THE TOMB OF THOMAS COCKAYNE, YORKIST
In my many travels I once came upon a very fine effigy in Youlgrave Parish church, high in the Derbyshire Peak District. Exquisitely carved from alabaster, with great attention paid to detail, it shows the small figure (only about three or four feet long, crafted in such a manner because Thomas died before his father) of a young man with shoulder length hair and a moustache— wearing plate armour and, most interestingly, a Yorkist collar of suns and roses. Even more interestingly, the date of the effigy was 1488, three years after Richard III’s death at Bosworth and in a time, presumably, when it would not be particularly politic to be seen supporting the ruined House of York, especially as Stoke Field had only been fought the year before.
The Cockayne family appear to have been quite notable in the Peak district and not always in a good way. Initially at least, they also appear to have been Lancastrian and in the service of the Duchy of Lancaster. The earlier Cockayne tombs in Ashbourne church clearly show Lancastrian collars.
John Cockayne, who lived a long life into the early 16th C, despite having a propensity for raiding and violence, was the father of Thomas. John had a reputation for brawling since at least 1449, when he and a gang of ‘bully boys’ would attack their neighbours, the Okeovers and the Bassets. With one Nicholas Longford, he even raided the manor of Elvaston, not far out of Derby, in 1454.
By the time Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, John Cockayne was still rampaging out of control, leading a band of marauders through the wild countryside of the Peak. Orders were sent for his arrest on at least two occasions.
He seems to have suffered no punishment however, and eventually his exploits ceased. Possibly, he began to support the House of York at this time.
His son Thomas seems to have taken after his father in personality and been rather fractious. Born in 1451, he married a woman called Agnes Barlow and had several children with her. He was killed at the age of 37 after a fierce quarrel and subsequent duel with his friend, Thomas Burdett, at Polesworth, Warwickshire. (Some say the death was accidental; that Thomas stumbled and fell onto his friend’s blade.) His body was returned to Youlgrave for burial. At least one source refers to Thomas Cockayne as being a ‘staunch Yorkist’, along with his brother in law, Robert Barlow.
However, the effigy of Sir Henry Pierrepoint at Holme Pierrepoint also wears a Yorkist collar, and yet he supported Henry Tudor at Bosworth and thereafter. Perhaps his loyalty was with Elizabeth of York, and this may have been the same with Thomas Cockayne. However, it must have taken some courage or foolhardiness to wear such an obvious emblem in a time that was still unsettled, and I wonder how it would have been viewed had Thomas lived some ten years longer into the time of Perkin Warbeck’s arrival?