1628, John Cooke petitions to be the keeper of Hartwell Park, Northamptonshire

John Cooke, esquire, keeper of Hartwell Park in the honour of Grafton. SP 16/528 f. 17 (1628)

To the right honourable the Lord Duke of Buckingham his grace.

The humble peticion of John Cooke esquier keeper of Hartwell Parke within the honour of Grafton

Humblie shewing your grace that some fewe yeares since he bought the interest and profitt of the keepershipp of Hartwell Parke within the honour of Grafton of his nephewe Captayne William Cooke for which purchase he did engage a great parte of his estate hopeing to have theirby settled himselfe his wife and children. Since which purchase he hath employed much care and paines in the preservation of the deere and hath disbursed much money in paleing, building and otherwise accommadating that parke for his majesties better service, but now to his unspeakable greife it hath pleased God to expose his nephewes life to the sword of the Frenchmen in this late retriet, by which he is not onely deprived of the life of his frend, but himselfe his wife and children are therby brought to an extreame distresse and misery in there estate, there interest in the parke wholly resting upon the life of ther deceased nephewe, unlesse they may be graciously releived by your grace in whom the power and ymmediate intrest of that parke is now revolved by the death of this captaine in his majesties service.

He doth therfore most humblie beseech your lordship to be pleased soe much to commiserate his sorrowe and losse in his death, gratiously to continew his service in that parke and that he may happily enjoy under your grace his entrest and employment in the same soe shall he be ever faithfull in what your grace shall trust him and shalbe ever most bound to pray for the increase of your graces honor and happines etc.

Report by Barbara Prynn

According to this petition, some years ago, John Cooke bought the keepership of Hartwell Park for his nephew, Captain William Cooke. His nephew was killed in the recent conflict with France, so John Cooke wrote to asks to retain the keepership in his stead.

Park keeperships

The keepership of Hartwell Park, part of the Grafton estate in Northamptonshire, and of other parks on the estate, were among a group of offices held with the stewardship of the honor of Grafton, by a succession of great magnates in the 16th and early 17th century. Local yeomen were appointed deputy keepers for the individual parks. The keeper at Hartwell had a lodge.

The last of the great magnates to hold the keepership of Hartwell Park, the 4th Earl of Dorset, was appointed in 1629. Later that year the post was granted for his life to Richard Oliver (to whom the office had been assigned by the Duke of Buckingham when he had been the titular keeper earlier in the 1620s).[1]

The honor remained directly under the control of Crown officials until James I’s reign, when it was among the estates conveyed to the king’s eldest son Henry when he was created Prince of Wales in 1610 and later to his son Charles when he in turn was made Prince of Wales in 1616, following Henry’s death. Prince Charles’ trustees continued to grant 21-year leases within the honor both in possession and reversion, but after he succeeded to the throne in 1625 and the honor reverted to direct Crown administration, officials were also prepared permanently to alienate further portions of the estate. In Cleley, two parks (Hartwell and Stoke Bruerne) several mills and a few of the larger farms were sold in this way in the 1620s and 1630s. The mansion at Grafton seems to have been allowed to decay in the early 17th century although James I made occasional visits.

Potentially more serious than piecemeal sales was the proposal in February 1627 to raise £6,000 (nearly £800,000 in 2020) on security of the honor lands of which half was to be used for the maintenance of the king’s sister, the Queen of Bohemia. Twelve months later the sum had been increased to £7,500 (nearly £1m in 2020) to be borrowed from Sir Francis Crane on security of a mortgage of the manors of Grafton, Hartwell, Alderton, Blisworth, Stoke Bruerne, Shutlanger, Ashton, Greens Norton, Potterspury and Moor End.[2]

The conflict with France

In June, 1626 Walter Montagu was sent to France to contact dissident noblemen. The plan was to send an English fleet to encourage rebellion as a new Huguenot revolt by Henri, Duke of Rohan, and his brother Soubise was being triggered. Charles I sent his favourite George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, with a fleet of 80 ships. In June 1627 Buckingham tried to take the fortified city of Saint-Martin-de-Re.  After a last attack they were repulsed with heavy casualties and left with their ships on 17 November.[3]

England attempted to send two more fleets to relieve La Rochelle. The first one, led by William Feilding, Earl of Denbigh, left in April 1628 but returned without a fight to Portsmouth. A second fleet organized by Buckingham just before his assassination was dispatched under the Admiral of the Fleet, the Earl of Lindsey, in August 1628 consisting of 29 warships and 31 merchantmen. This also was a failure.[4]

It is likely that Captain William Cooke died during the above engagements, but it has not been possible to confirm this.  It is not known if John Cooke retained the keepership of Hartwell Park.


[1] ‘Hartwell’, in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 5, the Hundred of Cleley, ed. Philip Riden and Charles Insley (London, 2002), pp. 176-197. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol5/pp176-197.

[2] ‘The Honor of Grafton and Wakefield Lodge Estate’, in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 5, the Hundred of Cleley, ed. Philip Riden and Charles Insley (London, 2002), pp. 18-37. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol5/pp18-37.

[3] ‘Siege of La Rochelle’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Siege-of-La-Rochelle.

[4] ‘Anglo-French War (1627-1629)’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-French_War_(1627%E2%80%931629).

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.