RADCLIFFE, John (1738-83), of Hitchin Priory, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1768 - 21 Dec. 1783

Family and Education

b. 1738, 3rd s. of John Radcliffe, Turkey merchant, by Anne, da. of Lawrence Alcock of Trotton Place, Suss.  educ. Eton 1754-5.  m. 14 Apr. 1768, Lady Frances Howard, da. of Henry, 4th Earl of Carlisle, s.p. His sis. and h. Penelope m. 12 Aug. 1762, Sir Charles Farnaby, 3rd Bt.  suc. bro. Ralph, Dec. 1760; and uncle Arthur Radcliffe at Hitchin Priory 1769.1

Offices Held


The Radcliffes were an old gentry family, seated at Hitchin Priory since the sixteenth century. When Lady Frances became engaged to Radcliffe, George Selwyn wrote about him, 12 Jan. 1768, to Lord Carlisle: ‘He is very well spoke of, et le nom est assez beau’. And Carlisle to Selwyn, from Rome, 18 June 1768: ‘Everybody gives Mr. R. such a good character.’2

Radcliffe was put up at St. Albans by Lord Grimston who on 21 Sept. 1767 asked the Duke of Newcastle to give ‘an intimation ... to Mr. West in favour of Mr. Radcliffe my candidate’.3 Lord Spencer thought of running two candidates for the borough but in the end the election was uncontested, though there seems to have been no junction between the two candidates.4 Radcliffe’s elections in 1774 and 1780 were again uncontested. George Jennings, when applying to Newcastle to support Radcliffe, 23 Sept. 1767, described him as ‘a zealous promoter of those principles which your Grace has so many years protected’; and Newcastle himself looked upon Radcliffe as likely to prove a future supporter.5 Lord Torrington, a friend of Radcliffe, wrote to the Duke of Portland, 21 Nov. 1768:6

A note from you ... would be the best way of getting him to attend [on the Cumberland petition]. As he is very proud, he would be much flattered that you should think of him and likewise would make him think himself of great consequence.

Every single known vote by Radcliffe was given on the Opposition side. During his first 11 years his attendance was irregular: before 8 Mar. 1779 his name appears in only eight out of 18 division lists; but during the acute struggle which resulted in the fall of Lord North’s Administration, 15 Mar. 1782, his name appears in 12 out of 13 division lists. After Rockingham’s death Radcliffe adhered to Fox and voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but was absent from the divisions on Fox’s East India bill, probably too ill to attend. No speech by him is reported.

He died 21 Dec. 1783, aged 45.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. HMC Carlisle, 219, 221-2.
  • 2. Ibid. 228; Jesse, Selwyn, ii. 307.
  • 3. Add. 32985, f. 172.
  • 4. Add. 34735, f. 356.
  • 5. Add. 32985, f. 204; 32986, f. 347.
  • 6. Portland mss.