CHEYNE, Sir Ralph (c.1337-1400), of Brooke in Westbury, Wilts.

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



Sept. 1388

Family and Education

b.c.1337, 2nd s. and event. h. of Sir William Cheyne of Poyntington, Som. by his 2nd w. Joan, da. of Ralph Gorges of Bradpole, Dorset. m. between Jan. and Nov. 1368, Joan (14 Nov. 1353-bef. 1400), da. and coh. of Sir John Pavely of Brooke by his 2nd w. Agnes de la Mare, 1s. Sir William*. Kntd. by May 1370.

Offices Held

Dep. justiciar, Ire. c. Sept.-Dec. 1373.

Sheriff, Wilts. 26 Oct. 1376-26 Nov. 1377, 1 Dec. 1388-15 Nov. 1389.

Commr. of inquiry, Wilts. Sept. 1377 (illegal confederations), Cinque Ports Apr. 1381 (shipwreck), Wilts. Feb. 1390 (wastes in lands of a royal ward), Mar. 1390 (rents claimed by Sir Thomas de la Barre*), Apr. 1390 (ownership of Barford St. Martin), Hants Feb. 1392 (title to land); array, Wilts. Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399; to put down rebellion, Hants, Wilts. July 1381, Wilts. Dec. 1381, Mar. 1382; of oyer and terminer Jan. 1387; to survey Marlborough castle May 1390; hold special assizes Mar. 1398; reform the government of Amesbury priory May 1398.

Tax assessor, Wilts. May 1379.

Lt. warden of the Cinque Ports by Apr. 1381-c. Jan. 1384.

Chancellor, Ire. 27 June 1383-10 Sept. 1384.

J.p. Wilts. 15 July 1389-July 1391.


Following the death of Sir William Cheyne in 1345, almost all his estates passed to his eldest son, Edmund†, Ralph’s half-brother. Ralph, then aged eight, inherited only the manor of Tothill in Lincolnshire, which had belonged to his mother’s family, the Gorges. Edmund served as warden of the Channel Islands from 1358 until 1367, and it was probably there that Ralph spent his youth, for it was as ‘of Jersey’ that in 1359 he acted as a surety for the custodian of the priory of Vale in Guernsey, and later, in 1368 and 1370, when in England, he nominated attorneys to act on his behalf in the Islands.1 In the meantime, his military service had begun in 1359, when he joined the expedition to France led by Edward III in person, and in 1363 he had gone to Ireland on royal business.2

In 1368 Cheyne married one of the heirs of Sir John Pavely’s estates in Wiltshire. These had already been partitioned, but Cheyne objected that his wife’s share was worth less than that allotted to her nieces, the daughters of her sister Alice, wife of Sir John St. Loe†, so a second partition was made giving the Cheynes moieties of the hundred of Westbury and the manor of Brooke, a half-share of the profits of the view of frankpledge and the market and fair at Westbury, the hamlets of Ditteridge and Hawkeridge and £6 of yearly rent from the manor of Westbury. Cheyne’s wife later inherited a moiety of the manor of Hilperton from a kinsman.3 Cheyne increased his holdings in Wiltshire-in 1373 he took a lease on the manor of Great Cheverell for ten years at a rent of £16 13s.4d. — and it is clear from his commissions that Wiltshire became his chief centre of interest and, presumably, his home county. Some time between 1374 and 1383 he also came into the bulk of his father’s estates, for his half-brother Edmund died childless. These included the manor of Cheyney-Cottered in Hertfordshire, two parts of that of ‘Cheyneysplace’ in Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire, and property in Devon, although Edmund’s widow was to retain a life interest in other holdings, such as the manor of Poyntington in Somerset, until her death many years later, in 1422. By the time of his first return to Parliament, Sir Ralph was a wealthy man, enjoying an income from land conservatively estimated at £99 a year.4

Cheyne’s first post of any importance came about through his relationship with the influential Sir Robert Assheton of Pitney, Somerset, a cousin on his mother’s side. Assheton held office as justiciar of Ireland, and when he left the province in September 1373 he named Cheyne as his deputy during his absence. This connexion with Assheton (who was treasurer of Exchequer from 1375 to 1377) long continued, and by April 1381 Cheyne was supplying his place as warden of the Cinque Ports and constable of Dover castle, positions he may well have retained until Assheton’s death in January 1384. Cheyne and (Sir) Maurice Russell* were then found to be Assheton’s heirs to the manors of Litton and Bradpole in Dorset, and after a lawsuit to obtain possession of Litton they divided it between themselves. In the meantime in the summer of 1383 Cheyne had been appointed chancellor of Ireland and had crossed to the province again, this time with the new lieutenant, Sir Philip Courtenay*. Although he was chancellor for not much longer than a year, handing over the great seal to his successor in Dublin on 8 Nov. 1384, Cheyne was handsomely rewarded, being granted two weeks later, for a down payment of £160, the custody of estates in Wexford during the minority of the earl of Pembroke.5

The 1390s were a quieter period for Cheyne: he was appointed to but few commissions, and acted only twice as a mainpernor (in 1390 for Sir Robert Corbet* and in 1391 for Sir Thomas de la Mare†).6 He died on 11 Nov. 1400 and was succeeded by his son, Sir William. Sir Ralph and his wife were possibly buried in the monastery church at Edington.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CIPM, viii. 590; ix. 60; CFR, vii. 87; CPR, 1367-70, pp. 182, 395.
  • 2. Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 77; CPR, 1361-4, p. 317.
  • 3. VCH Wilts. vii. 87-88; viii. 136-7, 149, 151, 165; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 143; CIPM, xi. 160-1; xii. 177; CCR, 1364-8, pp. 456-8.
  • 4. CPR, 1374-7, p. 28; VCH Herts. iii. 230; VCH Wilts. x. 44; Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xvii), 2; C137/24/52; CIPM, xiv. 137.
  • 5. Rot. Pat. et Claus. Hib. ed. Tresham, i. 86, 119-20; CPR, 1377-81, p. 632; CIPM, xv. 915, 917-18; CCR, 1381-5, p. 465; 1385-9, p. 551; 1392-6, p. 27; Peds. Plea Rolls, 173, 190; A.J. Otway-Ruthven, Med. Ire. 302.
  • 6. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 290, 499.
  • 7. C137/24/52; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xx. 302.