Ralph de Ashton

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Sir Ralph de Ashton or Assheton (fl. 1421–1486), was an officer of state under Edward IV of England.

Floruit, abbreviated fl., Latin for "he/she flourished", denotes a date or period during which a person was known to have been alive or active. In English, the word may also be used as a noun indicating the time when someone flourished.

Edward IV of England 15th-century King of England

Edward IV was the King of England from 4 March 1461 to 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England. The first half of his rule was marred by the violence associated with the Wars of the Roses, but he overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at Tewkesbury in 1471 to reign in peace until his sudden death. Before becoming king, he was Duke of York, Earl of March, Earl of Cambridge and Earl of Ulster.


Early life

Ashton was the half-brother of Sir Thomas de Ashton ( fl. 1446) the alchemist, and the son of the Ashton mentioned by Froissart (see Sir John de Ashton (fl. 1370)). His mother was Margaret, daughter of Sir John Byron of Clayton. In his seventeenth year he was one of the pages of honour to Henry VI, and at the same early age he married Margaret, the heiress of the Bartons of Middleton, and became the founder of the family that held the lordship there until the 18th century, when it passed by the female line to the holders of the Suffield peerage. [1] His grandson Richard Ashton rebuilt St Leonard's church at Middleton in 1524.[ citation needed ]

Thomas de Ashton (alchemist) English alchemist

Sir Thomas de Ashton or Assheton, was an English alchemist.

Sir John Byron (1386–1450) was an English nobleman, landowner, politician, and knight. He had estates in Clayton near Manchester and at South Stoke in Lincolnshire. He was Member of Parliament for Lancashire in 1421 and 1429, and for Lincolnshire in 1447.

Clayton Hall

Clayton Hall is a 15th-century manor house on Ashton New Road, in Clayton, Manchester, England. It is hidden behind trees in a small park. The hall is a Grade II* listed building, the mound on which it is built is a scheduled ancient monument, and a rare example of a medieval moated site. The hall is surrounded by a moat, making an island 66 m by 74 m. Alterations were made to the hall in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it was enlarged in the 18th century.


Ralph Ashton was a man of influence, and in the reign of Edward IV he held various offices. [2] He was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1472, and for his courage at the capture of Berwick upon Tweed he was made a knight banneret at Hutton Field. When his commander, the Duke of Gloucester, became Richard III, he rewarded Sir Ralph's adhesion to the Yorkist cause by extensive grants of land. In 1483 he was appointed vice-constable of England and lieutenant of the Tower of London. The date of his death is unknown, but he is traditionally said to have been shot at Ashton-under-Lyne, and the yearly ceremony known as the "Riding of the Black Lad" is regarded as a commemoration of that event. [1] There is a very full rent-roll or custumal of the manor of Ashton in 1422, in which the various names and obligations of the tenants are set forth. [1]

High Sheriff of Yorkshire Chronological list of the High Sheriffs of Yorkshire, England

The Sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown. Formerly the Sheriff was the principal law enforcement officer in the county but over the centuries most of the responsibilities associated with the post have been transferred elsewhere or are now defunct, so that its functions are now largely ceremonial.

A knight banneret, sometimes known simply as banneret, was a medieval knight who led a company of troops during time of war under his own banner and was eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry.


Ralph Ashton is mentioned in a passage which Dr. Hibbert-Ware has explained with much ingenuity, though not with absolute certainty. According to this, corn marigold (Chrysanthemun segetum) grew so extensively in the low wet land about Ashton as to be inimical to the crops, and the lord of the manor had an annual inspection and levied fines on those tenants on whose lands it was seen. This power, delegated to Ralph Ashton and his brother Robert, is said to have been made the pretext of such tyrannical exactions that on one of these visitations the tenants rose in desperation and the "Black Knight" was slain. [1] Others hold that it was whilst exercising in the northern parts his despotic powers as vice-constable that he excited the terror expressed in the legendary rhyme:—

Sweet Jesu, for thy mercy's sake
And for thy bitter passion,
Save us from the axe of the Tower,
And from Sir Ralph of Ashton. [1]

The effigy of the Black Knight is still paraded through the town of Ashton on Easter Monday. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Axon 1885, p. 179.
  2. Axon 1885, pp. 178–179.

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