DELAVAL, Ralph (1622-91), of Seaton Delaval, Northumb.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Oct. 1622, o.s. of Robert Delaval (d. 1623) of Seaton Delaval by Barbara, da. and coh. of Sir George Selby of Whitehouse, co. Dur. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1638; L. Inn 1639. m. 2 Apr. 1646, Lady Anne Leslie (d. 1696), da. of Alexander, 1st Earl of Leven [S], wid. of Hugh Fraser, Master of Lovat [S], 7s. (4 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. gdfa. 1628; cr. Bt. 29 June 1660.1
Dep. lt. Northumb. 1644, c. Aug. 1660-July 1688, commr. for northern assoc. 1645, militia 1648, 1659, Mar. 1660, assessment Northumb. 1649-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-d., co. Dur. Aug. 1660-1, 1673-4; sheriff, Northumb. 1649-50, j.p. 1652-87, commr. for oyer and terminer, Northern circuit, July 1660, carriage of coals, Newcastle 1679.2
Farmer of salt duties to 1667.3
Delaval was descended from a Hexham stonemason called John Woodman, whose grandson changed his name to Delaval on succeeding to the estate in 1471. The family welcomed the Reformation, but did not enter Parliament until 1626. Delaval was a Parliamentarian in the Civil War and held local office throughout the Interregnum. He was returned for the county to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, but became a royalist conspirator, chiefly valued for his supposed influence over Charles Howard. He was re-elected in 1660 and doubtless supported the Court in the Convention, though he left no trace on its records. He sued out his pardon, and was rewarded with a baronetcy and a lease of the duties on Scottish salt, which competed with the produce of his own works. At the general election of 1661 he was replaced as knight of the shire by Lord Mansfield (Henry Cavendish). His chief interest lay in improving his estate, rated at £1,610 p.a., and in particular his collieries, for which he obtained expensive pumping machinery and built a new harbour at Seaton Sluice. ‘The profit did not answer the account’, according to Roger North; but Delaval derived exquisite pleasure from designing and executing his projects, and had an opportunity of displaying his stoic temperament when disaster struck. He was accused of encouraging the Derwentdale plot in 1663, and his Presbyterian chaplain dedicated to him a discourse against conformity. But Delaval himself certainly conformed, and did not resign from the bench after the passing of the second Conventicles Act, probably because he was engaged in negotiating simultaneously for government help for the harbour project, and for the marriage of his invalid heir to an ‘over-forward beauty’ of the Court, to whom the King gave £2,000 as royal bounty.4
Delaval was successful at the double by-election caused by the death of Sir William Fenwick and the succession of Mansfield to the peerage in 1676. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament in its later sessions, he was named to only four committees, including that for the border rapine bill. Noted as ‘to be fixed’ on the working lists, he was given £500 a year for three years to assist in his harbour construction works, and marked ‘doubly vile’ by Shaftesbury. He was added to the committee to prepare reasons for a conference on the growth of Popery on 15 Apr. 1678, and served on the Commons delegation to inform the lord chancellor, among other things, that a recent addition to the Northumberland commission of the peace was a suspected Papist. He was on both lists of court supporters at this time.5
Delaval retained his seat in the Exclusion Parliaments. The only serious challenge came from the Roman Catholic courtier, Ralph Widdrington, at the first general election of 1679, which cost £1,000 to defeat, but Delaval’s colleague, Sir John Fenwick, footed the bill. Nevertheless Shaftesbury marked him ‘vile’. A moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament he was named to five committees, none of much political importance, and voted against the bill. After Delaval’s re-election in the autumn, despite blacklisting in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters, he was given responsibility for the salaries of the customs staff at Seaton Sluice, whereby he became ‘collector and surveyor of his own port, and no officer to intermeddle there’. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was appointed only to a committee on a private bill, and added to that to take the disbandment accounts. There is no evidence that he attended the Oxford Parliament. In the years that followed he supported Fenwick against Widdrington, and was replaced in James II’s Parliament by the latter’s henchman, William Ogle. In 1686 the Privy Council ordered his removal from the commission of the peace, and he was listed among the Opposition in the following year. Presumably he remained a deputy lieutenant, for in February 1688 he and Philip Bickerstaffe replied on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws:
1. If we or any of us should be chosen knight of the shire or burgess of a town, when the King shall think fit to call a Parliament, it shall be our chiefest care and study to do nothing there contradictory to our duty to God or our loyalty to our dread sovereign.
2. In all places where we are any way qualified we will modestly assist to the election of such Members as we conceive will faithfully discharge their duty to God, and with their lives and fortunes will preserve and maintain their fidelity to their prince, and carefully and sedulously watch all their opportunities to perform that great trust reposed in them both for the good of the King and the whole kingdom.
3. The principles of the religion in which we have been educated do teach us a firm obedience to the King and a brotherly love to our fellow-subjects; so that we readily comply to live friendly with those of all persuasions as subjects of the same prince and good Christians ought to do.
He never stood again. He died in embarrassed circumstances on 22 Aug. 1691 and was buried at Seaton Delaval. His namesake, the admiral, who was elected for Bedwyn as a Tory in 1695, came from another branch of the family; but his youngest son, the third baronet, sat for Morpeth from 1701 to 1705 as a Whig.6