William Goodacre Cokayne, 1857 - after 1900

by Brian Stevenson
last updated July, 2018

W.G. Cokayne’s microscope slides are relatively uncommon. They bear professional-looking labels and are well-prepared (Figure 1). Only one record of Cokayne’s involvement in microscopy has been found: an 1875 offer to exchange his slides of spores of the bramble brand fungus, Aregma bulbosum (Figure 2). An example of that slide is shown in Figure 1. It is likely that Cokayne’s other microscope slides also date from the mid-1870s, that is, from his late teenage years.

Figure 1. Microscope slides by W.G. Cokayne. He offered exchanges for the slide on the right in 1875 (see Figure 2). From the author’s collection or adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 2. Two 1875 exchange offers from William Cokayne, including the only known printed record of his interest in microscopy. From “Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip”.


William Goodacre Cokayne was born during the spring of 1857, in Nottingham, England. His father, Thomas, was a schoolmaster. The Goodacre and Cokayne families included important figures in the history of Nottingham.

William became a printer/stationer and bookseller during the late 1870s. Both businesses were operated in partnership with Henry J. Norris, as “Norris & Cokayne” (Figure 3). Their book shop was located at 4 Poultry, while their print shop was at St. Peter’s Square. During the 1880s, Cokayne, Norris, and several other investors operated the Nottingham Café Company, a chain of coffee shops.

An 1885 trade directory of Nottingham also listed W.G. Cokayne as a professional photographer.

Little more has been found of William Cokayne’s life. A 1900 history of Cokayne’s ancestors acknowledged “Mr. William Goodacre Cokayne, of Nottingham, for personal information, and the loan of books and documents in his possession”. Further information on his personal life, including date of death, are as-yet unknown.

Figure 3. An 1885 calendar that was produced by Norris & Cokayne.


Figure 4. "Cuticle of Yucca", prepared ca. 1875 by W.G. Cokayne (see Figure 1). Photographed with a 10x objective lens, C-mounted digital SLR camera, blue filter, and crossed polarizing filters.



Design History Lab (accessed July, 2020) http://designhistorylab.com/sp2010dhl/choi/js/tradecalendar.html

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

Godfrey, John Thomas (1900) Manuscripts Relating to the County of Nottingham in the Possession of Mr. James Ward, Sotheran, London

Hardwicke's Science-Gossip (1875) Exchange offer from W.G. Cokayne, Vol. 11, page 284

Hardwicke's Science-Gossip (1875) Exchange offer from W.G. Cokayne, Vol. 12, page 24

Post Office Directory of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire (1881) pages 181, 222, 248, 362, and 428

Public Bills (1882) Nottingham Café Company, Vol. 4, page 19

Wright’s Directory of Nottingham (1883) “Cokayne William Goodacre (bookseller), of Norris & Cokayne, h 53 Forest road east”, page 159

Wright’s Directory of Nottingham (1885) “Artists” and “Photographers”: “Cokayne William G, Castle chambers, Hounds gate”, page 159