Radcliffe Surname Genealogy

surname Radcliffe derives from the place-name Radcliffe
meaning “red cliff.” There have been
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 Radcliffe outnumbers
Ratcliffe by almost two to one in England. In
both cases the name is mainly to be found in Lancashire..

Radcliffe Resources on

Radcliffe Ancestry

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
    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
    established himself at Attleborough in Norfolk in the early

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
through marriage in 1417. Richard Radcliffe was a henchman of
III who
met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The main
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
through another son Nicholas. In favor with James II and created the Earls of
in 1688, these Radcliffes lost out through
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.

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
  • 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.

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

The largest number in Yorkshire, however, has been in Saddleworth,
just across he border from Oldham in Lancashire. Radcliffes held
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

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
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.

America. 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

Captain John
had arrived in America in 1607 and was an early
of the Jamestown settlement. However, he did not last long, being
killed by Indians in 1609 and leaving no legacy.
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.

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,
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.

and William Radcliffe left Ireland with their families for
in 1832, first settling in the London area of Ontario (where they were
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

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.

Radcliffe Miscellany

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

Radcliffe Names

William de Radcliffe
the first to bear the Radcliffe name. He was the High Sheriff of
Lancashire in 1194.
John Radcliffe
an eminent English society doctor of the late 17th and early 18th

Ann Radcliffe
an English author and a pioneer of the Gothic novel in the early 19th


has been an English long-distance runner and is the current world
record holder for the women’s marathon.
Daniel Radcliffe
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)




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