LEYCESTER, Sir Ralph (c.1518-72), of Toft, Cheshire.
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Family and Educationb. c.1518, 1st s. of Ralph Leycester of Toft by Eleanor, da. of Ralph Egerton. m. (1) Ellen, da. of Philip Legh of Booths, 4s. inc. William 4 or 5da.; (2) Jane, da. of Sir Hugh Calverley, wid. of John Edwards of Chirk, Denb.,0 ?1da. suc. fa. 1525. Kntd. 1544.1
Commr. musters, Cheshire 1545, j.p. from c.1555; j.p.q. Denb. by 1562.2
Leycester was an active county official for over 25 years. He owned considerable estates in Cheshire, at Toft (where the family had been established since the reign of Richard II), Chorley, Mobberley and elsewhere, and in addition had Denbighshire property in right of his second wife, and scattered lands in Norfolk and Northamptonshire. He was related by marriage to a number of leading Cheshire and Lancashire families, including the Calverleys, Langtons and Egertons. As a young man he took part in the Scottish campaign under the Earl of Hertford, who knighted him after the siege of Leith in May 1544. He was often employed in the county musters, and evidently had a local reputation as a military man: during Mary’s reign William Davenport and two other Cheshire landowners appointed him seneschal (or steward) of their lands, with responsibility for their defence in time of war. On 5 Nov. 1558 the government granted him £40 for good service in the north during the past year. He remained in office under Elizabeth, and in 1564 the archbishop of York described him as a satisfactory justice of the peace, favourable to the protestant religion. After this date few references to him have been found. About 1570 he was involved in a dispute with Lady Jane Legh in the court of wards. He had been accused of wasting the property of his nephew, John Legh, a ward of the Queen, and a commission was set up to inquire into the matter. John wrote to Sir William Cecil asking that Sir Ralph might be allowed to ‘enjoy his lease to the end of the term’. An agreement seems to have been reached out of court.3
Leycester’s will gives the impression that he was not a wealthy man. He left bequests to his two surviving sons and to four daughters, two of whom had married into the Mainwaring family. Mary, the only one still unmarried, was to have 400 marks as a marriage portion: the others received small legacies of gold rings or farm stock, and sums of money under £10. The widow and the heir William, aged about 30, were appointed executors, with (Sir) George Calverley, Edmund Trafford and Philip Mainwaring as overseers. The will shows that Leycester had some interests in the local salt industry.4