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The history of the La Cohie (Laccohee) weaving family
researched and contributed by Diana Divo
As descendants of the immigrants we are very fortunate that the records of the Walloon church have survived, unlike the Dutch and many Norwich churches. So it should be possible to trace the family from the late 16th to the late 17th century. After this, we researchers can only be guided by name patterns and parishes. My black sheep is Thomas from whom I definitely descend, but I cannot be entirely certain whether his father was Jacob, or Abraham or possibly John. Accordingly what follows is for guidance only.
The La Cohies came to Norwich from Wallonia in the late 16th century and probably their lives were little different to other Flemish immigrants. They attended church services in French, first sharing Blackfriars Hall with the Dutch weavers (services proceeding simultaneously in the same room in different languages) then in the Bishop’s Chapel, later acquiring St. Mary the Less for their own use. Christenings took place there (though not all, some were in the local parish churches) and the Lacohie’s frequently acted as witnesses or godparents to their own nephews and nieces as well as to other families. Occasionally the whole church witnessed a christening.
The weavers were industrious, rebuilt their properties and flourished. Not only did they have to pay the taxes of the Walloon church but also of the parishes they were resident in. Inevitably as they integrated with the local population and with religious upheaval in the 17th century they stopped supporting the French church which limped on until it was dissolved in the mid 19th century. The families were close knit, the children obedient (one is told) to their parents, marrying late mostly after 27 so probably after a long apprenticeship.
It is difficult to know exactly where they lived. I was told many were given fairly derelict properties along the river in parishes such as St Gregory’s (where there was a Charing or Shearing Cross) and on the opposite side in the industrial north. The immigrants must have had their own burial ground, but so far it has not been discovered, but is thought to be near the old Jewish burial ground.
When they came over, families were allowed to bring 10 family members with them. The Laccohees at the end of the 16th century so far seem to consist of Jean his son Jean whose widow remarried, Jacques (again survived by his widow who remarried) and lastly that Jean who with Judict Le Duye appears to be our earliest known ancestor, well at the moment anyway (September 2004).
Christening records frequently mention the Desourmeaus, Desbonnets, Josses, and later the Haues – these latter two families were related by marriage to the L’s. Esther Ahaige, now LeRoy also acts as witness as does her husband Germaine and later her daughter. Joel Desormous.
From the records outside the Walloon church, I surmise the La Cohie’s settled in the pre-Norman low-lying part of north Norwich where many immigrants were. The parishes are small and hence poor, the churches small. Probably the family started in:
- St Augustines. (Births there are registered early and the gravestones were fortuitously recorded in the last century, as the ground has been cleared and I saw none).
- St. Martin at Oak and St. Mary Coslany and later:
- St George Colgate where many weaving families were established some leaving quite splendid memorials. I surmise that the senior branch of the family descending from John L. lived here but the records have not survived from the early 18th century. John Laccohee was witness to so many marriages in the late 18th early 19th century that I can only surmise he may have acted as parish clerk. There are two plaques on the church wall. That to Anna Maria and Samuel corresponds to their birth dates. The other is difficult to read and I wonder if rather than 1729 – 1808 they should be some 30 years later and the same generation as Anna Maria and Samuel as after all the stone and inscription are identical in style.
Late 17th early 18th century a branch had moved south of the River Wensum to the larger, later, Norman parish and church of:
- St Stephens where many of the marriages and burials took place until about the 1780’s when although the records can be deciphered there are no longer traces of christenings and the even more common child/baby burials. Isaac Laccohee is the earliest member recorded who must have been influential in his generation as I believe he is probably the Izaac Lescuyer who was a “politique men” and later deacon for the Walloon church from 1704-1725. Maybe there was a family vault standing ready for the dead (my mother was told there had been graves there) which accounts for the many burials there and a house suitable for family meetings or receptions could be a reason for the many marriages. However the records are 80% undecipherable. The parish lies between the Castle and the Market and abuts
- All Saints and only the really imposing St Peter Mancroft church separates it from:-
- St Gregory’s where for half a century Thomas and Abraham are recorded as living. Then it appears, misleadingly, that the family has moved or died out but Thomas’s daughter and granddaughter remained in the parish until the 1880’s. They are also recorded in the adjoining parishes of:
- St Benedicts, St Lawrences which are bisected by Pottergate and St. Benedicts. Charing Cross is at one end and between there and the river was the Duke of Norfolk’s palace which decayed when he, a catholic, abandoned the protestant city.
The weaving industry was at its height in the mid 18th century. Norwich stuffs were exported as far as Russia, India and the Americas to say nothing of France and the Iberian peninsular. Trade suffered from the 7 years war, then the French wars (until 1815) and there was rivalry from west English industrialised manufactories. The majority of the family seemed to have left Norwich (or at least the males did) to seek a new life in London and further afield. After 1800 there are fewer and fewer La Cohie births recorded in Norwich.Sources:
- Mormon documentation on the internet.
- Church registers
- Moens "the Walloons and their Church in Norwich"
- Helpful members of Kirby Hall.
- A History of Norwich by Frank Meeres
- The fabric of Stuffs, Ursula Priestley
- Pictures, plans etc on Huguenot Heritage can be found on the web