RATCLIFFE, John (-d.1633), of Northgate Street, St. Oswald's, Chester, Cheshire.

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

o.s. of John Ratcliffe of Chester, alderman and brewer and Margaret, da. of John Wringstead of London. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Werden of Chester, s.p.; (2) bef. 1607, Jane, da. of John Brerewood of Chester, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1610. d. 30 Mar. 1633.1 sig. John Ratclyffe.

Offices Held

Freeman, Chester 1596,2 common cllr. 1599,3 alderman 1606-d., auditor 1606-7, 1615, 1617, 1619-21, mayor 1611-12, 1628-9, j.p. 1611-d., murenger 1617-22,4 commr. charitable uses 1630, 1631.5

Member, Beerbrewers’ Co., Chester bef. 1607, master 1611-d.6


Ratcliffe’s father rose to prominence as a brewer in Chester, eventually serving as mayor in 1601-2. Described as a ‘very worthy good man and religious, careful and painful in his profession’, he became so wealthy that he reputedly ‘kept many servants and the poor had great relief at his house’.7 Ratcliffe followed his father into the brewing trade and established his main business in Abbey Square, an area controlled by the dean and chapter and thus free of the restrictions imposed elsewhere in Chester. His position on the corporation seems not have been affected by his avoidance of municipal and company authority, however, as he served two terms as mayor and several times acted as one of the city’s auditors. As mayor in 1612, Ratcliffe attempted to gain a royal charter for the Chester Beerbrewers’ Company, and employed Sir Thomas Lake I* to lobby Prince Henry on its behalf.8

Like his father, Ratcliffe was an ardent puritan, his letters being frequently punctuated by biblical quotations. In 1613 he was accused, along with the noted puritan John Bruen, of helping to pull down crosses within the county.9 As mayor he forbade carriers from entering Chester on the Sabbath, cleared the area around the high cross and stopped the selling of milk and butter from the market stoops on Sundays.10 Ratcliffe’s puritanism was also manifested in his second marriage, to Jane Brerewood. The Brerewoods were godly Protestants and Jane’s spiritual advisors were Chester’s leading puritan divines, Nicholas Byfield and John Ley.11 Byfield dedicated his work, The Signes (London, 1637) to Jane, while Ley wrote her biography, which became influential in the 1640s as a conversion text.12 Ratcliffe’s religious fervour did not always endear him to other members of the corporation. After he and Edward Whitby had secured the two Chester seats at the contested parliamentary election in 1620, the mayor, William Gamull*, described him as ‘a countenauncer of factions, [who] hath been convented before the ordinary for his nonconformity’.13

Radcliffe played little recorded part in the 1621 Parliament. On 2 Mar. he spoke at the second reading of the Welsh cotton bill, which was of interest to Chester as it concerned the cloth market at nearby Oswestry. He supported its committal and was entitled to attend the committee as a burgess for Cheshire.14 Ratcliffe was also appointed to the bill concerning St. Mary’s, Lichfield on 29 March.15 During the Parliament, Ratcliffe sent Whitby’s brother details of the foreign policy debates and informed him of Clement Coke’s* imprisonment.16

Ratcliffe does not appear to have sought a seat in Parliament again until 1628. As in 1620 he joined forces with Whitby, but was opposed by Sir Randle Mainwaring and Sir Thomas Smith. After a protracted campaign, Ratcliffe and Whitby triumphed easily.17 In the parliamentary records for 1628-9 Ratcliffe is difficult to differentiate from George Radcliffe, a Yorkshireman who sat for Callington. It could have been either man who was appointed to a bill committee for the preservation of timber on 4 June.18 However, it was certainly Ratcliffe who was named to the committee for a bill concerning the tenants of Bromfield and Yale in Denbighshire (13 June), and his mercantile background makes it likely that he was the man named to bill committees concerned with the clerk of the market (27 May) and London’s exactions for metage and portage (25 June).19 Ratcliffe is mentioned only once in the sources for the 1629 session, on 13 Feb., when Sir Richard Grosvenor was ordered to tell both Ratcliffe and Whitby that their attendance was required in the Commons.20

Ratcliffe died at his house in Chester on 30 Mar. 1633 and was buried at Christ’s Church, Chester.21 In his will dated 1632 he left a life interest in his house to his wife and all his lands and messuages to his eldest son, John. Ratcliffe’s second son, Samuel, was to receive £200 when he attained his majority, while his daughter was to have £300. Minor bequests were made to servants and cousins, and the preacher John Ley was granted 40s. p.a. while he remained Chester’s lecturer.22 Ratcliffe’s Presbyterian son John sat for Chester from December 1646 until Pride’s Purge and again in the Convention and Cavalier parliaments.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


Cheshire Archives, CAS/10.

  • 1. Harl. 2180, f. 85v; Cheshire and Lancs. Fun. Certs. ed. J.P. Rylands (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. vi), 165-6.
  • 2. Chester Freeman Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. li), 76.
  • 3. Cheshire Archives, AB/1, ff. 257v-8.
  • 4. Cal. Chester City Mins. ed. M.J. Groombridge (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cvi), 23, 27, 31, 79, 81, 82, 99, 116, 152; JRL, Eng. 202, f. 57; Cheshire Archives, MUB/3, unfol.
  • 5. C192/1, unfol.
  • 6. Cheshire Archives, G3/2, ff. 5, 19.
  • 7. Harl. 2125, f. 46.
  • 8. Cheshire Archives, ML/6, no. 74; QRL/8, unfol.; G3/2, f. 30v; A.M. Johnson, ‘Political, Constitutional, Social and Ec. Hist. of Chester 1550-1652’ (Univ. Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1970), p. 219.
  • 9. CHES 38/48, Ratcliffe to Edward Whitby 10 May 1620; STAC 8/21/6.
  • 10. Harl. 2125, f. 49v.
  • 11. R.C. Richardson, Puritanism in N.W. Eng. 134.
  • 12. John Ley, Patterne of Pietie (1640).
  • 13. Harl. 2105, f. 277r-v.
  • 14. CJ, i. 534b.
  • 15. Ibid. 631a.
  • 16. CHES 38/48, 14 May 1621.
  • 17. Harl. 2125, f. 59v.
  • 18. CD 1628, iv. 292.
  • 19. CD 1628, iii. 623; iv. 85, 467.
  • 20. CJ, i. 929b.
  • 21. Harl. 2180, f. 85v.
  • 22. Cheshire Archives, WS 1633, will of John Ratcliffe.
  • 23. HP Commons, 1660-90.