COUCHER, John (c.1561-1654), of St. Swithin's, Worcester and Woodmanton, Clifton-on-Teme, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1561,1 1st s. of John Coucher, of St. Andrew, Worcester.2 m. 20 Nov. 1581, Mary, da. of Thomas Walsgrove alias Fleet† of Worcester, Clothier,3 2s. 3da. ?d.v.p.4 suc. fa. by 1587.5 d. by 5 May 1654.6 sig. John Cowcher.
Low chamberlain, Worcester 1585-6, member of the Twenty-Four by 1588, auditor 1590, 1597, high chamberlain 1591-2, low bailiff 1593-4, low alderman 1594-5, high bailiff and judge of Ct. of Orphans 1595-6, senior alderman, 1596-7, permanent alderman, 1621-d.7
Asst. Weavers, Walkers and Clothiers’ Co. Worcester 1590,13 high master 1595-6, 1612-13, 1624-5;14 gov. Free sch. and almshouses, Worcs. 1608-d., treas. 1610-11, 1613-14, 1616-17, 1619-20, 1622-3, 1625-6.15
Coucher came from a prosperous Worcester family of clothiers. His father, bailiff of Worcester in the 1560s, bought the manor of Woodmanton in Clifton-on-Teme in 1570, which he passed on to his son.16 Coucher’s father-in-law was also prominent in Worcester, representing the city under Elizabeth, as were his brothers-in-law John Walsgrove alias Fleet† and Christopher Dighton*. Coucher himself lived in St. Swithin’s parish, in a house leased from his father-in-law.17 He became an active figure in the city’s government in the 1580s, and was particularly associated with the corporation’s campaign to extend its powers and win county status, serving on numerous committees established to this end. When the new charter was finally granted in 1621 he was nominated one of the first permanent aldermen.18
In 1604 Coucher was elected for Worcester alongside his brother-in-law Christopher Dighton. He appears only once in the records of the 1604 session, when he was appointed to the committee for the bill for charitable relief of parishes infected with the plague (18 May).19 In the second session (1605-6), he was again named to only one committee, for the bill for the more effective implementation of the penal laws (6 Nov.), but he also argued that Sir Edward Hoby*’s patent for jobbing of wool should be presented to the king as a grievance (1 May).20 In the third session (1606-7) he opposed the bill for the proper manufacture of woollen cloths at its third reading (11 May), while in the fourth he was named to the committee for the silk dyers bill (2 March).21 He does not appear in the scanty records of the fifth session.
Re-elected in 1614, Coucher made three recorded speeches. On 15 Apr. he offered to deliver to the committee for petitions copies of both the grievances presented to the king in 1610 and James’s answer, which were missing from the clerk’s records. He also contributed to the debate on the Cockayne project, when he called for ‘present remedy’ for the depression in the cloth industry (20 May). On 31 May he opposed the bill to exclude brewers and others in the drinks trade from the bench, arguing that it would ‘pleasure those brewers, etc., for they shall be thereby exempted from charge’. He was named to one committee, for the bill for building and repair of bridges (7 May).22
In 1621 Coucher again made three recorded speeches, all concerned with the cloth trade. During a debate in committee on the bill for the free buying of wool (16 Feb.), he argued that the Staplers’ monopoly of the domestic wool trade had increased the price paid by clothiers.23 On 13 Mar. he spoke against free trade in wool, stating that it was better for it to be sold directly to the clothier, and that clothiers in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire should have the sole right to buy wool between shearing time and Michaelmas. He also opposed the export of wool and fullers earth.24 When the bill was read for the third time (26 May) he again argued that it was prejudicial to clothiers and stated that the cloth industry had shrunk to a third of its former size. He presented a proviso to compel purchasers to sell their wool in open markets, and only to clothiers; he also wanted the bill to be temporary. Sir Warwick Hele protested that it was against precedent to bring in a proviso so late in the day, especially as it was on paper rather than parchment, but the House allowed the matter to be put to the question, whereupon it was rejected.25 On 7 May Coucher intervened in the debate on the second reading of the bill to enable Staplers to export cloth, stating that ‘all the clothiers desire to be heard, and they all would have a remedy for the venting of cloths’.26 In addition he was named to two committees, for the Coventry diocese bill (21 Apr.) and for Little’s naturalization (8 May).27
Coucher appears only once in the records of the 1624 Parliament, when he argued that all merchants should be free to export dyed and dressed cloth (5 May).28 He was not re-elected in 1625 and 1626, possibly because he was one of the governors of the Worcester free school and almshouses, who were then in dispute with the corporation. It is possible that this conflict led to Coucher’s arrest in 1627.29 Although an active commissioner for the Forced Loan, Coucher was returned again to Parliament in 1628. He is recorded as having spoken only once in the House, when he read out a letter from the Worcester corporation concerning the ‘misdemeanours and mutinies’ of soldiers. He foolishly included the beginning of the letter, in which the corporation thanked him for keeping them up to date with his parliamentary activities, at which the House bridled, considering it a breach of confidentiality. However there is no evidence that the matter was pursued.30 He was named to two committees, for the bills concerning winding of wool (23 Apr.) and making canvas for sails (26 May).31
In 1631 Coucher paid £12 for his knighthood composition fine.32 He remained active in Worcester government during the 1630s, despite advancing age was re-elected for the city in the Short and Long Parliaments. He made his will on the 20 May 1652, in which he complained that his son Thomas’ debts ‘hath brought me low in my estate’. However in addition to the manor of Woodmanton he bequeathed other properties in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. He was still living in Easter term 1653, but was dead by 5 May 1654, when his will was proved by his younger son and namesake.33 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Glyn Redworth / Ben Coates
- 1. He gave his age as 80 on 29 Aug. 1641 and 90 on 20 May 1652, suggesting he was born between 20 May and 29 Aug. 1561. However John Nashe† stated that he was nearly 80 in Dec. 1641. HMC 4th Rep. 99; PROB 11/235, f. 393; D’Ewes ed. W.H. Coates, 349.
- 2. R.G. Griffiths, ‘Inventory of the Goods and Chattels of Thomas Cowcher, mercer of Worcester’, Trans. Worcs. Arch. Soc. n.s. xiv. 45.
- 3. Par. Bk. of St. Helen’s Church, Worcester ed. J.B. Wilson, ii. 7.
- 4. PROB 11/123, ff. 192, 194v; PROB 11/235, ff. 393-5.
- 5. He was probably the John ‘Crowthier’ of St. Andrew Worcester for whose estate the Worcester Consist. Ct. granted administration on 19 Jan. 1587. Cal. of Wills and Admons. Preserved in Consist. Ct. of Bp. of Worcester ed. E.A. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. and Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1904), p. 54.
- 6. PROB 11/235, f. 395.
- 7. Worcs. RO, X496.5/BA9360, shelf 644/1, ff.161, 176, 181, 185v, 190, 193, 196, 200; Chamber Order Bk. of Worcester ed. S. Bond (Worcs. Hist. Soc., n.s. viii), 62.
- 8. C181/2, ff. 33, 210v.
- 9. SP14/31/1, f. 46v; E179/201/276; 179/201/295; C212/22/21, 23; E115/277/31, 48; SR, v. 90, 157.
- 10. C181/2, f. 143v.
- 11. SP16/77/33.
- 12. A. and O. ii. 480, 677.
- 13. V. Green, Hist. and Antiqs. of City and Suburbs of Worcester, ii. p. lxxiii.
- 14. Worcs. RO, b705:232/BA6955/2, ff. 25v, 76, 133v.
- 15. Worcs. RO, b261:1/BA3617/7, ff.57, 60, 62v, 67, 70v, 76, 85.
- 16. Griffiths, 45; VCH Worcs. iv. 251; Green, ii. p. lxxiii.
- 17. PROB 11/123, f. 191v.
- 18. Chamber Order Bk. of Worcester, 83, 90, 132, 137, 169, 170.
- 19. CJ, i. 213b.
- 20. Ibid. 257a, 303b.
- 21. Ibid. 1043a, 404a.
- 22. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 86, 171, 301, 394.
- 23. CD 1621, v. 503.
- 24. CJ, i. 552b.
- 25. CD 1621, ii. 392; iii. 317-8; CJ, i. 627b.
- 26. CD 1621, iii. 189.
- 27. CJ, i. 584b, 614b.
- 28. Ibid. 698b.
- 29. Chamber Order Bk. of Worcester, 41-2, 217.
- 30. CD 1628, ii. 402. This is presumably the letter referred to the cttee. for billeting, although the Journal erroneously states it was from Shrewsbury. Ibid. 398.
- 31. Ibid. iii. 44, 610.
- 32. E178/5726.
- 33. PROB 11/235, ff. 393-5; Index to Worcs. Fines ed. J. Amphlett (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1896), p. 39.