Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cooke, Thomas (d.1478)

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COOKE, Sir THOMAS (d. 1478), lord mayor of London, was the son of Robert Cooke of Lavenham in Suffolk, by Katherine his wife. The family was a long-established one. Hugh, another son, who died in 1443, possessed lands in various parishes of Suffolk (will in Probate Registry, Luffenham, 34). Thomas came to London, became a member of the Drapers' Company, and soon grew rich. The earliest certain mention of him is in 1439, when he appears in the grant of arms to the Drapers' Company as one of the four wardens of the company. He next appears, in June 1450, as agent to Jack Cade, who was encamped on Blackheath, and opened communications with the city. Cooke was requested by the rebels to tax the foreign merchants, to supply ‘us the captain’ with horses, accoutrements, weapons, and money. Cooke, though in sympathy with the Yorkists, married Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Alderman Philip Malpas, one of the leaders of the Lancastrian party within the city. By her he had one daughter and four sons, of whom Philip, the eldest, afterwards knighted, was born in 1454. He became sheriff in 1453, alderman of Vintry ward in 1456 and of Broad Street ward in 1458, and mayor in 1462.

Edward IV, upon the coronation of his queen, Elizabeth, in May 1465, rewarded the leading members of his party in the city, including Cooke, by creating them knights of the order of the Bath. In 1467 Cooke began to build a mansion called Gidea Hall, near Romford in Essex, and obtained a license for fortifying and embattling it; but on account of his subsequent misfortunes he completed only the front, the remaining sides of the quadrangle being built by Sir Anthony Cooke [q. v.] Cooke was in all probability a draper by trade, and had extensive dealings with foreign parts. A curious clause appears in his father-in-law's will (made and proved in 1469), in which Malpas solemnly disavows any responsibility for ‘the tarying or taking of Sir Thomas Cooke's ship and goods’ when he was last upon the sea, although he was in the ship at the time. Cooke's will shows that he owned at least four brewhouses, taverns, and beerhouses, besides fishing-weirs on the Colne, a large farm at Gidea Hall, and numerous properties and manors in London, Surrey, Essex, and Kent. His residence was in the parish of St. Peter the Poor, Old Broad Street, where he had a ‘grete place,’ which he afterwards sold to Robert Hardyng, goldsmith.

In 1467 Cooke was impeached of high treason, for lending money to Margaret, the queen of Henry VI. One Hawkins, tortured on the rack, was the only witness against him. Chief-justice Markham directed the jury to find it only misprision of treason, whereby Cooke saved his lands and life, though he was heavily fined and long imprisoned (Fuller, Worthies, ii. 207).

While awaiting his trial in the Tower his effects, both at his town house and at Gidea Hall, were seized by Lord Rivers, then treasurer of England, and his wife was committed to the custody of the mayor. On his acquittal he was sent to the Bread Street compter, and afterwards to the king's bench, and was kept there until he paid eight thousand pounds to the king and eight hundred pounds to the queen. Lord Rivers and his wife, the Duchess of Bedford, also obtained the dismissal of Markham from his office for having determined that Cooke was not guilty of treason. In December 1468 Cooke, then alderman of his own ward of Broad Street, was discharged from his office by order of the king, but was reinstated in October of the following year. According to Fabyan, Cooke was a member of the parliament that met 26 Nov. 1470, on the temporary restoration of Henry VI, and he put in a bill for the restoration of certain lands, to the value of twenty-two thousand marks, ‘whiche,’ says Fabyan, ‘he had good comfort to have ben allowyd of King Henry if he had prosperyd. And the rather for yt he was of the comon house, and therwith a man … well spoken.’ He was elected alderman of Bread Street ward in Oct. 1470 and was deprived next year. Early in 1471 Cooke acted as deputy to the mayor. Sir John Stockton, who, fearing the return of King Edward, feigned sickness and kept his house. Edward returned in April, and Cooke, attempting to leave this country for France, was taken with his son by a ship of Flanders, where he was kept in prison many days, and was afterwards delivered up to King Edward. Cooke lived seven years after this, and though he was probably again heavily fined, he left a large amount of landed and other property. In 1483, when the Duke of Buckingham addressed the citizens of London in the Guildhall in favour of the pretensions of Richard III to the throne, he referred at length to the sufferings and losses of Cooke as a notable instance of the tyranny of the late king (Holinshed, ed. 1808, iii. 391). Cooke died in 1478, and was buried, in compliance with his wish, in the church of the Augustine friars, within the ward of Broad Street in London. His will, dated 15 April, was proved at Lambeth 1 June 1478 (Probate Reg., Wattis, 36). His great-grandson was Sir Anthony Cooke [q. v.]

[Herbert's Livery Companies; Orridge's Particulars of Alderman Philip Malpas and Alderman Sir Thomas Cooke, K.B.; Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury, v. 164; Foss's Judges, iv. 442–3; Drapers' Company's Records; Lysons's Environs.]

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