RADCLIFFE, Sir Thomas (c.1391-1440), of Astley and Winmarleigh, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



May 1421

Family and Education

b.c.1391, s. and h. of Sir Richard Radcliffe (d. 4 Sept. 1431) of Astley and Winmarleigh by his w. Margaret (fl. 1442), prob. bro. of Sir Nicholas*. m. (1) Isabel, da. of Sir John Boteler (d.1404) of Rawcliffe, at least 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) June 1411, Katherine (fl. 1464), yr. da. of John Booth I*. Kntd. by Apr. 1419.1

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Lancs. Mar. 1430; inquiry Dec. 1433 (infringement of market rights at Nether Wyresdale);2 to distribute a tax rebate Dec. 1433, Feb. 1434; take oaths from local gentry to keep the peace May 1434.

Assessor of taxes, Lancs. Jan., Mar. 1436; collector Feb. 1438.3

J.p. Lancs. Dec. 1435, Mar., Aug. 1440.4

Dep. steward of the wapentake of Clitheroe in the duchy of Lancaster, Lancs. 1440-d. 5


Not much is known about Thomas Radcliffe’s early life, although he was still quite young on the death of his first wife, Isabel. On 9 June 1411, the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield awarded him a dispensation to marry his kinswoman, Katherine Booth, who became stepmother to the seven children he is said (somewhat implausibly) to have already produced. His public career began in earnest in April 1414, when Henry V granted him an annuity of 20 marks payable for life from the revenues of Lancashire. His family were already noted for their loyal service to the King’s ancestors, as his grandfather, Thomas Radcliffe*, had been a retainer of John of Gaunt, and his father, Sir Richard, was also a pensioner of the Crown. Several members of the prolific Radcliffe clan took part in Henry V’s first expedition to France in the summer of 1415, Thomas himself providing a personal retinue of three archers, while his father mustered a somewhat larger following of 12 combatants. The prospect of even greater success in the field took Thomas back to France, and he was present, in January 1419, at the fall of Rouen. He played a sufficiently distinguished part in this second invasion of Normandy to earn both a knighthood and a second, rather larger fee of £20. He probably returned to England with the King in February 1421, as he stood surety for the good behaviour of his brother-in-law, Sir John Byron*, at this time.6

Although not unqualified in his own right to represent Lancashire in Parliament, Sir Thomas clearly owed his first election, in May 1421, to the efforts of his kinsmen. Not only was his father then in office as sheriff, and therefore responsible for making the return (which, interestingly enough, Sir Thomas handed in person to the clerk of the Parliament), but his late wife’s brother, Nicholas Boteler* of Rawcliffe, and another relative, Richard Boteler of Kirkland, the escheator, were also present at the election. Given that Sir Nicholas Radcliffe, who was almost certainly his younger brother, sat for Cumberland for the first time in the next Parliament, it looks very much as if their family interests were then at stake. The award of royal letters of protection to one of Sir Thomas’s soldiers in February 1422 suggests that the matter in hand was soon settled, permitting him to return to the theatre of war, albeit only until Henry V’s death. His two annuities were confirmed at the beginning of the new reign, and in October 1423 he attended his second Parliament. Once again his father supervised the holding of the election; and Sir Richard was, indeed, still sheriff of Lancashire when, in 1425, the two of them helped to return another kinsman, Richard Radcliffe of Radcliffe, to the Commons. Perhaps because of his renewed involvement in the war with France, Sir Thomas did not otherwise become active in local government until 1430, the year before his father’s death. He was then also busy as an executor of the will of William Bardsea, a landowner from Furness, having previously avoided personal as well as official commitments. In March 1431 he served on a jury summoned to investigate feudal tenures in Amounderness, but it was only after obtaining seisin of the family estates, six months later, that he really began to assume a leading position in county society.7

The manor of Astley alone brought Sir Thomas an income of about £20 p.a.; and he also inherited land in Showley, Clitheroe and Winmerleigh, the value of which now remains unknown. Not surprisingly, therefore, he received a number of royal commissions, began to sit on the Lancashire bench and also discharged another term of jury service. Nor did his third and last return to Parliament, in 1433, owe anything this time to the efforts of more influential kinsmen. His services to the government were rewarded in 1436 with a lease of two parts of the manor of Nether Wyresdale, which Richard Boteler of Kirkland had formerly occupied as tenant. The rent was fixed at 50 marks p.a., and was paid jointly by him and his associate, Thomas Haryngton. Although he had been appointed by the Crown, in 1434, to take oaths from leading members of the local gentry that they would not support anyone who broke the peace, he was himself involved in a blood feud which ended tragically in the death of his eldest son. In September 1434, Sir Thomas joined with Nicholas Boteler in standing surety for one of their more notorious kinsmen, William Radcliffe of Todmorden, while he was a prisoner in Lancaster gaol. But despite its initial warmth, their relationship deteriorated rapidly, and five years later a violent confrontation occurred at Clitheroe between William and Sir Thomas’s own son and heir, both of whom were accompanied by a rabble of armed men. Thomas Radcliffe the younger was badly wounded in the ensuing fracas, and died a few days later. In an attempt at appeasement, Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, appointed two arbitrators whose partiality to Sir Thomas could be guaranteed to prevent him from seeking revenge outside the law. Between them Thomas Haryngton and Thomas Urswyk* (a former parliamentary colleague) devised an award which laid most of the blame—and the liability to pay damages—upon William Radcliffe. The latter subsequently petitioned Chancery for financial assistance, claiming that he had only been acting in self-defence, so there is some doubt as to whether Sir Thomas ever received the compensation he had been promised. Indeed, he did not long survive his eldest son, for his own death occurred in November 1440, barely a few months after his appointment as deputy steward of Clitheroe.8

Sir Thomas was survived by his mother, Margaret, and his second wife, Katherine, who was one of the five daughters of John Booth I, and thus sister to two later archbishops of York (William and Laurence Booth). In July 1441 Katherine obtained a licence to marry Nicholas Boteler, whose relationship with the Radcliffes was complicated by the fact that he was not only the brother of Sir Thomas’s first wife but also the grandfather of one of his sons-in-law. Sir Thomas left two daughters and four other sons, the eldest of whom, Richard, inherited his estates. It was, however, the latter’s siblings who petitioned the chancellor for help in recovering unpaid fees of about £40 which had been owed by the duchy to their father when he died. The very end of his life had, apparently, been clouded by a quarrel with his old friend, Thomas Urswyk, who, as receiver of Lancashire, had refused to surrender the money.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. Chetham Soc. xcix. 32-34, 53; Test. Ebor. iii. 320; DL42/17 (2), f. 71; C1/9/400; VCH Lancs. vi. 364; vii. 274; DKR, xxxiii. 32. The pedigree given by C.P. Hampson (Bk. of Radclyffes, 120-1) is completely unreliable, not least because it omits Sir Thomas’s father altogether.
  • 2. DKR, xl. 533.
  • 3. Ibid. 533, 535.
  • 4. Ibid. 531, 535, 536.
  • 5. Somerville, Duchy, i. 492.
  • 6. DL29/89/1631; DL42/17 (2), ff. 46, 71; E404/31/303; DKR, xli. 715; N.H. Nicolas, Agincourt, 383; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 145; Test. Ebor. iii. 320.
  • 7. C219/12/5, 13/2, 3; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 145; DKR, xxxiii. 31; xliv. 632; Feudal Aids, iii. 95; DL42/18 (2), f. 27.
  • 8. Chetham Soc. xcix. 29, 32-34; DKR, xxxiii. 32, 41; CCR, 1429-35, p. 271; CPR, 1436-41, p. 161; 1441-6, p. 21; CFR, xvi. 276; VCH Lancs. vi. 259; Whitaker, Craven, 519.,
  • 9. VCH Lancs. vi. 364; vii. 274; Chetham Soc. xcix. 53; C1/9/400.