Select Radcliffe Surname Genealogy

The surname Radcliffe derives from the place-name Radcliffe meaning “red cliff.”  There have been several place-names called Radcliffe in England.  However, Radcliffe as a name has basically come from just one place, the Radcliffe parish in Lancashire some two miles outside of Bury.  Radcliffe was one of the only four names of the Salford hundred in Lancashire recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.  

Radcliffe has been the main spelling over time.  Spelling variants have been Radcliff and Ratcliffe.  Today Ratcliffe outnumbers Radcliffe by almost two to one in England.  In both cases the name is mainly to be found in Lancashire

Select Radcliffe Resources on The Internet

Select Radcliffe Ancestry

England.  The Radcliffe parish in Lancashire gave rise to the Radcliffe name and family.  They were a Norman family who was granted the Radcliffe manor in the mid-12th century and built the fortified Radcliffe Tower.  Among their numbers were:
  • Sir William de Radcliffe who was considered one of the twelve trusted knights of the shire and was appointed its High Sheriff in 1194.
  • Sir Richard de Radcliffe, a knight with Edward III in the Scottish wars of the 14th century who was made the seneschal of the King's forests in Blackburn.
  • his younger son John who fought in the French wars and established the Ordsall line near Manchester in the 1330's.
  • while a later John Radcliffe who also fought in the French wars and established himself at Attleborough in Norfolk in the early 1400's.
The Radcliffe tenure at Radcliffe ended when Radcliffe Tower was sold in 1561.  The Radcliffe Ordsall line, resplendent in Elizabethan times, lasted longer but died out in 1662.  John Radcliffe of the Norfolk line was beheaded for treason in 1495.  But later Radcliffes of this line found favor in the Tudor court and were created the Earls of Sussex.  The line ended with the death of the sixth Earl, impoverished and childless, in 1643.

Sir Nicholas Radclyffe had secured the Derwentwater estate in Cumberland through marriage in 1417.  Richard Radcliffe was a henchman of Richard III who met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.  The main male line here died out ten years later after his son John was executed in Calais and had his estate confiscated, although the line did apparently survive through another son Nicholas.  In favor with James II and created the Earls of Derwentwater in 1688, these Radcliffes lost out through their subsequent support for the Jacobites.   

These lines and others, where the spelling was sometimes Radclyffe, were covered in Charles Hampson's 1940 The Book of the Radclyffes.

Lancashire.  There were a number of subsidiary Radcliffe families that continued in Lancashire, perpetuating the Radcliffe and alternative Ratcliff and Ratcliffe names:
  • there were Ratcliffs at Chapel Hill in Rossendale from the late 1500's. 
  • Edmund Radcliffe was resident in Oldham in the early 1600's.  His son William was rector of Aston and Dinnington for more than forty years. 
  • while the Radclyffes were prominent landowners at Chadderton near Oldham for a long time.  Their line in fact extended back to the 1400's when their forebear Robert Radclyffe built Foxdenton Hall in the vicinity.  The last of the family, Charles Radclyffe, died in 1953.  The Radclyffe comprehensive school at Chadderton was named after this family. 
Lancashire accounted for 40% of all Radcliffes and Ratcliffes in England in the 1881 census.  By that time the Ratcliffe spelling was outnumbering the Radcliffe spelling by more than two to one.

Elsewhere.  The orginal Radcliffe family extended beyond Lancashire.

There was a line from the Norfolk Radcliffes that was seated at Todmorden in Yorkshire from the 15th century. Radcliffes in Wakefield date from a century or so later.   Their most famous member was Dr. John Radcliffe, a society doctor after whom a number of landmark buildings in Oxford were named.   Meanwhile another Radcliffe family purchased the Marsden Moor estate near Huddersfield in 1724 and, a century or so later, Rudding Park House near Harrogate.

The largest number in Yorkshire, however, has been in Saddleworth, just across he border from Oldham in Lancashire.  Radcliffes held Shaw Hall there in the 17th century and were clothiers in the 18th century.

Lancashire Radcliffes also extended to Mellor in Derbyshire, but close to Manchester.  Anthony Radcliffe was a yeoman farmer who died there in 1658.  William Radcliffe, the son of a weaver, opened a cotton weaving factory in 1789.  His factory included a novel ratchet wheel that enabled the cloth to move forward automatically.

Isle of Man.  There were Radcliffes on the Isle of Man by the 1550's.  The forebear of the Radcliffes of Knockaloe Moar was probably Thomas Radcliffe through a propitious marriage.  Later Radcliffes generally alternated Thomas and Sylvester until the direct male line ended in 1760.  Some Radcliffe descendants were fishermen and fish dealers in the Peel area; others ended up in Castletown.

Meanwhile John Radcliffe, a younger son of these Radcliffes, was recorded at Andreas in 1571 and his descendants were masons and landowners there. The Rev. William Radcliffe of this family was a noted Methodist minister in Victorian times.  There were 91 Radcliffes at Andreas in the 1881 English census.     

Ireland.  The spelling here tended to be Radcliff.  The origin for many of them seems to have been Cumberland and they came to Ulster in the early 1600's under the Protestant plantation scheme.  Among the descendants were:
  • Francis Radcliff who was in county Down by the mid-1600's.  His line produced judges, ministers and town officials in the county.
  • the Rev. Thomas Radcliff who was the Anglican rector at St. Paul's in Dublin in the late 1700's.  His son Thomas fought with Wellington in the Peninsular Wars and later emigrated to Canada.
  • while there were Radcliffs in Beersbridge and Banbridge, county Down in the early 1800's.  Some of them emigrated to America and settled in Ohio.  Samuel Radcliff departed county Down for Canada in 1842.  Six years later he had married and was a pioneer settler in Blanshard township, Manitoba where he built himself a log cabin and farmed.    
Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter actor, has roots through his father in county Down.

.  If the name Radcliffe is known in America, it is for Radcliffe College, the women's college in Cambridge, Massachusetts that was founded in 1882 and was considered one of the "Seven Sisters" colleges.  However, the name Radcliffe came from someone who had never stepped foot in America.  An Ann Radcliffe, the wife of a London merchant, had established Harvard's first scholarship fund in 1643. 

Captain John Ratcliffe had arrived in America in 1607 and was an early leader of the Jamestown settlement. However, he did not last long, being killed by Indians in 1609 and leaving no legacy.  Among later Radcliffes who stayed in America were:
  • Richard Ratcliffe from Chapel Hill in Lancashire who came to Virginia in 1634.  A descendant was Richard Ratcliffe, the founder of the town of Fairfax, Virginia in 1805.
  • John Radcliffe who had come to the new colony of Charleston, South Carolina as an indentured servant in the 1660's.  Conditions there were so onerous that he escaped his master in 1672 for what he saw as freedom in Spanish Florida.
  • James Radcliffe, a persecuted Quaker also from Chapel Hill, who departed for Pennsylvania in 1685.  He settled in Wrightstown, Bucks county; his younger brother Richard moved onto Maryland.
  • while Daniel Radcliff came to Virginia sometime in the 1730's.  He was killed by Indians in Hampshire county, Virginia in 1784.  But he did leave descendants, some of whom later migrated to Kentucky and Ohio.
There were only 120 of the name, mostly spelt Radcliff, recorded in the 1840 US census.

Caribbean.  In 1849 the Rev. John Radcliffe departed Castlewellan in county Down for Kingston, Jamaica where he practiced as a Church of Scotland minister.  After his wife Jane died in 1856, his three children returned to Britain. He himself remained in Jamaica and died there in 1892.

  Thomas and William Radcliffe left Ireland with their families for Canada in 1832, first settling in the London area of Ontario (where they were colonel and captain in the local militia) and then moving in 1839 to Amherst Island on Lake Ontario.  Thomas died there two years later from his exertions after rowing a boat.   William left the island in 1849.

New Zealand
.  James Radcliffe had uprooted his family from Manchester in 1880 for Wellington, New Zealand.  He prospered there and in the late 1890’s they made their home in the new northern suburb of Ngaio.  James died in 1912.  His sons Harold, Julian and Percy all fought in World War One.  Harold fought at Gallipoli and survived; Julian and Percy perished on the battlefields in France

Select Radcliffe Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Radcliffe Names

Sir William de Radcliffe was the first to bear the Radcliffe name.  He was the High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1194. 
Dr. John Radcliffe was an eminent English society doctor of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Ann Radcliffe
was an English author and a pioneer of the Gothic novel in the early 19th century.
Paula Radcliffe
has been an English long-distance runner and is the current world record holder for the women's marathon. 
Daniel Radcliffe
is the English actor who rose to prominence as the title character in the Harry Potter film series. 

Select Radcliffes Today
  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page