Paycocke House in Coggeshall was the home of a prosperous sixteenth century wool merchant. It was built- or rather added on to an existing building- at the beginning of the centry by Thomas Paycocke for his bride Margaret. Their initials are carved on the house along with the Paycocke merchant’s mark.
Not only did Thomas and his wife live in the house but it was also the centre of his business. What today is a lovely garden would have been a bustling hive of industry when Thomas was alive.
Coggeshall was famous at the time for undyed broadcloth – it’s sometimes called Coggeshall White. It’s described as a “bays” – so a baize if I’ve got it right is a variety of worsted fabric. Thomas not only used his own home for the cloth but he also sent pieces out to the homes of his workers – preparing, weaving and finishing. One of the reasons for “putting out” of work may have been that the extension was designed to impress rather than to be practical – the wealth on display certainly suggests that Thomas wanted to make an impression to his visitors – think of it as a showroom perhaps?
Thomas didn’t have sons. His second wife had a daughter. The house left the family in 1584 when the last male Payecock, a great nephew of Thomas, died. It passed into the hands of the Buxton family, who were related by marriage. The house continued to evolve. These days it’s a National Trust property and like many other National Trust properties in the area it has been partly planted with dye plants.
Thomas’s father had set Thomas on his way but the economic conditions of the period helped Thomas to become very wealthy. Raw wool prices slumped at the end of the fifteenth century – it began to rise relatively early in Henry VIII’s reign. In the meantime Payecock was able to export his cloth at a substantial profit.