The Town of Ashbourne stems from a small Saxon village first mentioned in the Domesday Book. Here it is referred to under its medieval name of ‘Essiburn’ or ‘Asseburn’ until ultimately being called ‘Ashbourne’.
The ancient family of Cokaynes were settled in Ashbourne in 1110 and were here for 500 years. The earliest ancestor of the family, who can be traced with certainty is John Cockayne of Ashbourne c 1150.
The Coat of Arms is three cocks and the crest of a cock’s head. They possessed large estates in the county and brought more into the family by various marriages. The Cokaynes were for many years lessees of the vicars of Ashbourne under the Dean of Lincoln. They also provided the Grammar School in 1585 and possibly the Church of St. Oswald, in 1170.
They built and occupied the first Ashbourne Hall, to the East of the town around 1135.
The original hall was built behind this present one. From a map of 1547, the original hall was a rambling, gabled, timber-framed house built around a courtyard, being Ashbourne’s largest house at the time standing in extensive grounds overlooking a park landscaped with clumps of trees and a small ornamental lake (now the Fishpond). The park being used for hunting purposes. This ‘Park Area’ as we know it is now housing and is still referred to as the ‘Park Estate’.
Although situated only a few hundred yards from the east end of St. John’s Street, the Hall was separated from the town by a high brick wall, a line of tall trees and a set of imposing park gates. These gates faced down the street, reminding the inhabitants forcibly of the presence of the established order, as did the gates and towering spire of the parish church which closed the view at the other end of the main street. The hall had a chapel near the gates from before 1417 – which later served as a malt house.
In 1519 Sir Thomas Cokayne married Jane, daughter and heir of Phillip Okeover – nearby gentry and one of the oldest recorded families in England.7