The Illustrious Lordship of Ridley
in the County of Northumberland

The Lordship dates from 1230 when it was created and first bestowed on John Ridley by King Henry III.

The domain of Ridley lies in the Northumbrian area of England, on the river Tyne, a few miles east of Haltwhistle and twelve miles west of Hexham. Haydon Bridge is three miles to the east and Hadrian's Wall just four miles north.

On John's death in 1258 his son, Richard, succeeded to the Title. Richard played a crucial role in the development of science of that era by being the patron of Roger Bacon who is credited with the invention of the optical lens and gunpowder (though the Arabs may have known it earlier). Richard Ridley, Lord from 1330 until 1368, entertained Edward III as the English marched through Ridley in 1332 on their way to invade Scotland. The following year Richard was invited to be present at the Royal coronation in Scotland.

Among the many notable Lords of Ridley was Joseph, who, in 1485, joined Henry Tudor and his army and, at the head of a band of men from Ridley, fought in the decisive battle of Bosworth. Joseph's son Nicholas, succeeded to the Lordship in 1490 and was appointed to a leading position in the Royal mint. He was instrumental in reforming the coinage, and was responsible for the minting of the first pound coin, the sovereign. Christopher Ridley, the Lord from 1519, was a confidante of Henry VIII and, it is reported, one of the few men whom Henry really regarded as a friend.

Christopher's son, Nicholas Ridley, in 1537 became chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, assisting him in compiling the Book of Common Prayer. He was appointed chaplain to Henry VIII in 1541. In 1447 Nicholas became Bishop of Rochester and in 1550 Bishop of London. He was an influential leader in the English Protestant Reformation, as a result of which he and Bishop Latimer were burned at the stake in 1555 on orders of Queen Mary because they refused to recant their Protestant beliefs.

Nicholas' heir was Thomas Ridley, a cousin. Thomas became the headmaster of Eton and later the Vicar-General to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He married Margaret Boleyn, a relative of Queen Anne Boleyn, and became an advisor to King James I.

The Title passed through various families—Boswells, Nevilles, Blackets—until, in 1887, it came into the possession of the Bowes Lyon family through its transferral to the Honorable Francis Bowes Lyons, great-uncle of the present Queen of England. The official record continues: "The Title was passed down over the next century in the same highly esteemed family and now rests with Professor L. A. Lafford, a distinguished composer and a gentleman of considerable integrity."

The Lordship carries with it a variety of historic rights and privileges including those which are known as "the custom of the Manor." The Lord has the right to hold a Court every three weeks, to appoint a Steward (Judge), a jury and a hangman. The Lord of Ridley may also appoint a Bailiff, a Forester, an Ale Taster, and a Bread Taster. He may fly a flag with his Coat of Arms on certain occasions, especially his birthday. He has certain hunting and fishing rights granted by the Crown over 600 years ago, and may conduct the Beating of the Bounds, a ceremony originating as a celebration of the Roman boundary God "Terminus" (though now observed on Ascension Day) in which the boundaries defining the Lord's rule are reaffirmed.

The official history concludes: "This fine title is one of indubitably high standing, both of the United Kingdom and amongst the ranks of nobles worldwide. The Lords of Ridley have the reputation of being men of the very highest honour. Of greatest importance is the fact that this Lordship may be the only one to have become available from a member of the current monarchy. There can be no finer a distinction than this, as the Title ranks itself as a true Royal Title. The rating of this Lordship reflects its particularly special patronage, ancestry and standing. Needless to say, its reputation is second to none."

Excerpted from "The History of the Illustrious Lordship of Ridley", by Samuel Randolph, Director of Research, Chatsworth of London

It is interesting to note that the English word "Lord" is actually derived from the name Lafford which itself originated as "Hläf-Weard", meaning "Loaf Guardian" in the sense that the provider of food to his subjects was the Lord of the Manor.