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
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 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
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.
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.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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Joan b 1589.28
- 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
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 b 1597;31 Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil War.
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
Page Last Updated: October 19, 2018