Bedfordshire Brokets 14th C
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In 1341/2 Ralph Broket was with William in the parish’s list of those eligible to pay tax on wool, ie sheepowners.1 William paid tax on 2 stone 12 lbs of wool2 —about the 4th largest in the village. There were 26 stones in a sack in 13473 and Kempston’s total from c 217 payers was 6¾ sacks and 3 stones. Ralph paid on 9 lbs. Perhaps Ralph was William’s son, set up on his own by 1342. He would then have been born by 1321.
In the 2nd half of the 14th C another William Broket, a Priest, was recorded in Roxton, Kempston and Elstow. He would have been born by the 1330s and was probably a relative of William and Ralph. He died at Kempston on 17 Jul 1390.
Unless he was given the nickname Broket in Kempston as a late teenager c 1309-1313, neither the first William nor any other Broket namesake was in Kempston or even in Bedfordshire for the subsidy of 1309. The first William was therefore either given the byname Broket or was an immigrant.
Figures show that there was considerable mobility into and out of the parish and the county in the early 14th century, so William could well have been an immigrant.
A search was made for Brokets through all Kempston entries in those Bedfordshire Subsidy Rolls that included Redbornestoke Hundred and listed taxpayers names from 1200-1600.4 William and Ralph were the only ones. Brokets weren’t recorded in Kempston again until the mid to late 1730s.
|date||tax rate||Brokets in Kempston||E 179/|
|1315||15th||William paid 2s—estimated movables £1 10s||71/11 m 11|
|1316/7||16th||William paid 2s 4d 1/4—estimated movables £1 17s 8d||71/12 m 2d|
|1332||10th||William paid 5s 0d 1/4—estimated movables £3 18s 9d||71/13 f 11d|
|1341/2||15th||William and Ralph paid subsidy on wool||242/1|
The steady rise in William’s payments suggests successful husbandry—his 1315 smallholding may have trebled in size by 1332, when out of 77 taxpayers in Kempston only 5 paid more than William. He had become one of the 6 richest members of the parish. The Kempston tax list from c 1341 had 6 oath givers and William was the 2nd.5
There was a gap in the lists between 1341 and c 1538, during which a Kempston / Redbornestoke Broket line could feasibly have continued, however their absence c 1538-44 suggests that it had died out or left well before.
Kempston parish lies south west of Bedford in Redbornestoke hundred and had a population of 300-400 in the early 14th century.
The subsidies of 1309 and 1332 show continuity:6
- Total Kempston 1309 surnames (including 15 duplicates): 99
- Kempston 1309 surnames still there in 1332 (including 3 or 4 duplicates): 33
- Kempston 1309 surnames elsewhere in the hundred in 1332: 1
- Kempston 1309 surnames in different hundreds in 1332: 32
- Kempston 1309 surnames not in Bedfordshire in 1332: 33
On the face of it, of the 99 taxpayer surnames in 1309 only 33% were still in the parish a generation later in 1332. A 2nd third was in other hundreds and the remaining 33% were not anywhere in Bedfordshire.
Assuming an average age of 25 on marriage and 50 on death7 in the 23 intervening years between the subsidies, nearly all the taxpayers would have died. But even on the assumption that only half had sons, mobility was still apparently in the region of 50%.
Falling below the minimum level of assessment could account for some of this. Of the lowest 10 taxpayer names in 1309 Kempston, half were no longer recorded in Bedfordshire by 1332, 4 were found in other hundreds, and only 1 in Kempston. Surname formation could also perhaps account for some. The son of Richard Schepherde or Richard de Wylden in Kempston in 1309, for instance, could have been recorded as John le Fitz Richard in 1332. Conversely, unrelated people could have had the same surname or byname—at least with place names, like de Goldington. But occupational surnames should not be assumed to be non-hereditary, even at this time.8
Taking all this into account could still produce an overall estimate of mobility between 1309-32 of 30-40%. Furthermore, it was coupled with a general decline in prosperity in the village.
Prosperity decline 1309-1332
The tax called the 15th & 10th in 1332 required every man in the countryside to pay the equivalent of one fifteenth of the value of his movables (like cattle and crops) and every man in a town to pay the equivalent of one tenth.9
The tax in 1309 had only been a 25th; people paid less. A townsman with movables in 1309 worth £5 paid a twenty-fifth on them: 4s. In 1332 he was due 10s on the same.
The parish’s total tax in 1309 was £14 5s 1d, and in 1332 £10 3s 4d. Since these were a 25th and 15th respectively, the total value of the parish householders’ declared movables had fallen by more than 50% in 23 years: from £356 7s 1d to £152 10s.
The top 10 1309 Kempston taxes10
name in both years
|15s 6d 3/4||—|
|13s 1d 1/4||—|
|11s 3d 1/2||
|10s 11d 3/4||—|
|7s 7d 1/4||
|6s 4d 3/4||—|
|5s 8d 3/4||—|
|5s 2d 1/4||
|4s 7d 1/2||
|2s 11d 1/2|
Notes: The column name in both years lists those surnames still in Kempston in 1332, and the column 1332 lists their tax.
Only 4 of the top 10 1309 taxpayer surnames were still in Kempston in 1332, and the value of their payments had dropped significantly.
2 were in other hundreds, 4 were no longer in Bedfordshire.
These figures indicate an approximate 60-65% mobility of families in and out of the wealthier stratum of the community.
The top 10 1332 Kempston taxes12
name in both years
|3s 4d 1/4|
|4s 1d 3/4|
|5s 0d 1/4||—|
|4s 0 1/4||
|2s 7d 1/2|
|7s 7d 1/4|
|3s 4d 1/2|
Notes: 7 of the top 10 1332 taxpayer surnames had been in Kempston in 1309.
But only 3 of the 6 paying over 5 shillings in 1332 had figured in the subsidy 22 years earlier.
In 1309 9 had paid above 5s, yet the tax was at a higher threshold (a 25th as opposed to a 15th in 1332).
With the majority of the wealthier men having left and 22% fewer overall taxpayers, prosperity in Kempston had clearly declined considerably over the 23 years.
Page Last Updated: April 4, 2020