Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warren, Ralph

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WARREN, Sir RALPH (1486?–1553), lord mayor of London, son of Thomas Warren, a fuller, born about 1486, was admitted to the freedom of the Mercers' Company in 1507, after serving his apprenticeship to William Buttry or Botre, one of the principal mercers of his time. Warren soon attained to the highest position as a merchant, and belonged to the two great mercantile corporations of Merchant Adventurers and Merchants of the Staple. He was warden of the Mercers' Company in 1521 and master in 1530 and 1542. His wealth and influence gave him excellent opportunities of serving the company's interests. After the surrender of the hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, on the dissolution of monasteries in 1538, Warren was largely instrumental with Sir Richard Gresham and other leading mercers in procuring the purchase by the Mercers' Company of the church and adjoining buildings for their hall. The buildings were vested in Warren in trust for the company, and he executed a series of deeds for that purpose between the years 1542 and 1550 (Watney, Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, pp. 140, 154, cf. pp. 152, 189).

Shortly before April 1508 Warren was in business in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Milk Street (Cal. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII, i. 238, ii. 1552). In 1524 he carried on trade in the parish of St. Bennet Sherehog, and, although not then forty years old, was assessed for the subsidy at the large sum of 3,000l., which was one third more than the sum contributed by any other leading merchant (ib. iv. i. 421).

Warren became connected with the corporation in 1528, when he was elected alderman for Aldersgate ward on 18 June, removing to the ward of Candlewick on 26 Oct. 1531. He served the office of sheriff in 1528–9. In 1532 Warren appears as the largest creditor in the accounts of the great wardrobe (ib. v. 713). He was one of the six aldermen present at the baptism of Princess Elizabeth at Greenwich on 10 Sept. 1533 (ib. vi. 464–5).

Warren was twice lord mayor, in 1536–7 and in 1544. His first election was at the instance of the king, who sent a letter on 13 Oct., the day of election, to the assembled citizens requiring them to elect Warren as mayor (Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 57). He was presented to the king at Westminster for approval on 22 Dec., when his election was confirmed and he received the honour of knighthood. On 26 March 1536–7 he was named, as lord mayor, immediately after the chancellor on a special commission of oyer and terminer for the trial of Dr. Mackerell and others who had taken part in the Lincolnshire rebellion (Cal. Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII, xii. i. 323). On 17 Oct. he was appointed by commission as ‘justiciar for the merchants of Germany, viz. those having the house in London called Gwildehalda Theutonicorum according to their priviledges.’ These were the well-known merchants of the steelyard (ib. p. 353). In the following November he was appointed a commissioner of gaol delivery for Newgate prison (ib. p. 406). On 28 Jan. 1537–8 he and Christiana his wife obtained a grant for their sole use of the manor of Frekenham or Frakenham in Suffolk, and of other lands in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire of which they had been co-trustees with the bishop of Rochester and Edward and Alice North (ib. xiii. i. 62; see also p. 486).

Warren is described as mayor of the staple of Westminster in a deed dated 20 March 1538, and still occupied that office on 8 Sept. 1540 (ib. p. 204, xvi. 9). In a letter to Cromwell dated from his house at Chester on 31 Jan. 1539, Warren strongly interests himself on behalf of the citizens of Chester, of which he appears to have been an important inhabitant (ib. xiv. i. 62). In a deposition taken before the lord mayor, Sir Ralph Warren, and the recorder on 13 Aug., Warren is described as ‘alderman and a gentleman of the king’ (ib. xiv. ii. 11). On 29 Jan. 1541 he was appointed on the commission for heresies and offences done within the city (ib. xvi. 236). Warren formed one of the ‘Surrey’ jury on 22 Dec. 1541 before whom Lord William Howard and others were tried for misprision of treason (ib. p. 685). In addition to his business as a mercer he had large financial dealings with the crown, whose servants in Flanders and Italy he and the Greshams supplied with large sums, receiving in exchange drafts on the exchequer and court of augmentations (Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent, 1542–7, passim).

Warren was again elected lord mayor on 17 April 1544 to succeed Sir William Bowyer, who died on Easter day, four days before. On 14 Oct. 1549 Warren accompanied the lord mayor and sheriffs, and divers lords, knights, and gentlemen, in conveying the Protector Somerset through the city on his way from Windsor as a prisoner to the Tower (Wriothesley, ii. 27).

Warren, who was the senior alderman, died of stone on 11 July 1553 at his house at Bethnal Green (ib. ii. 87). He was buried on 16 July in the chancel of his parish church of St. Sythe or St. Bennet Sherehog (Machyn, p. 36). The monument erected to his memory and to that of his two wives, who were buried with him, was destroyed with the church in the great fire of London (Stow, Survey of London, 1720, bk. iii. p. 28). Lady Warren gave a beautiful gilt standing-cup to her husband's company of mercers, and twenty marks to be distributed to the poor men of Whittington's almshouses yearly, at the dinner held on the anniversary of Sir Ralph's death (Watney, Account of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, p. 190). By his will, dated 30 June 1552 and proved in the prerogative court of Canterbury 5 Aug. 1553 (Tashe 16), Warren bequeathed to the Mercers' Company 100l. to provide twenty nobles a year towards a dinner on midsummer day. He was possessed of many manors in various counties (Morant, History of Essex, ii. 434 n.; Inq. post mortem, 17 Sept. 1 Mary, 1553).

Warren lived in Size Lane, where his widow four years after his death continued to reside with her second husband, Alderman Sir Thomas White [q. v.], the founder of St. John's College, Oxford. His country house was at Bethnal Green, then a very fashionable part of London, where his contemporary, Sir Richard Gresham, also had a mansion.

Warren was twice married: by his first wife, Christiana, he had no issue. He married, secondly, Joan, daughter of John Lake of London, by whom he had two children, Richard (d. 1598) and Joan. His daughter Joan married Sir Henry Williams (afterwards Cromwell) of Hinchinbrook in Huntingdonshire, whose son Robert Cromwell, M.P. for Huntingdon, was the father of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector. This lady survived him, and was married on 25 Nov. 1558 to his colleague, Alderman Sir Thomas White (Machyn, Diary, p. 179). She died on 8 Oct. 1572 at Hinchinbrook in Huntingdonshire, the house of her son-in-law, Sir Henry Cromwell, and was buried in the church of St. Bennet Sherehog (William Smith, History of the Twelve Principal Companies).

[Orridge's Citizens of London and their Rulers; Sharpe's London and the Kingdom; Clode's History of the Merchant Taylors' Company; Noble's History of the House of Cromwell.]

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