Obituary: Lady Coggan Caring, sensitive strand

Lady Coggan, who has died aged 96, played an active part in the public life of her husband, Lord Coggan, when he was Bishop of Bradford, Archbishop of York and finally, from 1974 to 1980, Archbishop of Canterbury, but at heart she was homely and informal.

She considered her chief responsibility was to create a loving home for her husband and their family. This side of her character was reflected in her relationships and her ability to make people feel at ease regardless of the grandeur in which she and Donald Coggan were increasingly surrounded.

When Donald was at Bradford and York, Jean assumed a personal responsibility for the wives of the clergy, and many benefited from her friendship and support. This caring, sensitive strand was evident when she trained as a social worker, but she was able to empathise with those who felt themselves at the end of their tether because of her personal experience when her husband was principal of the London College of Divinity and she suffered from depression.

For a time at York she worked with the Samaritans, and she was a trustee of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust, her special interest being in the welfare of handicapped children.

Religious faith underpinned her life; as a lay reader at York, she conducted services and preached, but she was also a popular speaker, and much in demand.

Jean Braithwaite Strain, her father a doctor and a prominent member of the Plymouth Brethren, was born in Wimbledon. Her great-grandmother, Mary Braithwaite, was a niece of William Wordsworth, and the family had a strong Quaker connection.

When she was at Wimbledon High School, Jean thought she should train as a medical missionary but was opposed by her father and instead she studied social work at Bedford College, London. The course there involved working with deprived families in south-east London, an experience which would have a lasting effect on her outlook. Religion, however, exerted such a greater influence that when the course ended, she joined an evangelical movement working with students where she met Donald Coggan, at that time a curate in Islington. They married and soon moved to Canada, where Donald had been been appointed to the staff of Wycliffe College, Toronto.

There followed seven happy years, but Jean's trials would begin when Donald returned to England to be head of the college of divinity. Wartime constraints on travel meant that she and their two children had to remain in Toronto, but conditions for the family were appalling when it was eventually reunited.

The college had been destroyed by bombing and the principal was permanently on duty during its reconstruction, and if that were not bad enough, the family's living conditions were far from adequate. The stress took its toll on Jean who fell ill, but her life was transformed again when Donald was made Bishop of Bradford and the family left London for Yorkshire.

Lord Coggan died in 2000, and Lady Coggan leaves a daughter; another daughter predeceased her.