COOKE, William (c.1620-1703), of Highnam Court, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1620, 1st s. of Sir Robert Cooke of Highnam by 1st w. Dorothy, da. of Sir Miles Fleetwood of Aldwinkle, Northants.; bro. of Edward Cooke. educ. G. Inn 1636. m. lic. 30 Mar. 1648, Anne, da. and coh. of Dennis Rolle of Stevenstone, Devon, 9s. (5 d.v.p.) 7da. suc. fa. 1643.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Glos. 1648-52, 1657, Aug. 1660-80, Gloucester 1661-3, 1666-80, Glos. and Gloucester 1689-90, militia, Glos. 1648, Glos. and Gloucester Mar. 1660; lt.-col. of militia ft. Glos. Apr. 1660, j.p. 1648-?64, 1670-?79, ?1689-bef. 1701, dep. lt. July 1660-?64, 1670-?79, 1689-bef. 1701, commr. for corporations 1662-3; verderer, Forest of Dean 1668-?d.; alderman, Gloucester 1672-d., mayor 1673-4, Nov. 1688-9; commr. of inquiry, Forest of Dean 1673, 1679, 1683, 1691.2


Cooke was descended from a cadet branch of the Essex puritan family seated at Gidea Hall which figured so prominently in Tudor Parliaments. His grandfather acquired the manor of Highnam just outside Gloucester by marriage in about 1597, and represented Gloucestershire in the Addled Parliament. His father and younger brother Edward were both in arms for the Parliament, but Cooke is not known to have played any part in the Civil War, though he held local office throughout the Interregnum. He signed the Gloucestershire address of welcome to the King, and was nominated to the proposed order of the Royal Oak, with an income estimated at £1,000 p.a.3

It is not known why Cooke was removed from local office after serving as commissioner for corporations. As he was restored in 1670 he presumably had no qualms about enforcing the Conventicles Act, and he was nominated alderman for life under the new Gloucester charter of 1672, at which time he was, with Duncombe Colchester, regarded as a principal agent of the high steward, Lord Worcester (Henry Somerset), on the corporation. In April 1675 he was defeated by his fellow-alderman, Henry Norwood, in the by-election occasioned by the death of (Sir) Edward Massey. Either Cooke or some of the electors petitioned, but on 7 Mar. 1678 the elections committee reported in Norwood’s favour, to which, after a division, the House agreed. But 12 months later Cooke was returned for the city at the first general election of 1679 with the unanimous approval of the corporation and apparently unopposed. Shaftesbury marked him ‘base’. A moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and three others of secondary importance. He was given leave for a month on 1 May, and was absent from the division on the first exclusion bill. ‘A worthy gentleman of a plentiful estate’, he fought the next election as an exclusionist, but was defeated by the lord lieutenant’s candidate, Sir Charles Berkeley III. He was removed from local office, and his petition was never reported from the elections committee. He left the country party when ‘his eyes were opened’ to the villainy of John Arnold, and it is unlikely that he stood at the next two elections.4

When the Roman Catholic mayor of Gloucester resigned in November 1688, Cooke was chosen in his place. He was returned unopposed to the Convention as a Tory, and voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. Again moderately active, he was named to 31 committees, of which the most important were to inquire into the authors and advisers of recent grievances, to examine the late solicitors to the Treasury, to prepare a militia bill and to consider the toleration bill. But some of these entries may refer to John Coke II. He was also appointed to committees for the bills to abolish the court of the marches and to establish ‘courts of conscience’ for small claims for Bristol and Gloucester. After the recess his committees included those to reverse the attainder of Sir Thomas Armstrong, to restore corporations, and to deprive Lord Worcester (now Duke of Beaufort) of actions de scandalis magnatum against his principal Whig opponents. Re-elected in 1690, Cooke was reckoned a government supporter. He died early in 1703. His grandson represented Gloucester as a Whig from 1705 to 1710.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalfe, 47-48.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 9 Apr. 1660; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. lviii. 260-3; Gloucester Guildhall, council bk. 1656-80, pp. 498, 581; 1681-99, p. 221; 1700-60, p. 89; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 594; iii. 262; iv. 150; vi. 196; vii. 962; ix. 1156.
  • 3. Keeler, Long Parl. 141; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 553, 685; (Glos. N. and Q ). i. 166-7.
  • 4. Rudder, Glos. 117, CSP Dom. 1672, p. 444; Ailesbury Mems. 30-31; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 346.
  • 5. Gloucester Guildhall, council bk. 1700-60, p. 89.