William Cookes of Snitterfield, died 1617

When William Cookes died in Snitterfield, Warwickshire in 1617, he was a wealthy man with eight surviving children. His oldest son was Henry Cookes of Handsworth who was married to Anna or Ann Cookes, discussed on this site.

William Cookes had been born about 1542. His father, Thomas Cookes, died when he was a child and his mother Ellen remarried Henry Grove of West Bromwich. A number of documents suggest that there was quite a bitter battle over his inheritance between his surviving grandfather, also called William Cookes and the new husband of his mother, Henry Grove.

When William came to marriage in 1561 it is recorded in the Handsworth parish register that William Cookes was a scholar and a servant and member of the household of William Walker, then vicar of St Mary’s Handsworth. This explains both how he came to be literate and with the help of one other document we learn in fact that his grandfather, before his own death in 1553, had appointed two guardians to supervise his upbringing, viz John Denton and William Bott,

William’s bride was Alice Cowper alias Piddock. This marriage seems to have brought further lands and manors into the ownership of William. Eventually he moved from Handsworth to Snitterfield some twenty miles to the East, near Stratford on Avon.

William had eight surviving children. The first children were all born and baptized in Handsworth.  The eldest Ellen born in 1564 married first Simon Vesey and then Raphael Symonds. Both husbands had strong connections with Sutton Coldfield.

One further daughter, Elizabeth, and probably three sons, Henry, John and William were also born in Handsworth. Later children Ann, Edward and Nathaniel were all baptized over in Snitterfield.

The 1682 Visitation of Warwickshire picks up the full lineage of the descendant of John Cookes, the second oldest son who came to settle in Harbury, Warwickshire but died before any of his brothers, probably in 1633. He appears to have left no will. It is John Cookes’s daughter Hannah that is of particular interest as in 1641 she became the third wife of Thomas Smalbroke, first of Birmingham and latterly of Handsworth.

Hannah Cookes, daughter of John, is the only named relative in the 1637 will of Henry Cookes, the eldest son of William Cookes. We can suspect that she was singled out by the childless Henry as she was unmarried, aged about 30 but also of religious views close to Henry and his wife.

Both Henry and his wife, Anna were one supposes, strong Puritans and Anna indeed talks of being a member of God’s Elect in her 1645 will.

It is not clear if the children of William Cookes divided their loyalties (or indeed took sides at all) in the Civil War. Henry at the age of 69 in 1637 drew up a settlement of his estates. This document does not appear to have survived and his actual will is short and fairly uninformative. His wife was his sole executrix, but we can presume he divided up his estates in an equitable manner amongst his numerous nephews.

The full details of all William Cookes grandchildren are, however, fully listed in his own 1617 will and that of his widow Alice in 1624, both of which are extant.

Sources and Notes

  • Will of William Cookes, Snitterfield, Probate 22 Jul 1617 Worcester Record Office
  • Will of Alice Cookes, Snitterfield, Probate 8 Sep 1624, Worcester Record Office (Wife)
  • National Archives Kew, C 43/4/27, C 1/1222/59-60 and numerous others
  • Inventory of Simon Vesey, 28 Mar 1599, Lichfield Record Office
  • Will of Raphael Symonds, 10 Dec 1610, Lichfield Record Office
  • Will of Henry Cookes, Probate 6 May 1642, PCC (Oldest Son)
  • Will of William Cookes, Probate 13 Apr 1649, PCC (Third son)
  • Will of Edward Cookes, Probate 4 Nov 1656, PCC, (Fourth son)
  • Will of Nathaniel Cookes, Probate 17 Feb 1658, PCC (Youngest son)
  • The daughters Elizabeth and Ann both married members of the Gibbard family – Richard Gibbard and William Gibbard respectively.
  • Will of Thomas Smalbroke, Handsworth, Probate 29 Apr 1650, PCC (Granddaughter’s husband)
  • Snitterfield was the birthplace of William Shakespeare’s father. The Cookes name appears in a number of Shakespearean legal documents and archives.
  • Staffordshire County Record Office D1798/H.M. Chetwynd/25 is a selection of deeds seemingly related to sequestrations after the restoration in 1660. Here it mentions the ‘Cookes Settlement’ 14 Chas 1638 as well as the will of Henry Cookes. This is a strong indication that the childless Henry drew up legal documents handing over his property BEFORE his will written in 1637 and executed in 1642 some two years after his death,
  • Henry Grove is probably the father of Edward Grove of West Bromwich (Will 1642).


Last updated on 25 May 2022 by JJ Morgan