RAVENSCROFT, Thomas (1563-1631), of Fetter Lane, London and Fould Park, South Mimms, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 1563, 4th s. of George Ravenscroft of Hawarden, Flints., registrar of St. Asaph dioc., and Margaret, da. of William Fowler of Hawarden.1 m. (1) lic. 22 Dec. 1595, Thomasine (d. 12 Dec. 1611), da. of James Smith of Ironmonger Lane, London, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) settlement 8 June 1614 (with £500), Bridget (d.1652/4), da. of Walter Powell of Whitchurch, Herefs., s.p. d. 12 Feb. 1631.2 sig. Tho[mas] Ravenscrofte.
?Clerk of the Bridge House, London by 1591;3 gov. Queen Elizabeth’s g.s., Barnet, Mdx. 1610;4 j.p. Mdx. by 1625-at least 1629, St. Albans, Herts. 1625-d.,5 commr. oyer and terminer, St. Albans 1626-d.6
?Member, Art. Co., London 1614.12
This Member has generally been identified as Thomas Ravenscroft of Bretton, Flintshire, the county’s custos, father of Robert* and elder brother of William*. However, this man’s interests were located in north-eastern Wales, and he had no known connection with Monmouth or any of the principal electoral interests there. It is almost certain, therefore, that the Member was the kinsman of the Bretton Ravenscrofts who married a daughter of the Powells of Whitchurch, only four miles north-east of Monmouth. He was not the musician of the same name who published books of psalms during James’s reign.
The Hawarden Ravenscrofts were descended from John Ravenscroft, second son of Ralph, whose elder brother, George, established the line at Bretton. Thomas Ravenscroft was born in Hawarden, and as a younger son with little prospect of inheritance he evidently determined to find his fortune in London. He was perhaps the man who was referred to as clerk of the Bridge House and a servant of ‘Mr. White’ in 1591. He may also have been the man who was imprisoned by the London Court of Aldermen in 1599 for abusing councilman Thomas Fettiplace†; in his will he certainly recalled his ‘young and unsettled years’.13 By this time he was living in St. Dunstan-in-the-West and had married the daughter of a London gentleman.
Ravenscroft’s fortunes were transformed in 1603, when he was appointed comptroller of the Hanaper. He later recalled that his elder brother, John, ‘placed me in good services whereby ... I have raised myself to the fortune and temporal estate which now I enjoy’.14 By this he probably meant that his brother had introduced him to lord keeper Sir Thomas Egerton†, whose first wife had been a Ravenscroft. It was later acknowledged that Egerton procured Ravenscroft’s appointment as a Chancery clerk, and he was doubtless instrumental in procuring his other positions.15 In January 1613 Sir Anthony St. Leger recommended Ravenscroft as a ‘gentleman of very good sufficiency’ to succeed him as a deputy in the Alienations Office, and with the backing of Ellesmere and lord chief justice Sir Edward Coke*, he took possession shortly thereafter, having resigned most of his Chancery posts.16
Ravenscroft’s burgeoning career allowed him to acquire lands and lend money.17 In 1609-10 he purchased Fould Park in Middlesex, near St. Albans, where he probably resided between law terms.18 He also held land in Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, where his enclosures were pulled down following the Midlands Rising of 1607 on the grounds that they were unlawful.19 After the death of his first wife in 1611, Thomas, in 1614, married a daughter of the Powells of Whitchurch. Through this match he acquired properties in Monmouth borough, although an earlier survey shows that he already owned 12 burgages in the town and had held properties in the county since 1607.20 The marriage brought Ravenscroft within a network of families that had produced a number of Monmouth’s Elizabethan MPs, including Moore Powell and Moore Gwillim, as well as William Jones II, one of the county Members in 1614. It was probably through these connections that Ravenscroft was returned for Monmouth Boroughs himself in 1621. However, he may also have been backed by the crypto-Catholic 4th earl of Worcester, a powerful presence in Monmouth politics, as there were Catholics in Ravenscroft’s own family: his daughter was presented for recusancy in 1625, while two of his grandsons attended Douai College.21
It is difficult to be certain of the Member’s activity in the 1621 Parliament as he was not distinguished from his kinsman, William Ravenscroft, another Chancery official.22 However, most of the speeches made by ‘Mr. Ravenscroft’, and the committees to which he was named, should probably be ascribed to the Member for Flint Boroughs, who had experience of five previous parliaments. Nevertheless, as Ravenscroft had apparently sought election to defend his interests in the Alienations Office and help undermine the clerk of Alienations, Sir Eubule Thelwall*, it seems likely that he spoke during a debate over the rise in fees for pardons and alienations on 26 Mar., when two speeches are ascribed to ‘Mr. Ravenscroft’, suggesting separate contributions from William and Thomas. A deputy in the Alienations Office, Ravenscroft’s interest was clear, as the recent farming of fines from alienations had probably reduced his own income. During the debate, in which Sir Edward Coke indicated that Alienation officials opposed the increase in fees under Thelwall, it was probably Thomas Ravenscroft who detailed how this inflation had caused a reduction in fines and hence Crown revenue.23 Ravenscroft must also have been the ‘Sir’ Thomas Ravenscroft who was named to a committee on 25 Apr. to consider the bill for regulating Chancery business, and attended its meeting.24 As a Monmouth burgess, he was also eligible to attend the committee for the export of Welsh butter (10 March).25
Ravenscroft continued to prosper after 1621, and by 1629 he and his son and heir, James, were in a position to lend £3,000 by way of mortgage.26 His will of 23 Dec. 1629 directed that he be buried near his first wife in the church of Chipping Barnet, Middlesex. He left charitable bequests for the householders of South Mimms, Alconbury and Hawarden, and gave a reversionary interest of his Monmouthshire lands to a younger son, John, after his wife’s death. He bequeathed £100 and some plate to his widow, provided she remained satisfied with her jointure, and allowed his heir and executor, James, the remainder of his personal estate. After this will was proved, however, it was discovered that Ravenscroft had made another, of later date. It, too, was proved, but differed little from the original.27 Ravenscroft was buried in Chipping Barnet where an impressive marble tomb was erected showing him recumbent in his ruff and gown. None of his descendants sat in Parliament.28
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), i. 222-3; DWB (Ravenscrofts of Hawarden); J.Y.W. Lloyd, Hist. Powys Fadog, v. 271-2.
- 2. R. Clutterbuck, Hist. and Antiqs. of Herts. i. 146; Bp. of London Mar. Lics. 1520-1610 ed.G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxv), 227; G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 265; NLW, Milborne 1075; PROB 11/242, f. 427v.
- 3. R.M. Benbow, ‘Notes to Index of London Citizens, 1558-1603’ (unpublished typescript in IHR), 724.
- 4. F.C. Cass, S. Mimms, 36.
- 5. E163/18/12, f. 53; C66/2495, m. 19d; 181/3, ff. 140, 263v.
- 6. C181/3, ff. 212v, 264.
- 7. C66/1626, 66/1667.
- 8. C66/1659; Lansd. 163, ff. 108v, 341; Cal. of the Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 184.
- 9. STAC 8/251/22; HEHL, EL2942.
- 10. SO3/5, unfol. (Dec. 1612).
- 11. C54/2127/4; Add. 36767, f. 331; A4/16, f. 361; Bodl., Carte 121, ff. 50-1.
- 12. Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. G.A. Raikes, 21.
- 13. Benbow, 724.
- 14. PROB 11/159, f. 229v.
- 15. Lansd. 163, f. 108v. For further evidence of his association with the Egertons, see C54/2753/30.
- 16. Add. 36767, f. 331; Lansd. 163, f. 108v.
- 17. C54/1958; 54/2367/5; 54/2394/31; 54/2435/27; 54/2528/12; 54/2754/3.
- 18. C54/2048/1; 54/2016; 54/1982; F. Brittain, S. Mymms, 36, n. 4; VCH Mdx. v. 276.
- 19. STAC 8/251/22.
- 20. NLW, Milborne 1075; Survey Duchy of Lancaster Lordships ed. W. Rees (Univ. of Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xii), 17; Gwent RO, D2.62.
- 21. Mdx. County Recs. ed. J.C. Jeaffreson, iii. 5; R. Rendel, ‘True Identity of George Ravenscroft, Glassman’, Recusant Hist. xiii. 101-5; ‘Douay Coll. Diaries, 1598-1654’, ed. E.H. Burton and T.I. Williams (Cath. Rec. Soc. xi), 441.
- 22. They are confused in R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 94.
- 23. CJ, i. 575b; CD1621, v. 323, vi. 85; Kyle thesis, 184-5.
- 24. CJ, i. 590b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 194.
- 25. CJ, i. 549a.
- 26. C54/2754/3.
- 27. PROB 11/159, ff. 108v-9, 229r-v.
- 28. Clutterbuck, i. 146-7.