COCKS, James (c.1685-1750), of the Middle Temple

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

29 Nov. 1707 - 1710
1713 - 1747

Family and Education

b. c.1685, 1st s. of Charles Cocks*.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. matric. May 1700, aged 15; M. Temple 1702, called 1708.  m. (1) Sept. 1718, Lady Elizabeth, da. of Richard Newport*, 2nd Earl of Bradford, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) May 1737, Anne (d. 1739), da. of William, 4th Baron Berkeley of Stratton, 1s.  suc. fa. 1727; aunt, Lady Jekyll, to Reigate, Surr. and Brookmans, Herts. 1745.1

Offices Held

Trustee, Reigate par. lib. 1708–?d.2

Biography

James Cocks was remarkably fortunate in his legal connexions, which made a career at the bar almost inevitable. His father was a provincial attorney, who married the sister of Sir John Somers*, the lord chancellor. His uncle, Sir Joseph Jekyll*, was a Welsh judge and master of the rolls, and in 1719 his sister married Philip Yorke†, another man destined for the woolsack. In common with all three, Cocks was educated at the Middle Temple and cannot have found his connexions a hindrance to his career, for he was called to the bar in 1708. The relationship with Somers also helped him to find a seat in the Commons. In 1697 Somers had received a grant of the manor of Reigate, to help maintain the dignity of his recently acquired peerage, and this carried a preponderant influence in the borough, which allowed Cocks to acquire the seat on the death of Stephen Hervey* in 1707. Contemporaries were clear about his political affiliations, and on an analysis of the Commons early in 1708 he was classed as a Whig.3

Re-elected for Reigate in 1708, Cocks was again classed as a Whig on a list of that year. In the first session of the new Parliament he supported the naturalization of the Palatines. The presence of two namesakes, Members for Southwark and Cirencester, although they spelt their surnames differently, makes it difficult to identify him. He may have acted as a teller on 14 Apr. 1709 against a motion that the Speaker leave the chair, to allow the committee stage of the bill providing for surveys preparatory to the purchase of land to improve the fortifications at Portsmouth and Chatham. In 1710 he was listed as voting for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell and in consequence lost his seat in the Tory backlash at the general election of that year. Returned for Reigate in 1713, he continued to support the Whigs, voting on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele and was classified as a Whig on the Worsley list and on two further lists of the Members re-elected in 1715.4

Although the Reigate property fell to the Jekylls after the death of Somers in 1716, Cocks continued to represent the borough until 1747, by which time he had inherited the Jekyll property himself. By the time of his death, on 26 May 1750, he was a very wealthy man, with over £17,000 due to him on mortgages, £6,000 in South Sea Company annuities, and over £2,500 worth of household goods. His will made provision for his only son and heir, Charles (d. 1758), whose education was to be ‘liberal in all respects’. The barony of Somers was revived in 1784 for the eldest son of his brother John.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley

Notes

  • 1. J. V. Somers Cocks, Hist. Cocks Fam. 88–89; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1718, p. 34; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 285–6; W. Hooper, Reigate, 32; VCH Herts. ii. 256.
  • 2. Hooper, 63.
  • 3. W. L. Sachse, Ld. Somers, 124, 234.
  • 4. Ibid. 260, 310.