RADCLIFFE, Sir Nicholas (d.c.1452), of Castlerigg, Cumb.

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



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

prob. yr. s. of Sir Richard Radcliffe (d. 4. Sept. 1431) of Astley and Winmarleigh, Lancs. by his w. Margaret (fl. 1442), and bro. of Sir Thomas*. m. c. 1417, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir John Derwentwater (d. by 1422), of Ormside, Westmld. and Castlerigg, at least 1s. Kntd. 25 Oct. 1415.1

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Cumb. Apr. 1418, Mar. 1427, Oct. 1429, Mar. 1430, Westmld. July 1434; inquiry Cumb. Apr. 1431 (persons liable to contribute to a grant); oyer and terminer May 1449 (treasons, felonies).

Sheriff, Cumb. 1 May 1422-14 Feb. 1423, 15 Jan. 1426-12 Jan. 1427.

J.p. Cumb. 7 July 1423-d.

Assessor of a tax, Cumb. Aug. 1450.


Sir Nicholas must still have been quite young when he was knighted, on 25 Oct. 1415, after fighting in the battle of Agincourt. Several other members of his prolific family were present on that field, including Sir Richard Radcliffe, who was almost certainly his father, and (Sir) Thomas Radcliffe, Sir Richard’s eldest son and heir. As a younger son, Sir Nicholas had little to hope for in the way of inheritance, although he was fortunately able to find a wealthy bride with extensive estates in the north-west. By about 1417 he had married Elizabeth, the only child of Sir John Derwentwater, who died at some point before 1422 leaving her the family seat at Castlerigg on the shore of Lake Derwentwater, together with the manor of Tallentire and the vill of Threlkeld in Cumberland, and the two manors of Ormside and Bolton in Westmorland. Elizabeth’s grandfather, Sir John Derwentwater*, had taken Isabel, the daughter of Bishop Strickland of Carlisle (d.1419), as his second wife, and since she was now married to the influential (Sir) Robert Lowther*, an extremely valuable network of connexions suddenly opened up for Sir Nicholas. The latter served on his first royal commission in Cumberland in 1418; and was thus well qualified to represent the county in the House of Commons. He was, indeed, present at his own election as a shire knight to the second Parliament of 1421, having perhaps put himself forward for a seat because he had urgent family business to deal with at Westminster. It is certainly worth noting that Sir Thomas Radcliffe had just represented Lancashire, after handing his own return in person to the clerk of the Parliament. Sir Nicholas had now taken up permanent residence on his wife’s estates, as can be seen from his appointment as sheriff of Cumberland in the following May, and again, for a second term, in January 1426. He and Elizabeth obtained a papal indult to make use of a portable altar at about this time; and in 1427 Sir Nicholas once again witnessed the return which sent him to Parliament as a shire knight for Cumberland, and, incidentally, as a colleague of his kinsman, Ralph Radcliffe* of Smithills, who was sitting for the third time for Lancashire. He also attended the parliamentary elections held at Carlisle in 1429, but did not offer himself as a candidate again.2

Because of his wife’s rich inheritance and impressive social contacts, Sir Nicholas soon came to occupy an important place in the north-west. In 1428, for example, he sat on the jury summoned to determine a property dispute between Thomas, Lord Dacre, and William Stapleton*; and three years later he acted as a trustee of (Sir) Christopher Moresby’s* manor of Culgaith in Cumberland. His name appears, too, on the list of jurors at sessions of gaol delivery held in Appleby at this time. He not only gave evidence at the inquisitions post mortem conducted in Penrith and Carlisle on the estates of Sir Peter Tilliol*, in May 1435, but he was also one of the Cumbrian landowners summoned in the previous year to take the general oath that they would not support anyone who disturbed the peace. It looks as if he had retained at least a title to some of the Radcliffe family property further south, as he then made a general release to James Radcliffe of certain land in Clitheroe, but on the whole both his territorial interests and administrative responsibilities were confined to Cumberland and Westmorland. Although in April 1440 he received formal exemption from holding any further offices in local government, he continued to sit on the bench in Cumberland until his death, which occurred about 12 years later.3

Sir Nicholas is last mentioned in 1451, when he discharged his trusteeship of lands and rents belonging to Sir John Pennington. He was probably buried in the south aisle of Crosthwaite church, Cumberland, where he had earlier endowed a chantry dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. His son, Thomas, who married Margaret, the daughter of Sir William Parr of Kendal, had succeeded to the Derwentwater estates by 1453, and was himself the grandfather of Richard III’s unpopular favourite, Sir Richard Radcliffe.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. C.P. Hampson (Bk. of Radclyffes, 218-19) is mistaken in describing Nicholas as the son of Sir Ralph Radcliffe* and brother of Ralph*, who was active at the time, but who was never knighted (VCH Lancs. iv. 244; v. 13).
  • 2. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xxii. 341-2; CPL, vii. 313; C219/12/6, 13/5, 14/1; Hampson, 218-19; CIPM (Rec. Comm.), iv. 166.
  • 3. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xiii. 224; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 116, 383; 1436-41, p. 397; C139/69/24; JUST 3/70/4; VCH Lancs. vi. 538.
  • 4. Recs. Kendale ed. Curwen and Farrer, ii. 208; Hampson, 218-21.