COKAYN, Thomas (d.1440), of Cornwall.
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Family and Education
m. Elizabeth, s.p.
Commr. of inquiry, Devon, Cornw. Dec. 1434 (q) (theft of merchandise at Plymouth), Essex, Mdx., Surr. Dec. 1438 (extortion by millers); weirs, river Lea from Ware to the Thames Oct. 1436, May 1440; sewers, river Thames from Stratford atte Bow to Wigborough Nov. 1438.
Recorder, London 27 Oct. 1438-d.1
Thomas Cokayn was a Cornishman by birth and probably came from either Lostwithiel or one or other of the parishes of Morval and St. Martins’ near Looe, all three being places which he mentioned in his will. He may well have been a descendant of Henry Cokayn, feodary of the duchy of Cornwall from 1369 to 1371, who had lived at Lostwithiel.2 Cokayn’s training as a lawyer was completed before his first return to Parliament in 1420, and in the next few years he specialized in establishing trusts for the settlement of landed estates, attracting such notable clients from among the gentry of the shire as Sir John Herle†, who named him as a feoffee of his manor of Tywardreath, near Lostwithiel. From 1423 onwards he acted as a trustee of the estates in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Oxfordshire belonging to the Peverell sisters and their husbands, Sir William Talbot* and Sir Walter Hungerford*, continuing to serve in this capacity for several years after Hungerford had been appointed treasurer of England.3 Cokayn long retained his west country connexions: in the 1430s he was a co-feoffee with Sir William Bonville II* (afterwards Lord Bonville) of the manor of Hood in Dartington, Devon, and a trustee of the estates of (Sir) John Colshull II’s* son, John†. In about 1430, however, he decided to make London his main place of residence. It had been there that, in 1428, he had been chosen, along with John Hody*, the future chief justice, to arbitrate in a dispute over property; and in 1432 he became a member of Lincolns Inn. Here he spent the Christmas vacation of 1432-3, and shortly afterwards he was asked by a fellow member, Andrew Sperlyng*, to be a feoffee of his manor in Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire. Although in 1434 Cokayn served as one of the quorum on a royal commission sent to investigate a crime committed at Plymouth, all of his other public duties were concerned with matters affecting London: problems of drainage, the blockage of water-courses and extortionate prices for grinding corn. Similarly, his clientele now came to be drawn from among landowners living near the capital: for instance, from 1433 he acted as a feoffee of the manor of Batchworth in Rickmansworth.4
It is possible that Cokayn married into a London mercer’s family. Certainly, he established several close contacts with members of the powerful Mercers’ Company: in 1430 and 1432, on four different occasions, he stood surety at the Exchequer for John Pidmyll when the latter took on the farm of the much-disputed Hertfordshire manor of ‘Maudeleyns’; and he was to choose as an executor of his will a former master of the Company, Henry Frowyk†.5 The latter was also an alderman and a former mayor of the City, and it may well have been through his influence that Cokayn came to be elected as recorder of London in October 1438. He held office until his death which occurred less than two years later, shortly after he made his will on 12 May 1440. In this document Cokayn mentioned properties in London, Middlesex and Essex which he had evidently acquired through marriage. His widow was to retain all his moveable possessions for life, and as well as her dower she was to have the sum of 300 marks. Cokayn left each of his three sisters £6 13s.4d. He instructed his executors to spend £3 among the poor of the parishes of Morval, St. Martin’s and Lostwithiel, Cornwall, and to donate 10s. to the fabric fund of Morval church. The heir to his Cornish property was his nephew, Nicholas Condorov. Yet while Cornwall was not forgotten, London had become Cokayn’s home and it was there, in the church of St. Michael Paternoster (otherwise known as St. Michael’s in Riole), that he wished to be buried. As one of his executors he appointed the rector of the church and master of Whittington college (positions in the patronage of the Mercers’ Company), asking him to arrange for two chaplains to pray for his soul in St. Michael’s for the next ten years. Whether this priest, Reynold Pecock, whose writings were later to excite considerable controversy, influenced Cokayn’s spiritual views in any way is not apparent from the will, though his insistence that his funeral be conducted without ostentation was somewhat unusual. Cokayn’s will came up for probate in the prerogative court of Canterbury on 7 June. His widow married Thomas Charles, esquire, before 1447.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Corporation of London RO, jnl. 3, f. 163.
- 2. SC6/818/1; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1914), 660.
- 3. Cornw. Feet of Fines (ibid. 1950), 1125; CPR, 1422-9, p. 70; 1429-36, p. 592; CCR, 1435-41, p. 26; Reg. Lacy ed. Hingeston-Randolph, i. 92, 132.
- 4. CCR, 1422-9, p. 410; 1435-41, pp. 34, 41-42, 48-49, 184; 1447-54, p. 342; Cornw. Feet of Fines (1950), 1038; LI Adm. i. 6.
- 5. CFR, xv. 324; xvi. 24, 75, 100.
- 6. PCC 28 Luffenham; J. Stow, Surv. London ed. Kingsford, i. 243 (as Cokham); Cal. P. and M. London, 1437-57, p. 97.