COLE, Sir Ralph, 2nd Bt. (1629-1704), of Brancepeth Castle, co. Dur.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



27 Mar. 1678
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 3 Nov. 1629, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Nicholas Cole, 1st Bt., of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. and Brancepeth Castle by 1st w. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Liddell, 1st Bt., of Ravensworth, Northumb. m. (1) by 1651, Margaret (d.1657), da. of Thomas Windham of Felbrigg, Norf., wid. of one Shouldham, 3s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) by 1664, Catherine (d.1704), da. of Sir Henry Foulis, 2nd Bt., of Ingleby, Yorks., s.p. suc. fa. Dec. 1669.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Newcastle 1660, Durham 1673; commr. for assessment, co. Dur. 1661-80, 1689-90; lt.-col. of militia by 1662, col. by 1685, dep. lt. 1668-?d.; j.p. 1670-?d.; commr. for recusants 1675, carriage of coals, Newcastle 1679.2


Cole was descended from an insignificant Gateshead tradesman who died in 1583. But his grandfather invested some of the enormous wealth which he had acquired as a merchant adventurer of Newcastle in the purchase of Kepyer, at the gates of Durham, in 1630 and Brancepeth Castle six years later. As one of the leaders in the prolonged defence of Newcastle against the Scots in the Civil War, he was imprisoned and savagely fined. Cole’s father, three times mayor of Newcastle and a commissioner of array, was in arms for the King and also forced to compound for his delinquency. His losses were estimated at £50,000.3

Cole was the first of the family to abandon trade. As a child he is said to have studied painting under van Dyck, and he was to paint the portrait of Thomas Wyndham II. He retained several Italian painters in his service, an extravagance which forced the sale of Kepyer in 1674. Unlike his father, he supported the enfranchisement of Durham, and was returned at the head of the poll at the first election for the city in 1678. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed only to the committee for the explanatory bill on the prohibition of imports from France, and to two others of less importance. He was marked ‘doubly vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list and included in the ‘unanimous club’ of government supporters. Nevertheless he was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament. Shaftesbury marked him ‘vile’ and according to Roger Morrice he voted against the bill; but he left no other trace on the records. He is not known to have stood again, though he signed the address approving the dissolution of Parliament in 1681.4

Cole apparently accepted the Revolution, but in 1701 he had to sell the Brancepeth estate for £16,000, plus an annuity of £500. He died on 9 Aug. 1704 and was buried at Brancepeth, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Gillian Hampson


  • 1. C. Surtees, Castle of Brancepeth, 36.
  • 2. Reg. of Freemen (Newcastle Recs. iii), 76; Surtees, Dur. iv (2), p. 22; Arch. Ael. i. 187; Durham Univ. Lib., Mickleton Spearman mss 8/69-72; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1205.
  • 3. R. Howell, Newcastle and the Puritan Revolution, 15, 124, 162; Dur. iv. (2), p. 66; Hutchinson, Dur. iii. 314; Cal. Comm. Comp. 971, 1978.
  • 4. Cosin Corresp. (Surtees Soc. lv), 212, 249, 256; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 386.
  • 5. Hutchinson, 314.