RIDGEWAY, John (by 1517-60), of the Middle Temple, London, and Newton Abbot, Abbotskerswell and Tor Mohun, Devon.

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



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1517, s. of Michael Ridgeway of Newton Abbot. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1542, Elizabeth, da. of John Wendford of Newton Abbot, 1s. Thomas 2da.2

Offices Held

Jt. feodary, Devon 3 June 1538; jt. chief steward for Torre abbey, Devon 1538-9; jt. receiver-gen. Devon, Dorset and Som. for Syon abbey 1538-9; j.p. Devon 1540-d., q. 1554; commr. relief 1550; escheator, Devon and Cornw. 1554-5; recorder, Totnes by 1554.3


The son of a Newton Abbot brewer, John Ridgeway became a lawyer and his grandson Thomas was to be ennobled. No explanation has been found of the alias Peacock which was added to his name in the pedigree supplied at the heraldic visitation four years after his death but which has been found nowhere else. At the Temple he shared chambers with John Southcote, presumably his neighbour at Bovey Tracey and Member for Lostwithiel, not the Elizabethan judge: Ridgeway’s son later strengthened the ties between the families by marrying one of Southcote’s granddaughters.4

The year 1538 saw Ridgeway embarked on his local career, the crown appointing him feodary, Dartmouth retaining his services and two monasteries giving him posts. During the following year he received a number of appointments and pensions from religious houses in Devon, but as a Member of the Parliament of 1539 he helped to pass the Act (31 Hen. VIII, c.31) dissolving them. He may have been responsible for the inclusion of Dartmouth in the Act for the re-edification of towns westwards (32 Hen. VIII, c.19), which gave the places concerned temporary relief from certain payments to the crown, for the £8 13s.4d. which Dartmouth paid him, although below the statutory rate, was almost three times as much as his fellow-Member William Holland received. It was, however, Holland whom the town re-elected to the next Parliament and when Ridgeway was returned to its successor he appears not to have been the first choice, his name being inserted over an erased one on both the return for the shire and the sheriff’s schedule. According to the town accounts for 1546-7 he was paid 46s.8d. ‘for his wages for the Parliament this year at 8d. a day’; since only the second session fell within this financial year, and that lasted for 18 days, the difference between the bill thus incurred, which even if it included six days’ travel would have amounted to 16s., and the amount paid must mean either that Ridgeway was being paid for both sessions (totalling, with travel time, 60 days and thus costing £2) or that he was receiving a substantial addition for fees or other expenses.5

It was during and shortly after his first Parliament that Ridgeway made his first purchases of ex-monastic land, including Abbotskerswell which he bought in December 1540 and which he made his home. He was called upon to furnish men for the French campaign of 1544 and victuals for the Scottish one three years later. Nothing has come to light about his part during the western rebellion in 1549 but when five years later the Carews joined Wyatt’s conspiracy he kept the sheriff Sir Thomas Denys and the Council informed about unease in the county. He reappeared in Parliament twice under Mary, sitting on both occasions for Exeter with his friend Richard Hart. He had advised the city and many of its leading merchants, but he probably owed his adoption there to the support of Secretary Petre whom he assisted in land transactions and whose estate accounts for the south-west he audited; in compliance with the civic ordinance governing Membership he was admitted to the freedom four days after his first election. Of his role in these two Parliaments all that is known is that he did not oppose the restoration of Catholicism, but he presumably supported the bill introduced in the first of them to bring the terms of apprenticeship in Bristol and Exeter into agreement with those in London. He was doubtless excluded from re-election in the autumn of 1554 by the Queen’s request for the return of residents and he was not to sit again before his death at Tor Mohun on 24 Apr. 1560. Under his will, which is known only from extracts quoted in his inquisition post mortem, he provided for his widow, children and servants, remembered the poor and named among his executors Richard Hart and Thomas Southcote. He was buried at Tor Mohun where a monument was later erected to his memory.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2002, f. 13v.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. J. E. Kew, ‘The land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 347-8; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 183; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 647; Wards 7/8/48.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xv, xvi, xviii, xx; CPR, 1553, p. 352; 1553-4, p. 18; Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. i), passim; Devon RO, 1579/A1v.
  • 4. Kew, 347-8; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 183; M.T. Recs. i. 92; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lvi. 221.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2002, ff. 13v, 16v, 17v, 18v, 22v; C219/18C/32, 33.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xv-xx, add; Devon Monastic Lands, passim; Kew, 203, 311; L. S. Snell, Suppression of Rel. Foundations in Devon and Cornw. 155, 164; E315/340/12; St.Ch.2/32/134; C1/1058/70; APC, ii. 188; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 37, 45; Archaelogia, xxviii. 147; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 57; Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 115v, 126; NRA 9466 sec. iii passim; 9546, pp. 8-11; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 80; CPR, 1558-60, p. 164; Wards 7/8/48; W. G. Hoskins, Devon, 501.