COCKERELL, Ralph (by 1513-?76), of Dublin and Acton, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1513, ?bro. of Robert Cockerell of Cheshunt, Herts. educ. Trinity Hall, Camb., ?BA 1523-24.2

Offices Held

Clerk of the pipe, Irish Exchequer 1553-9; sec. to ld. dep. in 1555; clerk, the Privy Council [I] 1559-?62; rector, Acton, Mdx. 1562-d.3


Ralph Cockerell’s origin has not been traced: he cannot be connected with any known family of that name, including the Guernsey family from which sprang Edmund Cockerell. There is, however, some reason to believe that he came from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire: in Mary’s reign, or early in Elizabeth’s, he had a lease of the manor and rectory there and Robert Cockerell of Cheshunt was probably his brother. This Robert Cockerell was involved in a suit in the court of requests in Mary’s reign which involved several residents of Cheshunt; he died about 1571, and his widow Isabel Cockerell of Cheshunt mentions in her will a grandson Ralph Cockerell. Whether Princess Elizabeth’s sojourn at Cheshunt from 1549 had any impact on Cockerell’s career is no more than an interesting speculation.4

The first certain reference to him occurs in a letter, of which he was a signatory, written to Cromwell in 1534 by the scholars of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in defence of one of their number against a charge of treason. If, as seems likely, Cockerell was the undergraduate of that surname who had received his BA during 1523-4, he had presumably found some academic employment at Cambridge. The next known event in his career was his election for Ludgershall to the Parliament of 1547. Although this is known only from the list of Members of that Parliament dating from 1551-2, there is no indication of any by-election at Ludgershall and Cockerell had therefore presumably been returned at the outset. In 1547 the borough was in the hands of the Protector Somerset, who secured the election of his physician William Turner as Cockerell’s fellow-Member, and although no connexion between Cockerell and the Protector has been found, it may well be that he too had found a place in Somerset’s household: Cockerell may also have known Turner at Cambridge and, like him, have come under the influence of the early reformers: both men were interested in doctrine and Cockerell was later to become a rector. Another possible source of patronage was Thomas Smith I, himself returned to this Parliament for Marlborough.5

Soon after Mary’s accession Cockerell found employment in Ireland as clerk of the pipe in the Exchequer, with an annual fee of £10: as he received the appointment on 23 Nov. 1553, he was probably recruited by Sir Anthony St. Leger whose second term as lord deputy had ended in May 1551 and whose third began in October 1553. By 10 July 1555 he had become St. Leger’s secretary: the register of the English Privy Council records that on that day Cockerell, ‘being demanded certain questions by the lords, among other things confessed that he came into England upon Whitsun last was, and here hath continued ever since; he is commanded to give his attendance’. If Cockerell was then under a cloud, this may have arisen over his master St. Leger, who was to be recalled in the following year to face serious charges of corruption. On 2 Dec. 1557 Cockerell was among the English officials in the pale who were granted a pardon for all crimes including ‘heresies and abetting of heretics and Lollards’. He seems to have been among the officials who were disaffected in religion during Mary’s reign but who did not suffer for their views: his early career at Cambridge and his future as a clergyman under Elizabeth make it virtually certain that he was a Protestant. On 13 Mar. 1558 he was granted leave of absence to visit England during the pleasure of the lord deputy and Council. It was probably during one of his visits to England that he attended to a suit in the court of requests in which he was charged with refusing to allow a minor to enter her inheritance of the manor and advowson of Cheshunt, of which he had a lease; she also alleged that Cockerell had commenced a suit in the King’s bench against the under-tenant of Cheshunt, thus depleting the profits which were rightfully hers.6

On 5 Aug. 1559 Cockerell was appointed clerk of the Privy Council in Ireland, but no further reference has been found to his activities there. He soon resolved to enter the Church, for on 26 Feb. 1562 he was instituted rector of Acton, Middlesex, and it was in this capacity that he sat in the Convocation of the following year as a clerical proctor for Surrey: there he voted for the Six Articles which altered certain rites and ceremonies and signed a petition of the Lower House for discipline. As an ex-Member of the House of Commons Cockerell may have proved a useful recruit to Convocation. It was also as rector of Acton that he was involved in a suit in the court of requests. In 1573 one John Garaway of Buckhurst, Sussex, complained that Cockerell had dishonestly procured from a third party an indenture made some four years previously by which Garaway was to pay Cockerell £50 a year for a lease of the rectory and advowson of Acton. Cockerell probably died early in 1576 for on 3 May of that year a new rector was instituted at Acton following his death.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain. reference. Req.2/26/51; LP Hen. VIII, vii.
  • 3. Patentee Officers in Ireland, ed. Hughes, 29; CP and CR Ire. i. 314, 373; APC, v. 158; R. Newcourt, Repertoriam, i. 570.
  • 4. Req.2/25/207; 26/51; PCC Admins, ed. Glencross, ii. 117; PCC 14 Arundell.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vii.
  • 6. CP and CR Ire. i. 314, 373; Patentee Officers in Ireland, 29; APC, v. 158; DKR Ire. 9th Rep. 77; R. D. Edwards, Church and State in Tudor Ireland, 165; Req.2/26/51.
  • 7. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 377; Strype, Annals, i(1), 488, 504, 512; Req.2/25/207; Newcourt, i. 570.