1st Willingale Broket Clan - The Broket Archive

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:
1. Background
2. Edward of Wingaledoe and Sawbridgeworth Gent b c 1518
3. Elizabeth, née Barley, d 1592
4. Nicolas Brocket Esq and Joanna


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 C to 1634. 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 of Wingaledoe and Sawbridgeworth Gent b c 1518 Will proved 1584

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 and they had a single child Nicolas. This would have been after 22 Dec 1551, when Elizabeth’s first husband Edward Leventhorope died.

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 someone’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’ was an alias for Wardens Hall,6 but it was not until after his death that son Nicolas purchased Wardens Hall in 1586/7. Edward was also styled ‘of Willingalle‘ in the Visitations of Essex:+Read more

Edward later resided and died 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 In 1584 his Will refers to him as ‘Edward Brockett of Sabridgeworthe’.9

Elizabeth, née Barley, d 1592

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.

Nuncupative Will of Elizabeth Brocket 1592:10+Read more

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.11

Regarding her first husband Edward Leventhorpe of Shingay Hall, Sawbridgeworth, the VCH in its account of Shingehall12 mentioned only that he died in 155113 and was the grandfather of Sir John Leventhorpe who became the 1st baronet in 1622.14 Similarly the VCH only briefly mentioned Edward’s father Thomas who died in 1527. Kerr15 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,16 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 …”

Kerr17 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.18 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.”19 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…”20

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.”21 The catholic Queen Mary had reigned 1553-8.

Nicolas Brocket Esq and Joanna

Son of Edward and Elizabeth, and born after 1551, Nicolas married Joanna WISEMAN in Sapsford, Sawbridgeworth, in 158222 a year or so after graduating from St John’s College Cambridge. BMI also recorded their marriage in 1582 in Bp London. Joanna’s father lived less than an hour’s horse ride from Willingale. These were the days of Shakespeare 1564-1616 and the Spanish Armada 1588. Children:

  1. John b c 1594 m Elizabeth TAVERNOR alive c 1634.23 John’s signature is on his father’s will as a witness. He is recorded mortgaging Wardens Hall to Jeffery Nightingale between 1603-25,24 and selling it to the same man around 1634.25 He and Elizabeth probably then moved to London. No records of any children, nor any of his siblings, have been found. The family probably died out.
  2. Thomas.26 Was Thomas the gentleman Adventurer of the Virginia Company? He was possibly the Thomas Brockitt of St Albans Gent who married Elizabeth PILKYNGTON of the same, Widow, by marriage licence from the Archdeaconry of St Albans 7 Apr 160827 but this was more likely Thomas son of Sir John III.
  3. Joan b 1589.28
  4. Edward b 1591;29 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:30   Read more
    His executor took Sir Thomas Smythe to court.
  5. Anthony b 1597;31 Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil War.

Nicolas and Joanna purchased Wardens Hall in the parish of Willingale Doe in 1586/7:+

“Thomas Fyche and his wife sold the manor of Wardens Hall to Nicolas Brocket of Sawbridgeworth and Joanna his wife with an entail to their sons, for £1800.”32

£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.

Nicolas was the son of a Gentleman, but was himself an Esquire, judging by his nuncupative Will, written 28 May 1597, proved 7 Sep:33+Read more

Page Last Updated: October 19, 2018


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


[1] Marsden p 1

[2] The grid references are Spains TL6006, Torells TL6008 and Wardens TL5907.

[3] Baker 2012 p 365: Edward III. Baker conflated him with Edward son of Edward of Letchworth, whose dates were similar.

[4] TNA C 21/E10/8

[5] VCH Essex vol 4 p 30

[6] Morant 1763-8 vol 2 p 478

[7] Calendars of Patent Rolls vol 5 nos 3079, 3082

[8] TNE SP46/31/fo 264

[9] ERO D/AMR 4/65: written 28 Aug 1584 pr 7 Oct 1584

[10] ERO D/ABW 5/249

[11] Chauncy 1826 vol 1 p 47

[12] 'Parishes: Sawbridgeworth', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1912), pp. 332-347, British History Online at goo.gl/vMvuFN (accessed 5 Sep 2018).

[13] Footnote 176, citing Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), xcv, 94.

[14] See also Burke and Burke p 312.

[15] 1934? p 139-40

[16] 1934? p 141

[17] 1934? p 141

[18] 1943? reproduction facing p 141

[19] Kerr 1934? footnote 63 of p 141 citing State Papers Domestic, 1543.

[20] 1934? p 141

[21] 1934? p 141

[22] IGI

[23] Essex Visitations; IGI

[24] Calendar of Chancery Proceedings James I no 43 p 42

[25] Morant 1763-8 vol 2 p 478

[26] Essex Visitations; IGI.

[27] Brigg 1895 p 49

[28] Essex Visitations

[29] Essex Visitations; IGI.

[30] Written 23 Jan 1617, proved PCC 26 Sep 1620.

[31] Essex Visitations; IGI as the son of Richard Brockett

[32] Morant 1763-8 vol 2 p 478

[33] ERO D/ABW6/9; Emmison 1980 p 5