RADCLIFFE, Sir Alexander (1608-1654), of Ordsall, Lancs.; later of Chancery Lane, London and Attleborough, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 27 Apr. 1608,1 o.s. of Sir John Radcliffe* of Ordsall and Alice (d.1657), da. of Sir John Byron† of Clayton and Newstead Abbey, Notts. educ. household of Robert Radcliffe, 5th earl of Sussex; travelled abroad (Low Countries) 1625-7, 1633-4.2 m. 7 June 1623, Jane, illegit. da. of Robert Radcliffe, 5th earl of Sussex and Frances, da. of Hercules Meautys, gent. pens. of West Ham, Essex, wid. of Edward Shute of Oakington, Cambs. and G. Inn, 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.).3 cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626;4 suc. fa. 1627.5 d. 14 Apr. 1654.

Offices Held

Gent. of the privy chamber extraordinary 1630-?33.6

J.p. Lancs. 1630-42,7 commr. array 1642.8


‘As fine and towardly a youth as any I know’, according to the fashionable countess of Bedford in 1620, Radcliffe was chosen as heir by his distant cousin the 5th earl of Sussex, to the exclusion of Edward Radcliffe*, and married off to the earl’s illegitimate daughter at the age of 15.9 Sussex wrote to the bailiffs of Colchester on 7 Apr. 1625 on behalf of ‘one Mr. Alexander Radcliffe, who is my very near kinsman and my heir, and one that I dare commend for his judgment and ability, to elect him one of the burgesses’.10 However, the principal Radcliffe estate in Essex had already been sold to Buckingham, and Sussex’s recommendation carried little weight.11 Radcliffe was created a knight of the Bath at Charles I’s coronation in February 1626. His father died, leaving heavy debts, in 1627. Radcliffe’s election in 1628 as knight for Lancashire while still under age was probably due to his family’s longstanding association with the Stanleys and the 6th earl of Derby. In the Commons Radcliffe, who left almost no trace on the parliamentary records, was granted leave on 10 Apr. ‘till Monday after Easter week’, to extricate his father’s administrator from the county gaol.12

On Sussex’s death in 1629, Radcliffe inherited the earl’s ancient family estate of Attleborough, Norfolk, which was ‘mortgaged unto the very doors’.13 He obtained a respite from his father’s creditors when he was sworn in as a gentleman of the privy chamber extraordinary in the following year, but had to take temporary refuge on the Continent in 1633. Soon afterwards he parted with his wife’s property in Essex and Norfolk.14 He was able to rebuild his ancestral home, Ordsall Hall, but only after mortgaging part of the estate. His feudal loyalties reasserted themselves on the outbreak of the Civil War, when he accompanied Lord Strange (James Stanley*) in attacking the puritan parliamentarians of Manchester.15 He fell into the hands of parliamentary forces, and was committed to the Tower on 9 Nov. 1642.16 He was released on 6 Sept. 1643, on condition that he should not travel to Lancashire without a licence from William Ashhurst† and Ralph Assheton†.17 His assessment of £600 at Haberdashers’ Hall was respited on 10 Nov. 1645 until special order of the committee, and he was never called on to compound.18 What remained of the Ordsall estate was sold to John Birch† when his eldest son came of age.19 Radcliffe died on 14 Apr. 1654, and was buried at Manchester with his ancestors, the last of the family to serve in Parliament.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C.P. Hampson, Bk. of the Radclyffes, 164.
  • 2. APC, 1623-5. pp. 211, 447; PC2/43, p. 244.
  • 3. Hampson, 164-7.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 162.
  • 5. DL7/25/6.
  • 6. LC5/132, f. 194.
  • 7. Lancs. RO, QSC11; CJ. ii. 821.
  • 8. Lancs. Civil War Tracts ed. G. Ormerod (Chetham Soc. ii), 13, 327.
  • 9. Private Corresp. of Lady Jane Cornwallis ed. Lord Braybrooke, 73.
  • 10. Procs. 1625, p. 681.
  • 11. Hampson, 104.
  • 12. CJ, i. 881b.
  • 13. Cornwallis, 262-3; F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. i. 519-20.
  • 14. PC2/43, p. 244; P. Morant, Hist. Essex, ii. 568; Blomefield, i. 11.
  • 15. HMC 5th Rep. 142.
  • 16. CJ, ii. 841.
  • 17. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-43, p. 653.
  • 18. CCAM, 527.
  • 19. VCH Lancs. iv. 212-13; B.G. Blackwood, Lancs. Gentry and the Gt. Rebellion (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xxv), 97, 114, 140; Hampson, 169; Lancs. and Cheshire Antiq. Soc. xiv. 201-4.
  • 20. Hampson, 166; Manchester Cathedral Regs. iii. (Lancs. Par. Reg. Soc. lxxxix), 105.