Hertfordshire Brokets 1500-58
Wealthy Brokets remained influential at the ruling level of the County throughout the 16th century. 4 less wealthy ones were also recorded during the first half—in all likelihood a cadet branch of the family. The following can be highlighted (on separate pages):
- John of Wheathampstead Esq (Sheriff in 1506-8 and 1531-2), died 1532
- Robert Gent, died 1507
- Elizabeth [THWAITES] Lady, died 1507
- William of Ippollitts Husbandman 1512
- Margeret of Hitchin Widow 1524
- Lucy Mrs, died 1525
- Edward of Broadfield and Letchworth Esq (Sheriff in 1547-8 and 1554-5 and MP in 1542 and 1554), died 1559
- John of Brockett Hall Knight (MP in 1553 and 1555), died 1558
- William I of Hitchin Yeoman, died 1556
- John of Ippollitts/Offley Yeoman, died 1558
- Edward of Broadfield Gent, died 1583
- William of Essendon Gent, died 1611
Evidence shows that 8 of these were related by blood or marriage, and that 2 of the others lent money to one of them. Lending money to someone with the same uncommon surname in those pre-bank times would fairly definitely have meant a blood relationship too. That they all lived within 15 miles of each other also suggests that these Brokets were not long indigenous to Herts. If they had been there more than a couple of generations before 1500, they typically should have produced a larger number of branches spread across a wider local geographical area. As records of poorer folk appeared in the second half of the 16th C, descendants of such cadet branches would have become apparent and it would have been much less easy to conclude that these 12 all belonged to the one clan. This didn’t occur with the Brokets of Herts, all of whom from the rest of this century—and indeed the next—can evidentially be related to these 12 of 1500-58.
The tax returns for Hertfordshire have all been searched for Brokets.1 As an example, the 1545 Subsidy Rolls show only 4 Broket heads of households in Herts at the end of the first half of the 16th C: 2 yeomen, 1 esquire and 1 knight.2 The Hertfordshire Brocketts of the second half of the 16th C were all close relatives of these 4.
- John Broket was rated at 3d in tax on his property in Ippollitts Parish, about 3 miles east of Offley and 1 mile south of Hitchin. 3d indicates a small farm. The list for Ippolletts had 28 entries, John coming mid way. Quite a few people paid 2d and 1d. See John of Offley.
- William Broket was rated at 20s in tax on his property in Hitchin Parish. 20s indicates a large property. Out of the 113 rated in Hitchin, only two people paid more. See William I of Hitchin.
- Edward Broket was one of the Commissioners for Broadwater and Hitchin Hundred and was rated at 40s in tax on his property in Preston Parish, about 3 miles south of Hitchin. 40s indicates that he was probably one of the wealthiest men in the half-hundred of Hitchin, as noted by Coros. He is usually known as Edward Brockett of Broadfield or Letchworth, Esq.
- John Broket was commissioned to be an assessor for Casio Hundred, which included Brockett Hall. No tax rate for him is recorded—the returns are damaged—however 2 years later he was to become the first Sir John Brockett. He owned considerably more property than Edward of Letchworth.
All 4 wrote their Wills during Philip and Mary’s reign (25 Jul 1554-17 Nov 1558). Henry VIII had thrown off the Pope’s authority in 1534, but Mary—’Bloody Mary’—tried to reverse the changes and about 300 Protestants were put to death, including one presided over by Edward of Letchworth, Sheriff at the time. While not inferring too much about their personal piety—Wills were often composed by priests when the hour of death was expected—their allegiance to Protestantism or lack of it might be glimpsed through the formulaic bequests of their souls:
“Firste I bequeathe my soule to Almighty god my redeamer and to all the holy company of heaven”: Will of Sir John Brockett I of Brockett Hall, written 17 Aug 1557.4 He also requested that various legatees pray for his soul and that his godchildren say their Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Credo.
Page Last Updated: September 20, 2020