John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeck Esq - The Broket Archive

John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeck Esq
c 1485-1526

John was born by June 1485 as shown by his mention in the Will of his grandfather John Pulter. He was the son and heir of John of Wheathampstead, the first Broket Sheriff of Hertfordshire, but died before his father. His childhood would probably have been spent at Brockett Hall near Wheathampstead and his education culminated in London at the Middle Temple, admitted 5 Feb 1509 by William Bensted. John’s heir was later to marry Margaret BENSTED, most likely William’s daughter.

Nevertheless it’s convenient to call John ‘of Swaffham Bulbeck’ in Cambridgeshire if only to distinguish him from his father and his son, both of whom were called John, and were based in Hertfordshire. John came into property in Swaffham Bulbeck through his marriage, but how long the couple lived there is unknown. In a 1528 Common Pleas case brought after his death by his co-executors he was referred to as ‘John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeke’,1 although in the follow up answer in 1529 he was called ‘John Broket of Swaffham Bulbek otherwise called John Broket of London gentleman’.2 Maybe they had country and town residences. In his Will, although his first bequest was to the Vicar of the Parish Church of Swaffham Bulbek, he just called himself plain ‘John Brockett’. And in the 1634 Visitation of Hertfordshire, as the head of the Whethamstead dynasty, he was called “John Brockett of Brockett Hall in com. Hertf.” Only the 2 sons who remained in Hertfordshire were featured in that Visitation, the ones who removed to Essex and Suffolk were featured in Visitations of those counties, in the 1561 Suffolk one of which John was again called “of Brockett Hall, co. Hertf., Esq”, see the separate page.

Contents of this page:

1. Wife and children
2. Other records
3. Testament and Will

Wife and children

As heir to the Hertfordshire estates, John was married to a wealthy heiress: Dorothy d/o Nicolas HUGHSON Gentleman of Swaffham Bulbeck, a hamlet near Cambridge. The Visitations of Hertfordshire placed the couple at the head of their pedigree of the Wheathampstead dynasty:3

Dorothy Huson

And this is a snip from the Tudor Dering pedigree showing “John Brokett marid with dorothe one of the ayres to husune and ham’ond” with her arms impaling Broket:4

U350/Z38 John and Dorothy

The marriage of their heir or heiresses was probably the most important strategic and political decision of the pre-modern landowner.5 Heirs usually did not have too much say in the choice; it was not normally a decision based on romance. As lord of the expanding Brockett estates, John’s father would for years have been on the lookout for a suitable alliance for his eldest son and heir, the dynasty’s future head. In the lesser gentry circles of the early 1500s, his heir was one of the most eligible bachelors of Hertfordshire. The match, negotiated by John and perhaps Lucy, indeed brought property to the dynasty, from the neighbouring county of Cambridgeshire, where Dorothy came from.

Dorothy’s father Nicolas Huson was educated and knew academics in Cambridge. In his Will he called himself ‘gentylmane’ and bequeathed properties in Cambridgeshire to Dorothy and John.6 However the case brought by Nicolas Hughson’s heirs against his widow Jane a few years later shows that he held manors in Kent and Surrey, and other lands in Cambridgeshire, one of them called Hamondes.7 Dorothy and her sisters’ 2 daughters were heiresses to substantial lands.

Contained in a Common Pleas action in Hilary 1526, after the death of John, husband of Dorothy is their previous marriage settlement:8+Read more

Over the years some scribes and copyists misspelt Dorothy’s surname as Huston or Hixon or the like. Perhaps because of these initial, minor variations, in some later pedigrees there is greater confusion. The Visitation of Essex—in its 1878 edition—gave her as ‘d. & heire to Hulse & Mamond’—Hulse looks like a corruption of Huson and Mamond of Hamondes, one of his landholdings:9

Brockett Visitation of Essex 1558 p 30 John and Dorothey

Spains Hall manuscripts had ‘H.Hammond of Hoo & Malmains’, the ‘H.’ meaning ‘heir’.

John and Dorothy’s surviving children (daughters’ order of birth uncertain):10

  • John, probably b 1511-14. Later Sir John I of Brockett Hall, Hertfordshire, Will proved 1558.
  • Nicholas, 2nd son. Later of Mackery End Esq, Hertfordshire, Will proved 1585.
  • Edward, b c 1518. Later of Wingaledoe Gent, Essex, Will proved 1584.
  • Robert, probably b 1519-26—the 1561 Visitation of Suffolk recorded him as the 4th son. Later of Bramfield Gent, Suffolk, Will proved 1582.
  • Thomas, possibly a 5th—and if so not necessarily youngest—son. Like all the children he would have been born before 1526, the death of his father. He didn’t appear in any of the 3 Visitation pedigrees of John and Dorothy’s family, and the only source that listed him was the contemporary Glover, who said he died without issue. If he existed, it’s possible that it was this Thomas whose attorney made a plea in the Hilary term of 1548 at the court of Common Pleas at Westminster against John Trewelowe late of Lee, Essex, Husbandman, for a debt of 40s, which Thomas alleged he owed him. John did not come to defend himself and the court ordered the Essex sheriff to take him and bring him to court on 15 April 1548:11 Lee was presumably Lee Chapel, c 1 m W of Basildon. Since Swaffham Bulbeck is nearer Essex than Letchworth is, it’s possible that this was a record of this Thomas, possible son of John and Dorothy, rather than the only other known contemporary Thomas Broket, son of Edward of Broadfield and Letchworth. But that that Thomas wasn’t mentioned in the 1558 [i.e. 1615] Visitation of Essex is an argument against. The record of a Thomas Brokett as a legatee in a Dunstable Will of 1554 was doubtless a misspelling.
  • Jane, married William COPWOOD of Totteridge.12 William was the eldest surviving son of John Copwoode Esq of Totteridge, Hertfordshire, and one of the executors of his father’s Will written 26 Mar 1542, proved 26 Jun 1542,13 of which Edward Broket Esq of Letchworth, Jane’s uncle, was Supervisor, see the separate page. John left his “lease of the Farme of the lordship of Taturrigge during the yeres yet to come” to son William, with other bequests to son Richard and two unnamed daughters. In his account of East Barnet Cass mentioned the Copwoods briefly,14 including: “William Copwood, who married Jane, daughter of John Brockett, was probably the father, in addition to William who died without issue, of George Copwood, concerning whom there is a singular notice at the beginning of the Totteridge register: 1546. George Coopwood was born on the twenty-fourth of June being Midsomer day one thousand five hundred fourty-sixe. Robert Sheffield esq. George Aymorer and Katherine – christened him, John Brocket did bishop him.” For the verb ‘to bishop’ NSOED has: “Administer the rite of confirmation to; confirm.” As of Oct 2020 images of the early Totteridge parish register weren’t available online. On the following page, Cass gave a small ‘Pedigree of Copwood of Totteridge’, and regarding Jane, had “Jane, dau. of John Brocket, of Brocket Hall, and sister of Sir John Brocket, knt, of the same.” As we see on this webpage, she was in fact daughter of John of Swaffham Bulbeck, between the two Johns that Cass mentions. The Will of Jane Copwood, Widow of Irnham, Lincs, was proved 1589.15 It mentioned her 2 daughters Margaret Poynter and Sophia Thimblelby, but no Brokets nor her only surviving son William who had predeceased her without issue in 1585.16
  • Lucy, married Thomas HOO of the Hoo in Kimpton, or of Paul’s Walden17 issue 2 sons, 4 daughters
  • Filise or Alice,18 married … ASHBY

It is interesting to compare the Wills of the 4 sons: John, Nicholas, Edward and Robert.

John died 1526 in his early 40s, leaving his widow Dorothy to raise 8 or more children, the oldest of whom may only have been 13 or 14 at the time; she did the prudent thing and remarried within 2 years. A Common Pleas action of 27 Jan 1528/9 shows that John’s widow Dorothy had married Thomas RUDSTON by then. Thomas Rudston and Dorothy his wife executrix of the testament of John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeke, and coexecutor John Brokett Esq of Wheathampstead, his father, were suing William Nevile late of London esquire and Elizabeth his wife for a debt of 200 marks:19+Read more

The History of Parliament entry for Thomas Rudston recorded him as a Cambridgeshire JP from 1530 till his death in 1556 and MP in 1542, who “married 1st by 1528, Dorothy, prob. da. of Nicholas Hughson (?Hewson or Huston) and 2nd Anne FOWLER, daughter of William MORDAUNT, widow of Humphrey TORRELL and of one FOWLER; 2 sons. 4 daughters.20 and added:

“By a fine of 1540 Rudston had purchased land at Swaffham Bulbeck from his then or future brother-in-law Edmund Mordaunt (perhaps the contemporary at the Middle Temple of the Member of that name) and in 1549 he paid £100 to (Sir) John Brocket, probably also a kinsman, for a further 1,600 acres, the moiety of three manors and houses in Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior and other villages in Cambridgeshire.”

The 1575 and 1619 Visitations of Cambridgeshire showed Thomas as son of William RUDSTON of the Isle of Ely, and father by his first wife [unanmed]—the daughter and coheir of Nic Hughston of Swaffham—of William Rudstone, and by his 2nd wife Anne d/o MORDAUNT of Hemsted Essex, of Thomas Rudston.21 This contradicts the History of Parliament account above, which said William was a son of his 2nd wife. Thomas was admitted to Gray’s Inn 1521, attorney by 1525, died Sep/Oct 1556.22 His Will dated 13 Sep 1556, proved 6 Nov 1556, left numerous legacies to friends and relatives, but no Brokets were mentioned.23 No PROB11 Will of his son William Rudston has been found.

Other records

1504-1515. A case brought by John Broket and Dorothy, his wife, and Dorothy and Jane Hildersham, daughters of Agnes Hildersham against Jane Hughson, late the wife of Nicholas Hughson, deceased, father of the said Dorothy Broket and Agnes.
Subject: Detention of deeds relating to the manors of Derbyes Court and Eversleys; two-thirds of the manor of Leatherhead: the manor of Burdons in the parishes of Borowe and Dullingham, and messuages and land in Swaffham Bulbeck, Bottisham, and elsewhere: Kent, Surrey, Cambridgeshire.24

In 1511 John purchased land with his father, younger brother and others in Bishops Hatfield, Willian and Diggeswell from Richard and Elizabeth Fyssher.25

1525 Hilary term. John Broket, Henry Barley, Thomas Grene, William Sulyard, George Hyde, John Bollys, William Pulter, Hugh Clerke and Humphrey Worthe recovered from Edward Broket (John’s brother) “6 messuages, 130 acres of (arable) land, 10 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture and 10s rent with appurtenances in Hytchyn, Dynnesley, Polettys and Offeley, as their right and inheritance”.26

1529-32: In a follow up Common Pleas action to that of 1528 above Thomas and Dorothy Rudston and John Brokett Esq of Wheathampstead were again suing for the debt of 200 marks:27   Read more

John’s Testament and Will

Written 16 Feb 1524, proved PCC 21 Jul 1526:29   Read more

John’s wife Dorothy and his father John Brocket of Wheathampstead were co-executors. Witness Edward Brocket Gent was his younger brother, later Edward of Letchworth. His servant Humfrey Bagshawe had been a witness to John’s father’s deed of feoffment of the manor of Thebridge in 1525.31 The probate recorded that Thomas Ridstone represented Dorothy at the court. She married him soon after.

John’s Will was brief, leaving legacies only to his wife and 5 non relatives. This could give the wrong first impression that he had no children nor indeed lands, but it was essentially a Testament rather than a Will, dealing only with his personal estate. See the similar Testament of John Brokett of Apylton, written 9 Apr 1472. “Theoretically land could not be bequeathed by a Will at that date, and such bequests fell foul of the laws of inheritance, which is why these early ‘wills’ were mostly charitable and personal bequests.”32 Also, although he was the heir to the extensive Broket lands, his father was still alive, so his Broket lands would still have been held by his father, and his lands held in right of his wife would have devolved back to her. This is probably also why no IPM exists for him. Unusually, the Will gave him no title like ‘Esq’.

Page Last Updated: November 3, 2022


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] TNA CP 40/1057 d8035.

[2] TNA CP 40/1060 f5421.

[3] Metcalfe 1886 p 32.

[4] U350/Z38, reproduced by kind permission of the Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone.

[5] L Stone 1977 p 70ff.

[6] Proved PCC 1512/3 PROB 11/17/308 p 2 l 47ff.

[7] TNA C 1/287/10.

[8] TNA CP 40/1049 f1282-3 d1136-7 f1284, available on AALT. An original Latin transcription is available from the Archivist of this website.

[9] Listed in TNA C1/287/10, and mentioned in his Will (p 2 line 38).

[10] Metcalfe 1886 p 30; Berry n d p 132-3; Clutterbuck 1815-27 vol 2, p 360.

[11] TNA CP 40/1135 (1 and 2 Edward VI). For the original Latin transcription and English translation contact the Archivist of this website.

[12] Ms Harley 807 (Glover); Metcalfe 1886 p 6.

[13] TNA PROB 11/29/133.

[14] 1885-92 pp 89-90.

[15] TNA PROB 11/74/119.

[16] According to Cass 1885-92 p 90, citing PCC Admon Jul 1585.

[17] Metcalfe 1886 pp 13, 65.

[18] According to Clutterbuck 1815-27 vol 2 pp 360-1, and Berry 1842 pp 132-4.

[19] TNA CP 40/1057 d8035. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.

[20] History of Parliament online at (accessed 3 Sep 2018).

[21] Clay 1897 p 100.

[22] Baker 2012 p 1337.

[23] TNA PROB 11/38/201.

[24] TNA C 1/287/10.

[25] TNA CP25/2/16.

[26] TNA CP 40/1046 f226; also HALS DE 114.

[27] 1529 Hilary TNA CP 40/1060 f5421. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.

[28] Communication from David Bethell 31 Jul 2015.

[29] PROB 11/22/168.

[30] The bequests to the vicar, Prior and Nunnery are mentioned by Palmer, W M (1931) 'The Benedictine Nunnery of Swaffham Bulbeck', in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Oct 1928 - Oct 1930, Vol XXXI, Cambridge, p 55. With thanks to Andrew Pye for this reference, 3 Nov 2022.

[31] HALS 26948.

[32] Communication from David Bethell 7 Nov 2019.

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