With the generous help of the Friends, the Essex Record Office (ERO) has been able to acquire a collection of 11 late medieval deeds (1427 to 1574) from Coggeshall. Formerly unknown to historians, the deeds appeared for sale at Sotheby’s on 23 May at an estimate of £3,000 to £5,000 which no doubt reflected the presence in the deeds of members of the Paycocke family, relatives of the famous clothier Thomas Paycocke of Coggeshall (d. 1518) who built Paycocke’s House, now in the care of the National Trust. The deeds record the names of a great many other people from Coggeshall and the surrounding towns and villages, including clothworkers, and illustrate a network of economic and social relationships and property holdings associated with the cloth industry.
Sotheby’s estimate was beyond the stretched resources of the Friends of Historic Essex (FHE), the charity which supports the ERO, but with the help of FNL and other donors the lot was successfully acquired for a total of £3,425. Both FNL and FHE contributed £1,000, the Coggeshall Society £750, John Lewis £375, and the Essex Heritage Trust and the Essex Society for Archaeology and History £150 each. The ERO are most grateful to everyone who contributed, but the FNL grant gave a vital boost to local fundraising efforts.
The deeds are now at the ERO being conserved, catalogued and digitised, and will appear shortly on their site Essex Archives Online (document reference D/DU 4033). Ten of them relate to a plot that lay between a field of Coggeshall Abbey called ‘Wyndmelnefelde’ (Windmill Field) on one side and the highway leading from Coggeshall market place to Braintree (i.e. West Street) on the other. Thanks to an existing topographical reconstruction of the town by the Heritage Lottery Fund supported ‘Discovering Coggeshall’ project, we know that this property lay on the north side of West Street, directly opposite Paycocke’s House. It apparently first passed to the Paycocke family in 1480, when it was acquired by Thomas Wynlove of Stisted, a fuller, and John Paycocke otherwise ‘Cosyn Peycok’ of Coggeshall, a butcher, and several others. This John Paycocke was the father of the famous clothier Thomas. The eleventh deed in the collection, dated 1452, records the transfer of another three roods of arable land nearby. The deed leased the land from the abbot and convent of Coggeshall to a fuller called John Wynlove and was dated ‘in the Chapter House of the said convent’. It probably had a fine monastic seal, which is sadly now missing. However, most of the other deeds do carry seals, the largest number being five on the deed of 1507. Some are broken or indistinct, but they seem to include a lamb and flag, different initials and various merchants’ marks.