COKER, Robert (c.1617-98), of Mappowder, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. c.1617, 1st s. of William Coker of Mappowder by Jane, da. of William Williams of Herringston. educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1635; M. Temple 1638. m. (1) 6 Jan. 1642, Joan (d. 29 Oct. 1653), da. of John Browne† of Frampton, 1da.; (2) Mary, da. of Edward Hooper of Boveridge, wid. of John Brune of Athelhampton, 5s. 1da. suc. fa. 1656.1
Capt. of ft. (parliamentary) 1643, lt.-col. 1645; gov. Weymouth 1645-7; commr. for sequestration, Dorset by 1646-50, j.p. by 1646-July 1688, Nov. 1688-d., sheriff 1646-7; freeman, Weymouth 1648, commr. for militia, Dorset 1648, 1649, 1655, 1659, Mar. 1660, assessment 1649, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660; pressing seamen, Dorset 1665, capt. of militia horse 1667-at least 1678, dep. lt. 1672-June 1688, Oct. 1688-d., commr. for recusants 1675.2
Coker’s ancestors had resided at Mappowder since the reign of Henry V, but their parliamentary record was limited to providing an MP for Shaftesbury in 1559. Coker’s father, a royalist commissioner, was fined £280 on an estate valued at £220 p.a.; but Coker himself, perhaps under the influence of his first wife’s family, took the other side; hence most of his father’s fine was appropriated to his own arrears of pay.3
Coker was returned for the county at the general election of 1660, but in the Convention he served only on the committees for confirming the privileges of Parliament and for the prevention of profanity. He obtained leave to go down to the country on 29 Aug. and showed no further interest in Parliament, though he remained very active as j.p. and militia officer, not without an acid comment on the inconvenience caused by the absence of so many deputy lieutenants in Parliament time. With George Fulford, Coker was officially commended by the Council for his good work in mustering the militia to repel an imaginary French invasion during the Popish Plot hysteria; but the Government’s real opinion of this unnecessary efficiency is shown by the comment against his name on a militia list some two years later: ‘to be suspected’. His standing in the county is illustrated by the choice of his house for the meeting of gentlemen both of the eastern and western parts which resulted in the unanimous adoption of Thomas Strangways and Thomas Freke I for the first Exclusion Parliament. His replies to James II’s questionnaire on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were negative, and he was dropped from the lieutenancy and the commission in 1688. He took an active part in bringing over the Dorset militia to William of Orange. He died on 19 Sept. 1698, aged 82, and was buried at Mappowder. His son stood unsuccessfully for Dorchester in 1700, but no later member of this branch of the family entered Parliament.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 303; iii. 723, 731; Vis. Dorset, (Harl. Soc. xx), 30.
- 2. C. H. Mayo, Dorset Standing Committee, 8, 9, 208, 301-2; Christie, Shaftesbury, i. p. xxxviii; Weymouth Minute Bk.(Dorset Recs. Soc. i), 204; PR030/23, bdle. 7, no. 560; Add. 31948, f. 116; Som. and Dorset N. and Q., xxviii. 78.
- 3. Hutchins, iii. 723; Cal. Comm. Comp. 799, 1072.
- 4. C. A. F. Meekings, Dorset Hearth-Tax, 117; Add. 31947, f. 176; Dorset RO, D124, letter of Thomas Strangways, 29 Jan. 1679; Hutchins, i. 606; iii. 731; Churchill College, Camb. Erle