EWENS, Ralph (d.1611), of Gray's Inn, London and Southcowton, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

s. of George Ewens of Southcowton by his w. the da. of one Calvert. educ. inn of chancery; G. Inn 1595. m. Margaret ?Griffin, s.p.1

Offices Held

Clerk of the House of Commons Jan. 1603; auditor to Queen Anne 20 Aug. 1603.2


Following his legal training, Ewens became a servant of (Sir) John Stanhope, whom he described in his will as ‘my late dear worthy master’. In December 1597 Ewens was paid £200 out of the Queen’s gift ‘for special services’, possibly connected with the posts. Earlier in the year he had been returned to Parliament by Winchelsea as the nominee of the lord warden, presumably at Stanhope’s request. Stanhope’s influence as bailiff of church lands in Beverley presumably secured Ewen’s return there in 1601.3

Ewens was appointed to the clerkship of the House of Commons by letters patent dated 31 Jan. 1603. In that capacity he walked in Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession two months later. He maintained a chamber at Gray’s Inn where, in February 1604 he was elected an ancient ‘in respect of his good places of service’. While Parliament was in session, however, at the time of the Gunpowder Plot, he lodged ‘under the court of wards being next to the vault’ of the Parliament house. In his will he bequeathed an annuity of 20s. for a sermon to be preached at St. Clement Dane’s on 5 Nov. ‘in remembrance of our particular deliverance from the gunpowder treason’. He also provided for a sermon ‘in remembrance of our great deliverance from drowning upon the Thames in the time of the last great ice’. As clerk of the Commons, he received £10 from the London court of aldermen, as well as many similar gifts.4

He died in 1611. In his will, dated 29 Aug. and proved 26 Sept. that year, he left money and rings to numerous relatives. Two gilt cups were to be made with the inscription ‘Grati Pignus’, one for Stanhope, the other for his friend John Treharne, clerk of the kitchen. He bequeathed rings to his friends Thomas Stephens, ‘to have care of his wife’s estate’, and Sir Thomas Smythe II, treasurer of the Virginia Company and governor of the East India Company, ‘in hope of his care to be taken of my adventures in the said companies’. He left books, value £20, to the children of his sisters Downes and Hertford, to be selected by his friend Dr. Layfield and his cousin George Calvert. He gave his lease of Southcowton and riding equipment worth £100 to his brother Richard Ewens, and made his wife executrix and residuary legatee: he ordered a gold chain value £50, linked with the letters R.E.M., to be made for her.5

On his death, the lord keeper directed a William Pinches to take charge of the books and papers of the House of Commons. In 1614 it was reported that a Mr. Wilson had many of the books and papers belonging to the Commons which had come into the lord treasurer’s hands at Ewens’s death. The dispersal of his estate through the lack of an heir may have been the reason for the loss of the fair copy of the Commons Journals for the period 1584-1601.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


  • 1. PCC 74 Wood.
  • 2. C66/1603/8; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 34.
  • 3. E403/1693; E. Suss. RO, Winchelsea mss; HMC Hatfield, vii. 412-15.
  • 4. LC2/4/4; PCC 74 Wood; O. C. Williams, Clerical Organization of the House of Commons, 5, 16, 18.
  • 5. PCC 74 Wood.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 71; CJ, i. 465, 491; Trans. R. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), iii. 158-9.