Cobage/Colbatch: seeking expert guidance

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Tim Colebatch
Last seen: 1 year 42 weeks ago
Joined: Saturday, 4-08-2018

Greetings from Australia. I am trying to extend our family tree back a bit further in time, and want to test a theory. I would be grateful if anyone could shed any light on this. 

Our earliest known ancestor in the paternal line was John Colbatch, who is recorded as having been churchwarden at Chetton in the 1660s, was married to Jane, and had a number of children with her who were baptised at Chetton.

But there is no clear indication where he came from. There was a John Colbatch baptised at Ludlow in 1629, recorded as the son of Thomas Colbatch, then vicar of Ludlow. But the records for the 1660s appear to show two couples named John and Jane Colbatch presenting children for baptism, one in Chetton and one in Ludlow. In the 1680s and 90s, John Colbatch is recorded as the bailiff of Ludlow. We presume that John Colbatch of Ludlow was the vicar's son.

I have a theory that might explain it. At the end of the sixteenth century, the then vicar of Ludlow baptised two children he recorded as the sons of "Edward Colbach". That spelling does not appear anywhere in the records of subsequent decades. But the next vicar of Ludlow, James Crowther (in office 1604-25) christened six children he recorded as the sons of "Edward Cobage", including a John Cobage, christened in 1614. One of his last duties as vicar was to marry Mary Crowther (his daughter?) to Thomas Cobage in 1625. The name "Cobage" (or in one case, "Cowbage") does not appear anywhere in the parish records outside Crowther's period as vicar.

The new vicar is recorded as Thomas Colbatch. The name "Cobage" suddenly disappears from the Ludlow records, and the name "Colbatch" takes over, with the first baptism under the name being of Edward, the son of Thomas and Mary, in 1626 - presumably the vicar's first son. More Colbatch weddings, baptisms and funerals follow, and the Christian names fit with those previously recorded as members of the Cobage family.

Thomas died in 1637. His grandchildren include two named John Colbatch who achieved some fame: Sir John Colbatch (1666-1729), an apothecary-physician whom family legend records as having been knighted after curing George I of an illness, and his "near kinsman" Dr John Colbatch (1664-1728), vice-master of Trinity College, Cambridge for some decades in which he was in frequent conflict with and litigation against the master, Richard Bentley. In one of his essays, Lytton Strachey wrote an unkind account of the dispute.

My conclusion is that our ancestor John Colbatch was probably the baby baptised in Ludlow in 1614 as John Cobage - and that he was quite likely a younger brother of the Rev. Thomas Colbatch. But why he would have left Ludlow for rural Chetton is a mystery, when most of the family appear to have stayed in the town, done well in business, and held parish and civic office.

For that matter, we know nothing about where Edward Colbatch came from before he appears in Ludlow in the 1590s. Nor do we have any proof that he was the father of Thomas, who first appears in the rolls of Oxford as a student from Shropshire who matriculated in 1616, aged 20. That implies he was born in 1595 or 1596, possibly before the family moved to Ludlow, but we have yet to discover any record of his baptism.

Can anyone shed light on any of this? We would love to know more.

Tim Colebatch

Canberra, Australia

Last seen: 1 year 36 weeks ago
Joined: Monday, 10-04-2017


Have you looked at Shropshire Archives catalogue? if you type Colbatch in search box, there are lots of pages of people with the surname Colbatch. Also Colbatch is a small village not far from Bishops Castle, Shropshire. There's an interesting item at the bottom of page seven about someone named Richard Colbatch of the Manor of Colbatch.

Hope this is of interest to you. I managed to find lots of information about my Shropshire ancesters from this catalogue.