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Ratcliffe Culey, ( Redeclive, from the Old English  for red cliff or bank and the manorial affix of the De Cuiley family), is situated at the confluence of the Rivers Sence and Anker less than 2 miles from the Warwickshire border. It's name would suggest that the settlement predates the Danish occupation of Leicestershire in the late 9th century, ( the frontier between Saxon Mercia and the Danelaw centered on Watling Street less than 2 miles away and this area, between Market Bosworth and Atherstone, seems not to have been settled by the invaders ). We know nothing of Ratcliffe prior to 1086 but it is quite probable that it could have been occupied as early as the first century. Standing slightly above the marshlands of the Anker and Sence, it would have been a natural settlement area. We know that the adjacent parish of Witherley had a Roman posting station Manduessedum dated from about AD 70 and here an important pottery industry developed in AD 100 which continued until about 370.

The Domesday Survey  of 1086 states :- The land of Robert Dispensator (AKA Bursar). Robert  holds 2 carucates of land in Redeclive. In demesne there is I plough and 2 serfs and 6 villeins with 2 bordars have I plough. It was and is worth 20s.(V.C.H. Leicestershire I, p.326). This suggests a population of about 50 souls all owing allegiance to the Lord of the Manor. There is evidence of a Moated Manor house to the south west of the present church which may well date from this period. 

By the late 12th  century the manor was in the possession  the de Culey family (see Nicholls iv p938) and remained with the family until  the mid 14th century. The poll tax return of 1377 lists some 28 taxable persons giving an estimated population less than 40. The apparent negative growth is possibly due to the plague which visited the area twice in the previous 50 years. 

The present All Saints Church, originally St Leonard's, dates from at least this period. The decorated style and the 'Y' tracery widows date it mid to late 14th century. It is unusual as having been built as one build with no major additions or alterations in succeeding centuries.

In 1377 the manor passed into the hands of the John Stanhope of Rampton, his wife Elizabeth was the widow of John de Culey who died without issue. The manor remained with the Stanhope family until the mid 15th century .

By 1552 the Manor was in the hands of  Sir Ralph and Frances Lee who conveyed via Thomas Beard to Michael Fox. In 1567 however it was said to be held by the Purefrey family who also held the manors of Witherley and Atterton. This is almost certainly the Purefoy from Fenny Drayton, William Purefoy was one of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I.

In 1564 the lay subsidy gives a total of 16 Families residing in Ratcliffe Culey,  a population of about 80 souls.

In 1568 the Manor was consolidated  into the hands of the Fox family through Elizabeth Sprot the wife of Nicholas Fox .  The Fox family were mainly absentee landlords and since 1551 the Farmer family had been consolidating property holdings in Ratcliffe Culey and by 1630 dominated the town. The Inquisitions Post Mortem of Bartholomew Farmer in 1625 gives an insight into how, in 75 years, Bartholomew Farmer had acquired property in Ratcliffe Culey and the surrounding area.

 The list of freeholders resident in Ratcliffe Culey in 1630 is :-
John Farmer chief constable, John Farmer jnr, Richard Farmer, William Farmer and Thomas Richardson. 

In 1642 the manor was still in the hands of the Fox family George Fox of Bosworth possessing the Lordship but by this time most of the lands were under the control of freeholders.  (A note of interest, the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox , was born in Fenny Drayton some 2 miles to the east in 1624 , Atterton being in that Civil Parish.)

The hearth tax returns of 1664 list 28 houses assessed, this list was taken from the collectors book and lists all houses giving an estimated population of about 140. It is interesting as it notes tenancies and changes from the previous assessment.  What is interesting is the quality of houses listed 10, over a third,  had more than 1 hearth and 4 had 5 hearths. This points to an extremely prosperous community.

By 1706 the Farmer family were beginning to dispose of their lands in Ratcliffe and by 1787 had ceased to be the dominating force.

In 1766 an act of enclosure finally completed the enclosure of the great open fields and common lands a process started by the religious houses in the 15th century. Some 560 acres of common land and waste were enclosed and several ancient large enclosures of 600 acres were subdivided. The lord of the manor at the time of enclosure was the Rev. Richard Vincent rector of Donamore, county Armagh in Ireland. The act awarded 125 acres of Glebe in lieu of tithes greater and lesser. Apart from Richard Vincent the other freeholders who were awarded land by right were :-
Sir Charles Townley, Charles Jennens, John Farmer, Alice Okeover, Rev. Thomas Gresley, Joshua Kiss and several other persons. The only cottagers awarded rights were Michael Baxter and Joseph Joyce. It is interesting to note that the Kiss family had be represented in the area from at least  1332.

The enclosures were a catalyst for change. The move from an open field system although, disenfranchising  local cottagers and forcing them into the labor market, provided employment for outsiders due to more efficient farming methods. Nearby Atherstone provided both a ready market for produce and, through it's Michaelmas hiring fair, a ready source of labor. Incomers at this period included the Bolstridge family from Meriden, Tunks from Sutton Coldfield and Thompson from Tamworth.

By 1801 the population had grew to 198 in 47 families in 45 houses, out of the 94 males, 65 were chiefly employed in agriculture and 13 in trade or manufacture.

In 1830, according to Curtis the population was 211 in 45 houses, Morris Lythall Lord of the Manor. 

During this period Ratcliffe Culey and adjacent Atterton and Witherley were gradually purchased by Rev. James Roberts and Rev. James Corrall Roberts both rectors of Witherley.

The 1851 census gives a total population of 240 in 54 families, of the 68 males in employment 7 were farmers, 52 agricultural laborers, 4 shoemakers, 5 in trade and just 1 pauper. This points to a relatively prosperous community.

By 1863 the population was stable at 240 , the Lord of the Manor was Thomas Corbett Esq. of Mythe Cottage Witherley.(source Whites 1863 Dir)

By 1881 the Witherley estate and hence Ratcliffe Culey was in the hands of Edward Tomes Chamberlayne the Rector of Witherley. His friend James Corrall Roberts had bequeathed him the estate and the advowson of Witherley.

The census of 1881 lists 228  in 51 families a slight drop over the 30 years from 1851 what is significant is the drop in the number of males employed in agriculture out of 61 males in employment 8 were farmers but only 31 agricultural laborers and for the first time hatters and miners were listed. The reduction in land based economy is mirrored over the whole country at this time as a result of the depression of 1875 and increasing mechanization. Ratcliffe Culey did not suffer the fate of many rural communities which lost a large percentage of their population to the industrial towns over the next 30 years. This was due to the availability of alternative employment near by, namely mining at Baxterly and the Hat trade at Atherstone. It will be interesting to analyze the 1901 census when the data is published next year.

In 1891 there were 50 inhabited houses and 6 uninhabited, total population of 220 comprising of 112 males and 108 females. 29 of the houses had less than 5 rooms.

In his 1922 directory Kelly gives the population at 205, Stanley B. Chamberlayne esq., being Lord of the manor and principal landowner.

In 1935 the Witherley estate was sold to the Rt. Hon 3rd Baron O'Neill. 

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Nichols’ History iv, p. 938.
 Ratcliffe Culey is so called from the Culeys, some time lords thereof, who continued here from the time of king  Henry the Second to the reign of king Richard the Second. In 1279 the following inquisition occurs; Radclive is of 2 fees, viz., Marmion and Chester. Of the fee of Marmion Hugh de Cule holds 2 carucates of land in demense 8 virgates in villeinage arid 7 virgates in free tenure etc. And the said Hugh holds the said tenure by scutage and service for half a knight’s fee of Philip Marmion and Philip of the king. Of the fee of Chester, Thomas de Hardreshull holds 4 virgates freely of the heirs of Hardreshull and the heirs hold of Simon Basset, Simon holds of John sons of Alan, and John of the king The Abbot of Merevale holds 2 virgates in perpetual alms of William de Sheepy and William of the Abbot of Bek, etc.

Curtis’ History of Leicestershire 1830
. Ratcliffe Culey is in the Hundred of Sparkenhoe and is a chapelry of Sheepy Magna It contains 1160 acres, 211 inhabitants and 45 houses. The principal landed proprietors are Robert Clarke Lee, John Wilson and John Thurman, esquires. Morris Lythall, esq., is lord of the manor.


Kelly in his 1922 directory
The area of Ratcliffe Culey is 1238 acres, and the population in 1911 was 205 persons. Stanley B. Chamberlayne esq., is Lord of the manor and principal landowner. The living is a chapelry, annexed with Sheepy Parva to the rectory of Sheepy Magna joint net yearly value £700, including 550 acres of glebe, in the gift of Mrs. de Beauvoir Southwell