Ralph Seckerston 1500 – 1575

As no official record has been found for Ralph’s birth, the date of 1500 – 1510 is an estimate based on what records have been found.

In 1540/1 he was appointed Baliff for Liverpool.
He was an alderman and from 1550 – 1551 and 1560 – 1561 he was the mayor of Liverpool.
He became a Freeman of Liverpool in 1562.

In 1552 Liverpool returned the Earl of Derby’s servant Ralph Seckerston as the Queen’s representative. (2)

In 1571 he became Member of Parliament for Liverpool (3)

Sekerson (sic.) was a Liverpool merchant, probably a draper, whose parliamentary career was of more than usual interest. Elected by his fellow townsmen to the 1559 Parliament, and still assumed to be their Member a week after the election, it was then discovered that the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster had erased his name from the parliamentary return and inserted that of an outsider. By 1563 the corporation had learned a lesson. The duchy chancellor planned to return Sir Humphrey Radcliffe and William Wynter, while the borough was already committed to return Richard Molyneux I, son of the crown lessee of the lordship. Determined to have Sekerston for the other seat, the corporation informed the chancellor that they were reserving the second nomination for the 3rd Earl of Derby, whose wishes were as yet unknown. Sekerston now went to London, where he persuaded the Earl to adopt him as his nominee. The chancellor then tried to prevent Sekerston from taking his seat, who not only ‘did [stick] to the matter still, and obtained his room’ but ‘where other town burgesses had and did retain speakers for them in the Parliament house, he retained none, but stood up after the manner there and was speaker himself, to the great grief of master chancellor’.

There is no record of the resourceful Sekerston (sic.) again speaking in this Parliament, but he made use of his ‘politic wit and wisdom’ to present a petition to the Queen, requesting her to relieve the decaying town of Liverpool:

“Liverpool is your own town. Your Majesty hath a castle and two chantties … the fee farms of the town, the ferry boat, two windmills, the custom of the duchy, the new custom of tonnage and poundage, which was never paid in Liverpool before your time; you have a good haven, and all the whole town and the commodity thereof is your Majesty’s. For your own sake, suffer us not utterly to be cast away in your Grace’s time, but relieve us like a mother.”

The petition was successful and Liverpool relieved.

Having obtained the favour of the Earl of Derby, Sekerston was again returned to Parliament under his protection in 1571 and 1572. There is no record of his speaking in 1571, but he was appointed to committees on dress (14 May), navigation (25 May) and tillage (25 May). His only recorded committee in 1572 was about cloth (28 June), but he was an active speaker on social and economic questions. On 20 May 1572 he objected that Liverpool and other small boroughs were not provided for in the vagabonds bill. It was ‘a great enormity’ that bishops and other lords and gentlemen kept so few servants, ‘which breedeth vagabonds’. He spoke 31 May on the bill that Liverpool should be integrated within the parochial system (‘the chapel fairer than the church’); on 3 June on the hide trade he wished the gentlemen ‘which sell the hides so dear … might be hanged’. Export licences were ‘very hurtful’. ‘Under colour of every licence a great many more are carried than the licence will extend to’. As they were ‘endorsed in many parts’ it was ‘hard to know’ when the number permitted had been reached. Next day, and again 6 June, Sekerston spoke against special treatment for Hamburg merchants, and, 10 June, he pointed out that it was not always ‘beneficial to the commonwealth’ to sell commodities cheaply: ‘though our leather go forth they have it not for nothing. Good money is returned for the same’. On 25 June he spoke up for Stafford ‘the head town of the shire’, and two days later, on sea marks and hoys, he made a typical little speech in defence of boroughs such as his own: ‘Every man now seeketh all commodities to come to London, as though all the knights and burgesses of the rest of the realm come in vain’.

Before the next session of Parliament Sekerston had died. His will has not been found, and the circumstances of his death (though he was obviously elderly) are unknown. He died between November 1574 and 24 Oct. 1575.  (1.)