Who was Sir John Forster? The Elizabethian Knight who once owned Farringdon

Sir John Forster (1520–1602) was an English military commander and knight from Northumberland who became a prominent figure in fighting a series of wars against invading Scots at a time of tensions between the two countries. Titled as “Warden of the Middle March” it became his signature role to defend England.

While we now understand the land of Northumberland as peaceful countryside where England meets Scotland, before the two countries united this land was in fact a contested territory and a heavily militarised region wherein the blood of countless conflicts dating back thousands of years had taken place. From the Roman era and Hadrian’s wall, to the Scottish War of independence, to Robert the Bruce, to the English Civil War and beyond, it is often said by scholars that these legacies are why the North East is so “tough”.

Forster was a part of the Northumbrian aristocracy that lived on this frontier, serving as a warden and a sheriff. His life involved many battles against Scotland, including the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, the Battle of Battle of Solway Moss in 1542 and as well as assisting Elizabeth I in supressing what was known as the “Northern Rebellion” in 1569, whereby a series of Catholic earls plotted to dumb the Virgin Queen and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. This led to the execution of their ringleader, Thomas Percy.

In exchange for his loyalty to the crown and military service, Queen Elizabeth I then granted by her right an estate located in historical Bishopwearmouth, known as Farringdon Hall. This is now modern day Farringdon. Despite being granted this, Forster preferred to continue living in Northumberland, and spent most of his time in Bamburgh. While John owned the hall, one of his servants, known as John, was executed in 1596, the reason is not known.

John Forster himself died in 1602. He arguably is the most accomplished and significant military figure ever to be associated with Farringdon.

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