Ratcliffe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Ratcliffe reached English shores for the first time with the ancestors of the Ratcliffe family as they migrated following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Ratcliffe family lived in Lancashire, at Radcliffe. The name of this place translates as red cliff, from its Saxon origin and indicates that originally the town was distinguished by its proximity to such a landmark on the east side of Irwell.

Early Origins of the Ratcliffe family

The surname Ratcliffe was first found in Lancashire, at Radcliffe, a parish, in the union of Bury, hundred of Salford that dates back to at least the Domesday Book of 1086 where it was listed as Radecliue. [1] "In the 14th of Edward III., Richard Radcliffe held the manor for the manor of Whalley [at Wiswell]." [2]

One of the oldest records of the surname was William de Radeclive, one of the knights of the Grand Inquest, 13th of John. [2]

Radcliffe Tower, now in ruins, was one of the most considerable manorial seats in the county. Richard of Radclyffe Tower was listed there in the reign of Edward I; [3] as was Richard Radcliffe, High Sheriff of Lancashire, 32 Edward III. The tower was rebuilt in the reign by James de Radcliffe, Lord of the Manor of Radcliffe in 1403.

Radcliffe is today a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, in Greater Manchester. Another branch of the family was found at Winmarleigh, a township in Lancashire.

"The Radcliffes afterwards became lords of the manor [of Winmarleigh] by the marriage of Richard le Radcliffe with the heiress of the Plesyngtons; and the estate passed through several heirs to Anne Radcliffe, who married Sir Gilbert Gerard: by a descendant of the last-named, it is supposed to have been sold to the Pattens." [2]

Early History of the Ratcliffe family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Ratcliffe research. Another 219 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1165, 1050, 1476, 1547, 1813, 1194, 1485, 1608, 1654, 1628, 1629, 1609, 1606, 1494, 1381, 1625, 1697, 1655, 1705, 1689, 1716, 1650, 1714, 1593, 1657, 1599, 1657, 1633, 1621, 1629, 1611, 1673, 1646, 1673, 1652 and 1714 are included under the topic Early Ratcliffe History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ratcliffe Spelling Variations

Before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Sound was what guided spelling in the Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Ratcliffe family name include Radcliffe, Radcliff, Radclyffe, Ratliffe, Ratliff, Ratlife and many more.

Early Notables of the Ratcliffe family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Radcliffe, Sheriff of county Lancaster in 1194; Sir Richard Ratcliffe, KG (died 1485), a close confidant of Richard III of England; Sir Alexander Radcliff (1608-1654), English politician, Member of Parliament for Lancashire (1628-1629); and John Ratcliffe (d. 1609) captain of the Discovery, one of three ships that sailed from England on December 19, 1606, to Virginia, to found a colony. He became the second president of the Jamestown colony, and was killed by the Powhatan Indians. Sir Brian Roucliffe (died 1494) was an English judge, was eldest of the four sons of...
Another 178 words (13 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Ratcliffe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ratcliffe Ranking

In the United States, the name Ratcliffe is the 7,374th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4] However, in the United Kingdom, the name Ratcliffe is ranked the 564th most popular surname with an estimated 11,536 people with that name. [5]

Ireland Migration of the Ratcliffe family to Ireland

Some of the Ratcliffe family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Ratcliffe migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious chaos of this era, thousands of English families began to migrate to the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. The passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe; however, those who made the voyage safely were encountered opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. Many of the families that reached the New World at this time went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Ratcliffe family to immigrate North America:

Ratcliffe Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Ratcliffe, who landed in Virginia in 1622 [6]
  • Robert Ratcliffe, who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1623 [6]
  • Roger Ratcliffe, who landed in Virginia in 1623 [6]
  • Elkinton Ratcliffe, who arrived in Jamestown, Va in 1624 [6]
  • Phillip Ratcliffe, who settled in Salem in 1630
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Ratcliffe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry Ratcliffe, aged 43, who arrived in New York in 1862 [6]
  • William Ratcliffe, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1866 [6]

Canada Ratcliffe migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Ratcliffe Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Miss. Agnes Ratcliffe, aged 9 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "Lord Seaton" departing 12th April 1847 from Belfast, Ireland; the ship arrived on 10th June 1847 but she died on board [7]

Australia Ratcliffe migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Ratcliffe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Ratcliffe, English convict from Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "Almorah" on April 1817, settling in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. John Ratcliffe, British Convict who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the " Dunvegan Castle" on 13th March 1830, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. George Ratcliffe, English convict who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Camden" on 21st September 1832, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Mr. John Ratcliffe, British convict who was convicted in Chester, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Henry Tanner" on 27th June 1834, settling in New South Wales, Australia [11]
  • Mr. Joseph Ratcliffe, British Convict who was convicted in York, Yorkshire, England for 15 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 25th June 1838, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Ratcliffe migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Ratcliffe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Ratcliffe, aged 24, a farmer, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Martha Ridgway" in 1842
  • E. F. Ratcliffe, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Romulus" in 1862

Contemporary Notables of the name Ratcliffe (post 1700) +

  • Jere Brian Ratcliffe (1937-2015), American professional Scouter in the Boy Scouts of America, the 9th Chief Scout Executive
  • Henry Ratcliffe (1808-1877), English vital statistician, born at Tyldesley, Lancashire
  • Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe (1868-1958), English journalist and lecturer
  • Mr. Robert Ratcliffe, British sheriff, held the joint position of Sheriff of Nottingham, England from 1478 to 1479
  • Derek A. Ratcliffe (1929-2005), British ecologist, the first person to discover the link between the use of pesticides such as DDT and Dieldrin and the decline of British populations of birds of prey in particular the peregrine falcon
  • Mr. Michael Richardson Ratcliffe M.B.E., British recipient of Member of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to Business and to the community in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire [13]
  • Sir James Arthur Ratcliffe (b. 1952), born in Oldham, Lancashire, British Chemical Engineer, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Ineos Chemical Group, was appointed a Knight Bachelor on 8th June 2018, for services to Business and to Investment [13]
  • Patrick Christopher "Paddy" Ratcliffe (b. 1919), Irish footballer who played from 1945 to 1955
  • Kevin Ratcliffe (b. 1960), former Welsh footballer who played from 1980 to 1995, member for the Wales National Team (1981-1993)
  • John Ashworth Ratcliffe CB CBE FRS (b. 1902), nicknamed "JAR or Jack", a British radio physicist, President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers from 1966 to 1967, awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1976
  • ... (Another 2 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Jack Ratcliffe, British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [14]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Ernest Ratcliffe (1921-1942), British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking, was listed as missing presumed killed in the evacuation of Singapore in 1942 [15]
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. Peter Ratcliffe, English Fireman from Liverpool, England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking [16]


The Ratcliffe Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Virtus propter se
Motto Translation: Virtue for its own sake.


  1. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  4. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  5. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  6. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 93)
  8. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Almorah voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1817 with 180 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/almorah/1817
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/dunvegan-castle
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 2nd December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/camden
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/henry-tanner
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 19th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/coromandel
  13. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62310, 4 July 2019 | London Gazette, The Gazette, June 2018, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/62310/supplement/B1
  14. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/listepsc1.html
  15. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  16. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 7) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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