SWILLINGTON, Ralph (by 1485-1525), of the Inner Temple, London and Stivichall, nr. Coventry, Warws.

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 1485, s. of William Swillington of Driffield, Yorks. educ. I. Temple. m. Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Babthorpe of Ellistown, Leics., wid. of Thomas Essex (d.c.1500) of Walham Green, Mdx., s.p.2

Offices Held

Lent reader, I. Temple 1514, 1523, treasurer 1523-4, gov. 1524-5.

J.p. Leics. 1509-d., Mdx. and Warws. 1524-d.; recorder, Leicester 1510-d., Coventry 1515-d.; commr. subsidy, Leics. and Leicester 1512, 1514, 1515; other commissions 1506-d.; dep. chamberlain, Exchequer c.1521; steward, manor of Cheylesmore, Warws. July 1522-d.; apprentice-at-law retained by duchy of Lancaster 1523-4; attorney-gen. Apr. 1524-d. 3


Ralph Swillington was born at Driffield into the illegitimate but only surviving branch of an old Yorkshire family and his marriage brought him an interest in Leicestershire and Warwickshire, although his wife’s inheritance in these and three other shires was entailed on William Essex, her son by her first marriage. Swillington was appointed to the Leicestershire bench and became recorder of Leicester but in 1515, on being chosen recorder of Coventry, he contracted to spend the greater part of the year in that city—a promise from which he was released on becoming attorney-general—and took up residence in the neighbouring parish of Stivichall: in the certificate of musters taken at Coventry in 1522 he was said to be worth 400 marks in goods, and in the following year he was assessed for subsidy on £200 in goods there and at the Inner Temple.4

The Members for Coventry in the three Parliaments preceding 1523 are unknown but it is unlikely that Swillington, who evidently owed his election in 1523 to his recordership, was one of them. On the other hand, he may well have sat in the Parliaments of 1512 and 1515 for Leicester as its recorder, especially as he was appointed a subsidy commissioner there in both years: his nephew George Swillington sat for Leicester in both the Parliaments of Edward VI. On Swillington’s return to Coventry after the Parliament of 1523 he and his fellow-Member Richard Marler reported on the work of the Parliament and received the thanks of the city.5

Swillington received increasing recognition of his ability as a lawyer in the last two or three years of his life when his employment by the duchy of Lancaster was followed by his appointment to the attorney-generalship. As attorney-general he initiated a successful suit against the feoffees of the 3rd Earl of Kent who had refused to surrender lands which the earl had sold to Henry VII. In July 1524 he was appointed to the commission for the redress of grievances in the north, but the time was inopportune and in the following month Cardinal Wolsey recalled him. In 1525 he spent some time in Coventry suppressing an insurrection; he was said to have kept the people of Coventry ‘well in awe’. His forceful character is illustrated by a quarrel with Thomas Carminowe which came into the Star Chamber about 1521.6

Swillington was dead by December 1525. By his will of 11 July 1525, proved on 14 Feb. 1526, he left land he had purchased in Driffield to his nephew George Swillington, with 100 marks and £40 for the purchase of certain lands, and 100 marks to his niece Elizabeth. He named as executors his wife and his brother Peter Swillington, a priest. He asked to be buried in the Temple church but made arrangements for the erection of a memorial at Driffield to his father and brothers.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, iv. app. 1.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Farnham Leics. Med. Peds. 24; C1/355/46.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, i-iv; Recs. Leicester, ed. Bateson, iii. 15, 25, 459; Coventry Leet Bk. (EETS cxxxiv), 654; Statutes, iii. 80, 84, 113, 115, 168; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 507, 561; St.Ch.2/24/76; Coventry Recs. ed. Jeaffreson, B 57; Somerville, Duchy, i. 453.
  • 4. PCC 3 Porch; Thoresby Soc. xv. 210-11; C1/355/46; Coventry Leet Bk. 654, 688; VCH Warws. viii. 93; Coventry accts. var. 18, f. iiiv; E179/192/125; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 458.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv. app. 1.
  • 6. C1/567/16; LP Hen. VIII, iv; St.Ch.2/24/76, 32/77.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII iv; PCC 3 Porch.