THE COOKE FAMILY
Members of one of the branches of the Cooke family in
Bow Brickhill in 1600 were Quakers. 1600 is the earliest date we
have for the parish register or Bishop's transcripts.
Other landowner branches faded away and the Quakers
became the major Cooke land holders, but they sold out before the
Two Cook families remained in the village until the late 1800s. James
Cook, 1837-1883 seems to be the last of the line. His mother Mary Cook
1810-1888 had the village store and his father Robert was the baker. But
with all the intermarriage that went on in a small village I expect
there could be very distant cousins still there today. Susanna Cook
married William Munday in 1878.
Alan Cook's branch of this rural clan moved to Shenley about 1700,
and then to Newport Pagnell. His great grandfather William Cook,
teacher, emigrated in 1852.
Here's brief history of the Bow Brickhill Cooke family
"There were many non-conformist groups in Buckinghamshire in the
1640s and 1650s and they often met in out-of-the-way hill villages where
they were less likely to be caught by the authorities. One of these
groups was the society of "Friends of the Truth", soon to be
known as "The Quakers", who followed the teachings of George
Fox (1624-1691). Early meetings were held at the Bow Brickhill house of
Thomas Cooke, born about 1610, the son of William Cooke, one of the four
Cooke yeoman farmers known to be holding land in Bow Brickhill at the
year 1600. Quakers commenced their meetings at Hogsty End (now Woburn
Sands) about 1659.
The Quakers rejected the sacraments and were opposed to formal
services and paid ministers. They refused to take oaths or to take part
in military service. They were almost entirely of the middle class;
yeoman farmers, craftsmen and traders who were not dependent on each
other for employment. In those days the labouring classes could be
intimidated and lose their jobs for not attending church. They kept
their own registers of births, death and marriage.
They were persecuted before and after the Restoration in 1660 and
recorded prosecutions under the heading of "sufferings". In
1670 the authorities imposed a fine of £20 (about £2000 in today’s
currency) to be shared between William Cooke, William Allbright and
George Galsey for illegal meetings at Woburn. In the 1680s the Cookes,
father and sons, often appeared before Quarter Sessions for not
attending All Saints church.
The Toleration Act of William and Mary in 1689 allowed freedom of
worship to protestant non-conformists, on condition that the meeting
place was registered. But the Quakers were in constant trouble; they
refused to pay tithes to the priest and when taken to court would not
swear an oath. As nonconformists they could not hold public office or
attend university. They turned their energies to business; some well
known firms such as Barclays Bank and Cadbury had Quaker origins.
The Friends had been meeting in a rented house at Hogsty End, and in
1674 they determined to build a meeting house of their own, the first to
be built in Buckinghamshire. They purchased three roods of land for £50
and built a meeting house with stout beams and whitewashed plaster walls
for £85. An appeal raised £135, (£13,500 today) of which the Cooke
family contributed almost half. George Fox attended the opening.
The Quakers of Bow Brickhill and nearby villages preferred the
half-acre burial plot beside the Hogsty End meeting house as their last
resting place. No Cooke headstones will be found there now; the Friends
did not allow markers until the mid-1800s.
Thomas Cooke had five children – Thomas, John, William, Edward and
Joane. All were Quakers. The Cooke farmers at Bow Brickhill had
prospered, for these were the golden years for the yeoman farmer, and he
was able to leave land to all his sons and £100 to his daughter Joane.
Thomas – c1637, the eldest, married Tabitha Hill about 1680;
Tabitha was of a Quaker family of the Frenchay Meeting in
Gloucestershire. They had two sons, but Tabitha died in 1685 and was
taken back to Gloucestershire to be buried with her ancestors. Ties with
the home parish were strong.
John – c1640-1707, married Margaret Cooke, daugther of a Bow
Brickhill yeoman, and sister to William Cooke, Chief Constable and All
Saints churchwarden. It was one of the first entries in the register.
Apparently the Friends decided there was no relationship, or it was so
distant as not to cause concern.
Their son Edward Cooke, 1678-1738, was known as ‘Edward of the
Elme’. Elme House in Bow Brickhill was certified as a public meeting
house for Quakers. He married Mary Hooton and in his will he left land
at Bow Brickhill, North Crawley and Fenny Stratford to his sons, one of
whom, Edward 1733-1794, was described in Oliver Ratcliff’s
"History of the Newport Hundred" as ‘an opulent yeoman’
and in the 1790 Enclosures he was named as a principal proprietor. This
Edward’s son, another Edward, 1772-1824, became the Rector Haversham.
John Cooke c1722-1752, a grandson of the above William and Margaret,
left a will in which he was described as "John Cooke of the
vineyard in Bow Brickhill". His widow Elizabeth died in 1674 and
also was described as "of the Vineyard".
Edward, c1650-1703, married Mary Pearce at a Weston Turville Quaker
meeting in 1675. He was concerned that this three daughters should not
contract unwise marriages and his will provided that each of his three
sons be responsible for a sister, who, if she certified in writing that
she had made a good choice of husband, would receive a lump sum. Theory
is all very well, putting it into practice is another matter altogether.
Joane c1650-1708, married Thomas Hill, yeoman and widow of
Winterburn, Gloucestershire, and father of Tabitha who married Joane’s
elder brother Thomas. The ceremony was at Hogsty End, and as was the
customer, all present signed the register as witnesses, including her
four brothers, and sisters-in-law Margaret and Mary.
This is a brief account of an early Cooke Quaker family at Bow
Brickhill. They thrived for three generations over almost 100 years, but
their time came to an end with the Enclosures in 1790, when Edward,
‘the opulent yeoman’ and absentee landlord, sold his land. Some died
without issue, others sold out and drifted away, others perhaps were
less than enthusiastic about Quaker discipline and the strongly-held
beliefs of their fathers and were reclaimed by the established church.
The Hogsty End meeting went into decline and by the early 1700s there
were few Cooke entries in the register. In 1773 Hogsty End and Leighton
Buzzard became a united meeting and in 1864 the Friends of Hogsty End
were authorised to suspend their meetings on account of reduced numbers,
age and infirmity. The meeting house was demolished in 1901."
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