BAGNALL, Sir Ralph (by 1508-80), of Stoke-upon-Trent and Dieulacres, Staffs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. by 1508, 1st s. of John Bagnall of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and bro. of Sir Nicholas. m. (1) by 1546, Mary, da. of John Onley ‘of Salop’, wid. of Sir George Cotton of Combermere, Cheshire; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Robert Whitgreve of Burton, Staffs., 1s. 1da. Kntd. 29 Sept. 1547; suc. fa. 1558.3

Offices Held

Gent. pens. by Jan. 1547-33; surveyor of kerseys, ports of London and Southampton 23 Nov. 1549-16 Oct. 1553; lt. of the army in Ireland and member of the council July 1550-3; mayor, Newcastle-under-Lyme 1554-5; sheriff, Staffs. 1560-1; j.p. 1564-d.4


Ralph Bagnall’s father was a tailor and five times mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme between 1519 and 1533. Nothing has come to light about Bagnall’s upbringing or career earlier than 1537-8 when he and two younger brothers lost the freedom of the borough for a series of unspecified misdemeanours. It is possible that he spent the next few years in Ireland as a soldier, but by the spring of 1546 he had obtained a minor post at court, where in the company of Edward Underhill he achieved notoriety as a ‘gamester, dicer and whoremonger’. Despite his reputation as a ‘ruffler’ he married the widow of the Duke of Richmond’s governor and attracted the favourable attention of Henry VIII; in 1546 he received a grant of Foston and other properties in Yorkshire. His marriage into the Cotton family linked him with several prominent figures in the royal household and may have assisted his meteoric rise under Edward VI.5

Bagnall accompanied the Protector Somerset on the Scottish campaign, being knighted after the battle of Pinkie, but his military connexions and ability drew him not into Somerset’s following but into the Earl of Warwick’s. On the Protector’s fall in 1549 Bagnall shared in the distribution of rewards, gaining a lucrative surveyorship in the ports of London and Southampton. The ennoblement of Sir William Paget created a vacancy for Staffordshire in the Parliament of 1547, then in its third session, and it was probably with Warwick’s support that Bagnall entered the Commons as Paget’s replacement before the end of the session on 1 Feb. 1550. Several months later Warwick entrusted him with the lieutenancy of the army in Ireland and a place on the council there. His duties in Ireland prevented him from returning to England for any length of time during the remaining years of Edward VI’s reign, but his absence did not cost him Warwick’s favour for in June 1552 his suit for the site and lands of Dieulacres abbey was commended by Warwick, now Northumberland, to the Earl of Bedford and the Marquess of Northampton. None of Bagnall’s visits is known to have coincided with the final session (1552) of the Parliament or with the single session of its successor in March 1553, when two fairly inexperienced men, William Devereux and Walter Aston, were chosen as the knights for Staffordshire. On the King’s death Bagnall proclaimed Jane Grey Queen in Ireland, and in retaliation for this Mary dismissed him from all his offices.6

Back home in Staffordshire and without prospect of further employment, Bagnall became mayor of his native town, and in this capacity returned himself to Mary’s third Parliament. When on 30 Nov. 1554 Cardinal Pole delivered the papal absolution to the Lords and Commons, all knelt except Bagnall

who said he was sworn the contrary to King Henry VIII, which was a worthy prince and laboured 25 years before he could abolish him [the pope], and to say that I will now agree to it, I will not.

Towards the end of his life he recalled that for this defiance ‘he found himself so disliked as for himself he fled into France’. This was an exaggeration, although not perhaps a deliberate one, since he was confused as to the circumstances: thus he thought that the episode had occurred at ‘Queen Mary’s first entry’, that is, in her first Parliament, and that he had been one of the knights for Staffordshire. His outspokenness is not known to have incurred any penalty, nor did he aggravate the offence by leaving the Parliament without licence before its dissolution. On 19 Apr. 1555 he and his brother Sir Nicholas were ordered to Ireland by the Privy Council to settle their affairs, ‘they fearing so to do without some protection of the person from private malice, the deputy [of Ireland] ... required to see them indifferently handled’. In the autumn he may have promoted his brother’s election at Newcastle to the next Parliament in the belief that his own reappearance in the House would be imprudent; about the same time, perhaps in preparation for exile, he conveyed his estates to this brother, who in 1566 sold, or more probably mortgaged, them to Valentine Browne for 800 marks. It was not until the discovery of the Dudley conspiracy that Bagnall fled to France, and so implied his guilt in the affair. On 12 Dec. 1556 he was indicted in his absence, but within six months he had obtained a pardon, having perhaps approached the Queen through Nicholas Wotton during his stay in Paris. He evidently returned to England before the outbreak of war, and his knowledge of French and of the exiles in France was called upon in the interrogation of a Frenchman in the Tower after Thomas Stafford’s attack on Scarborough.7

For the remaining 22 years of his life Bagnall was an important figure in Staffordshire, and his reappearance in Parliament under Elizabeth reflected his local ascendancy. The redemption of his estates in 1560 from Browne for £2,111 apparently cost him more than he could afford, for in 1565 he owed one creditor £1,000 and in the following years he sold his property piecemeal. Bagnall died early in 1580, probably intestate.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: Alan Davidson / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from his brother’s. P. H. Bagenall, Vicissitudes of a Anglo-Irish Fam. 18, app.; Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. iii. 147; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 325-7; T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 41; N. and Q. (ser. 4), ii. 292-3; Erdeswick, Staffs. 493; Ormerod, Cheshire, iii(1), 414-15; LP Hen. VIII, xxi.
  • 4. LC2/2/426; Stowe 571, f. 31v; CPR, 1548-9, p. 247; 1553-4, p. 392; Cal. Carew Pprs. 1515-74, p. 227; CP and CR Ire. i. 219; Pape, 192.
  • 5. Pape, 10-11, 187; DNB (Bagnall, Sir Nicholas); LP Hen. VIII , xxi; Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxviii), 158; Strype, Eccles. Memorials , ii(1), 180.
  • 6. CPR , 1548-9, p. 247; 1550-3, p. 440; Cal. Carew Pprs. 1515-74, p. 227, 230-1; APC , iv. 213; CSP Ire. 1509-73, pp. 114, 117; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 41; Add. 1547-65, p. 424.
  • 7. Narr. Ref. 290-1; SP63/1/20; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles , 77; APC , v. 117; vi. 181, 229; Pape, 41; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies , 210, 229, 234, 263, 265; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 80, 82; CPR , 1555-7, p. 318.
  • 8. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 42; Pape, 41; Erdeswick, 493; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 660.