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The history of the Paycocke family

Visitors in the Parlour at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex
Visitors in the Parlour at Paycocke's House and Garden | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The Paycocke family originally came from Suffolk where they lived comfortably. They owned many properties and, by the mid-15th century, they had moved to Coggeshall and built Paycocke’s at its current site. After the last male heir died, it passed to the Buxton family. Discover more about the history of Paycocke’s previous residents and their lives.

John Paycocke

John died in 1505, leaving his son Thomas the site upon which Paycocke’s now stands.

Thomas Paycocke

Thomas was responsible for most of the building we see today. Born in the second half of the 15th century, he became a successful businessman, making a small fortune through the manufacture of woollen cloth.

The outwork system

Thomas adopted what is known as the outwork system. He sourced the 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 cloth once the work had been completed.

To mark the cloth as his, he branded the bales with an ermine tail, as can be seen in the woodwork at Paycocke’s house. After this, he transported the cloth to the market towns, selling it to the drapers who would sell it on.

A view of the exterior of Paycocke's House in Colchester in Essex
The exterior of Paycockes House | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

The merchants mark

The Paycocke family chose the ermine tail as their emblem. Known for its cleanliness, ermine (a type of stoat) was perhaps adopted to make a statement about the quality and condition of Paycocke’s cloth.

Family life

Thomas married Margaret Horrold and their union is symbolised in the ceiling at Paycocke's, where their initials MP and TP decorate the beams. 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 Anne Cotton, but died before their baby daughter, also named Anne, was born and following traditional custom, Paycocke’s passed to Thomas's nephew, John Paycocke.

Lasting influence

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.

What happened to Thomas’s daughter?

For many years we’ve told the story of Thomas Paycocke and his house. Following the 500th anniversary of his death, a few volunteers decided to investigate the mystery of what happened to his only child, Anne.

Intricacies of Tudor inheritance

Thomas Paycocke died in 1518 shortly after writing his will. In the will, he reveals that his second wife, Anne Cotton is ‘with child’ and is expecting his heir. He makes financial provision in his will for the child, but the house and business will only be inherited if the child is male and survives to adulthood. Several months after Thomas dies, his child is born and it’s a girl.

Until now we’ve known very little about his daughter Anne, but recent research has revealed some astonishing facts, not only about the child and what became of her, but also about the daughter of her second marriage. Following this trail involved transcribing Tudor wills and court documents, visiting ancient churches and tracking down manor houses.

What was discovered?

Paycocke’s daughter Anne married three times bearing a total of eight children, the last when she was in her late thirties. Her first husband was William Butler, a cloth merchant from Bedfordshire whose father had been Lord Mayor of London.

After William Butler’s death, Anne took a second husband, Thomas Godwine, who had made a fortune buying and selling church lands in Devon after the dissolution of the monasteries. He also owned a house in London which is where they lived. Their only daughter, Anne Godwine, was nine when her father died.

With Thomas' granddaughter, the saga continues

Her story is in many ways more interesting than her mother’s. As an heiress of former church land, she was a ward of the Crown under an arrangement known as Knight’s Service. By the age of 14 she had agreed to a marriage contract with the son of a Suffolk landowner. By 19, she had borne a daughter, but was accused of adultery by her husband who applied to the courts for a legal separation. Further court proceedings were needed to separate the lands and property of the families.

After the death of her first husband this freed her to marry again and she went on to marry the grandson of William Stumpe of Malmesbury, one of the wealthiest clothiers in England, whose granddaughters were to marry the Earls of Lincoln, Suffolk and Rutland. Anne Godwine’s home was to be the Abbey House in Malmesbury and, after her death, a memorial to her memory was erected in Malmesbury Abbey by one of her daughters.

A bedroom at Paycocke's House and Garden, Colchester, Essex
A bedroom at Paycocke's House and Garden | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

The Buxton family

In 1584 the last male heir to the family business, John Paycocke, died and the building later passed to the Buxton family.

Family origins

The Buxton family branch linked with Paycocke’s House moved from Sudbury, rooting themselves at Coggeshall in the early 16th century. They also worked in the cloth trade.

The Buxtons were already connected to the Paycocke family through marriage after a young apprentice, Robert Buxton, caused quite a scandal by marrying his master’s daughter, Emma Paycocke.

Links with Paycocke’s House

From records it seems William Buxton, a clothier born around 1580, was the first Buxton to enter Coggeshall. Yet there is no concrete evidence that he was connected with Paycocke’s House.

The wills of subsequent Buxton generations mention their ownership of property in West Street and may be referring to Paycocke’s House, but it’s not certain. The first definite link between the Buxton’s and Paycocke’s House begins with Isaac Buxton.

Isaac Buxton

Isaac was born in 1672 and followed in his family’s footsteps, by becoming a successful clothier. He and his wife Elizabeth had six children. Isaac was a committed nonconformist, heavily involved in the building and financing of the new Congregational Chapel in 1710.

He was a trustee of the chapel and also of Gooday’s Charity and must have been very wealthy, as he owned lots of properties in the local area. He allowed his son John, to live at Paycocke’s whilst he lived further down the road.

Paycocke’s is sold

On Isaac’s death in 1732, Paycocke’s passed to his son Samuel, who sadly died five years later, leaving the property to his brother Charles.

Charles lived most of his life in London as an oil merchant. It seems he had little desire to live in Paycocke’s and chose to rent the house to Robert Ludgater, who bought the house from his landlord in 1746.

After the sale of Paycocke’s, the family remained in the village and were involved with brewing, banking and the Church.

Did you know?

  • The Buxtons are thought to be of Norse origin, settling in the village of Buxton, Norfolk which is where they get their name from
  • The Buxton crest depicts a lion breathing fire. This stands for courage, bravery, strength, valour and ferocity
  • The Buxton family are believed to have been responsible for the construction of the 17th-century Mansard wing at Paycockes (wing to the east at the rear)
  • Lord Noel Buxton, responsible for the 20th-century restoration of Paycocke’s, is a direct descendant of the original William Buxton, as his eight times great-grandson.
A close view of the windows and the plasterwork on the exterior of Paycocke's House, Colchester, Essex

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