Essex Brokets: 1st Willingale Clan
Two separate but related Broket clans thrived in Willingale, near Chelmsford. Both clans began with a younger son who worked as an attorney at one of the Inns of Court in London.
Contents of this page:
2. Edward of Wingaledoe and Sawbridgeworth Gent b c 1518 d 1585
3. Elizabeth, née Barley d 1592
4. Nicolas Brocket Esq 1560-97 and wife Joanna WISEMAN
5. The Wisemans of Great Canfield and Willingale
This first clan began with Edward, a younger Gentleman son of John and Dorothy of Swaffham Bulbeck, when he married an Essex heiress, Lady Elizabeth Levethorpe, and settled in Willingale, near Chelmsford. This clan lived during the peak of the Hertfordshire Broket dynasty, from the mid 16th to the mid 17th C. At the end of the 17th C—2 generations after this first one had left—a second clan emerged and thrived through to the early 20th C. This first clan comprised Edward and Elizabeth’s son and grandchildren, the second were descendants of Edward’s uncle, Edward of Broadfield and Letchworth.
Willingale is a rural parish about 6 miles due west of Chelmsford, grid reference TL5907. In previous centuries it was 2 parishes: Willingale Spain and Willingale Doe. Each had its own church and each stands right beside the other.
Willingale Spain Parish was connected to the manor of Spains Hall, originally built by Harvey D’Espania in the 12th century and situated just over half a mile SE of the churches. Willingale Doe Parish had been territory of the D’Ou family who settled there in the 14th century.1
In addition to Spains Hall there are 2 other Halls in Willingale: Torrells Hall, just over a mile due north of Spains, and Wardens Hall, about half a mile west.2 Brockets held all three at one time or another.
Their ancestors had owned land near Willingale since the 1430s, but Brokets probably first resided in Willingale itself in the 1540s. They remained until 1906, with a break in the continuity of only 54 years. The interlude was from the sale of Wardens Hall in 1634 by one Brocket clan to the purchase of Torrells Hall in 1688 by another.
Edward lived through the changing times of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary & Philip and Elizabeth. Edward was a Gentleman and is not known to have been styled ‘Esq’. His contemporary 1st cousin Edward, d 1583, son of Edward of Letchworth, was variously styled ‘Gent’ and ‘Esq’. e.g. in 1543). Both were at Lincoln’s Inn, however this Edward was for some time at Furnivals, one of the Inns of Chancery and was only admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1580,3 whereas the other Edward was there from 1544.
Edward was the third or fourth of the 5 sons of John and Dorothy Brockett of Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire. John died in 1526, when Edward may only have been about 6 years old. His age as witness in a case in 1564 was 46—’xlvj yeres or therabowte’.4 Edward married Lady Elizabeth LEVENTHORPE née BARLEY after 22 Dec 1551, when Elizabeth’s first husband Edward Leventhorope died. They had a single [surviving] child Nicolas.
The IGI suggests that Edward and siblings were baptised in Willingale Doe from 1500 onwards and that his sisters were married there, but this data is unreliable—it predates Willingale Doe parish records and is a patron’s back projection. From 1515 they were probably baptised in Swaffham Bulbeck.
Nonetheless Edward did live in Willingale, at least in his early manhood. The VCH cited the conveyance of the small manor of Stocktons, about 10 miles SW of Willingale in the Chigwell area, to a John Potter in 1543 by ‘Edward Brockett of Wingaledoe‘.5 Berry and Clutterbuck called him so too. But where in Willingale he lived and for how long is not known. ‘Willingale Doe’—although a parish in its own right—was also an alias for Wardens Hall,6 but it was not until after Edward’s death that son Nicolas purchased Wardens Hall—in 1586/7. Edward was also styled ‘of Willingalle‘ in the Visitations of Essex. Edward later resided in Sawbridgeworth, just over the Essex border into Hertfordshire. In 1572 ‘Edward Brokett of Sawbridgeworthe‘ is recorded on 2 commissions to inquire into the lunacy of a widow,7 and 1578 in he was recorded in a suit against the Sawbridgeworth bailiff.8
1580 20 Jan: Edward Brockett esquire and Elizabeth his wife—by Thomas Emerye their attorney—made a plea at the court of Common Pleas at Westminster to recover an a third part of a messuage, a garden, an orchard and 4 acres of land with appurtenances in Sabridgeworth alias Sapsford, from William Cramphorn, which Edward and Elizabeth claimed had been part of Elizabeth’s dowry by dower from Edward Leventhorpe esquire her late husband. William didn’t appear to defend himself against the claim which was therefore upheld, and Edward and Elizabeth requested a writ to be directed to the sheriff of Hertfordshire giving them full seisin of the property, which was granated to be returnable at the court of Common Pleas on 17 Apr 1580.9 This is the only record currently found that refers to Edward as ‘Esquire’. Dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts, or money at the marriage of a daughter. Dower is a provision traditionally by a husband or his family, to a wife for her support in the event that she should become widowed.
“Edward Broket gent’ was buried the second of September” 1585.10 Edward’s Will referred to him as ‘Edward Brockett of Sabridgeworthe … gentleman’.11 It was written 18 Aug 1585: “the xviijth daie of Auguste in the yeare of our Lord god 1585 and in the xxvijth yeare of the Raigne of our most gracious soueraigne Ladie Elizabethe”. The probate of the preceding Will was dated Friday 29 October 1585; even though it looks like 1584 the calendar confirms that 29 October 1585 fell on a Friday. Edward’s Will was proved at Castle Hedingham, about 20 miles NE of Sawbridgeworth on Thursday 7 October 1585 on the oath of the executors. Even though the date looks like 1584, the calendar confirms that 7 October 1585 fell on a Thursday.12
Son Nicholas Brocket was sole executor and residual legatee. Trustees were Sir John Brocket, Edward’s eldest brother, and Walter Mildmaye Esq, probably the Walter Mildmay Esq of Pishobury, Sheriff of Essex and Herts 1590-1. Nothing is known about the witnesses William Perrie, John Watsonn and John Nellson scribe.
Bequests and payments:
- Wife Elizabethe 6 silver spoons, the Mandlen Cup, the best salt-cellar, a third of the household effects, the house and its land for term of her life, and its rents and profits. If she were to miss such a payment upon Edward’s death then she was to receive an extra £50. So it can be assumed that the annual income from this estate was about £100. This would equate to something like £118,000 in the 1990s, a considerable sum. Edward placed no condition upon her to remain single, as was often the case in these times.
- Marie Leventhorpe daughter of Ambrosse Leventhorpe £10. Mary was Edward’s wife Elizabeth’s attendant and kinswoman, see her Will lines 15 and 22. She was probably related through Elizabeth’s first marriage to Sir Edward Leventhorpe, although Ambrose is not present on the Leventhorpe pedigrees in Berry and Clutterbuck. In her Will, Elizabeth refers to her son Gabriell as Mary’s uncle, but this is not to be taken literally.
- “Reynold Brockett the eldest sonne of my brother Robert Brockett” 40s (‘Reignald’ in the extract of the Visitations of Essex pedigree below)
- Servant William Grave £3. Wyllem Grave had been one of the witnesses to son Nicolas’ Will in 1597.
- Servant Andrewe Byers 13s 4d
- “The poore people of Sabridgeworthe” 10s
- Godchildren 2s each
- Scribe John Nellsonn 10s
- Sir John Brocket 20s
- Walter Mildmaye Esq 20s
The 1558 section of Metcalfe’s 1879 edition of the Visitations of Essex 1552, 1558, 1612 recorded Edward’s family—and his brother Robert’s—as follows:13
Wife of Edward and formerly Lady Elizabeth LEVENTHORPE, née BARLEY of Albury, Widow of Edward Leventhorpe, Lord of Shingay Hall, Sawbridgeworth, Herts. It’s possible that Edward’s property in Sawbridgeworth was in the right of his wife. The Barleys had been established at Albury, about 7 miles north of Sawbridgeworth in Herts for at least a century, and like the Leventhorpes and the Brokets, a number of them were appointed Sheriffs of Essex and Herts.
“Elizabeth Broket wydow buryed the xxiijth of Maye” 1592.14
2. Brocket of the sayme towne & in the countie of hartfourd gentle
3. man decessed, being seke in bodie but in good and perfite memorie
4. (thankes be gyven to god) the viij day of may in Anno domini 1592 first
5. reconciling hir self to god & his
6. hir synnes & wholie & onely submittyng hir self vnto godes mercy
7. acknowlinginge hir faithe to god & his churche trusting to be saved
8. onely in the bloud of christe iesu hir saviour & redemer to whom
9. most hublye & penitenly she submitted hir self & committed hir soule.
10. hir bodie to the ground. hir goodes & moveables in thes wordes
11. Followyng she disposed. beyng moved thervnto by mr. christofer
12. tatem parson of thorlie in the presence of hir son gabryell leven
13. thorp gentleman & his wiff daniell lynsie master of art & professor
14. of physick mistres burde of startfourd the wiff of John’ Cayfourd
15. Rychard Diers wiff both of sabridgworth hir gentlewoman
16. mary leventhorp with others / The question by me moved
17. For the disposing of hir goodes: pawsin a good while thus
18. she resolved hir self & answered vs I gyve & bequeth all
19. what so ever I haue my goodes & moveables as I haue
20. long before this spoken & determyned to my son gabriell
21. leventhorp to pay & discharge my dettes legaces & fune=
22. ralles. Bequething to my mayd and kynswoman mary leven
23. thorpe twentie powndes of my gyft to be payd hir by hir
24. vncle my sone & executor gabriell Leventhorp, & I will
25. likwysse that shee haue and enioy the gift of my husband
26. Edward Brocket bequethed to hir by his last will tenn
27. poundes in the handes of my sone Gabriell Leventhorp for
28. hir vse & profitt & thus makyng ane ende we committed
29. hir to hir rest & vnto hir saviour
per me christofer’ tatem’
Rychard Diers wiff
Elizabeth’s earliest ancestor given by Berry and Clutterbuck was John Barley Esq, Sheriff of Essex and Herts 1424. His son Henry Barley Esq was Sheriff in 1466, and his grandson, another Henry Barley Esq, Sheriff in 1524 was Elizabeth’s father.16
Regarding her first husband Edward Leventhorpe of Shingay Hall, Sawbridgeworth, the VCH in its account of Shingehall17 mentioned only that he died in 155118 and was the grandfather of Sir John Leventhorpe who became the 1st baronet in 1622.19 Similarly the VCH only briefly mentioned Edward’s father Thomas who died in 1527. Kerr20 said “He was Sheriff of Herts, 1526, and died 7th October, 1527. According to his Will at his death, he owned the Manors of Shinglehall, Mathams, Blounts, Bancrofts, and Thorley in Herts, and that of Ugley, in Essex” and that his heir was Edward who married our Elizabeth Barley.
Elizabeth, daughter therefore of a Sheriff, married firstly the son of a Sheriff and secondly (to Edward Brokett) the grandson of a Sheriff and brother of a Knight. She and Edward Brokett had a single [surviving] child Nicolas Esq.
Neither Berry nor Clutterbuck, the 2 principal sources for pedigrees of Hertfordshire families of the time, linked Elizabeth’s first and second marriages. On their Brocket pedigrees they simply called her ‘daur. of … Barley’, depending perhaps on Glover who called her ‘Barle of Albere’. Conversely, for the Barley and Leventhorpe pedigrees they did not record her second marriage to Edward Brocket. They probably depended on Barley and Leventhorpe pedigrees which would have had little interest in a marriage out of the family and only to a Gentleman. Similarly Kerr,21 who—judging by his references and general discussions—otherwise appears to be authoritative didn’t mention her second marriage to Edward Brocket. However her nuncupative Will dated 7 May 1592 clearly begins “Elizabeth Brocket of sabridgworth widow, Layte wiff of edward Brocket of the sayme towne …”
Kerr22 expanded upon the VCH: “Edward Leventhorpe of Shinglehall… Aged 13 at his father’s death, 1527. He was a soldier and probably spent most of his life serving abroad. … He married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Barley, of Albury, who died 9th May, 1592 ; buried at Sawbridgeworth. He died 22nd December, 1551, and is buried at Sawbridgeworth, where there is a brass to himself and his wife.” The brass says that Elizabeth was the daughter of [blank] Barlee of Aldbury Esquire.23 In addition, Edward “appears to have had a previous wife from whom he was divorced before 1543, as his accounts for that year refer to the legal expenses of his divorce.”24 If this was the case then Elizabeth couldn’t have been the mother of his two sons: “1. Edward Leventhorpe of Shinglehall, his heir. 2. Gabriel Leventhorpe, buried at Sawbridgeworth, 19th May, 1610…”25
Elizabeth’s nuncupative Will quotes her saying, “my sone & executor gabriell Leventhorp”, but this could of course mean step-son, and if the extensive properties had been somehow entailed to Leventhorpes before Elizabeth joined them, it would make sense that one of them was her executor to make sure as a Widow she didn’t try to break the entail. Perhaps she was pressurised into making Gabriel her executor on her deathbed. The Will didn’t mention her known actual son Nicolas Brokett, possibly for the same general reasons.
Interestingly, the elder Leventhorpe son Edward was Catholic. According to Kerr, “Edward Leventhorpe, Junr., of Shinglehall. Married Mary, second daughter of Sir Henry Parker, Kt., son and heir apparent of Henry, Lord Morley. The reason that he held no public offices may lie in the fact that he adhered to the Faith of Rome, and spent most of his life abroad. He was only about 30 at the time of his death … in Rome, 8th October, 1566, and is buried there.”26 The catholic Queen Mary had reigned 1553-8.
“Nicholas Broket sonne of Edward Broket gent was baptized the iijth27 day of October: in the yere of our lorde: 1560.”28 The marriage of Nicolas Brocket and Joanna WISEMAN was recorded in 1582 in the London Diocese, which included London, Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex.29 This would have been a year or so after Nicholas graduated from St John’s College Cambridge, The IGI recorded their marrriage on 30 Jan 1582 in Sapsford, Sawbridgeworth, however the record was patron submitted.30 Joanna’s father, John Wiseman lived in Canfield, no more than an hour’s horse ride from Willingale. Willingale lies c 9 m S of Great Canfield. Both are c 10 m E or SE of Sawbridgeworth. These were the days of Shakespeare 1564-1616 and the Spanish Armada 1588. The 1558 section of Metcalfe’s 1879 edition of the Visitations of Essex 1552, 1558, 1612 recorded Nicholas’ family as follows:31
For Nicholas’ father’s family see above. Brocketts appear only on this p 30 of Metcalfe’s The Essex Visitations 1552-1634 of 1878, which is said to reflect the complete set of the Essex Visitations. Metcalfe stated on the frontispiece that it was a compilation of a number of originals, mostly Harleian mss., such as Hawley’s in 1552, Harvey’s of 1558, Cooke’s of 1570, Raven’s of 1612, Owen and Lilly’s of 1634 and miscellaneous other Essex pedigrees. Thus although the header to p 30 reads ‘The Visitation of Essex, 1558’ this is for short and the pedigree descends—as can be seen here—to Nicholas, bap 1560, and his and Joanna’s children who were born in the 1580s and 90s. However, this doesn’t mean they were all still alive as late as 1634, indeed sons John, Thomas and Edward had all died by 1624.
- “John’ Broket was baptized the xxth day of Aprill” 1584.32 Married Elizabeth TAVERNER.33 Nothing has yet been found out about her father Thomas Taverner of Lambourne34—c 12 m SW towards London from Willingale. John was recorded mortgaging Wardens Hall to Jeffery Nightingale between 1603-25,35 and selling it to the same man.36 John was deceased by the time of brother Anthony’s deposition in 1624 and it isn’t known what became of Elizabeth. No records of any children have been found.
- “Twoo infants of Mr Nicholas Broket were bur the 20th of January” 1585/6.37
- “Thomas Broket was bapt’ the xxijth day of January” 1586/7.38 Given his brother Edward’s adventures, was Thomas the Thomas Brockett gentleman listed as an Adventurer of the Virginia Company 1623-6? Perhaps not—Thomas had a wooden leg and was buried at Much Canfield, Essex, not long before 1624.39 Was he the subject of the St Albans Abbey record: “Mr Thomas Brocket gent’, and Mrs Elizabth Pilkinton widow were maried the .7. day” of Apr 1608.40 Brigg recorded the marriage of Thomas Brockitt of St Albans Gent and Elizabeth PILKYNGTON of the same, Widow, by marriage licence from the Archdeaconry of St Albans 7 Apr 1608.41 But both those Thomases may have been the son of Sir John III.
- Joane was baptised 11 Jan 1589 at Willingale, daughter of Nycholas Brockett.42 She married John GRAY “younger brother to Thomas Gray of Langley”, according to the Visitations of Essex. That Thomas was probably Thomas Gray of Langley Esq, the Usher of the Queen’s chamber who lived at Castle Donington, Leicestershire, and died between 1562 and 1565.43
- Edward was baptised 6 Feb 1591 at Willingale, son of Nicholas Brockett Esquire.44 He apparently went on a mission in 1617 as a young Adventurer to the New World and died unmarried in 1620. He had previously invested in an expedition to Timbuktu. His testament and last Will read as follows:45 Read more
In the name of God amen I Edward Brocket gent intending at this present a Sea voyage furnished by Sir Thomas Smythe Sir Dudley Digges Sir John Wolstonholme knightes and other Adventurers and knowing and considering the uncertaintye ‘of life’ and hazard of Danger Doe declare my testament and last will in forme folowing. I do will and bequeathe to my very loving freind Edward Temple Citizen and Woodmonger of London aswell all and euery suche wages enterteynement and allowannce as shall or oughte to come to me in and by my saied intended voiage as allso all and euery Adventure which to me shall happen to be or appertayne by reason of the sayde voyage and all other my goodes Chattells Rightes and Credittes Whatsoeuer: And I do ordayne and constitute the saied Edward Temple my sole and onlie Executor of this my last will and testament: And I do hereby revoke all other willes by me made. In witnesse whereof hereunto I haue set my seale the three and twentith Daye of Januarye in the fifteenth yere of the Raigne of oure Soveraigne Lord James by the grace of god kyng of England ffrance and Ireland and of Scotland the one and ffiftith: 1617: Edward Brockett. Sealed subscribed and published in the presence of William Doee: Roger Parre / /
His executor took Sir Thomas Smythe to court.
- Anthony was baptised 3 Apr 1597 at Willingale, son of Nicholas Brockett Esquire.46 On 8 Jun 1624 “Anthony Brockett of Measham in the county of Derby gent’ aged 26 yeares & upwards” (i.e. b c 1598) was a deponent in a Chancery suit brought by Robert Bowers against Robert Cole and Susan Wiseman.47 Measham is now in Leicestershire, c 20 m W of Leicester and 25 m S of Derby and SW of Nottingham. Anthony probably will have gone to that area when his mother remarried. Although no parish records have yet been found of Anthony’s marriage or the baptisms of children, his daughter Joanne Brockett is recorded marrying Frauncis EGLESFILDE of Estham, Essex Esq, as his 2nd wife.48 Eaglesfields are recorded in East Ham and Essex in the 16 and 17th C.49 Anthony later became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil War. He was buried back in Great Canfield St Mary, Essex 13 Jun 1667.50 Anthony Brockett’s signature in 1624:51
Nicolas and Joanna purchased Wardens Hall in the parish of Willingale Doe in 1586/7:
£1800 was a very large sum and would have swallowed up much of Nicolas’ inheritance and probably that of his wife Joanna’s too. That Nicolas assured her the manor in his will until her death suggests so.
2. Countie of Essex esquier had and made the xxviijth daye of Maye in the xxxixth yeare
3. of the reigne of our souereigne ladie queene Elyzabethe
4. The said Nicholas gaue & bequeathed all that he had excepte onely his mannor of Wardens
5. hall (which he saide was formerly assured to Joane his wife for tearme of her lyfe) after
6. his debtes payed to be equallie deuided amongst his chilldren
7. He made & constituted executors of his last will & testament Thomas Josseline of Will=
8. ingale Doe aforesaid Esquier and Anthonie luther of keluedon’ in the said Countie of
9. Essex gent And gaue to the said Thomas Josseline for his paines to be taken about the
10. said will His dunne Colte And to the said Anthonie Luther for his licke paines therin
11. to be lickewise taken his browne nagge moste heartely requestinge his said executors as
12. he fullie & absolutlie reposed his truste
13. faithfullie & lovingelye execute & performe the saide trust & Confidence
This is most likely Joan’s signature, as the first witness to the Will:54
Nicolas’ Will was nuncupative, so may well have been drawn up on his deathbed, rather like his mother’s was. At least one of the witnesses was a servant and that his wife should be present at his bedside was likely. The first name of this signature is not John and no contemporary James Brocket is known. The name Joan or Jone or Jonet or Jane was spelt—and written—variously (see Janne for their daughter in the Visitation) and here “the Brocket is written crudely, with each letter put down quite separately, as though the person really was not used to writing. That might point either to it being a woman or to someone lightly educated, and would also suggest that the forename had four letters”.55
Nicholas Brockett Esquire was buried 5 Jun 1597 in Willingale Doe, Essex.56 Judging by their baptisms the children then were aged: John 13, Thomas 10, Joan 8, Edward 6, and Anthony not yet 1. To be prudent his widow Joan would have needed to remarry and indeed some time before 1624, Joan married … ALEXANDER and lived in Derbyshire / Leicestershire.57 Some or all of the children may well have accompanied her. Her daughter Joan’s husband appears to have come from that area, and son Anthony was living in Measham in 1624. Thomas may have divided his time between there, London and Essex. No relevant record of the remarriage, burial or Will of Joan Alexander has so far been found, nor records of any children of any of Nicolas and Joan’s sons; the family appears to have died out in the male line. Thus ended the 1st Willingale Broket Clan.
Wisemans were long established among the Essex gentry with 5 separate clans recorded in the 1634 Essex Visitations.58 Several were members of Parliament during the time of the Willingale Brokets, for instance:
1. John WISEMAN of Great Canfield MP 1554-5, died 1558.59 Great Canfield Hall is a late 16th and early 17th C manor house c 7 m N of Willingale and c 6 m W of Felsted.60 John and his wife Agnes JOSSELYN are at the top of this Visitation pedigree, and grandparents of Jane, or Joan[na], who married Nicholas Brockett:61
Jane’s son Thomas Brockett sold her brother Thomas Wiseman a property in Willingale for his daughter Susan[na], who can be seen at the bottom right of the pedigree above. Two signed depositions were recorded in the 1623-4 Chancery suit regarding the sale of the property: one by Anthony Brockett and the other by Sir Richard Wiseman:62
At the time of his deposition Richard was styled ‘of Braybrook’, which is wher ehis wife Lucy came from. This Sir Richard was the grandson of John Wiseman of Felsted Northend, and was entitled ‘of Torrells Hall’ in the following Visitation pedigree of a second Wiseman clan:63
The Visitations didn’t make a connection between these two Wiseman clans, but that Sir Richard lent Joan Alexander (formerly Brocket, formerly Wiseman) suggests they were kin. That Sir Richard and his brother before him lived at Torrells Hall in Willingale also. ///
Page Last Updated: June 23, 2021