So, how did the surname and family name of Dufton start, and who were the first Duftons?
We cannot be sure.
This page records some of the research carried out so far.
It is hoped that this information will be of interest to others in the future who may want to take the research further.

A list of the documents used in this research are recorded on the Documents page.
documents used in research

It seems probable that the Robert de Dufton recorded in the Pipe Rolls of 1176, was one of the very first people to bear the name Dufton.  History would indicate that perhaps his father was in fact the first Dufton.  The tradition of using 'place' surnames to indicate hereditary land ownership was a Norman invention.  First, the land was acquired, then a son inherited it and began using the prefix 'de', as in de Dufton.  Finally when the land and title passed to his son the surname became a family name.

Robert de Dufton 1176
Robert de Dufton recorded in1176

Due to the remoteness of Cumbria very little of the area was settled by the Normans until well after 1100.  Hence, the name Dufton was probably first taken at some time between 1100 and 1176.  The name does not appear on the surviving pieces of 1130 Pipe Rolls for Westmorland, which narrows the period to when the name Dufton was first used to between 1130 and 1176.

Dufton place of doves

An important event in English, and especially Cumbrian history, was the sinking of the White Ship.  On the night of the 25th November 1120, off the coast of France, the White Ship sank drowning not only Prince William, the future king, but many of the royal household, including the Earl of Chester.  Ranulph de Mechines, the Lord of Cumbria, became the new Earl of Chester. King Henry took back control of Cumbria from Ranulph for himself. King Henry had been greatly concerned by the power exerted by the warlord Ranulph in Cumbria, and by the local unrest that had plagued his time there.  The Scots were no longer a problem as Henry had a good relationship with his brother-in law the King of Scotland.  The king divided Cumbria in to various smaller baronies, he tended to favour local Anglo-Saxon or Norse  families as the new land owners in Cumbria.  He thought this would ensure loyalty from the local population, and in those troubled times he could not afford unrest in the distant north.  Records indicate that Cumbria was not functioning as a proper shire, and was in need of developing. 

King Henry travelled to Cumbria in 1130, and much of his reorganising was completed around this time, the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland came into being during this period.  Various writ charters of around this time indicate that much of the land and manors around the village of Dufton had been recently granted to local Anglo-Saxon and Norse families.  Culgaith, just north of Dufton was the property of Adam FitzSweyne a Saxon lord.  Edenhall, Brougham, Kirby Stephen and Greystoke are all recorded as being in the hands of local lords.  King Henry died in 1135, and Cumbria came under the rule of Scotland. So, history suggests that the name Dufton may have originated at some time between 1130 and 1135.

Dufton crest located by Richard Dufton
Dufton crest of 1174
But who were Robert de Dufton's ancestors? 
As yet this still remains rather unclear, but there are various possibilities, and two of these are worth serious consideration.

Firstly, some detailed and very impressive research by Professor Richard Dufton suggests that Robert de Dufton was a descendant of Eldred, the second Baron of Kendal, and of his son, Ketel FitzEldred the third Baron of Kendal.  William FitzKetel was Ketel's youngest son, his name and his father's name appear on a grant of land between 1120 and 1130.  It is suggested that around this time William is given the manor of Dufton.  William's son Nicholas inherits the manor of Dufton and takes the name Nicholas de Dufton, to establish and demonstrate his possession.  Nicholas's son, Ranulph de Dufton inherits the manor, and is followed by his son Robert de Dufton born about 1150.  This is the Robert de Dufton that appears on the 1176 Pipe Roll of Westmorland.

Richard's chart showing the first Duftons and the start of the House of Dufton.

Robert de Dufton was fined in 1174 by King HenryII
for not defending Appleby castle.

However, another possibility is that the Dufton family are in fact a branch of the Greystoke family. The family of the fictional character Tarzan.  Various documents indicate that the fortunes and misfortunes of the Dufton family are linked to the Greystokes.
History shows that Lyulf, a Norse chief, was the most visible man among the Cumbrian lords during the early Anglo-Norman period.  He held land in Cumberland, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Westmorland, and was granted the lordship of Greystoke by Ranulph de Meschines.  His eldest son Phorne was his successor, he became the second baron of Greystoke, and had all the lands he inherited confirmed by King Henry in about 1130.  Phorne’s successor was his eldest son Ivo, the third baron of Greystoke, born about 1093.  And, it was a William de Greystoke, the ninth baron of Greystoke, who in about 1235 holds the various manors once held by the Duftons.

Records show that the Westmorland manor of Brampton, the manor next to the manor of Dufton, was held in the late 1100s by 'fief of Greystoke' by Ranulph de Brampton a younger son of Ranulph of Greystoke, the grandson of Ivo de Greystoke.  This is the same period when the manor of Dufton is held by Robert de Dufton.  So is the situation at Dufton similar to that at Brampton where the manor is held by a younger Greystoke son who has taken the name of his estate? And are Ranulph de Brampton and Robert de Dufton brothers or cousins, the sons of Greystoke fathers?

Although ownership of most of the land in Anglo-Norman Westmorland is well documented, it remains unclear exactly what land the Greystokes held in the county.  But, records do show that Ivo de Greystoke's son did own Knock, Yanwath and Brampton manors all very near Dufton, and which a few years later would belong to John de Dufton.  Also, records do indicate that at this time Brampton, Dufton, Bolton and Yanwath are not held separately by the barony of Westmorland but held as tenure by the family of Greystoke, and that at one time Dufton village was part of Brampton Manor.

In conclusion, the suggestion being made is that the Dufton family may stem from a younger son of Ivo de Greystoke, the third baron. Ivo had four sons, Walter (the forth baron), Robert, Adam and William. The younger sons would have been given land and manors, one of which may have been the manor of Dufton.
Or, perhaps more intriguingly from a Greystoke daughter as there are records of them being given land as a marriage portion. We also know that Edith de Greystoke, Ivo's daughter, was the mistress of King Henry and the mother of at least one of his sons!


The ancient Greystoke tower of Lyulf still stands above Gowbarrow fell, next to Aira force overlooking Ullswater, and in the shadow of Helvellyn. There is a legend, and a poem by William Wordsworth called The Somnambulist, that tells the story of Emma of Greystoke and her beloved  Sir Eglamore, one of King Arthur's knights.  The poem tells of the events that happened at Lyulf's tower.

The Barons in Cumbria held their lands and baronies from the king, to whom they were expected to provide Knight's Service. If the king demanded 4 knights's service from the baron, then four knights would need to be given land, and allowed to collect taxes as payment for their service to the baron. It often occurred that younger males of a baron's family would serve as his knights, thus the baron's lands would remain within the family.

It seems certain that the Dufton family are a branch of one of the younger members of an ancient Cumbrian family.  But which one we do not know as yet, it could be the family of Lyulf of Greystoke, Ketel of Kentdale, Sweyne or even the Morvilles.

My own best guess.......... for what it's worth,

 After many, many hours reading through the various documents and manuscripts in the National Archive at Kew, Carlisle Castle record office and Carlisle and Kendal reference libraries is that the Dufton family stem from the Greystoke family. Possibly, from one of the younger sons of Ivo de Greystoke.
There are two pieces of significant information that indicate that during the earliest of times the manor of Brampton was a fief of the Barony of Greystoke, and that Dufton was originally part of the manor of Brampton, hence linking the Duftons to the  Greystoke family.  (ref...CWAA 1922)

This Medieval Dufton chart records the early known Duftons. However, the chart is just a first attempt, and has been drawn with only a little confidence.

A section of the Family tree of Lady Clifford of Westmorland, recording the marriage of Thomas de Greystoke and the daughter of Robert de Veteripont.
Thomas held the manor of Dufton after the death of John de Dufton about 1230.
Research suggests that the Dufton family may descend from the Ranulph baron of Greystoke shown on the chart.

Mediaeval documents record William de Dufton applying for a writ in a dispute over land in Appleby in 1198.  Also, Robert de Dufton being summoned for court service in 1199.  His son John de Dufton held in capite, from the crown, the barony of Dufton which included the manors of Dufton, Knock, Keisley, Brampton, Bolton and Yanwath all in Westmorland.  There is apparently, a state document of 1173 that describes the arms granted to William de Dufton son of Ranulph de Dufton. However, the accuracy of the document still needs to be confirmed.  But it does allow us to draw a possible family tree for these early Duftons.

Ranulph de Dufton, born about 1130
Robert de Dufton, born about 1150...   William de Dufton, born about 1160
John de Dufton, born about 1180                                                          

Pipe Rolls, Curiae Regis, Close Rolls, Feets of Fines.
Some references to possible early Duftons.

1198 Curiae Regis William de Dufton

William de Dufton applied for a writ against William.....sum Regarding Appleby.

1199 Robert de Dufton Called for jury service
1199 Curiae Regis Robert de Dufton Robert de Dufton, spelt Davefton, versus Thomas de Aresci and Peter de Nevill.
1206 Curiae Regis Peter de Duveton Isabella widow of Peter de Duveton regards land in Duviston. Plea made in Suffolk
1232 Curiae Regis Henry de Dufton Henry de Dufton son of Agnes, wife of William, son of Guy de Dufton. Plea made in Warwick.
1254 Close Rolls Nicholas de Dufton Nicholas, son of Walter or John, son of Adam de Dufton.
But beware, as some are recorded as Duston, there is often confusion as the long version of the letter s and the letter f appear very similar in old documents. There were several Duston families living at Duston in Northamptonshire.

But it would be fascinating to learn a little more about these first Duftons, especially about 'Baron' John de Dufton. 
Perhaps  events at the start of the 1200s could be used to draw some conclusions. 

In 1204 King John of England granted the Barony of Westmorland to Robert de Veteripont, a descendant of the Morville family, the past barons of Westmorland and landowners in the Eden valley.   In an attempt to raise funds for a war against France to recover his lost lands, King John had overtaxed his subjects, he also demanded his barons joined him in France to do battle.  In events that lead to the Magna Carta, the so called 'Northerner' barons rebelled against the king's demands, and civil war followed.   By all accounts Robert de Veteripont was a ruffian, plunderer and murderer, at a time when the king's hold over England  was being threatened by the rebellious barons, Robert had remained loyal to his monarch and fought alongside him, and had been well rewarded.  But Robert had a rival claimant to the barony, one with a much stronger claim, he was Alan, Lord of Galloway the Constable of Scotland, also a descendant of the Morvilles.  In preparation for the inevitable attack from the Scottish Lord, Robert de Veteripont began to take defensive measures and spent much of his fortune in the process.   Just a few miles north of Dufton village he built Brougham castle, where the main road from Scotland crossed the river Eamont and river Lowther.  South of the river the road divides, one branch leads to Kendal and on to Lancashire, the other along the Eden valley and over Stainmoor to Yorkshire.  John de Dufton held the manor of Yanwath which is next to Brougham castle and through which runs the Kendal road, he also held the manors of Bolton and Brampton which straddled the road over Stainmore.

 So, what qualities would the fierce, ruthless warlord Baron of Westmorland demand from the person responsible for protecting the rear of his castle from attack by the Scots or the rebellious barons?  We can only surmise.

Brougham castle, north of Dufton, defended by John de Dufton in 1216

Records show that the most important of the early Duftons was John de Dufton. In 1202 he held, in capite, of the crown the barony of Dufton.  This means he held the barony directly from the king, as the tenant in chief, and suggests that King John had rewarded him for his services.

In February 1201 King John visited Cumbria to drum up support and collect money for his war against the French, He stopped at Kirkoswald and stayed overnight at Merton (Murton) a village next to the village of Dufton. Later that year he fought the French at the battle of Mirebeau. One of the barons with him at Mirebeau was Robert de Veteripoint. Records show that Robert helped the king remount after he had fallen from his horse during the battle. One of Robert's knights was John de Dufton, so it seems probable that John was also fighting for the king at Mirebeau, and was thus rewarded with the barony of Dufton.

Rolls in the Tower of London record that Symon of Pategal, has the names of seventeen 'drengi of Westmorland' who paid fifty marks each to 'remain and not cross the seas, at the passage of our Lord the King'. This was in response to the command by King John for knights to sail with him to fight. 
These rolls may indicate if John de Dufton sailed with the king, and was thus favourably rewarded by the king after the battle with the Barony of Dufton.

The attack came in 1216, Alan of Galloway was victorious, he overran the Eden Valley, and became the Baron of Westmorland and Governor of Cumbria for King Alexander of Scotland.  The Scottish king, encouraged by the rebel barons, had at last brought Cumbria and Northumbria under Scottish control.  And Dufton village was back under the control of Scotland.  Support from the local Cumbrian barons was equally divided between Alan of Galloway, the new baron of Westmorland and Robert de Veterpoint, the replaced baron.  But King Alexander was eventually bought off with an earldom and marriage to the English King's sister.   Cumbria and Dufton were finally returned to English control,  and Robert de Veteripont returned to reclaim the Barony of Westmorland. 
Dufton place of doves
John de Dufton died before 1235, and the good fortunes of the Dufton family he left behind were about to decline.

At this time the Barony of Dufton and the various manors once held by John de Dufton are given to the daughter of Robert de Veteripont, the wife of Thomas de Greystoke.  We are not sure why, but it may well be that John de Dufton's barony was not hereditary and thus died with him.  Records also show that Robert de Veteripont was always eager to increase his power, and bought up most of the manors and their demesnes around Appleby.

The Westmorland Eyres, which include the Appleby Assizes of 1253, record an inquest that occurred regarding a dispute over 200 acres of pastureland near the village of Dufton.  Alan de Dufton and Bernard de Dufton, probably John's sons, along with William de Greystoke, all landowners, are accused of taking the land for their own use whilst it belonged to various other villagers.  The court records that the manor of Dufton was held by William de Greystoke's mother. Another inquest in 1289 confirms that the manor of Dufton belonged to William de Greystoke, and he had inherited the estate from Lady Leyburn, the daughter and heir of Robert de  Veterpoint the Baron of Westmorland.  This implies that after John de Dufton's death before 1235 the manor and barony of Dufton were no longer held by the Dufton family, but had been taken by the Veteripont and Greystoke families. Although, the Duftons own land in the village that bears their name they no longer enjoy the benefits of holding the manor. John appears to have left a large family behind on his death, possibly five sons and a daughter.  The eldest of John's sons was Robert de Dufton, undoubtedly the 'black sheep' of the family, which may well be another reason that he did not inherit the manor from his father.

Westmorland Eyres
The names of John de Dufton and his son Robert appear on the Appleby assizes of 1279.

The Appleby Assizes of 1279 record several serious incidents concerning Robert and the Duftons. It records that John of Knock killed with a sword Robin Bule in Dufton, and that as William de Dufton did not attend the inquest as required he was thus suspected of being involved in the crime.  The responsibility of bringing William to the court fell upon Thomas son of Hugh de Dufton, who was fined 50 pence for William's disappearance.  At the same inquest, Robert son of John de Dufton was accused of stabbing with a knife and killing Marjery de Brampton, daughter of Beatrice de Brampton in the village of Brampton.  Robert fled and was declared an outlaw in the county of Westmorland, and his goods seized.  Robert was recorded as living in Cumberland in 1281. The Closed Rolls of 1283 record that on 22 March, King Edward declared that the sheriff of Westmorland was to take two bovates of land from Robert, the son of John de Dufton, who had been an outlaw for felony for more than a year and a day.  Records suggest that Robert may have crossed the border into Scotland and assisted in the fight against King Edward, 'the Hammer of the Scots'.

 Robert's son Humphrey de Dufton was hanged, a court document of 1292 records the proceedings in which Humphrey, and other felons who had been hanged or beheaded, were to have their possessions disposed of.  John, the tenth baron of Greystoke, claimed all of Humphrey's goods. History records that when King Edward returned from his crusade in the Holy Land, he discovered tenants in capita and others had considerably diminished his revenue.  He appears to have been extremely severe with his Cumbrian subjects, who displayed little loyalty to their distant king who was often abroad, of Norman descent, and spoke French as his first language. The people of Westmorland had far more in common with their Scottish neighbours, and family links formed endless chains.  In fact many of the Scottish royal family were descendants of English and French families from the midlands of England who had acquired land in Scotland and the borders from the Scottish King David.

However, the manor of Keisley was to remain in the hands of John's daughter Eleanor de Dufton, she was to marry into the influential D'Aubeny family, when she wed Robert D'Aubeny, she died in 1311. Their daughter also an Eleanor, married Nicholas Veteripont, and remained at Keisley until her death in 1367.   Nicholas was the wealthy lord of Alston Manor and owned all the mines in that region. Their two daughters, Elizabeth born 1346 and Joan born 1349 both remained at Dufton. 

The outlawed Robert de Dufton had other sons, besides Humphrey, there was a son Nicholas de Dufton who remained at Dufton as a farmer. 

Archbishop of York

William de Melton was Archbishop of York between 1316 and 1340, he was also Lord High Treasurer of England. The archives for York Minster record that during this time a Master Robert de Dufton was employed by Archbishop Melton.

The records list an entry, dated 2nd February 1326, that Robert de Dufton advocate for the court at York, was given 40 shillings expenses for travelling to Scotland on the Archbishop's business. This was at a time in history when York and the north of England were being plundered by Scottish raiders, and the Archbishop had been tasked by the King Edward to solve the problem. So it would appear that the Robert de Dufton's mission to Scotland was of grave importance.

The archives also record that in 1328 Robert de Dufton was the Archbishop's official at Richmond in north Yorkshire. A section of the records state.....
Case of the church of Kirkham.
During the vacancy of the archdeaconry of Richmond, in the year of Our Lord 1328, William de Melton, then archbishop of York, caused a peremptory edict to be published by his official, Master Robert de Dufton, and by the dean of Amounderness in the church aforesaid, the tenor whereof follows:

These records refer to various letters regarding the tax matters of Kirkham church.

Richmond is only a day's walk or ride from the village of Dufton. It would seem possible that Master Robert de Dufton may well be a grandson of John de Dufton whose family were still living in the village of Dufton.
  The records from York Minster, beside listing Master Robert de Dufton in the 1320s,
also list a Thomas de Dufton who was a freeman of the city of York in the years between 1340 and 1350.  It seems probable that these Duftons are the ancestor of those many members of the Dufton family that have their origins in Yorkshire.

The word barony in Norman times normally means a land owner, rather than referring to nobility.  The Testa de Neville of 1235 which listed all the barons and nobles of that time made no record of the name Dufton.  This suggests that even though at one time the Duftons held the barony of Dufton and various other manors, the family were of a minor status than the ruling nobles, very much towards the bottom of the nobility league table. 

The Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1332, which records those required to pay a tax, levied by Edward III to boost his war chest, lists two Duftons.  Both are living in the Eden valley, Thomas de Dufton living in the village of Ousby and another Thomas living in Penrith.

The 1324 Rolls also record that much of Dufton was set ablaze when it was attacked by the Scots, the manor house and other capital messauges were destroyed.
There are various Inquisitiones Post Mortems between 1362 and 1377 that give details of the Dufton family farming in Dufton village at this time.  An inquest at Appleby in 1363 dealt with the issue of rent from the village of Dufton.  One of the issues was that of John de Dufton, son of Adam de Dufton, son of Nicholas de Dufton, who had a farm of 24 acres in the village of Dufton.  Research indicates that this Nicholas is probably the son of the outlawed Robert de Dufton. The will of the rector of Dufton proved 6th November 1366 names Andrew de Dufton and his brother Adam de Dufton, Andrew is left 4 shillings by the rector.  One of the last records of a mediaeval Cumbrian Dufton found so far is that of John de Dufton who has moved from Dufton, and in 1381 holds the manor of Clifton and is in possession of neighbouring land, just a few miles from Dufton village.

A 1381 deed of land recording John de Dufton dwelling at Clifton

Of interest is the fact that Clifton is the site of the last battle to be fought on English soil when Bonnie Prince Charles skirmished with the Duke of Cumberland here in 1745, before they met at the 'massacre' of Culloden.  On their retreat from Clifton the rebels took many of the local land records and manuscripts, which were then lost forever.  Perhaps some of the documents that recorded Dufton family history were among those taken at the Battle of Clifton.

The National Archive hold an ancient 15th century deed for dwellings at Belfeld and Butterwicke, both are locations in Westmorland. The dwellings had been granted to John the son of Nigel de Dufton. Butterwick is 'deep' in the middle of 'Dufton territory' between Helton and Bampton, less than 2 miles from Askham, about 3 miles from Clifton where John Dufton was living in 1381, and 3 miles from Melkinthorpe where William Dufton lived in the early 1500s.

Link to a chart drawn by Robert Dufton of Milwaukee.
The chart records a Dufton family living in Appleby- in-Westmorland.

However, although the chart is of great interest the information still needs to be confirmed.

There are no further records found as yet of the Dufton family living in Westmorland or Cumberland until a William Dufton, in the early 1500s, is recorded living at Melkinthorpe which is very close to both Butterwick and Clifton.  All the Dufton families with links to Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland and Durham can trace their family back to this William Dufton in the early part of the 1500s.

And finally.....
There is an intriguing question that now needs to be asked.
Was this William Dufton of Melkinthorpe a descendant of the earlier Cumbrian Duftons?
If he was it enables us to trace the Duftons back from the present day to the time of Lyulf, Phorne or Eldred who were mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. 

Or, perhaps this William was a farmer whose family had moved to Melkingthorpe from the nearby village of Dufton, which can be seen from Melkingthorpe.  And, was he therefore referred to as William from Dufton to distinguish him from other Williams in the village, this at a time when the ordinary man was starting to use surnames. 

The manorial records for Melkingthorpe and the various land inquests for Westmorland may well hold the answer.

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