RADCLIFFE, Ralph (d.1432), of Blackburn and Smithills, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1414

Family and Education

s. and h. of Sir Ralph Radcliffe*. m. (1) bef. 1400, 1s.; (2) by Dec. 1416, Cecily (fl. 1435), wid. of Hugh Venables (d.1415), of Kinderton, Cheshire, at least 2s. 2da. Kntd. 19 May 1426.1

Offices Held

Receiver of the Lancs. and Cheshire estates of the duchy of Lancaster 10 Apr. 1413-24 Nov. 1417.2

J.p. Lancs. July 1413, July 1416, Mar. 1418, Aug. 1426.3

Commr. of inquiry, Lancs. Aug. 1413 (disorder at Pennington), Aug. 1417 (ownership of the manor of Rishton); array Apr. 1418;4 to raise a royal loan Nov. 1419; assess persons liable for taxation Apr. 1431.

Justice at the Lancaster assizes to 12 Aug. 1415.5


It was, no doubt, at the behest of his father, Sir Ralph, that Ralph Radcliffe the younger agreed, in December 1400, to the drawing up of a marriage contract between his infant son and Helen, a daughter of Sir John Massey of Tatton. Because the couple were related, it proved necessary to obtain a papal indult permitting their betrothal, which took place soon afterwards. Notwithstanding the disloyalty shown by Sir John towards the Lancastrian regime (he was soon to perish as a rebel at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403), both Ralph and his father consistently supported Henry IV, who proved suitably grateful. Indeed, in March 1401 he allowed Ralph to take on a lease of certain estates in Crompton which his father had previously farmed from John of Gaunt. Two months later Sir Ralph instructed his feoffees to settle upon his eldest son lands worth £10 p.a. in the Lancashire villages of Croston, Eccleston, Walton, Leyland, Standish and Much Hoole; and for the next five years the young man was largely dependent upon this source of income. He was sued for debt at the Lancaster assizes of August 1401 by his kinswoman, the recently widowed Margery Leigh (whose husband, Sir Peter, had been executed at Chester in 1399 on the orders of the newly victorious Henry of Bolingbroke), but otherwise he lived quietly until his father’s death, in the spring of 1406, obliged him to assume greater responsibilities. Although he then obtained seisin of the rest of the family estates in Flixton, Blackburn and Harwood, he was required, as Sir Ralph’s executor, not only to administer his effects but also to honour his debts as sheriff of Lancashire. A few months later he paid £30 to the council of the duchy of Lancaster, evidently in settlement of his father’s arrears, and by 1408 the authorities appear to have been satisfied. Ralph gradually began to play an active part in the local community, serving on juries at Lancaster in August 1407 and Middleton in February 1410. Shortly before the death of Henry IV, in March 1413, he was approached by Sir John Radcliffe of Ordsall, another of his relatives, to act as an arbitrator in a dispute between the knight and his three sons, each of the parties offering securities of £200 to abide by his award.6

On the day after Henry V’s coronation on Passion Sunday 1413, Ralph assumed office as receiver of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Lancashire and Cheshire, a post which his father had occupied at the beginning of the century. The appointment may well have been intended to compensate him for the loss of the manor of Ulnes Walton which had been the subject of litigation between him and the Crown, and which he surrendered to King Henry just four days later. He then entered securities of £500 as a guarantee that he would make no further attempt to recover the property, even though it had once belonged to his grandmother’s ancestors. His compliancy was further rewarded in the following September with the grant of a fee of £20 p.a. charged upon the revenues of Lancashire, and thus unlikely to fall into arrears. During this period Ralph also became active as a royal commissioner and j.p., so it is not surprising to find his name among those who attested the return for Lancashire to the first Parliament of the new reign. He himself took a seat in the House of Commons for the first time at Leicester in April 1414; and he subsequently participated in the county elections of November 1414, May 1421 and 1425. Meanwhile, in March 1415, Ralph obtained royal letters of pardon, possibly for some official malpractice or failure to account. He had need of Henry V’s indulgence again in the following year as a result of his marriage, without the King’s prior consent, to Cecily, the widow of Hugh Venables. In June 1416 he was bound over in pledges of £20 to the Crown, and six months later he paid a fine of 50 marks for having thus contravened the law—although since Cecily’s dower properties in Cheshire were said to produce about 80 marks p.a., the penalty was not too heavy. We do not know why Ralph was replaced as receiver of Lancashire and Cheshire by Thomas Urswyk*, whose appointment evidently caused him a good deal of resentment. He was certainly reluctant to surrender the necessary muniments, being ordered twice, in November and December 1417, to make way for his successor. A third memorandum, issued at the very end of the year, instructed him to have transcripts of his accounts made for the duchy council, so it may be that, like his father before him, he had got into financial difficulties.7

In about 1420, Ralph and his former parliamentary colleague, Nicholas Blundell (with whom he had acted as an arbitrator at least once before), agreed to mediate in a dispute between John Booth I* and Geoffrey Bulde over land in Barton. His kinsman, Sir Richard Radcliffe, also helped to draw up the award, being demonstrably partial towards Booth and his family. Not long after the accession of Henry VI, Ralph was confirmed in his pension of £20, which by then constituted one of the highest paid by the receiver of Lancashire. The birth of at least four children to his second wife led him, in 1424, to make a settlement of estates in Salford and Eccleston specifically for their use. One of his brothers, or half-brothers, George, who had by then become rector of Hoghton, proved a suitable choice as feoffee, and he was later involved in conveying Cecily’s dower lands as well. Ralph seems to have retained a seat on the Lancashire bench throughout this period. He was certainly in office in June 1425, when ill-feeling between the rival factions of Molyneux and Stanley became so intense as to threaten a full scale riot outside Liverpool. Ralph and his colleague, James Holt, rode out with Sir Richard Radcliffe (the then sheriff) and arrested the chief protagonists before violence broke out. Yet notwithstanding their close relationship as both kinsmen and agents of law enforcement, Sir Richard later refused to accept Ralph’s report of the incident, which he found untrue in certain particulars. Even so, Ralph did not lose favour with the authorities, for early in the following year he was commanded to present himself at the Leicester Parliament to receive a knighthood at the same time as the infant Henry VI and other prominent members of the English nobility and gentry. He was again returned as a shire knight in 1427, serving along with Thomas, the future Lord Stanley, who had, interestingly enough, been one of the chief protagonists in the confrontation at Liverpool. Another Member of this Parliament was Sir Nicholas Radcliffe* of Castlerigg, who was certainly one of Ralph’s kinsmen (although not to be confused with his younger brother, upon whom he settled a reversionary interest in certain family property some three years later).8

Sir Ralph’s last official appearance was made in March 1432, when he sat on a jury at an inquisition post mortem held in Lancaster. He died on 18 Sept. following, by which date his relations with Thomas Urswyk had improved sufficiently for the latter to be appointed as one of his executors. The bulk of his estates descended to his elder son, Ralph; but as we have already seen certain property was set aside for his other children, and the youngest of all, Katherine, received 80 marks for her marriage. The widowed Cecily Radcliffe survived to face proceedings for felony at the Lancaster assizes, although in August 1435 the case was dropped on orders from the Crown.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Chetham Soc. xcix. 34-36; DKR, xxxiii. 35; xxxvii (2), 604; G. Ormerod, Palatine and City of Chester ed. Helsby, iii (1), 199; CPR, 1413-16, p. 337; CPL, v. 406; Knights of Eng. ed. Shaw, i. 132.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 493; DL42/17 (2), f. 57.
  • 3. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 129; Somerville, i. 494.
  • 4. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 129.
  • 5. DKR, xxxiii. 12.
  • 6. CPL, v. 406; DL42/16 (1), f. 34v; Chetham Soc. xcv. 86, 94; xcix. 34-36; n.s. lxxxvii. 115; DKR, xxxiii. 6, 7; xxxvii (1), 174; Somerville, i. 493.
  • 7. C219/11/1B, 4, 12/5, 13/3; DL42/17 (1), f. 7, (2), f. 57; VCH Lancs. vi. 109; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 66, 71; DKR, xxxvii (2), 604, 637; Ormerod, iii (1), 199; CPR, 1413-16, p. 337; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 129.
  • 8. DL29/89/1631; DL42/18 (2), f. 27; Chetham Soc. xcix. 34-36; n.s. xciii. 80; xcvi. 130; CCR, 1419-22, p. 129; VCH Lancs. v. 13; C.P. Hampson, Bk. of Radclyffes, 212-13.
  • 9. Chetham Soc. xcix. 29, 36; n.s. xciii. 80; VCH Lancs. v. 13; DKR, xxxiii. 33-35.