The search for where and how the Eyre surname originated

The legends both past and present


The romantic legend, which has been handed down through the centuries, has been based on the Battle of Hastings, at which a companion of William the Conqueror named Truelove came to the assistance of William who had been dislodged from his horse and his helmet had been crushed across his face so preventing his breathing. Truelove removed the helmet sufficient to restore his airway William inquired as to his name and said henceforth you shall be known as L'Eyr for you have given me the air to breathe. At the conclusion of the battle William inquired as to the fate now L'Eyr and was told that he leg during the fighting as a result the coat of arms bears a " a human leg in Armour couped at the thigh quarterly argent and sable spurred..." as well substantial land holdings in Derbyshire.


Another variation of the story of the origin of the Eyre Crest, is that Humphrey le Heyr (*1), of Broham, rescued Richard Coeur de Lion, at the siege of Ascalon, at the cost of his leg, and that the leg couped was granted to him in remembrance of the occasion. While the legends may well be a romantic tales, there is general agreement that the name did not appear before William's entry on to the scene and that the families' good fortunes certainly arose from the success of the Norman's. The early forms were le Heyr, there are some who say the origins are in the Pyrenees area, at the present time the name is involved in obscurity.

Present Theory

The reality may not be the romantic story of the legends, but any evidence in history or other known record does not support the legends. The facts that others and I have found in our research are:

1. William le Heyr (Derbyshire) who died in 1299 held an appointment of "Hereditary Forester of the Peak", in 1250. This was a royal appointment and for this service he was allowed a bovate of land at Hope. Robert, William's son continued in the position on his father's death. This is the earliest record of the Eyre family in Derbyshire. It appears highly likely that William le Eyr is the ancestor of most Derbyshire EYRE families.

2. In Wiltshire there was a family of Humphredi le Heyr de Broham his wife Galecia and sons Galfridus and Nicholas. Galfridus being the eldest was heir of his father. Galfridus bestowed on Nicholas, property for his homage and service. Also there is a copy of an agreement made by Galecia, giving Nicholas land, which she had held in her own right. This agreement is undated but it is thought to date in the reign of Henry III 1227-1272. Humphredi le Heyr was a Forester for fee of the ancient forest of Melksham.

3. When you consider all the circumstances, the surname spelling evolved from the same spelling, "Heyr", same coat of arms that were allowed by the heralds, same royal appointments confirmed by the same queen Philippa, and the same crest. To conclude other than they are the same family would be absurd.

4. It is interesting to note that the Foljambe family also uses the same crest used by the Heyr family. How could this be, it may be Galecia wife of Humphrey could well be a Foljambe. This could be Humphredi honouring the Foljambe family. The Foljambe were of Derbyshire and the land that Galecia settled on her second son Nicholas was in Hope Derbyshire, which would explain why it was not part of the Wiltshire estate, which Galfridus inherited. Following this theory, the Foljambe were related to the Ferrer by marriage, which could mean the second son Nicholas could have been in Ferrer employ in a military capacity. It is a fact a Ferrers was sent by King John to Derbyshire to rout some of the Barons who had taken possession of the King's holdings in that county, during the revolt by the barons. The Ferrer held huge holdings resulting from the Conquest. Also Catherine le Heyr dau of William le Heyr of Hope married Thomas Foljambe which supports the earlier association between the families.

Humphredi le Heyr and William de Ferrer accompanied King Richard to the crusades, which would mean they would be known to each other and it is likely that the Foljambe may well have been in the Ferrer party.

5. In the Domesday Book for the hundred of Frustfield at Alwerberie. "Edward holds a yard-land in Alwerberie. Bode tenuit tempore Regis Edward. Valet 40 denarii." There was no service stated in the Domesday Book, there is no doubt he was the predecessor of a family which subsequently held the same quantity of land in the parish of Alderbury by the serjeanty of keeping the King's harriers, at the kings own expense, and they assumed their surname from that office. The keepers of the harriers were called, "Canes Heyerez,Heyricii or Harecti."

I believe that the Eyre surname evolved from keeping of the King's harriers, which is in keeping with the subsequent royal appointments as Forester etc. The surname changed le Here, le Heyr, le Eyr to Eyre.

The Thought 1999..

The link between Wiltshire and Derbyshire is Nicholas Le Here (Heyr). The timing, the Christian name, the coat of arms, the similar royal service appointments, family associations all certainly presents a strong case. There has been no record found that Le Heyr came with William for the conquest. However the record in the Domesday Book would support they were of possible Saxon origin and descended from the "Keeper of the Hounds, Edward" whilst not of noble blood the association by appointment was maintained over the generations.

That was the situation in early 1999, however since then the "Lesley Theory" has produced quite overwhelming evidence, which should convince the most ardent sceptic, of where the surname EYRE originated.

Lesley is a researcher who has spent many hours considering the information concerning the search for a logical explanation of the origins of the EYRE surname. I personally believe this theory is the most plausible and well researched, I have seen.

Outline of the Lesley Theory

1 Humphredi le Heyr Charter

The following are the Charters, noted at the commencement of the Wiltshire Pedigrees, 1623. Harleian Society 105 & 106.

Sciant praesentes et Futuri qd ego Galiacia relicta Humphredi le Her de Bromham dedi concessi et hac praesenti Carta mea Confirmavi Nicholaio filio meo &c Hijs testibus Rico de Bridwolston, Rogero le Blount, Willo le Blount, Magistro Simone, Johanne de la Mason Sans date.

Sciant prasentes et futuri qd ego Galfridus le Here de Bromham dedi concessi et hac prasenti Carta mea Confirmavi Nicholaio fratri meo pro homagio et servitio suo &c Hijs testibus Rico de Brawanton tunc ballivo, Rogero le Blunt, Willo (Wanthelin) le Blount et aliis Sans Date.

Patent universes per prasentes qd ego Galfridus le Eyr de Bromham dedi et concessi et prasenti scripto [meo] Confirmavi Willo : Rolf &c Hijs testibus Johanne de la Roch : Willo le White, Stephano le Eyr, Thome Milis, Johanne le Stocke et multis alijs Dat apud Bromham Die Dominica proxima ante festum Sti Thomae Apli Anno Regni Regis Edwardi filij Regis Edw: 15: 20 Dec 1321.

a) Refering to the charter of Humphredi le Heyr and Galiacia, his wife. The latin nominative of Humphrey is Humphridus, not Humphredi which must be the genitive, so strictly speaking, Humphredi le Heyr translates to " the heir of Humphrey".

The closest modern day translation of Gilicia, Galiacia, Gylicia is Gillian, the female form of William, the name is obviously not clear because there are so many variations in the various published copies of reputedly the same document. Whether or not this is meant to be a genitive is uncertain but if it is, it means "heir of William". The first Geoffrey le Blount#4291 was the son of William le Blount#4402 and Alicia de Capella#4403.
Being a heiress, Alicia#4403 had estates so she was in a position to grant land to her son Nicholas#4256, as the charter states. He need not necessarily have been the younger son, depending on how the Wiltshire estates were entailed. This is why I think, an attempt to identify him is important.
The early deeds witnessed by Geoffrey le Blount#4366, Nicholas#4364 the Steward and a Peter Blount#4368 c. 1275 in Derbyshire were at Kedlestone and Bradbourne, both about five miles from Thurvaston and both originally, Ferrer holdings.

b) Equally close is a place called Willington which may explain who the Willington of Etchilhampton, Wiltshire were, and from whom the Blount held their land. Willington, Derbyshire was held by Ralph FitzHubert at Domesday, as was Hathersage. His brother married a daughter of Richard FitzGilbert founder of the Clare family, Dukes of Gloucester. The first Robert Blounts son-in-law was an Audley, holding land from Robert at Lavington. Presumably it was his descendant, Hugh de Audley who also became an Earl of Gloucester later in the 14th C. In 1430, Robert le Eyr was recorded holding a tenement at Bromham called "le Eyres and Mayhowe". If you breakdown the meaning of this it helps to substantiate the rest of the theory. In medieval English a "may" meant a young man or woman, thought to have meant "kinsman" originally. The surname "Howe" is a patronomic of "Hugh", the first element of Hubert.
The Eyre's land at Bromham must have been in dispute because in 1297 the settlement was recorded in the Feet of Fines when dower lands of Alice#5313, relict of Walkelin le Blount#4361 reverted to Nicholas le Eyr#4364. Alice appears to have remarried but as Nicholas was not lord of the manor, he must have been a descendant of this Blount line, to have been eligible for the reversion. In 1293 other land of Alice reverted to John de la Roche who was, lord of the manor but the abbot of Battle Abbey was his overlord. William II (Rufus) granted the manor to the abbey during the last decade of the 11th century, it was King's land at the time of Domesday, important because of the situation in Melksham Forest.

c) Deeds of the Eyre family at Bromham which probably relate to the land inquests ordered by Edward I in 1274, recorded amongst other witnesses, Rog le Blount and Willm le Blunt and in another Wanthelin (Walkelin) le Blont#4361 and Rog le Blount#4362. William, Alice and Robert Blund were recorded as free tenants of Bromham during the same reign. One of the documents states that Nicholas le Eyr #4256 paid homage to his brother, Geoffrey #4291 for his land and during this period, Geoffrey le Blount was holding land nearby, at Etchilhampton, Wilthsire.
Another Geoffrey Blount#4424 inherited Richard's#4414 land at Etchilhampton around 1333, he held the estate until 1363 when he was succeeded by his daughter, Margaret#4426 wife of Walter de Frampton#4427. In 1346 Geoffrey le Eyr#4030 was granted a license to hear service in the chapel of his mansion house at Bromham.

2 Registrum Malmesburiense

a) Galfridus le Eyr#4030 gave his evidence about the grant of Blakeland to the Abbey, and which gave rise to the lawsuit over the gift of land by Richard le Eyr#5162. (The date of this document is judged by the handwriting of the original, the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th).

b) Geoffrey le Eyr ( Blount)#4366 had succeeded to his father Richard's # 4257, land at Etchilhampton around 1270 but he died in 1280 leaving his son, Richard # 5162 a minor, as his heir. Also at Potterne Geoffrey de "Etchelhampton" is recorded as having died in 1280 leaving to his son, aged 8, half a knight's fee and land held of the Bishop of Salisbury by knight's service. Nicholas le Eyr# 4364 must also have been son of Richard #4257, brother of Geoffrey #4366 and Uncle to Richard #5162 the minor.
Land could revert if the heir had not reached his majority so a document proving Nicholas # 4364 had paid homage for disputed land, witnessed by other members of the family would perhaps have been produced in 1280.
Richard # 5162 is presumed to have entered his land around 1292 which was about the time of the record concerning John Roche at Bromham. Presumably Roche disputed Richard's claim when he tried to enter but Richard was able to retain the balywick at the foot del freit which was actually still a part of the Borough of Devizes.

3 Heredity Forresters

The Blount and Ferrer families were both connected to forestry, as was the Lisle family, Brian became Chief Forest Justice in 1228. At the time he was holding land in Wiltshire, a part of the Borough of Devizes, which controlled Melksham Forest and was part of the Queen's jointure. Brian was also Bailiff of the Peak from 1222 to 1228.
A deed of 1338, granted by Queen Philippa to Geoffrey le Eyr#4030 continuation of his previous appointment to the bailiwick of Melksham Forest at Bromham. William le Eyr#5292 of Hope (temp. Henry III) held a bovate of land there by service in the forest of Hopedale and died 1299. One translator records Robert le Eyr as 24 in 1300 (Peter Furness) another as 30 (Lambert), the age actually seems to have been guessed at in some way and may be wrong. I think there may be some confusion in the translation from the Latin record and the evidence suggests that instead of Robert being aged 30 or 24 in 1300, that William may have been holding the land for the previous 24 or 30 years. If William had been holding his brother, Richard's land, it was probably entailed on the heirs male (gavelkind and borough English) as the findings of 1285 suggest.

In 1285, it was found in the "forest eyre" that William le Heer#5292 and his ancestors had been holding the offices of foresters of fee since the time of Pevril. The land of his father which Robert le Eyr paid homage for being originally that of Richard le Eyr who appears to have died in c. 1270, the 8th crusade.
There must have been a reason for the findings of 1285, the land possibly remained in dispute until the matter was finally settled at a higher level. It is easy to see why Eyr as a surname began to remain fixed if this was the case. It is more consistently recorded early in Derbyshire than in Wiltshire.
The common ancestor being Geoffrey Blount#4291 who was known to have been in Wiltshire and Derbyshire during the period when Brian de Lisle was bailiff of the Peak and chief forest justiciar. At this time the Ferrer were Earls of Derby and had not been disinherited.
It is known that many of the foresters of the Peak falsely claimed to have been enfeoffed by William Peveril during the land inquisitions of the 1270's. They distanced themselves from the Ferrer who had been dispossessed and their lands taken up by the Duchy of Lancaster. The main line of the Blount's family had been disinherited following the fall of William at Evesham 1264.

4 Funeral Entry, Ulster's Office 13th June 1685

"John Eyre of Eyrecourt, Privy Councillor for Ireland, 7th son of Giles Eyre of Brickworth, Co. Wilts (descended from the noble and ancient house of Hassop in Derbyshire in England), who married Jane, daughter and sole heiress of Ambrose Snelgrove of Radlinch in Wilts. And had 10 sons and 5 daughters, whereof a son and a daughter died unmarried and the first were honourable matched."

The comment by noted researcher A.S. Hartigan was

"In the above Funeral Entry it will be noticed that a claim to a descent of the Eyres of Brickworth from the Eyres of Derbyshire is asserted. It rests only on a tradition, and certainly there is no doubt that the descent of the Brickworth Eyres from Simon Eyre of Wedhampton, Wilts, 1433, is unassailable even if we look on the 4 previous generations as doubtful."

A son of John Eyre the above deceased had a nickname of Pedigree Eyre because of his interest in the genealogy records of his family you would think that with a direct family member keeping the family history they would have better knowledge than those who came 250 years later. Maybe county historians were biased towards their particular county as the premier county by denying any association.

5 Nicholas le Eyr heir of the Blounts

a) It would appear that Alice#5313, relict of Walkelin le Blount#4361 had remarried to Thomas Allway, which must have brought the land into dispute (previously mentioned). John Roche either proved his right as an heir or was accepted as mesne lord of the manor but the heath was known by the Blount's name. Presumably they had been associated far longer than the Roche. It was shown after the Roche line failed that Battle Abbey had remained as the overlords but this must be about the time that the manor split into Bromham Battle and Bromham Roche. The first references to Roche in connection with the Borough of Devizes other than the castle, seem to manifest at Bromham.
It is strange that John Roche was unable to take the entire manor but in 1297, Nicholas le Eyr#4364 and Amy#5312 his wife, were also granted land by Thomas and Alice "Aloway" together with a reversion of the other 1/3 of the property held in dower by William and Amy Philip.
Although there is a slightly different spelling, this must be the same Thomas and Alice and 1/3 of an estate was a usual dower allowance. Nicholas#4364 was not lord of the manor so as it reverted, he must have been as heir of the Blount's. Again it was a record from the Feet of Fines so the land must have been in dispute.

b) Nicholas#4364 proved his claim, by producing a witnessed statement that he paid homage to his brother for the land. Such a document was recorded in the Herald's Visitations stating that his brother was, Geoffrey le Here#4366 de Bromham. It was witnessed by "Walthelin le Blont#4361 and Rog. Le Blount#4362" so must have predated 1293 because Walkelin had obviously died by then.

c) Another document is recorded in the visitations referring to Galfridus le Eyr de Bromham#4030, dated 1287 and witnessed by Stepho. Le Ere#4369. There must have been a reason why these documents were produced in the first place but assuming Nicholas was a Blount, his brother must have been Geoffrey le Blount.

d) Geoffrey Blount#4366had succeeded to his father, Richard's#4257 land at Etchilhampton around 1270 but he died in 1280 leaving his son, Richard#5162 a minor as his heir. Also at Potterne Geoffrey de "Etchilhampton" is recorded as having died in 1280 leaving to his son, aged 8, half a knight's fee and land held of the Bishop of Salisbury by knight's service. Nicholas le Eyr must also have been son of Richard, brother of Geoffrey and Uncle to Richard the minor.

e) John le Eyr of Chesterfield.
The problem with the Wiltshire pedigrees was the first generations of the Eyre pedigree were doubtful and even more so, when a Simon Le Eyr becomes a John le Eyr when he recovers lands in Urchfont Wilts in the reign of Edward 111.
Thus John le Eyr#5291 (b c1300) bailiff of Chesterfield whose wife died early. This is proven by his daughter Joan le Eyr inherited her mother's inheritance from her mother's father c1337. Ms 227 p 549.John le Eyr disappeared from the Derbyshire scene. From noted researcher Rev A S Hartigan in Eyre Notes and Queries, he wrote about Stephen Le Eyr of Broham, he recovered seisin of his lands in Urchfont by the name of John le Eyr. As Simon le Eyr was the last of the Wiltshire Blount le Eyr line the assumption was he changed his name to John le Eyr. Again based, on the assumption that there was no connection between Wiltshire and Derbyshire families.
With the weight of evidence so far produced should convince the ardent doubter that the Eyre name came from a member of the Blount family taking the name "Heyr".
The only conclusion is the Derbyshire and the Wiltshire Eyr families are of one stock.

6 Associated Families

a) Two members of the Ferrer family were known to have taken part in the 3rd. Crusade, Walchelin and William Earl of Derby who fell at the siege of Acon. Three generations of the Ferrer family were recorded as severe gout sufferers and were crippled as a result. By this time both Foljambe and Blount were kinsmen of the Ferrer and distant cousins to each other. There was a second Henry Ferrer who held Oakham Castle in Rutlandshire. The Blount and Lisle held land in the same county and were involved in forestry matters there.
The early Blount share many Christian names with the Eyre, William, Robert, Stephen, Geoffrey, Nicholas, Peter and Richard. From the time when the line of Geoffrey Blount died out at Etchilhampton in 1363, the name stops appearing in Eyre records as does "Richard".
The theory that the Eyre made their way up by a series of fortuitous marriages really is romantic nonsense. By being a cadet branch of a baronial family, they may not have been overly wealthy but were probably of enough standing to hold positions such as stewards to the Lovel and Talbot and foresters by royal appointment. They in turn would have employed servants to manage their affairs and are very unlikely to have been static in one county, in fact are more likely to have had other interests, elsewhere.

b) Richard le Eyr # 4409 is recorded in the protection clauses of the 8th crusade in 1270 but he does not appear to have returned. Richard had gained Etchilhampton during the 1260's, he succeeded his father Geoffrey # 4351 who probably held the estate from about 1250 and was undoubtedly a son of Nicholas le Blount #4256.

c) However, the early occasional use does not mean these families adopted Heyr or Eyr as their fixed family surname as appears to have happened in the course of time with the descendants of Richard le Blount of Etchilhampton, Wiltshire or Richard le Eyr #4257 of Hope, Derbyshire who must have been one and the same person, because of the weight of evidence.

d) In the protection clauses of the 8th and last crusade, 1270 Richard le Eyr #4409 is listed, as are Robert #4365 and Nicholas Croke #4364 (a known Blount by-name). Nicholas Blount (Heyr) # 4364 was the brother of Geoffrey # 4366 so the son of Richard #4257 and it would be fair to assume that Robert #4365 was his brother so also a son of Richard #4257.

e) William # 4360, Alice #? and Robert Blount (Blund) # 4415 were all recorded at Bromham as free tenants of the manor (gavelkind) during the reign of Edward I. 1272-1307. William Blount (Blunt) # 4360 is also recorded as witness to one of the deeds noted in the herald's visitations of Eyre at Bromham.
Presumably, Walkelin le Blount #4361 was also a son of Nicholas #4256 and brother to William #4360.

f) Richard le Eyr # 4257 may have had two more sons because in a Derbyshire deed of about 1275 at Bradbourne, amongst the testators were Geoffrey (Blundus) #4366 and Peter (Blundus) #4368, Geoffrey was also the clericus. From 1301 to 1322 a Stephen Heyr/Eyr #4371 of Chesterfield is frequently recorded, sometimes styled, Stephen fil Rich le Heir and Stephen le Clerk, he became bailiff of the Borough of Chesterfield and was probably Bailiff of the Wakes at one time. (Stepho. Le Ere witnessed one of the deeds recorded in the visitations dated 1287)


1 Humphredi le Heyr Charter

The charter produced to defend an inheritor's right to inherit reversion of dower land witnessed by family members of the day is, indisputable evidence of blood ties. This begs the question why persist with "Heyr" name after. The Blount surname came under a cloud and estates were forfeited and name banned after the failed (Barons coup) with William le Blount fall at Evesham 1264, against the crown. Other names taken Croke, Clerk.

2 Registrum Malmesburiense

Richard le Eyr proved his claim to the inheritance from the Blount family because he was descended from the Blount line.

3 Heredity Forrester of Fee Wiltshire and Derbyshire.

The heredity Forrester appointments in the Peak District of Hope, Derbyshire and the Melksham Forest Broham, Wiltshire, which were passed from Blount to Le Eyr family. It is positive proof that the Blount heredity appointments were passed to the next generation who had taken the name Le Eyr.

4 Funeral Entry for John Eyre of Eyrecourt Ireland formerly Brickworth Wiltshire.

The statement by the family of John Eyre was dismissed, by researchers as nonsense "that old Derbyshire myth but the Wiltshire pedigree was sound from Simon le Eyr of Wedhampton, above him was doubtful". How true. I find that an earlier acknowledgement that there was a "that old Derbyshire" myth existed, further confirmation for this theory.

5/6 Legal challenge to the right Nicholas le Eyr and Richard le Eyr inheritance.

In defending their individual right to posses the estate they had inherited, under challenge both Nicholas and Richard successfully defended their inheritance which proved that the land, formally Blount estate, was legally theirs by family relationship.

7 John le Eyr of Chesterfield.

John le Eyr of Chesterfield, Derbyshire claimed and recovered seisin of his lands in Urchfont Wiltshire by right of descent from Nicholas (Blount) Le Heyr thus continuing the le Eyr male line in Wiltshire.

8 EYRE Coat of Arms and crest.

The Derbyshire and Wiltshire families have shared the same surname from the earliest records of the name. The same applies to the coat of arms and crest, the Heraldry have allowed minor differences to avoid confusion within the same family thus creating some individuality by location. The strict rules of heraldry do not allow use of registered coat of arms between non-related families even with the same surname.


1 The surname Eyre evolved from Heyr, Eyr and these names without doubt came from a cadet line of the Blount family. But it must be said there is evidence also that more than one member was known by both names. Nicholas le Eyr who prepared a deed, witnessed by Blount family members, evidences this. Nicholas was defending his right to the settlement of inheritance from his brother Galfridus and his mother Alicia De Capella whose husband was William le Blount.

2 John le Eyr of Chesterfield Derbyshire by right of descent, claimed seisin of his lands at Urchfont Wiltshire and thus continued the le Eyr line, both counties had its origins from William Blount and his wife Alice De Capella.