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THE COOKE FAMILY

Members of one of the branches of the Cooke family in Bow Brickhill in 1600 were Quakers.  1600 is the earliest date we have for the parish register or Bishop's transcripts. 

Other landowner branches faded away and the Quakers became the major Cooke land holders, but they sold out before the Inclosures. 


Two Cook families remained in the village until the late 1800s. James Cook, 1837-1883 seems to be the last of the line. His mother Mary Cook 1810-1888 had the village store and his father Robert was the baker. But with all the intermarriage that went on in a small village I expect there could be very distant cousins still there today. Susanna Cook married William Munday in 1878.

Alan Cook's  branch of this rural clan moved to Shenley about 1700, and then to Newport Pagnell. His great grandfather William Cook, teacher, emigrated in 1852.

Here's brief history of the Bow Brickhill Cooke family of Quakers.

"There were many non-conformist groups in Buckinghamshire in the 1640s and 1650s and they often met in out-of-the-way hill villages where they were less likely to be caught by the authorities. One of these groups was the society of "Friends of the Truth", soon to be known as "The Quakers", who followed the teachings of George Fox (1624-1691). Early meetings were held at the Bow Brickhill house of Thomas Cooke, born about 1610, the son of William Cooke, one of the four Cooke yeoman farmers known to be holding land in Bow Brickhill at the year 1600. Quakers commenced their meetings at Hogsty End (now Woburn Sands) about 1659.

The Quakers rejected the sacraments and were opposed to formal services and paid ministers. They refused to take oaths or to take part in military service. They were almost entirely of the middle class; yeoman farmers, craftsmen and traders who were not dependent on each other for employment. In those days the labouring classes could be intimidated and lose their jobs for not attending church. They kept their own registers of births, death and marriage.

They were persecuted before and after the Restoration in 1660 and recorded prosecutions under the heading of "sufferings". In 1670 the authorities imposed a fine of £20 (about £2000 in today’s currency) to be shared between William Cooke, William Allbright and George Galsey for illegal meetings at Woburn. In the 1680s the Cookes, father and sons, often appeared before Quarter Sessions for not attending All Saints church.

The Toleration Act of William and Mary in 1689 allowed freedom of worship to protestant non-conformists, on condition that the meeting place was registered. But the Quakers were in constant trouble; they refused to pay tithes to the priest and when taken to court would not swear an oath. As nonconformists they could not hold public office or attend university. They turned their energies to business; some well known firms such as Barclays Bank and Cadbury had Quaker origins.

The Friends had been meeting in a rented house at Hogsty End, and in 1674 they determined to build a meeting house of their own, the first to be built in Buckinghamshire. They purchased three roods of land for £50 and built a meeting house with stout beams and whitewashed plaster walls for £85. An appeal raised £135, (£13,500 today) of which the Cooke family contributed almost half. George Fox attended the opening.

The Quakers of Bow Brickhill and nearby villages preferred the half-acre burial plot beside the Hogsty End meeting house as their last resting place. No Cooke headstones will be found there now; the Friends did not allow markers until the mid-1800s.

Thomas Cooke had five children – Thomas, John, William, Edward and Joane. All were Quakers. The Cooke farmers at Bow Brickhill had prospered, for these were the golden years for the yeoman farmer, and he was able to leave land to all his sons and £100 to his daughter Joane.

Thomas – c1637, the eldest, married Tabitha Hill about 1680; Tabitha was of a Quaker family of the Frenchay Meeting in Gloucestershire. They had two sons, but Tabitha died in 1685 and was taken back to Gloucestershire to be buried with her ancestors. Ties with the home parish were strong.

John – c1640-1707, married Margaret Cooke, daugther of a Bow Brickhill yeoman, and sister to William Cooke, Chief Constable and All Saints churchwarden. It was one of the first entries in the register. Apparently the Friends decided there was no relationship, or it was so distant as not to cause concern.

Their son Edward Cooke, 1678-1738, was known as ‘Edward of the Elme’. Elme House in Bow Brickhill was certified as a public meeting house for Quakers. He married Mary Hooton and in his will he left land at Bow Brickhill, North Crawley and Fenny Stratford to his sons, one of whom, Edward 1733-1794, was described in Oliver Ratcliff’s "History of the Newport Hundred" as ‘an opulent yeoman’ and in the 1790 Enclosures he was named as a principal proprietor. This Edward’s son, another Edward, 1772-1824, became the Rector Haversham.

John Cooke c1722-1752, a grandson of the above William and Margaret, left a will in which he was described as "John Cooke of the vineyard in Bow Brickhill". His widow Elizabeth died in 1674 and also was described as "of the Vineyard".

Edward, c1650-1703, married Mary Pearce at a Weston Turville Quaker meeting in 1675. He was concerned that this three daughters should not contract unwise marriages and his will provided that each of his three sons be responsible for a sister, who, if she certified in writing that she had made a good choice of husband, would receive a lump sum. Theory is all very well, putting it into practice is another matter altogether.

Joane c1650-1708, married Thomas Hill, yeoman and widow of Winterburn, Gloucestershire, and father of Tabitha who married Joane’s elder brother Thomas. The ceremony was at Hogsty End, and as was the customer, all present signed the register as witnesses, including her four brothers, and sisters-in-law Margaret and Mary.

This is a brief account of an early Cooke Quaker family at Bow Brickhill. They thrived for three generations over almost 100 years, but their time came to an end with the Enclosures in 1790, when Edward, ‘the opulent yeoman’ and absentee landlord, sold his land. Some died without issue, others sold out and drifted away, others perhaps were less than enthusiastic about Quaker discipline and the strongly-held beliefs of their fathers and were reclaimed by the established church.

The Hogsty End meeting went into decline and by the early 1700s there were few Cooke entries in the register. In 1773 Hogsty End and Leighton Buzzard became a united meeting and in 1864 the Friends of Hogsty End were authorised to suspend their meetings on account of reduced numbers, age and infirmity. The meeting house was demolished in 1901."

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