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Mary Cooke’s Dower House

1863

Information

Several buildings on Priestgate are worthy of merit through age and architecture, but none are as unusual than Mary Cooke's Dower House. The house is correctly credited to the hand of Thomas Alderson Cooke, owner of Priestgate Mansion. However, it has been incorrectly associated to the divorce of his second wife Charlotte Squires. It was originally believed that the dower house was given to Charlotte when she and Thomas divorced. But newspaper reports from the time reveal that Thomas had the marriage annulled. Because they did not divorce, no money or property was owed to Charlotte. Furthermore, documents kept in Northamptonshire Archives reveal that the dower house was not built until 1840's, over 20 years after his annulment! By this point Thomas had moved on to his fourth wife Mary. His will of 1854 reveals how he had left the house for his 'dear Mary' to live in upon his death. A later conveyance from 1863 from Mary Cooke detailed: '[Thomas] Cooke devised to his wife for her life the mansion house he had lately erected next door to his mansion, together with land he had lately purchased extending southward from the garden wall.' Sadly, there is no evidence that Mary lived in the house. Thomas died in 1854 and by the 1861 census she was already living in London with her daughter and son-in-law (who was also her step son) and conveyancing relating to the house gave her address as London too. References: The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2204 Abstract of conveyance from Mrs Mary Cooke and others to William Vergette, ref ZB1826/01 accessed via http://nro.adlibhosting.com/ (Northamptonshire Records Office)