Geoffrey de Dutton

Updated: I’ve added a link to the TV programme on the Channel 4 website, and answered a question: How certain am I that Geoffrey Dutton is my ancestor?

My thanks to Sharon Wormold who alerted me to an episode of the Bone Detectives on Channel 4 last Saturday night (Series 2 Episode 3). I had missed it but was able to download it from Catch Up.

It concerned the identification of a skeleton found in the Nave of Norton Priory in Runcorn Cheshire, as Geoffrey. My wife then googled Geoffrey and found an article on the Manchester Metropolitan website called A Transformed Life? Geoffrey Dutton, the Fifth Crusade, and the Holy Cross of Norton by Dr Kathryn Hurlock.

The significance of Geoffrey is that, as the son of Adam de Dutton, and grandfather of Peter (Piers) de Weberton, he is the ancestor of the Warburtons of Arley Hall, and, if my interpretation of the DNA evidence is correct, anyone who is part of the Cheshire Group.

The Dutton family were benefactors of Norton Priory, and subsequently had a family chapel established there. Geoffrey was a Knight and Cheshire landholder. In 1218 he joined the Fifth Crusade as part of a Cheshire contingent lead by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, and consisting of up to 100 knights and their retinues. Another Knight was John de Lacy, probably Geoffrey’s brother-in-law.

The Fifth Crusade went to Egypt and established itself at Damietta. However disaster struck when the crusaders were defeated at the battle of Mansourrah on August 5th 1220. By this time Ranulf had returned home, and Geoffrey also returned safely to England, where he was subsequently referenced in various documents.

On one of these documents Geoffrey attached a seal depicting two hands holding a palm frond. This could be taken as meaning he had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and it would have been possible for him to make such a pilgrimage before returning home as the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem would allow unarmed crusaders to make such a visit. However there is also evidence that partaking in a Crusade, even to Egypt, was sufficient to allow the use of such a seal.

More significantly Geoffrey brought back a relic, a piece of the True Cross, which he gifted to Norton Priory. This in itself was sufficient to earn him a resting place in a prime position in the Nave of the Priory. It is probable he was only feet away from where his gift was mounted on the Rood Screen that separated the Nave from the Chancel.

The other reflection on Geoffrey’s Crusade was the incorporation of a Saracen’s Head on the Warburton Coat of Arms. It is questionable whether he ever actually removed a Saracen’s head, or this is this is just a symbolic reference to a Warburton ancestor.

Geoffrey died around 1248, and his skeleton was on full display in the TV programme. It was said to be of a man in his 50s, meaning he was born around 1190. This contrasts with the date I have in the Arley family tree of 1170, which is mainly based on the tree in Ormerod’s History of Cheshire. I should probably update it some time.

More startling were two other conclusions from the programme. Firstly, in common with about 20% of the many skeletons unearthed at Norton Priory, he suffered from a version of a bone thickening disease called Paget’s Disease.

Secondly he was murdered, probably while at prayer. This conclusion was based on a cut mark which ran down his upper spine, and looks like it was inflicted by a sword at the time of his death. No explanation of who did this, or why, was offered.

Note 1: You can access the episode from the Channel 4 site at: If you live on the UK or Ireland you can register to see the episode here for the next 40 days.

Note 2: Steve Warburton asked: From this statement, “if my interpretation of the DNA evidence is correct, anyone who is part of the Cheshire Group is connected by DNA to Geoffrey de Dutton”. So are we?

My answer was:

The answer has to be “probably: 90% certain”. I say this because it is the most plausible explanation of the known facts that:

  1. Geoffrey is indeed the ancestor of the Warburtons of Arley Hall, but they died out in the main line in 1813.
  2. The several clans in the Cheshire Group share a similar Y-chromosome with a unique shared SNP. The group also falls into two halves which mirror the historical record that Peter de Werberton had a son by his second wife who gained lands in Partington, whilst his heirs continued the line at Arley Hall. At least one clan (the Pennsylvania clan, currently being extended into a Partington clan} has origins in Partington, and another uses a name Hamlett, which is associated with the Partington families.
  3. The Cheshire Group also share slightly earlier SNPs with groups of Duttons suggesting an earlier shared common ancestor between the main Dutton lines and the Dutton/Warburton line. The dating of this common ancestor is also consistent with the historical record i.e occurring about 1000 years ago.

There are two bits of information that would lift the probability to 100%:

  1. A matching Dutton DNA result with a documented pedigree back to the early Duttons. Such a pedigree exists but I haven’t identified a living Dutton connected to it to take the test.
  2. 2. Evidence of shared SNPs in Normandy or Northern France. Unfortunately not much testing has been done in that region. In fact prior to the Dutton-Warburton split there is a long list of about 40 shared SNPs which exhibits no branches. It’s difficult to believe there weren’t any so where are those distant cousins hiding?

In my mind this interpretation is sound, but logically there is still that small element of doubt there could be another explanation for the shared Dutton-Warburton DNA as both names are common in north Cheshire.

3 thoughts on “Geoffrey de Dutton”

  1. Great update, Ray. I’m trying to track down that episode to watch but is difficult to navigate the BBC site on this side of the pond in Canada. Any thoughts?

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