The Paycocke family
The Paycocke family originally came from Suffolk. They lived comfortably owning many properties in Suffolk villages. By the mid-15th century, they had moved to Coggeshall.
John died in 1505 leaving his son Thomas the site upon which Paycocke’s now stands.
Thomas was responsible for most of the building we see today. Born in the second half of the fifteenth century, he became a successful businessman, making a small fortune through the manufacture of woollen cloth.
The outwork system
He adopted what is known as the outwork system.
Thomas sourced his raw materials buying the wool and delivering it to the weavers to weave and the fullers to full either in their own homes with their own tools or in his other premises in the town. In return, he paid them a wage for their labour, receiving the finished product, cloth, once the work had been completed.
To mark the cloth as his, he branded the bales with an ermine tail, as seen in the woodwork at Paycocke’s house. Following this, he transported the cloth to the market towns, selling it to the drapers who would sell it on.
The merchants mark
The Paycocke family chose the ermine tail as their emblem. Known for its cleanliness, this animal was perhaps adopted to make a statement about the quality and condition of Paycocke’s cloth.
Thomas married Margaret Horrold and their union is symbolised in the ceiling at Paycocke's. Their initials MP and TP decorate the beams. Did Thomas break tradition by honouring his wife so publicly? We believe Thomas gained financially from the match. Perhaps this was his way of acknowledging Margaret's financial input in the building. Sadly Margaret died before the couple had any children and Thomas later remarried. What would his second wife, Ann Cotton, have thought about these carvings?! Thomas died before their baby daughter was born and following traditional heritage customs, Paycocke’s passed to Thomas' nephew.
Thomas was a respected figure within the local community, deeply religious, acting as godfather to a number of children within the parish and a member of the Crutched Friars of Colchester.
His generosity was widely felt as he donated money for poor relief, funded the aisle and chantry in the local church and left money to religious houses in his family county of Suffolk.
Did you know?
The name Paycocke is old English for peacock.
Interested in delving deeper?
E. Power, The Paycocke’s of Coggeshall (London, 1920).