RATCLIFFE, John (c.1536-90), of Ordsall, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1536, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Ratcliffe of Ordsall by Margaret, da. of Sir Edmund Trafford of Trafford. m. Anne, da. of Thomas Asshawe of Hall-on-the-Hill, Chorley, 5s. 4da. suc. fa. 1568. Kntd. 1578.1

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs., dep. lt. by 1574; dep. bailiff of Salford hundred, duchy of Lancaster 1580-1; feoffee of Manchester g.s. 1581.2


The Ratcliffes were a wealthy Lancashire family, Ratcliffe himself succeeding to the inheritance on the death of his elder brother Alexander, two weeks before that of their father. He came into extensive lands in Lancashire, as well as others in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. He was a follower of the 3rd Earl of Derby, his parliamentary patron at Wigan in 1563, and one of eight assistants to the chief mourners at the Earl’s funeral in 1572.3

Ratcliffe lived in the family mansion, Ordsall Hall, then a moated house surrounded by a park on the river Irwell. He must, presumably, have devoted much of his time to farming his large estates; he owned a considerable amount of livestock and a fulling mill. Although a j.p. and deputy lieutenant, Ratcliffe was said, about 1586, to be a ‘dangerous temporiser’ in religion. His will began with the Catholic motto, ‘Jesus esto mihi Jesu’, and in the preamble he trusted ‘through the passion and death of Christ to be one of the elect company of heaven with the blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints’. He wished to be buried in the chancel of the church in Manchester, among his ancestors. To his children, Margaret, Jane, Anne and William he left a life interest in his lands in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire, and to his son John lands in Lancashire and Nottinghamshire. Each of his daughters received 1,000 marks. The boys were to go to Oxford or Cambridge at the age of 14, and he was anxious that one of them should study law and travel abroad ‘for his better furtherance in learning’. The executors were Anne his wife, his cousin Ralph Barton, Edward Tyldesley, and Christopher Anderton, and the overseers Leonard Chorley and Humphrey Warmincham. Ratcliffe was buried in the collegiate church of Manchester on 11 Feb. 1590.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. VCH Lancs. iv. 212.
  • 2. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 172; Somerville, Duchy, i. 503.
  • 3. Collins, Peerage, iii. 76; VCH Lancs. iv. 212.
  • 4. Taylor, Old Halls in Lancs. and Cheshire, 47; VCH Lancs. iv. 212 seq.; Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 103; Lancs and Cheshire Wills (Chetham Soc. li), 68.