Baron Dudley, the eleventh Baron. He was the son of Frances, sister of the tenth Baron, and her husband William Lea. However, on Ferdinando's death in 1757 the peerage fell into abeyance between his sisters. It remained in abeyance for 159 years, but in 1916 the abeyance was terminated in favour of Ferdinando Dudley William Lea Smith, who became the twelfth Baron. He was the great-great-grandson of Anne, sister of the eleventh Baron, and her husband William Smith. As of 2010 the title is held by his grandson, the fifteenth Baron, who succeeded his mother in 2002 (who in her turn had succeeded her elder brother).

The holders of the title (until 1740) were the owners of Dudley Castle and an extensive estate around it, including the manors of Dudley, Sedgley, Kingswinford and Rowley Somery in Rowley Regis. By the 16th century, their main home was Himley Hall. On the death of the tenth Baron in 1740, the barony of Dudley passed to a female-line heir (see above), whereas the main estates were entailed to follow the barony of Ward and passed to a cousin. However, certain estates that had recently been purchased passed with the title Lord Dudley to the aforementioned Ferdinando Dudley Lea, the eleventh Baron Dudley.

The family surname of the first five barons was formally 'Sutton', but in practice they seem always to have been called 'Dudley'. In title deeds and other formal documents, the surname often appears as 'Sutton otherwise Dudley'.

notes on John Sutton 3rd Baron Dudley

His birth occured at Coleshill probably because it was the home of his father's nearest cousin, Joan (later his father's second wife), while Dudley Castle was occupied by his father's widowed mother and ( since November 1359) her second husband, Richard le Fissher, with whom John de Sutton was in frequent litigation. After the death of his father about 1369 his wardship and marriage were granted to Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel. When John died the barony of Dudley was still in the possossion of his grandmother Isabel.

John Sutton IV (1361-1395), of Dudley Castle who wed Alice de Spencer of Carlington.

It is widely held that John Sutton IV was the son of John Sutton III, (1339-1370) and Catherine de Stafford (1340-1361). Catherine was the daughter of Ralph de Stafford and Margaret de Audley.


Neither PA (below) nor MCA, give any wife for John other than Joan (PA suggests she might be daughter of John, Lord of Arundel, while MCA gives no suggestion as to her ancestry). I have followed AR, which suggests another wife, as his 1st wife and mother of John.

John de Sutton, of Dudley Castle, co. Stafford, son and heir by first marriage, was born at Coleshill in Arden, co. Warwick, on 6 Dec 1361, his mother probably dying in childbirth. His birth occurred at Coleshill probably because it was the home of his father's nearest cousin, Joan (later his father's second wife), while Dudley Castle was occupied by his father's widowed mother and (since November 1359) her second husband, Richard le Fissher, with whom John de Sutton was in frequent litigation. After the death of his father about 1369 his wardship and marriage were granted to Richard Fitz Alan, Earl of Arundel. During this period he was married to Joan. He served in the King's Fleet under the Earl of Arundel after he came of age. John de Sutton died on 10 Mar 1395/6. His widow died in April 1408. (When John died the Barony of Dudley was still in possession of his grandmother Isabel) (Joan was possibly daughter of John, Lord of Arundel) [Plantagenet Ancestry]

Note: Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerage states that Richard FitzAlan sold the marriage rights to Philip le Despenser - see below.


John de Sutton IV, by (1), of Dudley Castle, co. Stafford, b. 6 Dec 1361, d. 1395/6, IPM 1401; m. Jane, IPM 1409. (Adlard says he m. (1) Alice, probably daughter of guardian Philip le Despenser. She d. 1392. He m. (2) Jane. Perhaps Alice (1st wife) was mother of John V). [Ancestral Roots, line 81-34]

Note: According to PA above, John never held Dudley Castle, as it was in the possession of his grandmother, Isabel de Cherleton, his entire life.


The following is a post to SGM, 1 Sep 1998, by William Stone, indicating the confusion over John's wife and mother of his son:

I know of two places where Alice came from.

1. Weis's Ancestral Roots, 6th Ed., line 81 number 34, says John de Sutton IV, (number 2 above) of Dudley Castle, b. 6 Dec. 1361, d. 1395/6, Inq.p.m. 1401; m. Jane, Inq.p.m. 1409. He cites Complete Peerage IV 479 note e and DNB 16:107-9. Then in parenthesis - Alard says he m. (1) Alice prob. Dau. of guardian Philip le Despenser. She d. 1392 He m. (2) Jane. Perh. Alice (1 wife) mother of John V. Close parens. Alard is later identified as George Alard: 'The Sutton-Dudleys of England and New England', N.Y.C. 1862, Pedigree 'A" The Suttons.

John de Sutton V (Weis's number 35) (number 1 above) b. 1379, d. 1407, m. Constance Blount, d. 1432, dau. of Sir Walter Blount of Barton.

2. Burke's Extinct Peerage (not an unimpeachable source), on page 521, under 'Sutton - Baron Dudley' muddles things further. He has John de Sutton, 2nd Baron (presumably number 4 above). 'The wardship of this nobleman, he being in minority at his father's decease, was granted to Richard, Earl of Arundel, and sold by him to Sir Philip le Despenser, in the 5th Richard II, for 350 marks. He m. twice; by his first wife, Margaret, dau. of Roger de Mortimer, Baron Wigmore, he had no issue, but by his 2nd wife, Johanna he had two sons, John and Thomas. The 2nd Lord Dudley d. 1376 and was s. by his son' John de Sutton, 3rd baron, (number 1? above) m. 1st Alice, dau. of Philip le Despenser; and 2ndly Constance, dau. of Sir Walter le Blount . . he died in 1407.

Burke has apparently confused father, son and grandson and mixed up their wives. Not unusual.

If this Alice existed, might she be a daughter of Sir Philip le Despenser, b. 1313, d. 1349 and a sister of Hawise le Despenser (m. Sir Andrew Luttrell) for whom see Wayne Wilcox, 'The Ancestry of Catherine Hamby' NEHGR 145 (July 1991) at p. 268. This is only a guess based on chronology - I have no evidence whatsoever.

Now, I realize I have only muddied the waters further, but at least we now know how Alice got into this line. Anyone want to try to sort this out? I wish I could say I hope this helps.
Bill Stone

Dudley Castle History

According to legend, a wooden castle was constructed on the site in the 8th century by a Saxon lord called Dud or Dado. However this legend is not taken seriously by historians, who usually date the castle from soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066[1]. It is thought one of the Conqueror's followers, Ansculf, built the first castle and that his son, William Fitz-Ansculf, was in possession of the castle when it was recorded at the time of the [Domesday Book] of 1086. Some of the earthworks from this castle, notably the 'motte', the vast mound on which the present castle keep now sits, still remain. However the earliest castle would have been of wooden construction and no longer exists.

After Fitz-Ansculf, the castle came into the possession of the Paganel family, who built the first stone castle on the site. However, after Gervase Paganel joined a failed rebellion against King Henry II in 1173 the castle was demolished by order of the king. The Somery's were the next dynasty to own the site and set about building the castle in stone starting in the second half of the 13th century and continuing on into the 14th. The keep (the most obvious part of the castle when viewed from the town) and the main gate dates from this re-building. A chapel and great hall were also constructed.

The last of the male line of Somery, John Somery, died in 1321 and the castle and estates passed to his sister Margaret and her husband John de Sutton. Subsequently, members of this family often used Dudley as a surname. In 1532 another John Sutton (the seventh in the Dynasty named John) inherited the castle but after having money problems was ousted by a relative, John Dudley, later Duke of Northumberland, in 1537. Starting around 1540, a range of new buildings were erected within the older castle walls by him. The architect was William Sharington and the buildings are thus usually referred to as Sharrington Range. Dudley was later beheaded, for his attempt to set Lady Jane Grey on the Throne of England.

The castle was returned to the Sutton family by Queen Mary. The castle was later visited by Queen Elizabeth I and was considered as a possible place of imprisonment for Mary, Queen of Scots. A century later, the castle became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, but was surrendered to Cromwell's forces in 1646. Parliament subsequently ordered that the castle be partly demolished and the present ruined appearance of the keep result from this decision. However some habitable buildings remained.

The bulk of the remaining habitable parts of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1750, previous to which the living accommodation was used by the Earls of Dudley. The Dudley family then moved to the newly-built Himley Hall approximately four miles away, but were responsible for the site until 1937, when the zoo was established and the castle grounds incorporated into the zoo.

Despite being situated on the edge of Dudley town centre, the castle was situated within the borders of Sedgley - which was part of neighbouring Staffordshire rather than Worcestershire - until the borders were changed to include the castle and its grounds within the Dudley borough in 1926, when restructuring of the boundaries took place to allow the development of the Priory Estate.[

               Dudley Castle 
Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle Keep
in Dudley, West Midlands, England 

1 comment:

  1. RE: ALICE LE DESPENCER. It's interesting to note that genealogists are so eager to name Joan MNU as the mother of Sir John Sutton V. Alice, who was Sir John IV's first wife, didn't die until 1392, as cited by your sources. We know that Sir John Sutton V was born in 1380. If for no other reason than the chronological dates, Alice would be the mother of Sir John Sutton V. The only way Joan could be his mother is if Sir John Sutton IV had an affair with Joan and Sir John V was their illegitimate son. Or if Sir John IV had his marriage to Alice annulled and married Joan before Sir John Sutton V was born in 1380 I have found no sourced evidence of that.