Hertfordshire Brokets before the 16th C
Before the 16th C records of the following Hertfordshire Brokets have been found:
Johne Brokat of Sawbridgeworth 1294
John Brokett of Hatfield 1428
Thomas of Yorkshire and Wheathampstead d 1477
Elizabeth (Asshe) of Wheathampstead d 1482
Edward of Yorkshire and Wheathampstead b bef 1417 d 1488
Elizabeth (Thwaites) of Yorkshire and Wheathampstead d 1507
John s/o Edward and Elizabeth b bef 1460 d 1532
Robert s/o Edward and Elizabeth d Wheathampstead 1507
Alice d/o Edward and Elizabeth
William s/o Edward and Elizabeth b 1460-65
See also Glover’s pedigree from 1570-77, on the separate page.
Assessed for 2s and a farthing and 8d halfpenny in 10th and 6th tax lists for Sawbridgeworth 12941 and 1307,2 Johne Brokat was an isolated bearer of the name who established no line in Hertfordshire. Herts subsidies show no Brokets between Johne of Sawbridgworth in 1307 and John of Hatfield in 1428. Living well over a century before the 15th C immigrants from Yorkshire, it is farfetched to think of him as their early forerunner. Johne was no doubt of different stock, perhaps a Broket by byname only rather than by surname.
The 15-18th C Brokets of Hertfordshire originated from Yorkshire. Natives of Herts would have developed a number of clans in parishes spread around the local country, as the Brokets of Yorkshire themselves did by the 14th century. Thus the 1545 subsidy lists only 4 Brokets in Herts—1 in Hatfield, 3 in and around the market town of Hitchin—and all 16-18th C records of Herts Brokets can be linked to one or other of these 4.
“The [commissioners] say that John Brokett holds half a fee in Hatfield formerly held by Hugh FitzSimon” says the 1428 Feudal Aid.3 Like the 1402 one, it was a one-off subsidy on parishes and knight’s fees. All tenants of land freely held were to pay a tax of 6s 8d per knight’s fee, the threshold of liability being a quarter of a knight’s fee.4
- John’s entry is one in a list of all lands in England held direct from the king.
- John would have been born by 1407.
- It shows that a Broket other than Thomas who married Elizabeth Asshe (iii and iv below) was holding former FitzSimon lands and that the FitzSimon estates did not come to the Brokets solely through Elizabeth.
- Sir Hugh FitzSimon had died 70-80 years earlier; his name was eponymous.
- One of the commissioners overseeing the Herts subsidies 1402 and 1428 was Elizabeth’s father, William Asshe, who is not recorded as a tenant, however.5
- The list also records that John Muslee held the other former Hugh FitzSimon lands listed—half a fee in Almeshoo, Gravele, Radewell and Berlee, and a quarter fee in Ykelford. This was presumably by right of his wife Christine, coheiress with sister Elizabeth who married William Asshe of the FitzSimon estate.
- These Feudal Aids show that the only Brokett tenant-in-chief in England from 1431 back to 1284 was John. How he came to hold this half fee in Hatfield is not known. But since it was part of the FitzSimon estates, which within 4 years at the most had come to Thomas Broket , presumably through the influence of his father Thomas senior, Remembrancer, John would have been related—possibly another son of Thomas senior.
Son of Thomas Broket, Remembrancer, and Dionisia Sampson. It was this man and his marriage to Elizabeth ASSHE, heiress to the FitzSimon estates, that firmly established Broket influence in Hertfordshire. By 1435 Thomas came to Parliament as Knight of the Shire. From Thomas on through to the end of the 16th C the Brokets were the main rivals in Wheathampstead of the Abbots of Westminster.6 It isn’t possible to think of Thomas other than as a close relative of John of Hatfield above—brothers perhaps. For details about Thomas see this separate page.
The FitzSimon estates had apparently descended through marriage to William Asshe and Elizabeth was his sole heiress. The first record of Elizabeth is from 1432 as wife of Thomas.7 Married women’s estate passed to their husbands during his life, so Elizabeth’s land transactions till Thomas’ death in 1477 are listed with his. As a widow—although no will survives—there was an IPM. For details about Elizabeth see this separate page.
A younger son of Thomas Broket, Remembrancer, and Dionisia Sampson. The progenitor of the Hertfordshire Brockett dynasty, Edward inherited the estates in 1477 late in life from elder brother Thomas. For the 50 years since his parents died and while Thomas was in Hertfordshire, Edward had most likely managed the Yorkshire Appleton estate. For details about Edward see this separate page.
Wife of Edward. On Edward’s death she held half of 2 of his manors for life, so was ‘Lady Elizabeth Brocket’ in her own right from 1488 till her death at an old age in Wheathampstead 1507. For details about Elizabeth see this separate page.
Eldest surviving son and heir of Edward and Elizabeth nee Thwaites. Uncle Thomas having no children, John would have been seen as the clan heir. The first Broket Sheriff of Herts 1507-8 and 1531-2. Married by 1484 Lucy, the only daughter of John PULTER of Hitchin, Sheriff of Bedfordshire 1453. For details about John see this separate page.
The second surviving son of Edward and Elizabeth nee Thwaites, Robert was left Jewleas, a small manor in Yorkshire, but no further record of him in connection with Jewleas has been found. Neverthless Robert may have spent much of his life in Yorkshire—his descendants did at least and were recorded as lords of the main Broket estates up there, presumably as tenants on behalf of the eldest line down in Hertfordshire. Robert himself was recorded in Hertfordshire in the 1490s and indeed he died there in Wheathampstead in 1507. For details about Robert see this separate page.
Alice’s marriage to Thomas Perient Esq was an alliance between similar families, and the first major marriage of a Hertfordshire Broket daughter. Several Perients were Hertfordshire esquires in the 15-16th C and in the 17th one was a knight. Metcalfe wrongly named her Mary.8
Only 3 Brokets have been found in Hertfordshire records from the mid to late 15th C:
John of Hatfield, recorded just the once early on in 1428, see above.
Thomas of Yorkshire and Wheathampstead d 1477, who married the heiress to the FitzSimon estates but died without issue, see above.
Thomas’ brother and heir Edward of Yorkshire and Wheathampsted, d 1488, see above.
Two were definitely immigrant brothers, and the other, if not also a brother, doubtless a close relative. The previous record of a Broket was 130 years before in a different part of the county.
Similarly, in the generation following Edward in the early 16th C only 3 Brokets have once again been found in Hertfordshire records – each with the name of one of the 3 sons mentioned in Edward’s Will: John, Robert and William. Records are explicit that John was Edward’s first son, and since it is clear that this family from Yorkshire was the only Broket family in Hertfordshire at that time, the other two were with little doubt Edward’s other two sons Robert and William.
The second son Robert was left Jewleas, a small manor in Yorkshire. He seems to have spent much of his life in Yorkshire—his descendants did so at least and were recorded as lords of the main Broket estates up there, presumably as tenants on behalf of the eldest line down in Hertfordshire. Robert himself was however recorded in Hertfordshire in the 1490s and indeed he died there in Wheathampstead in 1507.
William, the youngest was bequeathed the small manor of Herons in the north of Wheathampstead parish, after the life interest of his mother, who died 1507. But it seems that William never actually inherited it. The feoffment of it that Edward had willed to be drawn up in favour of William was probably never carried out, see the separate page. Apparently all the Broket lands—both in Hertfordshire in Yorkshire—devolved to the eldest son John, who became the first Broket Sheriff of Essex and Herts in 1506; the family followed the system of primogeniture common among landowners at the time. Edward seems to have tried to mitigate this by leaving his two younger sons a small manor each, sufficient perhaps as a livelihood for their [future] family, however there is no evidence they actually inherited them.
There is also a record of a 1512 William Brokett who farmed in Ippollitts. Ippollitts was about 7 m N of Wheathampstead and a couple of miles S of Hitchin. The record was a Common Pleas suit, according to which William and two others owed Thomas Daldurn varying quantities of malt and barley. William Brokett allegedly owed 16 quarters of barley worth 60s. The three had not come to defend themselves, so the court ordered the sheriff in Hertfordshire to take them and bring them to court on 2 May 1512:9Read more
Thomas Daldurn appeared by his attorney for a fourth day against Thomas Toly late of Hycchyn in the county aforesaid husbondman, in a plea that he render him 54 quarters of malt and 10 quarters of barley worth £11; and against Christopher Hurst late of Hycchyn in the county aforesaid tylemaker, in a plea that he render him 16 quarters of malt worth 5 marks; and against William Brokett late of Polletts in the county aforesaid husbandman, in a plea that he render him 16 quarters of barley worth 60s; which they unjustly withhold from him &c. And [the defendants] have not come; and it had been ordered the sheriff to take them &c.; and the sheriff reports that they are not found &c. Therefore, as before, let them be taken, to be here three weeks from Easter &c. [2 May 1512] &c.
There was no fixed dividing line between Yeoman and Husbandman and under the system of primogeniture—which these Brokets appeared to follow—it was entirely possible for the younger son of an Esquire to work as a Husbandman. Downward social mobility of younger sons was rapid and complaints about it were “often met with in the perennial form of the younger brother’s lament”.10 Moreover, it is scarcely feasible that the defendant in this case could have been William Broket I of Hitchin, who according to calculations would only have been aged 13-19 in 1512, too young to have been a former Husbandman dealing in quarters of barley.
Records of Edward’s sons John and Robert show no sons or grandsons called called William.
In the generation following, Hertfordshire records show 4 Broket heads of households: 1 Knight, 1 Esquire and 2 Yeomen.11 So the only known possible fathers of the 2 Yeomen were Robert and William. Robert had a son Robert who lived in Yorkshire, so it seems likely—if only from the name—that William was the father of William I of Hitchin. Moreover William had farmed in Ippollitts, close to Hitchin and where William I’s probable brother John had farmed. Alternatively but less likely, William I and John may have been younger sons of Robert, who perhaps came to Hertfordshire with their father, leaving their eldest brother in Yorkshire.
So when might this William, son of Edward d 1488, and most probably recorded in 1512, been born? We estimate 1460-65 for the following reasons:
- His parents had married in 1450. Given the circumstances of childbirth at the time, William could well have been his mother’s 5th or 6th child at least, and perhaps even her 6th or 7th pregnancy. Allowing a gap of 24 months between each pregnancy he would not therefore have been born much earlier than 10-14 years after the marriage, i.e. 1460-64.
- His father Edward’s Will, written 22 Jul 1485, bequeathed William the manor of Herons. He wouldn’t therefore have been a minor then, so would have been 20–22 at least, i.e. by Jul 1465 at the latest.
William son of Edward could have married by 1481-86, i.e. aged 21, but this would have been young, particularly for a youngest son. He probably didn’t marry much before 1487-95, i.e. aged 27-30. Laslett calculated the average age at first marriage in the 2nd half of the 16th C for males at about 26½ and for females about 23½.12 These were averages of course and individuals varied either side of the average.
When William died isn’t known, but it was before 1524, if—as is likely—the “Margaret Broket Wydow” of Hitchin, who paid tax of 12d on 40s in goods in 1524, was his former wife.13
And under u/v light:
Possibly the same Margaret, Widow, was recorded in Hitchin some 22 years later, although her surname was spelt ‘Brickett’. Since no records of other Brikets have been found in Hitchin or its vicinity in that century, or indeed the ones before and after, we can fairly safely assume that her name was misspelt here and probably wrongly written up in and/or from field notes. The record was in a list of the property of the former Carmelite Friary in Hitchin, and comes in two documents, one dated 1546 and the other undated, but clearly from the same source.
- In the Exchequer Survey of the possessions of the former Carmelite Friary in Hitchin of 7 Apr 1546 Margaret Brickett widow is recorded “holding at will one tenement with a garden in Bull Street paying 8s a year”.14 “It is difficult to be certain that she was a Brockett rather than a Brickett, but given the variations in spelling at the time and lack of other Bricketts in Hitchin it seems likely… I think it is probable that it is the same name. 8 shillings seems similar or slightly less than the average rent charged for the other houses owned by the Priory in Bridge Street which were rented for 13s 4d, 16s, 13s 4d, 8s, and 6s.” The same survey mentioned William Brockett’s tenement in Bridge Street—this was William who died 1556. The grant of the same property 3 months later spelt her name Margaret Bryket, widow.
- Amongst the Delme-Radcliffe papers is an undated Particulars of the Houses etc. that did belong to the Priory of White Carmelites at Hitchin, and were sold with it to Mr Ralph Radcliffe, there is a reference to “a messuage in Bull Street in the occupation of Margaret Brickett”.15 Ralph Radcliffe bought Hitchin Priory in 1553, so the document was probably drawn up shortly after. It is probable that the 1546 Exchequer Survey was the source document from which the details—like Margaret Brickett’s name—were copied.
As noted above, in the generation following Edward of Wheathampstead (1500-30s) records have been found for only three Broket men in Hertfordshire – each with little doubt one of Edward’s three sons. The wife of the eldest, Lucy PULTER, was from Hitchin. Margaret Broket or Bryket us the only other wife or widow recorded in Hertfordshire from that period, so she was probably the wife of the youngest son William, the former farmer of Ippollets. Robert the second son died in Wheathampstead. And if she had been William’s wife and the mother of William I of Hitchin, it would seem natural for her to live near her son after her husband died.
Page Last Updated: May 24, 2021