Edward Broket of Appleton and Wheathampstead
b bef 1417 d 1488
The progenitor of the Hertfordshire Broket dynasty, Edward inherited the estates in 1477 late in life on the death of his elder brother Thomas. Imagine Edward growing up in the manor house in Appleton, being sent to school in York, and perhaps as a late teenager accompanying his father on one or more of his trips to Westminster. At some stage Edward was admitted to the Middle Temple in London, as indicated by a later record in 1479. But the admission records only survive from 1501. Edward was much younger than brother Thomas, who would have been working down in London during Edward’s childhood and then on his Hertfordshire estates by the early 1430s.
Contents of this page:
Introduction and early years
Edward was the only known 15th C Broket of that name in Hertfordshire and Essex, indeed in England and Scotland as a whole. For most of the 50 years since his parents died and while Thomas was in Hertfordshire, Edward most likely managed the Yorkshire Appleton estate of Brockethall Manor, although probably as a young man he would have spent some time between Westminster and London as a student at the Middle Temple in the 1430s. Only two records of him have so far been found between his marriage in Yorkshire in 1450 and his inheritance of the Hertfordshire estates in 1477.
One of these was of Edward buying land in Essex in 1438, which shows that he was born 1417 at the latest. The other was a plea he made at the court of Common Pleas in 1465. His marriage to Elizabeth Thwaites in 1450 gave him half of Steton, near Appleton, and many children. The last three decades of his life were lived through the Wars of the Roses. Brockethall Manor was less than an hour on horseback from York, the stronghold of the Yorkists, and even closer to Towton where one of the decisive early battles was fought. His lands are detailed in the inquisition on his death and in his Will.
Edward and his wife were the first Brokets known to have active interests in Hitchin, a market town c 9 m N of Wheathampstead. Elder brother Thomas was recorded holding a close in nearby Great Offley in 1450 with William Venour and Thomas Bensewe, but Edward seems to have had stronger links with this area further north than the main FitzSimon estates. Edward and Elizabeth married their son John—who was probably considered the clan heir—to Lucy, the only daughter of John PULTER of Hitchin. John was from a long-established Hitchin family, was an influential landowner and had been Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1453. The manor of Almshoe, part of the FitzSimon estates inherited by the Brokets, was only c 3 m S of Hitchin in Ippollitts parish. After Edward’s death Elizabeth is recorded a couple of times regarding property in Ippollitts and Hitchin. These are the first records of Brokets in Hitchin. The few Broket references in the surviving manorial accounts for Hitchin 1450-1546 have all been fully aligned with Edward’s family.1
So when was Edward born? And when were his siblings, parents, and indeed his own children born? In those days before parish registers, it was rare for ages to be recorded, so what is the evidence?
Father Thomas would have been born between 1364-73, because:
- Thomas recorded as mainpernor in 1387 when he stood surety at Westminster alongside national partners in the early 1360s is may have been his father.
- He married Dionesia SAMPSON by 1393.
- He was aged under 14 in 1379, when he would have had to pay the poll tax.
Brother Thomas would have been born by 1396, because:
- A complaint in Chancery3 shows that he had held land before 1417 and to do so would have been at least 21.
As a younger son, Edward may have stayed mainly in Yorkshire, and perhaps deputised for brother Thomas as Lord of Brockethall Manor in Appleton after his father and mother died in 1435 and 1437. Edward married an Ainsty heiress, and Glover called him ‘of Brokethall’. But it’s not known if Glover was aware that the Hertfordshire Brockett Hall did not exist in Edward’s lifetime.
In any case, in 1438 Edward acquired the manor of Hooks and half the manor of Pinnacles down in Essex with 2 others.4 Pinnacles is at grid reference TL4209 and there is a Hook End at grid reference TQ5899.5 The land was near brother Thomas’ estates and was perhaps a foothold for Edward in the south during this time of decline in York.6 There was no Broket family at the time able to acquire such landholdings other than that of Thomas and Dionisia. Edward would have had to have been 21 for this acquisition, placing his birth by 1417 at the latest.
The handsomely written and sealed parchment charter names the coholders as Robert Symond and Walter Gorfen.7 Fine and Patent Rolls between 1399 and 1509 show that the joint venture was with an older, established man and a younger, up-and-coming one in the king’s household. Robert Symond acted as mainpernor to land commitments in Essex 1417 and 1422—probably how Edward’s father met him—and Walter Gorfen became King’s Steward of the lordship of Neuport, Essex in 1441 and rose to be Auditor for South Wales 1450-56:8 Read more
Edward later sold his interest in these Essex manors, since neither his testament nor IPM 50 years later mentioned land in Essex.
Edward married Elizabeth THWAITES in 1450 in his mid 30s; in keeping with the system of primogeniture perhaps, where only the first born was usually able to marry before c 25. Elizabeth would have been younger, dying 19 years after Edward in 1507. They had 7 or 8 known children.
Steeton is a ‘lost village’ but the size of the site suggests that half of it would not have been much more than ten or so tofts and crofts (homesteads and plots). They sold their half of Steeton to William Fairfax in 1484.
Elizabeth was still alive in 1490,12 and also in February 1497, when her son-in-law Thomas LEVENTHORP, Gentleman, left her some law books in his Will. She was buried in Wheathampstead church in 1507: “The Lady Elizabeth Brocket in the Church 22.H.7. 1507.” This entry was copied by Richard Gough from “an ancient Book of the Church-wardins Accounts” and a small knight’s helmet was drawn beside:13
In his Will Edward left ‘my vj childerne eche of theim a pece of siluer’. 3 were sons, of full age—the last 2 therefore—Robert and William—born at the latest 1466 and 1467. Glover, followed by Berry and Clutterbuck, recorded 7 children, but only 2 were daughters. The name of the 3rd surviving daughter is unknown.
Two sons were called Thomas in an attempt to continue the name of Edward’s father and brother, and probably grandfather. The 1st Thomas was therefore probably the 1st son. The 3 pedigrees did not place the names in the same order; some of this was clearly in order to give visual balance to the charts on the page, but the Brokett descent in BL ms Add 29438 (which only listed heirs) said ‘Thomas Brokett Esqr [Edward’s] son & heir dy’d without issue male’ and called John the 2nd son.
- Thomas. All evidence suggests that this Thomas died unmarried. The alledged marriage of Joan, daughter of Sir William Neville, Lord Fauconberg to a ‘Mr. Thos. Brocket, of co. Herts’ is to be rejected, compared and perhaps linked with a flawed attempt to make Dionisia more explicitly a Fauconberg heiress.
- John, Edward’s heir. Became head of the dynasty in Hertfordshire after Edward died in 1488.
- Thomas. Recorded as marrying Elizabeth CALTHROP or Calthorpe, heiress, Thomas appears to have stayed in Yorkshire. Calthrop/Calthorpe is not a Hertfordshire name—there are no old Hertfordshire Wills of that name—whereas one of the coats of arms in the windows of 16th C Steeton Hall was of Calthorpe.14 They had a daughterMargaret, but who apparently had no issue.
- Elizabeth. According to Harley 807 Elizabeth married DOCRAY, but according to the Hertfordshire Berry and Clutterbuck she married Thomas FISHER of Hertfordshire.
The Visitation of Hertfordshire 1572 and 1634 for ‘Docwra of Putteridge’15 recorded Roger, 2nd son of Peter Docwra of Yorkshire, marrying Elizabeth ‘daughter to Edward Brocket of Brocket Hall, co. York’. The 1860 Gateshead Pedigree followed Metcalfe. But the chronology is problematic. According to Metcalfe, between Roger and John (d 1531) there were 3 generations: Roger, Reignold, Richard, James, John. Even assuming as little as 21 year generation gaps, this would place Roger’s birth in the early 1400s, while Elizabeth could not have been born before 1451. Two solutions could be:
- The Elizabeth who married Roger Docwra was the daughter of an earlier Brocket of Yorkshire. There was only one earlier Brocket of Brocket Hall—Edward’s father Thomas (c 1370-1435), whose probable daughter Elizabeth married a HESYLRIGG. Thomas, however, was probably himself not born much before Roger, so perhaps Elizabeth was a Yorkshire relative of the line that established Brocket Hall, a sister of Thomas perhaps, and Metcalfe’s ‘of Brocket Hall’ was a heraldic improvement.
- To follow Harley 807 which simply said, ‘Elizabeth married unto Docray’ and conclude that Elizabeth married another Docwra after 1450.
Thomas Docwra of Putteridge would want the Visitation to enhance the status of the wife of one of his ancestors, especially perhaps since the ancestor was a second son—and at the same time document a connection with the Brokets, with whom he must have many dealings—but there wouldn’t have been quite the same motivation for Glover’s Broket clients with the marriage of a daughter. So Elizabeth d/o Edward Broket [of Wheathampstead and formerly of Broket Hall in Yorkshire] probably did marry a Docray, but which one is unknown, only that it wasn’t Roger.
- Robert. While his brothers were bequeathed land in Hertfordshire, Robert was bequeathed the manor of Jewleas, near Appleton. Glover dubbed him ‘sine prole‘ (without issue), but his son and descendants were local lords of the main Broket manor there till 1565. Harley 807’s frequent sine prole is genealogically unreliable and reflects inheritance concerns of 3 generations later.
- William. Bequeathed the Manor of Herons in Wheathampstead. Although dubbed ‘sine prole‘ by Glover like his brother Robert, William was probably the father of William Brockett, yeoman of Hitchin, died 1556.
- Alice married to Thomas PERIENT Esq.
- A daughter alive 1488.16 She was probably Agnes who married Thomas LEVENTHORP of the Middle Temple. Thomas was one of Edward’s feoffees, see below.. A pedigree in Thomas’s own hand written in 148917—in a mixture of Anglo-French, Latin and English—records: [To follow]
John snr was John LEVENTHORPE of Sawbridgeworth, MP for Hertfordshire 1413, 1416 and 1422, died 1435.18 Towards the end of Thomas LEVENTHORP’s Will19 was a list of books that he bequeathed to his son John among which was:
“Item I had divers books of lawe of my modir Brokett the whiche I wold she had”.
Baker said “‘modir Brokett’ was his mother-in-law, widow of Edward Brockett (d 1488) of Wheathampstead and the Middle Temple, to whom presumably the ‘the divers books of lawe’ had belonged”.20 Thomas’ Will of 1497 begins: “I Thomas Leventhorp of Westhampstede … Gentilman” and Baker notes that this title was due to his marriage to a Brockett heiress.21 It ends mentioning “Annes my wife” as one of the beneficiaries of the residue. Thomas mentioned two sons: John and Thomas, both of whom he intended to study for the law, but neither is recorded by Baker as belonging to any of the Inns. 22
Much of the 2nd half of Edward’s life was lived through the Wars of the Roses (1453-1485) 32 years of civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York, and of Percy and Neville. Although some describe it as a squabble rather than a war, arguing that armies were in the field for only 13 weeks in total, Brokets of Bolton Percy could not have been unaffected.
Edward’s home, Brockethall Manor in Appleton, was less than an hour on horseback from York, the stronghold of the Yorkists and a mere 4 miles across the river Wharfe from Towton, where a major Yorkist victory occurred in 1461 under the command of Sir William Neville Lord Fauconberg. Although many of the ‘battles’ were little more than skirmishes, the 18 months preceding Towton was the longest during which the warfare was in any sense continuous and the Lancastrian-Yorkist rivalry in Yorkshire was hottest during the 6 months before Towton.23
The Brokets were the main rivals of the Abbots of Westminster in Wheathampstead from the mid 15th C.24 But Edward figures very little in Chancery documents, perhaps because he mainly lived his life on the estates up in Appleton till very late in life.
However he clearly also had dealings down in Hertfordshire, as shown by the following plea he made by John Ferers his attorney in 1465 at the court of Common Pleas in the Hilary term in the 4th year of the reign of Edward IV. According to the plea, Edward Broket had been previously awarded repayment of a debt of £10 plus 26s 8d damages from John Webbe of Heydon in Essex Husbandman and Agnes his wife, executrix of the testament of Robert Child late of St Albans, also against Thomas Raket, coexecutor with Agnes of the testament, but they had not paid. So the court ordered the sheriff in Essex to take them and bring them to court on 13 Oct 1465:25 Read more
In 1477 elder brother Thomas died and Edward inherited his Hertfordshire estates.
In 1479 Edward Broket Gent was recorded as a member of the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London.26 Edward was in his 60s by then and the normal age for admission to the Inns was about 2127 so he may have joined the Middle Temple in the 1430s.
In 1484 at the court of Common Pleas held at Westminster before T[homas] Bryan knight and his fellows, justices of the lord king de Banco, for Easter term in the 1st year of the reign of Richard III, Edward Broket esquire and Elizabeth his wife, John Broket and Lucy his wife and Alesia Twaytes widowtransferred what looks like at least their half of Steeton—and perhaps even the other half possibly owned by Alesia—to William Fairfax:28 Read more
This transaction shows that eldest son John had married Lucy [Pulter] by Easter 1484. Alesia Twaytes may have been Edward’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth’s mother.
Edward died 25 Jul 1488: “And the aforesaid jurors say that the said Edward Broket mentioned in the said writ died 25 July in the third year of the present king [Henry VII]”.30
In 1492 Elizabeth Broket Widow was granted a meadow called Tytterwell Mead and 30 acres of land in Ippollitts, lately held by Margaret At Hill; Elizabeth was her heir and executor.31
Elizabeth—and perhaps Edward before he died—held land in Hitchin in 1495, as shown by a plea she made at the court of Common Pleas held at Westminster in Hilary term that year, the 10th year of the reign of Henry VII:32 Read more
Edward’s Will—written 22 July 1485, proved 1488—is a strong, confident statement from a leading gentleman of Tudor Hertfordshire.34 His great grandsons—probably owning not much more land than Edward himself—were Sheriffs of Herts and Essex. Edward was therefore of similar social status a century before them. The Will was proved at the PCC, with wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters surviving. His wife Elizabeth and 2nd son Robert were executors. There were no overseers. Edward would have been buried in the Brockett Chapel in Wheathampstead and a month later the whole church was to be given over for a day’s chanting and praying in his memory (lines 13-16).
The Will concerns 3 manors and an advowson. They illustrate well the current system of primogeniture. Half the manor of Almshoe and half the advowson were left to eldest son John. The other halves were left to wife Elizabeth for term of her life and then to devolve to John. Although Almshoe was the largest of the 3 manors in the Will, it was not the main Wheathampstead Broket estate—that was Simonside, which would have already been entailed to the eldest son.35
The other 2 manors for the 2 younger sons were small; Herons—about 120 acres—was possibly larger than Jewleas, which was not previously known to the historian of Appleton as a manor. In the late 16th C Jewleas, or Jew Wauls as it was called then, was a close containing a small moat and consisted of poor low-lying prone to flooding.36 To compensate perhaps, Robert took over the lordship in Appleton on behalf of his elder brother and may have farmed elsewhere as well.
In the testament Edward made the following bequests:Read more
Edward also bequeathed a large amount for the health of his soul and those of his parents, brother, sister-in-law and wife. He made much provision for his wife Elizabeth, and the final 8 lines of his Will contained a further addition:
I Will that Thomas Benethorp and John’ Landey my feoffees to my behofe in other Landes . make vnto the said Elizabeth’ my Wife . ouer thise ij . maners of Julies . and Heyrons . before rehersid . a sufficient and a laufull’ astate for terme of hir lief of as moche landes and tenementes medues lesues & pastures Woodes Weyes and Waters Rentes suetes and seruices as shall counterWayle the value of xx marc by the yere the value of the forsaid maners of Julies and Heyrons with ther’ appertenaunces in the forsaid somme of xx marc The Remaynder ouer as it is before Rehersid .
Thomas ‘Benethorp’ would have been a scribal error for Thomas ‘Leventhorp’ who took the oath at probate in Lambeth, and was Edward’s son-in-law, see above. John Landey, sometimes Lawdy, was a Wheathampstead landowner. His Will, written 22 Sep 1507, proved PCC 29 Sep, read:37 Read more
On his death Edward also held a meadow, an orchard and a close of an acre in the manor of Temple Dinsley. It’s not known how or when he acquired them.
Edward’s Yorkshire lands were not held in chief so they did not require a second inquisition on his death. Edward bequeathed the small Yorkshire manor of Jewleas to his second son and co-executor Robert in his Will, but ownership of the main Appleton manor would have descended by entail down the eldest line till sold by Sir John II in 1565. Meanwhile descendants of Robert occupied it as local lords in Appleton.
Page Last Updated: June 19, 2021