COOKE, William I (c.1620-1703), of Highnam Court, nr. Gloucester

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



Mar. - July 1679
1689 - 1695

Family and Education

b. c.1620, 1st s. of Sir Robert Cooke† of Highnam by his 1st w. Dorothy, da. of Sir Miles Fleetwood† of Aldwinkle, Northants.; bro. of Edward Cooke†.  educ. G. Inn 1636.  m. lic. 30 Mar. 1648, Anne, da. and coh. of Dennis Rolle of Stevenstone, Devon, 9s. (5 d.v.p.) 7da. (3 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1643.1

Offices Held

High sheriff, Glos. 1663.

Verderer, Forest of Dean 1668–?d.; freeman, Gloucester 1672, alderman 1672–d., mayor 1673–4, Nov. 1688–9, Apr.–Sept. 1699; commr. of inquiry, Forest of Dean 1673, 1679, 1683, 1691.2


Cooke’s family had been established at Highnam since 1597. Highnam, ‘a large beautiful seat’, was situated only two miles west of Gloucester and commanded a ‘pleasant prospect’ over the city. Initially, Cooke’s public preoccupations had been with county politics, and only subsequently did he become immersed in Gloucester’s civic affairs, having been nominated a freeman and alderman under the charter of 1672. A Tory in the first Exclusion Parliament, he fought and lost his next election as an Exclusionist, though his flirtation with the Country party soon afterwards lapsed. In November 1688 he commenced a second mayoral term during which he oversaw the removal of the Jacobite faction from the corporate body and played a leading part in restoring political stability to the city. Elected to the Convention in January 1689, he took a principled Tory line in voting against the motion declaring the throne vacant. In 1690 he successfully contested Gloucester, and in the preparations for the opening session Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) reckoned him a probable supporter of the Court but without ascribing a party label. These predictions were evidently confirmed since in December Carmarthen was able to mark him as pro-Court in two further lists, and he was similarly classified in Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691. Cooke appears to have been fairly busy in legislative matters, and in the Journals his name can be found associated with a variety of measures tackling social and commercial problems. On 9 May 1690 he was appointed to a committee both to investigate the wine trade and produce a regulatory bill, and in the next session, on 1 Dec., was named one of the drafters of a bill to prevent exports of wool. He was granted leave of absence on the 16th. In November 1691 he was included on the drafting bodies of bills concerning the manufacture of saltpetre and the supervision of the poor. On 14 Nov. 1693 he was among those appointed to draft legislation to stimulate the clothing trade. However, with his namesake John Cooke joining him in the Commons on 22 Feb. 1694, it is no longer possible to be certain of his parliamentary activity, though given his earlier assiduity, he may have been the ‘Mr Cooke’ intended in three tellerships in the period remaining before the 1695 election. Cooke’s name appears on a list of Henry Guy’s supporters during the 1694–5 session. It is not known for certain if he stood for re-election: if he did, he either withdrew or was defeated. He continued his involvement in corporation affairs, however, and in April 1699, aged almost 80, was called upon to take the mayoral chair for a third time in place of a deceased incumbent. He died early in 1703. His grandson William II was elected for the city in 1705.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. IGI, Glos.; Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalfe, 47–48; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 324.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 594; iii. 262; iv. 156; vi. 196; vii. 962; ix. 1156; Gloucester Freemen (Glos. Rec. Ser. iv), 27; VCH Glos. iv. 378; Rudder, Glos. 117; Glos. RO, Gloucester bor. recs. GBR/B3/7, f. 215.
  • 3. Atkyns, State of Glos. 176; Gloucester bor. recs. GBR/B3/7, f. 215.