COCKAYNE, Charles (1602-1661), of Cockayne House, Broad Street, London and Rushton Hall, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 4 July 1602, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Sir William Cockayne, Skinner, of Broad Street, London, ld. mayor 1619-20, and Mary, da. of Richard Morris, Ironmonger, of Eastcheap, London. educ. I. Temple 1623. m. 24 June 1627, Mary (bur. 31 May 1686), da. and coh. of Henry O’Brien, 5th earl of Thomond [I], 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1626; cr. Visct. Cullen [I] 11 Aug. 1642. d. 19 June 1661.1

Offices Held

Butler, Christmas feast, I. Temple 1626, 1628, 1637, 1640-1, 1650-1, 1655, steward 1652-4, 1660.2

Farmer of the customs (jt.) 1627-9;3 ?servant to Charles I by 1642.4

Sheriff, Northants. Jan.-Oct. 1636;5 verderer of Rockingham forest, Northants. by 1638-?;6 dep. lt., Northants. by 1639-at least 1640;7 gov. of Rothwell hosp., Northants. by 1640;8 commr. oyer and terminer, Northants. 1640,9 array 1642,10 j.p. 1643.11


Cockayne belonged to a cadet branch of a family settled at Ashbourne in Derbyshire since the twelfth century, whose parliamentary record stretched back at least to 1332. His grandfather was a London merchant, and his father, described by James Whitelocke* as ‘rich William Cockayne’ and notorious chiefly as author of the unsuccessful project to supplant the Merchant Adventurers in the export of cloth, was the greatest merchant-financier of his day and first governor of the London plantation in Ulster. Cockayne’s inheritance is said to have consisted of rents amounting to £12,000 p.a., although by his father’s will only £1,500 p.a. came into his immediate possession, the rest being left to his mother who married Henry Carey*, 1st earl of Dover, and survived until 1649.12

Having been admitted to the Inner Temple in 1623, Cockayne continued to participate in the social life of the Inn until his death, regularly serving as an officer at the Christmas festivities. He settled into the lifestyle of the country gentry at Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire, which his father had purchased in 1619, and in 1627 he married one of the nieces of his Northamptonshire neighbour Sir Barnabas O’Brien, later 6th earl of Thomond. The marriage was challenged on the ground of a previous alliance between Cockayne and a certain Gertrude Wagstaffe, but a commission of inquiry rejected the objection.13

In 1627 Cockayne was joined, as his father’s heir, in a new lease of the customs farm. Apparently under pressure from Buckingham to buy a peerage, he replied in an undated letter that he was too poor to pay for an English viscountcy, having had so many expenses and ‘mulcts of monies’ for the king, and being obliged to find portions (set by his father at £5,000 apiece) for his unmarried sisters. He begged the duke to authorize the payment from the customs of a Crown debt to Thomond of £8,500, which sum had been assigned to Cockayne as his wife’s dowry. He also offered to borrow thereon for the duke’s ‘present occasions’ and even to lend him his sisters’ money ‘in some £20,000 to do you service two years gratis’. Buckingham’s response is unknown.14

In 1628 Cockayne was returned for Reigate, probably thanks to his brother-in-law, Sir Charles Howard*, 2nd earl of Nottingham, whose stepmother had a life interest in the moiety of the manor of Reigate. However, he left no mark on the records of the Parliament.15 In 1630, called upon to compound for knighthood, he pointed out that at the coronation of Charles I ‘and for six or seven months after, I was not seised of any estate at all, but the same being wholly in my father, I depended upon his pleasure only’.16 He was among those prosecuted in Star Chamber in 1635 for remaining in London over Christmas.17 Appointed sheriff of the Northamptonshire in 1636, he wrote to Laud on 1 Oct. claiming he had done his utmost to collect Ship Money despite numerous difficulties. The following January he was summoned before the Privy Council for his failure to distrain for non-payment and it was reported that he was to be prosecuted in Star Chamber. There is no evidence that he was, but was not finally discharged of responsibility for these arrears until early 1639.18

At the outbreak of the Civil War Cockayne was appointed to the Northamptonshire commission of array, and made some effort to put it into execution. He was also created an Irish viscount, doubtless less in recognition of his loyalty than in return for the first of his contributions to the royal cause, said to have totalled over £50,000.19 He surrendered to the parliamentarians at the fall of Bristol in 1645. When he came to compound for his estate after the war he argued that he had been obliged to attend the king as his sworn servant, although there is no other evidence that he held Court office. In April 1647 his fine was set at a sixth of his estate, which was assessed at £7,515. However, he subsequently claimed that he had been over-assessed and sought a review. The parliamentarians refused to reopen the case and his estate was sequestered in April 1650 for non-payment of the fine. He only obtained the restoration of his lands when he promised to pay a surcharge amounting to a quarter of the original fine. He was obliged to sell property to pay the fine, but the lands involved, mostly in Surrey, had formerly been part of his mother’s jointure and were geographically peripheral to his main estates. Cockayne survived the Restoration little more than a year. He drew up his will on 21 May 1661 and was buried at Rushton on 19 June. None of his descendants sat at Westminster.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. G.E. Cokayne, Some Acct. of Ld. Mayors and Sheriffs of City of London, 83-89; I. Temple Admiss.; A.E. Cockayne, Cockayne Memoranda (1873), pp. 44, 48; CP, iii. 561-2.
  • 2. CITR, ii. 157, 170, 236, 257, 263, 294, 300, 303, 307, 310, 316, 335.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 415.
  • 4. CCC, 1383.
  • 5. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 94.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 104.
  • 7. HMC Montagu, 122; SP16/468/19.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 383.
  • 9. C181/5, f. 182v.
  • 10. HMC Montagu, 156.
  • 11. Northants. RO, FH3017.
  • 12. Oxford DNB sub Cockayne, Sir William; OR; Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 7; Cockayne, Cockayne Memoranda, 114.
  • 13. Oxford DNB sub Cockayne, Sir William; N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, Buildings of Eng.: Northants. 398-400; Baker, County of Northampton 21; C66/2409/15; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 289.
  • 14. CSP Ire. Addenda, 1625-60, pp. 64, 116.
  • 15. CP, ix. 789; W. Hooper, Reigate, 29.
  • 16. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 353.
  • 17. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, ii. 291.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1636-7, pp. 150, 381; 1638-9, p. 373; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 284.
  • 19. HMC Portland, i. 60, 269; CP, iii. 562.
  • 20. CCC, 1383-4; VCH Surr. iii. 281, 502; H.J. Habakkuk, ‘Landowners and the Civil War’, EcHR, n.s. xviii. 140-1; PROB 11/304, f. 307.