De Merlay Dynasty, The Family Who Ruled Morpeth, 1085 -1265, by Bridget Gubbins. Published by Greater Morpeth Development Trust. ( £11.99. Softback.

The first Norman baron, William de Merlay, built a timber castle on a hill overlooking the River Wansbeck at Morpeth in about 1085, and his heirs continued to rule the baronry until 1265. This well-researched book by an acclaimed local author charts the stories of his descendants and their wives – Ranulph, William, three Rogers, and their equally important wives – over a tumultuous period of wars and invasions by the Scots.

It also highlights important changes during the medieval period including the granting of a royal market charter by King John in 1199, childbirths at the castle, a plot to kill a hated king, and a wicked sheriff. Part of a powerful network of French-speaking aristocratic families in Northumberland, which included de Vesci, Bertram, Balliol and Umfraville, the dynasty ended with William de Merlay the III, whose wife was unable to give him a son. He died in 1265.