IPRES, Sir Ralph (c.1336-1397), of Quernmore, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b.c. 1336. m. Emma (fl. 1409). Kntd. by May 1382.1
Keeper of the park at Quernmore for Henry, duke of Lancaster (d.1361), then for John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, 5 Apr. 1360-d.; steward of Gaunt’s lordships of Lonsdale and Amounderness, Lancs. 15 July 1375-28 Jan. 1383, Mich. 1395-6; receiver of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Lancs. 1392-d.2
J.p. Lancs. July 1394.3
Nothing is known for certain about the background or ancestry of this MP, although on his own evidence he was born in about 1336 and began to bear arms when he was 18 years old. It seems likely that he was a close relative (possibly the brother) of Sir John Ipres† a prominent supporter of John of Gaunt, who became controller of the wardrobe to Edward III and briefly occupied the stewardship of the royal household at the end of the latter’s reign. Sir John exercised considerable influence in Lancashire, where he served at various times as sheriff, escheator, crown commissioner and shire knight. His family appears to have lived in Lancaster, although he himself moved just outside the town to the manor of Aldcliffe which, in 1359, he leased for 60 years.4 Ralph had by then joined the retinue of Henry, duke of Lancaster, as a yeoman, and had been rewarded in the previous year with a grant of the wheat surrendered annually by the people of Overton as payment in kind for their use of the ducal mills. He later obtained the keepership of Duke Henry’s park at Quernmore for life, being confirmed by John of Gaunt when the latter succeeded, in 1362, to the estates and title of his late father-in-law. Naturally enough, Ralph continued to serve his new lord in other capacities as well. In March 1364, for example, he appointed two Lancaster men as attorneys before accompanying the duke on a visit to Flanders for the negotiation of a marriage treaty on behalf of his younger brother, Edmund of Langley; and we know, too, that he campaigned overseas with him on at least three occasions during this period. Gaunt recognized the loyalty of his ‘bien ame esquier’ in 1372 with a gift of five marks, going on, a few months later, to draw up a formal contract whereby Ralph was retained at an annual fee of £28 6s.8d. payable for life in peacetime from the farm of Liverpool and the revenues of the manor of Skerton. Since Ralph became steward of two other duchy lordships not long afterwards, he clearly relied heavily upon this source of patronage, although, as his indentures of retainder show, he was occasionally expected to advance temporary loans if his employer found himself without ready cash to hand.5 When not preoccupied with such official duties as the presentation of gifts of game to local notables, the inspection of building works and the arrest of malefactors, Ralph sometimes attended the duke as an esquire of his body. Besides the customary wages allocated for this service, he was liberally rewarded with consignments of livestock and timber, which, being parker of Quernmore, he was well placed to collect.6
As one of Gaunt’s leading retainers in Lancashire, Ralph was demonstrably in a strong position when it came to the choice of parliamentary representatives; and in 1378 he entered the House of Commons for the first time. Yet he did not lack other important local connexions, including the prior of Lancaster, for whom he acted as a surety. Interestingly enough, the prior was Sir John Ipres’s landlord at Aldcliffe, and it seems that the three men were fairly close. At all events, Ralph appeared in 1383 as one of the guarantors of his kinsman’s ability to pay the farm of the royal manor of Isleworth in Middlesex. He rarely performed this service; and on only one other occasion (when he profferred sureties for the King’s clerk, Thomas Broughton) did he agree to be a mainpernor.7 Meanwhile, in May 1382, Sir Ralph, who had recently been knighted, agreed to share with Sir Richard Tempest* and others the task of arbitrating in a property dispute over land in the Yorkshire village of Hanlith. Not long afterwards, he was obliged to entrust his affairs to two attorneys while he was away from home, almost certainly on Gaunt’s business. He probably fought under the duke’s banner during Richard II’s ill-fated campaign of 1385 against the Scots, although scant opportunity arose for him to distinguish himself in battle. The duke’s claim, through his second wife, Constance, to occupy the throne of Castile provided a useful pretext for him to evade a steadily worsening political impasse with the young King by launching an offensive in Spain, and he had long been embroiled in diplomatic negotiations to this end. One such embassy, dispatched in February 1385, had included Sir Ralph Ipres; and it was as a result of repeated rebuffs and frustrations on the part of his emissaries that, in March 1386, Gaunt began serious preparations for a military expedition. Royal letters of protection were then accorded to Sir Ralph, although the army was not ready to leave Plymouth until the following July. Just before their departure he and many of his companions gave evidence on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, in his dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over the right to bear the same contested coat of arms. Although there was very little likelihood of his succeeding in his mission, Gaunt remained in Spain for some time, and, in February 1387, Sir Ralph found it necessary to renew the royal letters permitting him to appoint attorneys. He probably returned to England with Gaunt, who was summoned back on urgent business by the King in October 1389; and in the following March he was present in Parliament to see him created duke of Aquitaine. Sir Ralph may already have been made receiver of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Lancashire, a post which he occupied on his third return to the Lower House, in 1393, and retained until his death, four years later. The circumstances attending his last appearance in the Commons are particularly interesting, since Gaunt is known to have substituted his name for that of Thomas Radcliffe*, who was originally chosen in the county court. Since both men were loyal servants of the duchy the reasons for this are hard to determine, although Ipres was, without doubt, the more eminent of the two.8
We do not know when Sir Ralph obtained the tenancy for life of Gaunt’s hundred of Staincliffe in Yorkshire, but in February 1397 the duke settled the reversionary interest upon his third wife and sometime mistress, Katherine Swynford. He clearly placed great value upon the devoted service given by his old retainer, as a few weeks later he confirmed a grant made to Sir Ralph of the farm of all the herbage at Quernmore and Scalethwaite for five years at a rent of £5 10s.4d. p.a., along with that of a mill on the river Lune and a neighbouring watercourse. It was also at this time that Sir Ralph acquired the wardship and marriage of Gaunt’s young tenant, Richard Catterall, whose extensive estates in Catterall, Goosnargh, Inskip and Wrightington were leased to him at just over £43 a year. In the event, he did not live to reap much benefit from this potentially lucrative transaction.9 He died shortly before 23 Apr. 1397, when his widow, Emma, was already preparing to take the veil. One month later she secured a licence from Archbishop Waldby for masses to be celebrated in various places for one year in his memory. Sir John Pudsay, who may well have been Emma’s kinsman, had already begun litigation against her and Sir Ralph for widespread holdings in Rimington and Bolton, Yorkshire, but although she lost her case after at least four years in the courts, she eventually managed, in 1409, to secure a life estate in some of the contested property. Other legal problems followed Sir Ralph’s demise. In August 1401, for example, his executors brought suits for the recovery of debts totalling 80 marks at the Lancaster assizes, while his widow was herself summoned as a defendant in a case of trespass. Sir Ralph apparently died childless. His next heir seems to have been Alice, the daughter of Sir John Ipres, who, in March 1401, took on the farm of his water mill on the Lune.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Dipre, Dypre(s), Ipre, Ypres.
- 1. Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxxvii. 23; Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 52; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. cxx. 136-7; DKR, xl. 525.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 373-4; DKR, xxxii. 341; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1986), 292-3.
- 3. Chetham Soc. lxxxvi. 217.
- 4. Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 52; Somerville, i. 67, 128, 372, 383; DKR, xxxii (1), 347; T.F. Tout, Chapters, iv. 157-8; VCH Lancs. viii. 40.
- 5. DKR, xxxii (1), 345; CCR, 1361-4, p. 475; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, nos. 808, 907; Walker, 276.