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Coker, John (DNB00)


COKER, JOHN (d. 1635?), antiquary, describes himself in his 'Survey of Dorsetshire ' as belonging to the younger branch of 'the antient and well-respected familie of Cokers,' who were beholden to Coker in Somersetshire for their name, but who were then dwelling at Mappowder in Dorsetshire (Survey, p. 98). According to the pedigree of the Cokers of Mappowder, inserted in Hutchins's 'Dorset ' (3rd ed. iii. 723), John Coker was the third son of Robert Coker of Mappowder (died 14 Eliz.) by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Henry Beaumont of Giddesham, Devonshire. He appears never to have married. He was in holy orders, and in 1576 succeeded the Rev. John Gerard as incumbent of Tincleton, Dorsetshire. His name is often found in the parish register between 1576 and 1579. It is generally said that his incumbency ceased in 1579, but the name of the next incumbent (John Moriton) does not occur till 1582. On his resignation of Tincleton Coker perhaps retired to Mappowder. The parish register of that place records the burial of 'Mr. John Coker' in 1631 and of another in 1 635 . Coker's 'Survey' was probably written during the first quarter of the seventeenth century. He alludes in it to Dr. Francis Godwin's 'Catalogue of Bishops,' a work published in 1601, and to 'Digby, earl of Bristol,' a creation which took place in 1622. According to Gough (rit. Topog. i. 319), 'an authentic copy' of the 'Survey' 'fell into the hands of Mr. Barbery, a non-juring clergyman, who published proposals for printing it in 1727, but not meeting with encouragement sold the manuscript to Mr. Wilcox, a London bookseller, who printed it' in 1732. The title of the printed work is: 'A Survey of Dorsetshire, containing the Antiquities and Natural History of that County, with a particular Description of all the Places of Note and Antient Seats, and a Copious Genealogical Account of Three Hundred of the Principal Families, with their Arms fully described and curiously engraved on six folio copper-plates. To which is prefix'd a Map of the County. Publish'd from an original Manuscript written by the Reverend Mr. Coker of Mapowder in the said county,' London, printed for J. Wilcox, &c., 1732, folio. The map (by R. W. Seale) is very incorrect, and the book swarms with typographical errors. The copy of it in the King's Library of the British Museum has a number of manuscript emendations inserted in it from a manuscript copy of the 'Survey' which belonged to 'Mr. George Harbin.' Regarded as a history of the county Coker's work is slight, though he speaks of himself (p. 128) as knowing Dorsetshire well, and he has preserved various useful details which Hutchins has incorporated in his 'Dorset.' The 'Copious Genealogical Account' of, the bookseller's title-page is not borne out by the contents of the work, and Coker himself says that he has 'omitted to sett downe anie Pedigrees especiallie of modern Families, because in my Opinion it is not fitt they should bee divulged, for that they might breed Emulation amongst Gentlemen and ill Will toward mee ' (p. 127).

[Coker's Survey in King's Library, Brit. Mus.; Gough's British Topography, i. 319; Upcott's Eng. Topog. i. 173; Hutchins's Hist. of Dorset, 2nd ed. ii. 211, 213, iii. 272, 273, 279, 3rd ed. especially iii. 722-5; Mayo's Bibliotheca Dorsetiensis (1885), pp. 1, 2.]

W. W.