RALEGH, Walter (1504/5-81), of Hayes Barton in the parish of East Budleigh, Devon.

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. 1504/5, s. of Wymond Ralegh of Fardel by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Edgecombe of Cotehele, Cornw. m. (1) by 1528, Joan, da. of John Drake of Exmouth, Devon, 2s.; (2) da. of one Darrell of London, 1da., (3) Catherine, da. of Sir Philip Champernon of Modbury, Devon, wid. of Otes or Otho Gilbert (d. 10 Feb. 1547) of Compton and Greenway, Devon, 2s. Carew and Walter 1da. suc. fa. 7 July 1512.1

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1547; commr. relief 1550; dep. v.-adm. 1555-8; churchwarden, East Budleigh in 1561.2


Walter Ralegh was a child of seven when his father died, a matter which his relatives clearly hoped might be kept from the authorities. No inquisition post mortem was held on Wymond Ralegh until July 1514, and then the jury alleged that the son and heir Walter was 12 years old and that Wymond Ralegh had parted with all his lands in Devon to Sir Peter Edgecombe. Fardel, the family residence, was held of Sir Nicholas Vaux, who was determined to have the wardship. In July 1515 Vaux entered into a recognizance to pay £200 for it, and the same month a second inquisition was ordered, to be taken this time by special commissioners, not by the escheator. Their return was closer to the truth: Walter Ralegh was ten, and Sir Peter Edgecombe held the lands not as his own, but to the use of Wymond Ralegh and his heirs. A month later Edgecombe undertook to give up both the lands and the boy: in April 1516 the wardship was granted to Vaux and in May Edgecombe’s recognizance was cancelled, the condition being fulfilled. In November 1526 Walter Ralegh, having come of age, was granted livery of his lands.3

Ralegh lived most of his life at Hayes Barton, near Exmouth, a property which he leased from Richard Duke, and where he was assessed for the subsidy in 1545 on lands worth £60. Sailors from Exmouth rescued him during the western rebellion from people near Exeter whom he had threatened with dire penalties if they disobeyed the new religious observances. Ralegh’s attitude in 1549 apparently did not prevent his conforming under Mary or holding local office during her reign. His only known election (he was so powerfully allied that he could have sat earlier) came when the war against France was causing anxiety. Presumably he was chosen at Wareham because he was an admiralty man, but his own motive appears to have been personal rather than political. On 5 Feb. 1558, in the third week of the Parliament, four Members were appointed to consider a writ issued by the court of Admiralty for his arrest: three days later the House authorized Ralegh to obtain a writ of privilege, and it was not until a year later that he appeared in court to answer. He was found guilty of depriving the plaintiff of £200 by restoring a prize to its owner (although the Privy Council had ordered the ship to be returned) and sentenced to pay half the costs, but he was not made to compensate the plaintiff. The case appears to have been considered mainly as an exercise in the perennial dispute between the Admiralty and the Council. Between the two sessions of the Parliament Ralegh served as a petty captain for the defence of Devon and was ordered with a ship to join the fleet at Portsmouth.4

If Ralegh was the loser in 1559, at other times he undoubtedly profited from his office. In August 1557 his ship the Katherine Raleigh of Exmouth captured a Portuguese vessel which he pretended was a prize from the French, a ruse which did not deceive the admiralty officers. Since 1544 he had been actively (if not personally) engaged in privateering and piracy. In February 1553 he was committed to the Fleet on a charge arising from these pursuits but released in the following month after giving bonds to the admiralty judge to appear before him when called. Early in 1554 he aided the rebel Sir Peter Carew by providing him with a boat in which to escape from England.5

Ralegh seems to have retired to a quieter life about the time of the accession of Elizabeth but he must, even in his old age, have given a stimulus to the seafaring exploits of his son and namesake, and of his stepson, Sir Humphrey Gilbert. By 1569 he had left Hayes Barton and was living mainly at his house in Exeter, but he died at Colaton Raleigh on 19 Feb. 1581 and was buried at Exeter four days later. His eldest son inherited the manors of Fardel and Withycombe Raleigh; the two other manors which Ralegh had inherited from his father he had entailed upon his third wife with remainder to his sons.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s second i.p.m., C142/30/45. Vis. Devon , ed. Vivian, 639; M. J. G. Stanford, ‘A hist. of the Ralegh fam. of Fardel and Burleigh in the early Tudor period’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1955), 140-1.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 83; 1553, p. 352; Stanford, 256, 271, 273.
  • 3. C82/467; 142/29/60, 30/45; LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv; Stanford, 144-7.
  • 4. The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 62-63; Stanford, 144-7, 165, 229, 271, 273, 283-99; CJ, i. 48; SP11/12/70.
  • 5. Stanford, 180, 276-8; APC, iv. 223, 237; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 59.
  • 6. Stanford, 333-4, 341-2; C142/194/2.