Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas Cossam (c.1539–c.1608)

Mayor of Oxford 1604/5

Thomas Cossam (or Cosame/Cosham/Cossham/Cossom) was born in c.1539, the son of John Cossam, a tanner of Abingdon.

Cossam was apprenticed to the Oxford cordwainer William Spencer on 25 December 1553, with the promise of 20s. and double apparel at the end of the term. He was duly admitted free as a Hanaster in the mayoral year 1562–3, but his master was then named as William Alder.

Between 1564 and 1601 Cossam took on sixteen apprentices of his own: James Hough of Lancashire (29 September 1564); Robert Gregory of Wokingham (25 December 1566); Edward Badger of Gloucestershire (24 June 1567); Simon Bull of Haddenham (25 December 1574); Richard Shisson of Bangor (29 September 1575); Michael Rudge of Gloucestershire (29 September 1579); Thomas Marcham of Gloucestershire (25 March 1580); Gabriel Rogers of Gloucestershire) (29 September 1582); Richard Baker of Tewksbury (20 September 1584); William Byrde of Stadhampton (25 March 1588); Thomas Webb of Holton (29 September 1588); Thomas Androwes of Oxford (reassigned to him 3 February 1595); Christopher Aston alias Cowper (29 September 1592); Nicholas Plott of Blewbury (29 September 1594); William Thatcher of Berkshire (25 March 1599); and Thomas Pryor of Islip (20 March 1601).

Thomas Cossam had the following children:

  • Joan Cossam (baptised on 25 August 1565 at St Martin’s Church)
  • William Cossam (baptised on 5 April 1569 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Margaret Cossam (baptised on 24 July 1574 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Susanne Cossam (baptised on 13 April 1577 at St Martin’s Church, buried there on 25 October 1577)
  • Alice Cossam (baptised on 1 January 1578/9 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Thomas Cossam (baptised on 1 August 1581 at St Martin’s Church)
  • Grace Cossam (baptised in 1584 at St Martin’s Church)
  • William Cossam (baptised on 4 October 1587 at St Martin’s Church, buried there on 15 October 1587)
  • Edmund Cossam (“son of Thomas”, buried on 20 August 1588 at St Martin’s Church)

On 3 February 1571 Cossam was granted a messuage in St Martin’s (on the site of the present 141 High Street), by Rauf Pette of Adderbury, together with five acres behind Osney Bridge and Bulstake. On 7 June the same year he sold both the messuage and land to the City for £50, and was granted a lease for 21 years.

In September 1572 Cossam paid a tax (or “seasement”) of three shillings to the Churchwardens of St Martin’s.

On 3 November 1575 he was committed to prison with five other Oxford shoemakers:

Yt ys ordered and agreed att thys Counsell that … Thomas Cossam … shoemakers of thys Citie, be commytted to the pryson of Bochardo as by the comandement of thys howse, and theire to remayne untyll they humblye submytt themselves and confesse theire great contumacye and dysobedyens wch they have commytted agaynst Mr Mayor and the state of thys Cytie.

On 29 September 1576 Cossam was elected on to the Common Council, and in 1581 was elected a Chamberlain

In October 1583 Cossam was granted a new lease by the Council of his house and grounds for 60 years at a rent of £3 11s 8d. In that year his daughter Joan Cossam married Richard Moseden at St Martin’s Church.

In 1584 he was appointed a Bailiff and a Taster of Flesh and Fish, and in 1585 a Searcher of Leather.

In 1591 a Thomas Cossam was buried at St Martin’s Church. As Cossam’s son of that name survived to adulthood, this may have been Cossam’s father.

In 1593 Cossam’s apprentice Thomas Marchaunt (Marcham) was admitted as a freeman.

In 1594 Cossam was chosen as one of the Keepers of the five keys, and in September 1597 one of the Thirteen Associates.

On 31 October 1597 Cossam’s wife was buried at St Martin’s Church.

In 1598 at St Martin's Church his daughter Margaret Cossam married John Posterne.

In January 1603 Thomas Cossam was elected an Alderman, and the following year was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1604/5). In August 1605, near the end of his year of office, James I, together with the Queen and the young Prince, visited Oxford. Cossam rode out at the head of a procession to meet them, dressed in a scarlet gown, velvet coat, and velvet hose, with four footmen to attend him and with his footcloth; behhind him came the Aldermen (similarly dressed). Then came the mayor’s council (with scarlet gowns, satin doublets, and velvet hose and tippets) and the two Bailiffs for the year (similarly dressed, each of them with a white rod in his hand). These all rode “two and two”, each of them providing one footman “in comely sort”. Next came everyone who had ever been bailiff of chamberlain, in garded coats and in doublets, “with comely hose handsomly booted and spurred”. At the end of the procession rode 60 councillors and commoners (“in blacke coats, all of them layd on with velvit lace in blacke doublets and comely hose handsomely booted and spurred”).

By 1604 his son Thomas Cossam junior, now 23, must have married, and Richard, the son of Thomas Cossam the younger, was baptised and buried on the same day (8 February 1604/5) at St Martin’s Church. On 1 August 1605 “Thomas Cossam, eldest son of Thomas Cossam, cordwainer” was admitted free “by his father’s copy”.

A surviving Memorandum shows that Thomas Cossam alderman had not goods or chattels whereby the second payment of the second subsidy of three subsidies granted 3 Jac. I (1604–6) could be levied.

In 1606 Cossam was granted a lease by the council of two tenements in St Martin’s for £3 6s 8d.

In September 1608 Cossam resigned his place as Alderman.

† Thomas Cossam presumably died soon after 1608, but no burial has been found.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 December, 2020

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