A SUNDERLAND great grandmother, who learned in lockdown that she is descended from one of Northumberland’s oldest families, has paid an emotional visit to a former ancestral home.

Margaret Pickard – formerly Errington – 84, from Fulwell, had no idea her family could trace its roots back for centuries.

But, while shielding at home during the pandemic, her son Steve started researching the family tree.

And his research revealed that, not only have Erringtons lived in Northumberland since before the Norman Conquest in 1066, but that an historic building linked to the family still survives.

Now a multi award-winning pub, The Blackbird, at Ponteland, stands on the exact site where Henry III of England and Alexander of Scotland, signed a peace treaty in the 13th century.

Peace was not to last, however and a century later the building – and much of the village – was ruined by an army of Scots retreating north from battle.

It remained almost derelict until, in 1597, Mark Errington – one of Margaret’s ancestors – rebuilt the Old Castle as a manor house and lived the life of a country gentleman.

Litle is known of him other than that he had 16 children, but the Manor remained in the family for 200 years before, later, becoming an eating house and, in the last century, licensed as ‘The Blackbird Inn’.

The early publicans allowed the ancient remains of the castle to rot away. However, in 1935, Robert Deuchar Ltd, carried out extensive restoration work, preserving the ancient tower, Tudor fireplace and many other features, which can be seen today.

And when Steve – whose research has also revealed “we’re descended from Plantagenet kings” – contacted its current owner, the Northumberland Pub Company, staff made sure Maragret and the family received a right royal welcome.

“It was so emotional for mam,” said Steve. “They looked after us beautifully and they showed us where our ancestor’s memory is preserved on a plaque.

“We’ve always been interested in history as a family but when you can place your own family members at the heart of it all it just makes it really come alive.

“We can’t stop thinking about Mark Errington and his family and the lives they must have lived and it’s fantastic that his home is not only still standing but has been so carefully preserved and cared for.”

Stuart Young, owner of Northumberland Pub Company said it had been a “genuine pleasure to welcome Margaret and her family.

“The Blackbird is one of the oldest inns in the North East,” he said, “and it was lovely to welcome the descendants of a family who had once called it home.”

For more information about the Blackbird, or to book, visit

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