RADCLIFFE, Cuthbert (by 1491-1545), of Cartington and Dilston, Northumb.

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 1491, 1st s. of Sir Edward Radcliffe of Cartington by Anne, da. and h. of Sir John Cartington of Cartington. m. lic. 6 Jan. 1515, Margaret, da. of Henry, 10th Lord Clifford, 4s. 3da. Kntd. Nov. 1530/June 1534; suc. fa. c.1537.1

Offices Held

J.p. Northumb. 1512-d., marches of Scotland ?1532; escheator, Northumb. 1513-14, sheriff Jan.-Nov. 1526, 1530-1, 1539-40; ‘learned steward’ of 5th Earl of Northumberland’s estates in Northumb. 1529-d.; commr. redress of injuries in west march 1531, musters Northumb. 1539; other commissions 1534-41; esquire of the body in 1533; member, council in the marches by 1537, constable and chief forester, Alnwick, Northumb. 1539-d.; chief steward, Tynemouth 1539; dep. warden, middle march 1540-3; dep. steward, Hexham 1543; capt. Berwick-upon-Tweed castle 1544-5.2


Sir Edward Radcliffe, a younger son in the family seated at Derwentwater, Cumberland, settled in Northumberland on his marriage to an heiress, although it was his son Cuthbert who eventually inherited Dilston under the will which his grandmother, Lady Cartington, made in February 1522. Radcliffe’s father had been a fee’d man of the Percys but he himself began the shedding of that allegiance which, a Clifford marriage notwithstanding, was to be continued by his son: he served the 4th Earl of Northumberland as steward and counsellor-at-law but he was also warden of the middle march and an esquire of the body.3

It seems likely, in view of his father’s legal training and the offices he was to hold, that Cuthbert Radcliffe received some training in the law, although he cannot be traced at an inn of court. He first achieved prominence in border warfare: in 1520 he was rewarded for his services in the destruction of Scottish fortresses and three years later, after taking part in a similar expedition under the 2nd Lord Dacre, he and four others formulated a scheme for the better government of the middle march. In 1525 he was party to an agreement by prominent Northumbrian gentry for keeping watches on the east march: at about the same time Archdeacon Magnus recommended his promotion to the quorum of the bench as a means of strengthening it, with what result is unknown. His inclusion in 1528 in the body of fee’d men in the county was part of a process whereby the crown, by the granting of annuities, enlisted the services of local gentlemen for the wardens of the marches.4

Radcliffe’s election as senior knight of the shire to the Parliament of 1529 reflected his local standing and his own and his family’s record of public service. He was appointed to the shrievalty for a second term while a Member, and although the date of his knighthood is unknown he is first so styled on I June 1534. The appointment and the honour alike reflect the confidence reposed in him and there can be little doubt that he was returned again to the Parliament of 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members; he may also have sat in one or both of the following Parliaments, those of 1539 and 1542, for which the names of the Northumberland knights are unknown. Although the wording of the grant of 1530 making him ‘learned steward’ of the Earl of Northumberland’s estates in Northumberland implies that he was being confirmed in a post which he already held, there is nothing to suggest, as there is in the case of his father, that Radcliffe was spying for the crown in the Percy household: he does not appear, however, to have stood close to the 5th Earl, and unlike numerous officers in the north he was not provided for in the Act (27 Hen. VIII, c.47) assuring the Percy inheritance to the crown in 1536.5

In 1532 Radcliffe was appointed one of the arbitrators between Sir John Delaval and Sir Philip Dacre and in 1534 he was a juror at the trial of the 3rd Lord Dacre on a bill of treason. It was probably two years later that he was one of the petitioners to the King on behalf of former sheriffs and escheators of Northumberland for pardon for failing to account annually at the Exchequer, a dereliction which according to the petition had begun in the first year of Edward IV. Radcliffe himself had been proceeded against for failing to make his proffer at Michaelmas 1531, and when at Easter 1532 he had still not rendered account he was fined £20. He seems to have done all in his power to avoid accounting at the Exchequer (although as a Member he must have been often in its vicinity), and his successor as sheriff was ordered to distrain him and to appear with him on a given day: this summons too was ignored, but Radcliffe did eventually appear and he then confessed that every sheriff pocketed £120 a year from the profits of the shire. The petitioners of 1536 pleaded in extenuation the time-honoured practice of not accounting and the extraordinary demands of the office in Northumberland. When Radcliffe became sheriff for the third time, the warden of the east march was granted a writ of dedimus potestatem to receive his oath for the faithful performance of his office and the recognizances of two persons willing to be his sureties under a penalty of 200 marks each. Radcliffe was clearly one of the sheriffs whose contumacy prompted the Act of 1549 (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.34) ordering future sheriffs of Northumberland to account annually and to give surety for their conduct. He had also been lax in his handling of writs: he was prosecuted for failing to return 66 exchequer writs by Michaelmas 1533 and fined £10 by that court. There was another side to the picture: Radcliffe’s protest of 1539 to Cromwell over the non-payment of sums due to him helps to explain his own and his fellows’ laxity, as perhaps does his absence from the shire as a Member during two-and-a-half months of his second shrieval year.6

Radcliffe was not involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace. He may have been one of the gentlemen compelled to take the rebel oath at the meeting convened by Sir Ingram Percy ostensibly to see to the border country. He does not appear to have been with the ‘King’s party’ barricaded in Chillingham, but he did enter into the calculations of the rebels, for at their conference at York in November 1536 he was chosen as one of the three representatives of Northumberland to meet the royalists at Pontefract, although there is no evidence that he was present or even knew that he had been chosen. His inactivity in the rebellion was rectified by his industry for the crown and the cause of order after its failure. He was in attendance on the 3rd Duke of Norfolk in Northumberland, and with other prominent figures he drew up in July 1539 the plans for dealing with Tynedale and Redesdale which were sent to the King. He was commissioned to survey Langley castle as part of the review of frontier defences undertaken in 1538 by the council in the north.7

The crown’s acquisition of former monastic property in Northumberland, and its tightened grip on the Percy property and following in the shire in 1537, opened the way to Radcliffe for further service with the crown. He had probably had custody of Alnwick since 1537 but his formal appointment as constable to succeed Sir Ingram Percy two years later may mean that the crown kept the office vacant for some time after the disgrace of the Percy family. Apart from the fact that Radcliffe had already been involved with the Percy inheritance, the grant of this office may be connected with his appointment shortly afterwards as deputy warden of the middle march: the constableship of Alnwick was a valuable aid to the warden, giving him the leadership of the men of that lordship. Some care was taken over Radcliffe’s appointment as deputy warden, both as to suitability and willingness, for Norfolk was sounded on these matters by the Privy Council. In July 1541 the Council of Scotland acknowledged that Radcliffe’s occupancy of that office had conduced to the preservation of peace.

In August 1542 Radcliffe was captured when the expedition of (Sir) Robert Bowes was thrown into disarray by the Scots at Haddon Rig. He was taken into the custody of the bishop of Glasgow, and his release was delayed because he was one of the prisoners ‘meet for the King’s purpose’. By April 1543 some doubt was cast by Admiral Lisle on Radcliffe’s competence as deputy warden and in August the and Earl of Rutland and the council in the marches were sounding opinion about a replacement. This may be explained by the changing nature of the office after 1541, for Radcliffe appeared to have no great aptitude for the raids and counter raids which became increasingly important: in a list of fee’d men in Northumberland drawn up between 1537 and 1540 a crown agent had described Radcliffe as ‘a wise man well learned and well minded to justice but no adventurer to the field’. His appointment soon afterwards as captain of Berwick suggests no waning of confidence in him on the part of the crown, but during his tenure Berwick was insufficiently manned, organised and furnished with ordnance.8

Amid his public service Radcliffe did not neglect his estates. Although there is no record of any grants or leases from the crown he seems to have benefited to a small extent from the redistribution of ex-monastic and also perhaps ex-Percy property. He was involved in disputes with his family and other Northumbrians. No will of his has been found but by a deed of settlement of February 1534 Dilston was to devolve upon his wife and after her death upon his heir George. When Radcliffe died on 20 July 1545 George succeeded to the other Northumberland properties. The Radcliffes, who remained a Catholic family, became earls of Derwentwater in the reign of James II, only to lose the title on the attainder of the Jacobite 3rd Earl9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 88-89; Northumb. Co. Hist. x. 280; Vis. of the North (Surtees Soc. cxxii), 38-41.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, i, ii, iv, v, viii, xi-xvi, xviii, xix, add; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, ii. 232; Alnwick castle mss letters and pprs. 2, f. 27; Northumb. Co. Hist. viii. 215.
  • 3. CPR 1494-1509, pp. 200, 213, 487; LP Hen. VIII, i; Northumb. Co. Hist, x. 264-5, 280; M. E. James, A Tudor Magnate and the Tudor State (Borthwick Pprs. xxx), 17-18.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv; HMC Bath, iv. 48.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, vii.
  • 6. Northumb. Co. Hist. ix. 82-83; LP Hen. VIII, vii, xiv; E368/305/1, 11, 306/16; Hodgson, Northumb. i(1), 364.
  • 7. M. H. and R. Dodds, i. 199-201; LP Hen. VIII, xi-xiv.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv-xviii, xx; Hodgson, ii(3), 232; Cott. Calig. B6(234), f. 432.
  • 9. Wards 7/2/47; C1/425/14; St.Ch.2/18/216; Northumb. Co. Hist. x. 265-6, 280; Vis. of the North, 40-41; Admiralty, Greenwich Hosp. deeds 75/81.