RATCLIFFE, Owen (c.1541-99), of Langley, Lancs., Gamlingay and Swavesey, Cambs.

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.1541, 1st s. of Richard Ratcliffe of Langley by Elizabeth, da. of James Gerard of Ince, Lancs., sis. of Sir Gilbert Gerard. m., 1da. suc. fa. 1577.

Offices Held


Ratcliffe owned only a moderate amount of property, consisting of Langley Hall, about 15 miles from Wigan, some houses in Bolton, and an estate near Rochdale settled upon his father and himself in 1564. He was descended from a junior branch of the Ratcliffes of Ordsall, and so related to John Ratcliffe, a follower of the 3rd Earl of Derby. It is not clear whether Derby obtained Owen Ratcliffe the seat at Wigan in 1571 or whether this was owed to his mother’s family.

Knowledge of Ratcliffe is derived mainly from the records of the lawsuits that ruined him, from duchy of Lancaster inquisitions and from pleadings and Star Chamber documents. By the summer of 1589 he was in the Fleet, employing a solicitor who was ‘altogether ignorant of the law’ to press the suits he was unable to deal with himself. Upon his release he sued the solicitor, one Meade, in the Star Chamber. Another case between the two men in 1591 shows some of Ratcliffe’s activities outside London and Lancashire. In the second bill of complaint he is described as bailiff, for Merton College, Oxford, of the manor and lordship of Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire. Meade was a Cambridgeshire man, and Ratcliffe declared that it was he who caused the bailiff’s servants to be injured while they were distraining cattle. Meade’s demurrer stated that he was not obliged to answer the charges, as Owen Ratcliffe of Gamlingay was the same person who, as Owen Ratcliffe of Langley, had been outlawed for debt by the court of common pleas, and who was therefore disabled from bringing an action. The question why a Lancashire gentleman should have been representing an Oxford college in Cambridgeshire remains unanswered.

Ratcliffe died intestate 30 Sept. 1599, letters of administration being granted to his daughter Mary, aged 18, the wife of Gabriel Tedder.

Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 81; DL1/133/R6, 137/R7, 10, 151/52; DL7/12/19, 17/4; St. Ch. 5/R2/12, R12/20, R14/25; PCC admon. act bk. 1599, f. 33.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge