COKEWORTHY, John I, of Launceston, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
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Cokeworthy came from a Dunheved family of which one or two members had served in local offices,1 but he was the first, so far as is known, to be elected to Parliament. His own impressive record of election to no fewer than 19 Parliaments for three boroughs is one that outstrips that of all other Cornish MPs of the medieval period, and his extraordinary willingness to undertake the many journeys involved requires some explanation. The answer probably lies in the opportunities presented for conducting business in the central courts: from 1379 onwards he was active in the King’s bench and Chancery as an attorney for several Cornishmen, and no doubt his clients (who included the widow of a former receiver of the duchy of Cornwall, Richard Kendale†), made the inconveniences of travelling worth his while. Early on in his career Cokeworthy was associated with another Cornish lawyer, John Penrose, who later became a judge in the King’s bench; in 1383 he stood bail for Penrose when the latter was indicted for abetting a murder committed in Surrey. He himself got into trouble, only of a less serious nature: in October 1389 he and John Brightricheston of Devon were required to enter into bonds for £40 as security that they would bring the heir of a local landowner, William Luscote†, into Chancery if it should be adjudged that his wardship pertained to the Crown. However, they evidently failed to comply, and not only was the court of the Exchequer instructed two years later to start proceedings against them, but in 1392 orders were issued for Cokeworthy’s arrest, doubtless in this connexion.2

In the 1390s, apart from no fewer than six journeys to Westminster and regular visits to Exeter for the assizes,3 Cokeworthy would seem to have spent more time at home. In February 1395 the mayor and commonalty of Dunheved granted him a lease for 50 years of a plot of land and a croft at ‘Penhol’, both inside the town walls. This may well have affected his attitude to a quite different transaction finalized three months later, for when an agreement was then made between the borough and the Augustinian priory of Launceston regarding maintenance of the local chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, Cokeworthy, ‘out of his own liberality’, promised to present a valuable antiphony to the chapel. He was at Launceston at the time of the elections to the second Parliament of 1397, when he stood surety for Roger Menwenick, one of the then burgesses-elect. Cokeworthy appears to have been retained as legal counsel by Launceston priory. Certainly, in 1398, and in London, he completed the formalities for a substantial loan to be made to that house. Moreover, in the following year it was revealed that in 1386-7 he had been a benefactor to the canons, having then joined with others in giving them certain premises in Launceston and Landrend worth £10 a year. His failure to obtain a royal licence for the gift was, however, a matter which the council of the prince of Wales had need to discuss afterwards, in 1402. In the meantime, when the canons were accused of illegally appropriating Liskeard church, the sheriff of Cornwall had given Cokeworthy the task of summoning the incumbent to appear in Chancery as a witness.4

Late on in life Cokeworthy acquired an interest in a moiety of the manor and advowson of Moreleigh, situated across the Devonshire border.5 His properties in Cornwall later came into the possession of John Cokeworthy II of Yarnscombe, a prominent Devonshire lawyer who was probably his son.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. R. and O.B. Peter, Hist. Launceston, 102.
  • 2. KB27/475 roll of attorneys; CCR, 1381-5, p. 412; 1389-92, pp. 81, 97, 499, 520; CPR, 1391-6, p. 232.
  • 3. JUST 1/1495 m. 50d, 1502 mm. 171, 213, 213d, 214d, 1513 m. 60, 1518 m. 21d.
  • 4. Peter, 111, 301; C219/9/13; CCR, 1396-9, p. 412; CIMisc. vi. 376; E306/11/4; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 183.
  • 5. CP25(1)45/70/24.