Robert & Roger Cotes

Robert Cotes (1649 - 1717)

In 2022, a plaque was placed adjacent to the gravestone of the Cotes family. Robert Cotes was the Rector of Aston Flamville cum Burbage and Croft from 1679 until his death in 1717 aged 69.Robert Cotes Gravestone St Catherine's Church

The top section of the gravestone is missing and the inscription that remains records the death of his second wife Mary in 1719 aged 80 and niece Elizabeth.

Records point to a memorial to Reverend Robert Cotes above his tomb within the St Catherine's Church, but this has since been lost. A book of Leicestershire's Lost Tombs and Memorials mentions an inscription of the said memorial reading as follows:

Hic requiescit vir reverendus Robertus Cotes,
Hujus ecclesiæ dum vixerit dignissimus
Quem a patre Roberto Cotes,
Leicestrensi genus suum duxisse scias
Et produxisse ad filium
Rogerum Cotes, in academia Canatbridgiensi Astronomiæ Profforem
Hunc immaturo fato sibi præreptum infelix vidit pater
De filio qualis fuerit si percontaris
Disce ex illius scriptis si de patre
se animo æquo vixisse respondet
& gratum deo reddidisse Nov 8
Anno domini 1717 aetatis 69

A translation of the inscription is given below:

Here rests the man Reverend Robert Cotes,
Most worthy of this church while he has lived,
Who is father Robert Cotes,
His Leicestershire family produce a son, Roger Cotes,
Who became Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge,
This unhappy father saw him snatched from him by an untimely fate,
You have to ask about his son,
Learn from his writings
He will answer with a calm mind
You have rendered acceptable to God,
November 8 in the year of our Lord 1717, aged 69

Robert Cotes was born in 1649, he was ordained in Peterborough and was related to the Earls of Kent having married Grace Farmer, The granddaughter of Anthony, 9th Earl of Kent.

The site of the Burbage Rectory is unclear. It may have been near the present Rectory on New Road or it could have been where the Constitutional Club now stands on Church Street. Whilst living in Burbage, Robert and Grace had three children Anthony (1681 - 1688), Roger born 10 July 1682 (see below) and Susannah born in 1683.

The Reverend Robert Cotes was a generous soul and he cared for his parish and parishioners. He left a legacy in his will:

Extracts from his will.

From after the decease of my dear wife Mary Cotes, I give, devise and bequeath, all the messuage or tenement, with appurtenances, wherein I now dwell, and all the messuage or tenement, with appurtenances wherein widow Caves doth dwell, to the rector of Aston cum Burbage, and his successors in the place forever, by reason that the rectors of Aston cum Burbage, have for more that 70 years, been destitute of a convenient house to reside in at Burbage, where, by reason of the far greater number of inhabitants, the rector's residence is more necessary and convenient; upon condition, that he and they, and every one of them, do yearly and every year, on Tuesday in Whitsun week, pay £5 to the overseers of the poor of the town of Burbage, towards the putting out of a poor boy of the town of Burbage or Sketchley (who has been well instructed in the Catechism of the Church of England) an apprentice, at any town excepting Burbage and Sketchley; which boy shall be chosen by the rector, churchwardens, overseers of the poor and three or four of the chief inhabitants of the said parish, and put to such a manual trade as they shall think proper of him. Source: John Nichols' History and Antiquities of Leicestershire

In the event that the resident rector fail to pay £5 for an apprenticeship, the property was to revert to:

'my rightful heirs and assigns forever, they and every one of them paying the lord's rent yearly, and the said sum £5 in the manner aforesaid, and for the uses aforesaid'.

The Reverend also bequeathed the residue of his estate to his executors this included land and property in Burbage and was done to:

'enable them to apprentice a boy and pay to school a dame 40s yearly for teaching poor children of Burbage to read English and the C of E Catechism.'

Amongst the recipients of the Reverend's charity were the sons of Robert Wade, Richard Miller, Widow Warner, Edward Boddington and John Squires. Richard Colling's son was also selected for education but was later withdrawn by his father.

These bequests were the origins of Cotes Charity that is now part of Burbage Land Charities, is still administered today and were instrumental in the funding this plaque.

The Constitutional Club (Canning House)Constitutional Club formerly Canning House

The Constitutional Club, previously Canning House, stands in Church Street. It is a three storey, red brick building and is Grade II listed. The property has an interesting history, it stands on the site of a house which was bequeathed in perpetuity to the rectors of the Parish by the Reverend Robert Cotes. A condition of the bequest was that the incumbent rector was required to par 'yearly and every year' £5 towards an apprenticeship for a poor boy of the town. In the event that the terms of the bequest were breached the property was to revert to the 'rightful heirs' of Reverend Cotes. After his death the Reverend Ledbrooke succeeded to the Aston cum Burbage parish. However, within a short time of his appointment Ledbrooke had alienated many of his parishioners and had neglected to pay for the apprenticeship. Consequently, the house (and the bequest) reverted back to Cotes' heirs. They considered the house to be of no value and failed to maintain it, subsequently the tenancy lapsed back to the Lord of the Manor sometime in the 1700s.

Roger Cotes (1682 - 1716)Roger Cotes - Blue Plaque St Catherine's Church Burbage

Stain Glass Trinity College Chapel CambridgeThe mathematician renowned for his work with Sir Isaac Newton.

He invented many mathematical formulae including logarithmic spiral, least squares and the Newton – Cote’s formulas.

At first Roger attended school in Leicester. His mathematical talent was recognised at an early age by his Uncle John Smith (who married his maternal aunt Hannah) and took on the role of tutor to encourage Rogers’ talent.

The Smiths son Robert was a close associate of Roger throughout his life and it was he who commissioned the bust sculptured posthumously by Sheemakers in 1758 which can be seen in Trinity College Cambridge.Roger Cotes bust Trinity College Cambridge

Cotes later studied at St Paul's School London and entered Trinity Cambridge in 1699. He graduated with a BA in 1702 and MA in 1706.

At the age of 26 he became the first Plumian Professor of astronomy and experimental astronomy collaborating with Newton on his famous work Principia which explained Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and writing the preface of the second edition.

In 1709 – 1713 Cotes worked with Newton on a more detailed edition of his famous work Principia and he inspired Newton to do more research on the laws of gravity.

Cotes died suddenly of a violent fever at Cambridge in 1716 at the early age of 33.

Isaac Newton’s tribute, ‘If he had lived we would have known something’.

Roger Cotes is buried in the chapel at Trinity College, Cambridge where he is commemorated with a bust and a stained glass window.