COGGESHALL, Sir William (1358-1426), of Codham Hall and Coggeshall, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1397
Oct. 1404
Apr. 1414
Dec. 1421

Family and Education

b. Codham Hall 20 July 1358, s. of Sir Henry Coggeshall† (d.1375) by Joan, da. and h. of Sir William Welle of Great Sampford, Essex and Well Hall in Exning, Suff.; nephew of Thomas*. m. (1) bef. Mar. 1379, Antiocha, da. of Sir John Hawkwood of Sible Hedingham, Essex by his 1st w., 1s. d.v.p. 4da.; (2) between 1386 and Nov. 1388, Ricarda (d. Sept. 1390), da. and h. of John Inkpen of Inkpen, Berks., wid. of William Huish of Huish, Devon and of Sir Thomas Fichet† of Spaxton, Som., ?1ch. d.v.p.; (3) bef. May 1394, Margaret. Kntd. by Mar. 1379.

Offices Held

Commr. to put down rebellion, Essex Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of array Apr. 1385, May 1386, Colchester Sept. 1386, Essex Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, July 1402, Aug.-Nov. 1403, May 1415, Mar. 1419, June 1421; inquiry July 1391 (ad quod dam Þnum), Jan. 1393 (entail of the de Vere estates), Aug. 1404 (treasons and felonies), Feb. 1406 (poaching), Herts. Oct. 1408 (Bardolf estates),1 Essex Jan. 1414 (lollards); to examine the condition of Colchester abbey Jan. 1393; treat for payment of a communal fine of £2,000, Essex, Herts. Dec. 1397; of arrest, Essex Apr.-June 1404; to raise loans Nov. 1419, Mar. 1422.

Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 21 Oct. 1391-18 Oct. 1392, 18 Oct. 1404-22 Nov. 1405, 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412.

Chamberlain to John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, prob. by Mar. 1399-Jan. 1400.

J.p. Essex 16 May 1401-Feb. 1407, 12 Dec. 1417-Apr. 1419, 12 Feb. 1422-d.


Coggeshall’s family was of high standing in Essex, and both his grandfather, Sir John, and father, Sir Henry, sat in Parliament for the shire. In 1373 Sir Henry made enfeoffments of his estates and when, in September 1375, he lay on his deathbed, he charged his feoffees to pay his debts (amounting to over £1,000) and to support his ‘many sons and daughters’. William, the eldest, was the heir to his father in more than ten manors and several other properties, and from his mother (who died that same month) he inherited Well Hall in Suffolk, Great Sampford and East Tilbury in Essex, and lands in Fordham, Cambridgeshire. East Tilbury brought in a rent of 50 marks a year as well as the income from two ferry boats which crossed the Thames. In 1412 these lands, together with property in London, were to have an estimated value of £132 a year and were probably worth much more, although 37 years before, faced with his father’s creditors, Coggeshall’s financial position had seemed far from secure.2 A minor when his parents died, his wardship and marriage were granted to Edmund of Langley, earl of Cambridge, only to be sold by him to Coggeshall’s uncle, Thomas. Prompted by his father’s debts young Coggeshall sought his fortune abroad, and in July 1379, when proof of age was offered on his behalf, he was in Milan in the ‘White Company’ commanded by Sir John Hawkwood, a neighbour from Essex who for several years had been the most sought after of all condottieri in Italy. By then Coggeshall had been knighted, and he had already married one of his captain’s daughters. He returned home two years later and was then involved with his uncle in several transactions, notably conveyances of the Huntercombe estates in Essex (in which a kinswoman of theirs had an interest) and financial dealings to put his affairs in order.3

Like his uncle Thomas, Sir William now established connexions with members of the circle of Joan, countess of Hereford, and her son-in-law, Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham. For instance, he was made a feoffee of the estates of Woodstock’s adherent, Walter, 3rd Lord Fitzwalter. But unlike his uncle, Coggeshall was never inclined to offer loyal service to one lord to the exclusion of all others, especially when there was promise of lucrative preferment elsewhere. By 1382 he had attached himself to Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, the King’s favourite and Woodstock’s sworn enemy; and two years later de Vere paid the fee at the hanaper of the Chancery needed for a royal licence to entail Coggeshall’s estates, before himself acting as one of the feoffees. In the same year, 1384, it was alleged that the earl had illegally maintained Coggeshall in his lawsuit with Walter Sibille† of London over property in Exning, Suffolk. At the assizes Sibille had been ordered to pay Coggeshall £800 in damages, and the injustice of the award prompted him to accuse de Vere of undue interference with the proceedings. For this defamation he was brought before Parliament and then imprisoned in the Tower until he paid the earl an additional 500 marks as compensation. He was not released until 1387 and even after de Vere’s exile the matter was not settled: it was the subject of petitions to the Parliaments of 1390 (Nov.), 1391 (Coggeshall’s first) and 1394.4

After the fall of his patron de Vere, Coggeshall soon established close relations with John, Lord Cobham, one of the supporters of the Appellants of 1388 who had sent the King’s favourite into exile. This connexion dated at least from June 1388, for Coggeshall was then making arrangements to marry Ricarda Fichet, of whose estates Cobham was a feoffee. It was agreed that Ricarda’s manor of Halton Barton (Cornwall) should be settled on Sir William for life, provided that after their marriage he made over to her lands worth 200 marks a year and also paid off the substantial debts, amounting to 1,000 marks, left by her late husband, Sir Thomas Fichet. Accordingly, that November Coggeshall gave Ricarda jointure in certain of his estates. Despite Fichet’s debts, he could hope to gain much from the match. Through her father Ricarda was sole heir not only of Halton but also of the manor of Westcourt in Inkpen (Berkshire), and holdings centred on Dittisham and Modbury in Devon; she had purchased King’s Tamerton, and she held as dower not only the substantial Fichet estates in Somerset but also the Huish properties at Shurton in the same county. In 1390 Coggeshall managed to retrieve some of the Huish lands which had been leased to Chief Justice Sir Robert Tresilian† and forfeited by him in 1388. But prospects of a permanent improvement in his standing and income were dashed when Ricarda died that same year. Coggeshall asserted the right to occupy all her lands ‘by the courtesy’, having had issue by her (or so he claimed), and he also sought to retain possession of the Fichet estates by hiding the heir, his stepson Thomas. But in the end all he managed to keep was Halton Barton, which after young Fichet’s death he leased to Robert Hill*, husband of his stepdaughter Isabel Fichet.5 Coggeshall continued to have dealings with Lord Cobham: in 1389 he had sold to him for £124 the advowson of East Tilbury church, and in 1393 he granted him the manor there at farm, only to sell it to him outright three years later. Cobham was among his feoffees in 1394 when he settled Great Sampford and other properties on himself and his third wife.6

Ever since his return from Italy Coggeshall had served regularly on royal commissions, and in 1391 he was appointed sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire. One of his first acts was to return himself to Parliament, in direct contravention of the ordinance which prohibited the election of sheriffs. During the session, the first of his ten Parliaments, he not only took the opportunity to mobilize support among other Members of the Commons in his quarrel with Walter Sibille, but also stood surety for the important military captain, Sir Thomas Swinburne*. Among others with whom he was connected at this time were his uncle’s friend, John Doreward*, whose son John was later to marry one of his own daughters, Blanche. In July 1396, along with his uncle and Doreward, Coggeshall was present at Pleshey castle when the duke and duchess of Gloucester completed part of the endowment of their college of priests. After Gloucester’s murder Sir William took the precaution of obtaining a royal pardon (in June 1398), but while his uncle remained loyal to the duke’s memory he himself did not long hesitate before attaching himself to Richard II’s half-brother, John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, who had been created duke of Exeter for his part in the condemnation of Gloucester and the other Appellants of 1388. In March 1399 Coggeshall was associated with Thomas Shelley*, the duke’s steward, when both stood bail for John Pasford*, an esquire in Holand’s service; and it seems likely that he was by then already in office as the duke’s chamberlain. Whether he followed Richard II and Exeter to Ireland is unclear, for he neglected to take out the necessary letters of protection until 9 June. Certainly, in August he was at Dartington in Devon, where the duke entrusted to his keeping certain robes, furs and jewellery. Coggeshall’s uncle Thomas sat in the Parliament which deposed Richard, and was made a member of Henry IV’s council; maybe it was he who dispelled any doubts about Sir William’s readiness to support the new regime, and vetted his nephew for appointment to the commission of array set up that December. But this was a mistake. At inquiries made in Devon after the failure of the plot to kill Henry IV at Epiphany following, an affair in which Holand was one of the principal conspirators, it was asserted that Coggeshall had been ‘prive of counseill to the forseid Erl of Huntyngdon and helpyng and favorable and redi with alle his power to have be with the forseid Erl ... zif he hadde his purpose’. Accordingly, three chests containing Coggeshall’s belongings — bows and arrows, equestrian trappings, an embroidered cope, a portable altar and chapel ornaments — were confiscated, and it would appear that he was arrested. He owed his rehabilitation and the recovery of his goods (in May 1400), entirely to his uncle and to John Doreward, both of whom had ready access to the King, and evidently pleaded on his behalf.7

Coggeshall was returned to Parliament again in January 1401; he became a j.p. shortly afterwards and was among the commoners summoned from Essex to great councils that August and again in about 1403. In the summer of 1404 came his opportunity to prove his allegiance to Henry IV by the zeal with which he helped suppress disaffection and incipient rebellion in Essex fomented by the plots of Maud, dowager countess of Oxford, and the heads of certain religious houses, who had spread rumours that Richard II was still alive. Coggeshall acted swiftly in arresting conspirators and holding inquiries into their treasons. He was re-appointed sheriff later in the year, and for his good service he was subsequently exonerated from payment of half of the arrears of £200 owing on his account. He served a third term as sheriff in 1411-12.8

Coggeshall could use the excuse of advancing years to stay at home when Henry V invaded France, although his name was put on the list of Essex knights and esquires sent to the Council in January 1420 as deemed capable of military service. In February 1421 he was among those granted livery at the Wardrobe for the coronation of Queen Katherine; and on the day of Henry V’s return to France (10 June) he witnessed a demise of the manor of Wethersfield, Essex, by the surviving trustees named by Eleanor, late duchess of Gloucester, to the King’s own feoffees. On 18 Dec., during his ninth Parliament, he was instructed to go on an embassy to the Emperor Sigismund to request an auxiliary force for Henry V’s army, but he was replaced a month later (for reasons unknown). Also during the Parliament he petitioned for restoration of certain tenements in Great Sampford which had remained in the Crown’s possession since his mother’s minority 70 years before. His fellow shire knight was the Speaker, Richard Baynard, and in the following year he became one of Baynard’s feoffees. Also in the 1420s Coggeshall acted as a trustee of the estates of John Doreward (d.1420), and as a witness to certain deeds of Walter, 5th Lord Fitzwalter.9 Since Henry IV’s accession Coggeshall had been frequently called upon to attest local transactions and, his part in the plot against the King forgotten, he had become a respected member of the community. His only son, John, had died young, and he had married off his four daughters to other Essex landowners. For instance, Margaret’s first husband was William Bateman (the sheriff of 1395-6 and 1397-9); and Alice married John Tyrell* of Herons, who sat with his father-in-law in the Parliaments of 1411 and 1422 and later became Speaker of the Commons and treasurer of Henry VI’s household. By various settlements Coggeshall’s estates were divided between his daughters.10

Coggeshall died on 10 Mar. 1426.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CIMisc. vi. 384.
  • 2. CIPM, ix. 669; xiv. 104; Feudal Aids, vi. 406, 438; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 70.
  • 3. CPR, 1374-7, pp. 188, 369; CIPM, xv. 291, 991; CCR, 1377-81, p. 262; 1381-5, pp. 101, 299, 321; CSP Ven. i. no. 82.
  • 4. CCR, 1381-5, pp. 385, 401, 407; 1385-9, pp. 214, 234-5; 1392-6, p. 212; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 400, 433; CIPM, xvi. 378; RP, iii. 186, 298, 399; C. Rawcliffe, ‘Parl. and Settlement of Disputes’, Parl. Hist. ix. (pt. 2), 331-3.
  • 5. Harl. Ch. 48 E 52; VCH Berks. iv. 202; Hylle Cart. (Som. Rec. Soc. lxviii), pp. xvii, xxi, xxii, xxv, xxvi, no. 222 (wrongly dated 5 Hen. IV instead of 5 Hen. VI — 1426); CPR, 1388-92, pp. 53, 321, 462, 518; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 499, 500, 593; 1392-6, pp. 440-1; CIMisc. v. 134; CIPM, xvi. 997-9.
  • 6. CCR, 1385-9, p. 667; 1392-6, pp. 515, 517; Harl. Ch. 48 E 51, F 6, 50-51; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 227; CPR, 1452-61, p. 503.
  • 7. C219/9/8; CCR, 1396-9, p. 374; 1399-1402, p. 147; CPR, 1396-9, p. 573; CIMisc. vii. 77, 88-89; E159/176 Easter recorda m. 33.
  • 8. PPC, i. 156, 163; ii. 86; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, i. 426-8; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 430-2; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 151-5; E 404/21/59.
  • 9. E28/97 m. 10; E101/407/4 f. 35; Wylie, Hen. V, iii. 360; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), x. 161; CPR, 1416-22, p. 419; CCR, 1419-22, p. 223; 1422-9, pp. 160, 261, 301.
  • 10. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 267; iv. 21; CCR, 1422-9, p. 48; CPR, 1422-9, p. 4; P. Morant, Essex, ii. 162; CFR, xix. 236-8.
  • 11. E152/260 m. 34.