COOPER, Benjamin (1564-aft. 1631), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.

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

bap. 16 Apr. 1564, s. of Thomas Cooper and Elizabeth. m. (1) 4 May 1590, Joan Woldrolfe, ?s.p.; (2) 24 Sept. 1593, Anna Harris (d. c.1617/18), 1s.; (3) ?, at least 2ch. d.v.p. d. aft. 1631.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Gt. Yarmouth by 1595, member of the Forty-Eight 1595-1608, chamberlain 1601-3, alderman 1608- 11 July 1629, 29 Aug. 1629-?d., bailiff 1609-10,2 commr. piracy, 1616,3 repair, Yarmouth haven 1621,4 subsidy, Gt. Yarmouth 1621-2, 1624.5


Cooper was a merchant involved in the herring trade and appears regularly in Yarmouth’s corporation books after his appointment as a member of the Forty-Eight in 1595.6 He subsequently served as chamberlain for two years, using his status to obtain permission to extend his house into part of the town’s land, called the Friars.7 In 1603 he was ordered to help draft Yarmouth’s rules for the observation of the Sabbath, and between 1610 and 1612 he made three recorded journeys to Norwich to discuss with Bishop John Jegon the provision of a preacher for the town. Cooper was also sent to Norwich to confer with the commissioners for the aid for Princess Elizabeth in 1612, and the following year was entrusted with overseeing the haven accounts.8 In 1619 he travelled to London to obtain Yarmouth’s all-important herring licence from the Privy Council.9

Cooper was elected to his first Parliament in December 1620, and was allowed expenses of 10s. a day for the journey to the capital, and 6s. 8d. a day while in London.10 He carried with him various Yarmouth charters and other papers in order to counter a bill introduced by Lowestoft to reduce Yarmouth’s rights over herring fishing and vending.11 Although unnamed in the parliamentary records, Cooper and his fellow Yarmouth Member, Edward Owner, may have introduced a bill to drain fen lands as they wrote to the corporation on 6 Mar. 1621 ‘concerning their further proceeding in the project concerning marshes and levels’. The assembly replied that they were to act as they saw fit.12 The bill was eventually rejected at the second reading on 7 May as a subject too complex and fraught with problems over common ownership.13 Elected for a second time in 1624, Cooper took no recorded part in the Parliament, except that he is known to have attended, as burgess of a port town, four of the six committee meetings on the bill for customs fees.14 During the Easter recess he reported to the corporation on the Commons’ proceedings regarding supply and the fishing trade, sending copies of speeches by the king and prince in Parliament.15

Cooper frequently travelled to London on Yarmouth business. In 1622 he secured letters patent to enable Yarmouth to export 4,000 tons of beer duty free and devote the profits towards repair of the haven.16 He appeared before the Privy Council in 1623 to explain Yarmouth’s seizure of a Spanish ship and its cargo of salt.17 In the following year, Cooper defended the annual herring licence before the board after London merchants and ship owners complained that it was ‘contrary to law [and] inconvenient to the state’.18

Cooper fell seriously ill in 1625, and it was not until March 1627 that he was declared to be ‘fit and capable of employment in the town’s affairs’.19 However, his standing in the corporation deteriorated after August 1627, when he and George Hardware* orchestrated an attempt to have the two bailiffs replaced by a single mayor.20 Removed from office, Cooper complained to the Privy Council that he had received ‘much hard measure from the bailiffs, aldermen and society’.21 The corporation was severely rebuked by the board, which insisted that Cooper be reinstated.22 Readmitted as an alderman, Cooper evidently played no part in subsequent Yarmouth affairs. His date of death is unknown and no will, inquisition post mortem or letters of administration have been found.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. Gt. Yarmouth par. reg.; Norf. RO, Y/C39/1, unfol.; Cal. Gt. Yarmouth Freemen, 58.
  • 2. Norf. RO, Y/C19/4, f. 244; C19/5, ff. 25v, 30v, 66, 75.
  • 3. Ibid. Y/C3/1.
  • 4. C181/3, f. 39.
  • 5. C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 6. Cal. Gt. Yarmouth Freemen, 58; Norf. RO, Y/C26/2, unfol.
  • 7. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, f. 33v.
  • 8. Ibid. ff. 38, 76, 92v, 98, 104v, 110v.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 212v.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 230, 292v.
  • 11. Ibid. Y/C20/1, f. 12v.
  • 12. Ibid. Y/C19/5, f. 234.
  • 13. CJ, i. 531a, 611b.
  • 14. HLRO, main pprs. 20 May 1624.
  • 15. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, f. 296.
  • 16. Ibid. f. 264.
  • 17. APC, 1621-3, pp. 489-90.
  • 18. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, f. 299; Add. 12496, f. 377.
  • 19. Norf. RO, Y/C19/6, f. 59.
  • 20. H. Swinden, Hist. Gt. Yarmouth, 477-505.
  • 21. APC, 1630-1, p. 140; PC2/39, pp. 112-13.
  • 22. APC, 1630-1, p. 384.