John Brokett of Ippollitts/Offley Yeoman
In 1545 John Broket of Ippollitts was one of the four Broket heads of household recorded in mid 16th C Hertfordshire.1 In 1558 John Brokett of Offley wrote his Will. Taken alongside other records listed below there can be little doubt that the 1545 John was the same man as the 1558 one. Both parishes bordered Hitchin, where his contemporaries William and Edward Broket both held property. The parish of Offley was about 1 mile south of Hitchin, and the parish of Ippollitts was about 3 miles east of Offley. While Hitchin town was a relatively large settlement, estimated to contain 245 families in 1563,2 neighbouring Ippollitts and Offley were parishes of scattered small hamlets of a few families, each with one slightly larger hamlet around the parish church. The hamlet of Gosmore or Gosmer in the parish of Ippollitts, for instance, was nearer Ippollitts church than the hamlet of Charlton which was actually nearer to Hitchin town centre and the parish church than to Ippollitts parish church. Indeed, Charlton was nearer Hitchin parish church than Walsworth was, and it was a hamlet of Hitchin, and much nearer than Preston was, another hamlet of Hitchin. The parish records of Ippollitts and Offley have not been preserved so well as Hitchin’s.
Paying only 3 pence tax in 1545 placed John further down the social scale than William and Edward, but his Will shows that he was part of their clan, in all likelihood William I of Hitchin’s brother. As such he would have been the grandson of Edward of Wheathampstead, the heir to the lands of Thomas, husband of Elizabeth Asshe. In 1450 Thomas held land in Great Offley.
Contents of this page:
- Plea 1544
- Testament and Will 1558
- Wife Johan’s Will 1570
- Maydencroft Manor Court Rolls 1603-1702
- Son Richard and grandson Nicholas
In April 1544 John Broket esquire—who 2 years later was to become the first Sir John Brockett—made a plea against our “John Brokett late of Ipoletts” and his son John at the court of Common Pleas held at Westminster in the Hilary term in the 35th year of the reign of Henry VIII. They were two of eight defendants against the allegation that they forcibly broke into a close of John Broket esquire’s at Graveley and Ipoletts and cut down and carried off his trees and underwood to the value of 100s and had not come to defend themselves. The court ordered the Hertfordshire sheriff to take John and the others and bring them to court on 27 April 1544:3 Read more
Points to consider:
1. John and his son were both described as ‘late’ Yeoman of Ippollitts. This was in April 1544, yet the following year John senior was recorded paying tax on property in Ippollitts. This doesn’t indicate that John sold his property in Ippollitts before 1544 and then purchased some again before 1545. The ‘late’ was a way of filling a legal loophole. Indeed, all eight defendants were ‘late’, whether of Ippoletts, Langley or Willion. They hadn’t all left those places for somewhere else. “If a defendant was described as, say, ‘John Smith of Exton’, then a possible delaying defence would be to say that John Smith (now) lives at Wyeton, so the writ is invalid. To avoid that loophole some lawyers described all defendants in the writs as ‘late of’.”4
2. John is termed ‘senior’ and since we know of no other Brokets in Ippollitts at the time, John junior would presumably have been his son. John junior is not mentioned in John senior’s Will, so possibly died between 1544-58.
3. Prior to ordering them to be ‘taken’, the Court had ordered them to be ‘attached’. For the original system of ‘attachment’:Read more
Written 8 Sep 1558, proved 4 Jan 1558/9.6
His Will shows that:
- John’s wife was Joone, i.e. Joan—in all likelihood, the Johan Brokett whose Will was proved in 1570.
- John’s bequests to Alice Meyare and to Katheryne Wellis support the assumption that Johan his wife was the Johan Brokett whose Will was proved 1570. Johan appears to have been married to a Wells previously and her sister married a Meyger. Since Johan didn’t mention John’s children in her Will it looks as though they were from another marriage and that John as well as Johan had been married previously.
- John gave bequests to the following children: Grace, Rose, 2 daughters living in Stevenage, Richard, and a daughter married to Starken. A John Sterk… was assessed at 4d in Ippollitts in the 1545 subsidy.7 John’s daughter Grace was probably aged 10-15 in 1558. She had been left 20s in William I’s Will in 1556.
- John was a Yeoman of middling means. He had a flock of 70+ sheep and at least £84 8s in ready cash.
- John had the funds to lend money to a respected, senior kinsman, Edward of Letchworth Esq, whom he appointed his overseer. Edward was possibly his first cousin, at any rate the doyen of the family.
- That John left bequests to Richard and Thomas Boket was either a curious coincidence or a court copyist’s error. The surviving copy is a registered Will rather than an original. Since John had already mentioned an identical bequest—5 sheep—to “Richard Brockett my sonne”, another one to “Richard Boket” is unlikely to have been an error for his son, although there is also an ‘and-and’ dittography—“to Richard boket and and to Thomas boket”. It’s possible that the two may have been brothers of John—or just Thomas if Richard was a repeat—but no record of a Thomas, or other Richard, Broket have been found from the contemporary area. There were Bokets recorded in Colney and Kimpton and Hitchin in 17th and 18th C manor court books,8 but whether there were any in Offley earlier isn’t known.
The assumption is that Johan—i.e. Joan—was John’s wife. Support for the assumption:
- John’s wife was called Johan.
- The likelihood of there having been two widows called Johan Brokett in the tiny settlement of Offley within 12 years is next to nil. Only one contemporary Offley Brockett family is known—John’s.
- John left bequests to Robert Wells, Katheryne Wellis and to Alice Meyare. Johan left bequests to Robert Wells, other Wellses and Meygers.
Some points about Joan’s Will:
- Kookerhow is most likely modern-day Cockernhoe, a village 2½ miles SW of Great Offley, and in Johan’s time a hamlet of the parish.
- She didn’t say the date when she wrote the Will. It was proved 10 May 1570 in Baldock (Arch Hunts).
- Between her husband’s Will and hers their religion had changed.
- John willed to be buried in the church, Joan in the churchyard.
- The bequest to William Brokett of “one brasse pott with a hole in” is curious. It appears to be an expression of criticism or dislike, but a brass pot may have had some value even with a hole—especially to a young boy. The William of nearby Hitchin at the time was not much more than 10 years old. The only other known William Broket who had dealings in the area was William b 1521-6, d 1611, who was Clerk of the Peace for Hertfordshire 1570-1603, and a wealthy Gentleman of Esyndon, 19 or more miles S of Hitchin. If it was him, perhaps there had been some altercation between Johan and him.
Maydencroft Manor was in the Parish of St Ippolyts, and extracts from the Maydencroft Court Rolls survive from 1603-1702. The Index has 4 Brockett entries (2 ‘Purchases & discents’ and 2 ‘Deaths & Sales’:10
1. 1605 29 Apr: “Nicholas Brockett admitted to one messuage or tenement scituate in Gosmer and fifteen acres & a halfe of land to the same belonging surrendered by Richard Brockett his father deceased. Fine £7.”11
Comment: The messuage or tenement will be the house in Gosmer with two upstairs bedrooms above the hall and a kitchen, a stable and a barn and about 17½ acres of crops, the contents of which were listed in the 1604 Inventory on Richard’s death below.
2. 1611 11 Dec: “William Brockett acknowledges to hold freely 17 acres of land whereof 10 acres lye at Holmefeild gate. Redd’ per Annum 21d & does fealty for the same.”12
Comment: The William here was most likely the Yeoman Maltster William of nearby Hitchin, b 1559-60, d 1623, who held land in and around Hitchin. The only other known contemporary William Broket was William b 1521-6, d 1611, who was Clerk of the Peace for Hertfordshire 1570-1603, and a wealthy Gentleman of Esyndon, 19 or more miles S of Hitchin. Even though this was a renewal of freehold ownership, the phrases “acknowledges to hold freely” and “does fealty for the same” probably mean that William was present in court.13 “Practices varied from manor to manor, but in the Manor of Hitchin a court entry recorded Elizabeth Langthorne being present in court to do fealty for her father William Berry’s freehold and paying a relief of 4d.14 The two previous entries recorded Solomon Pratt being present in court to do fealty for two freehold cottages though no reliefs were paid. Trinity College Cambridge as lord of the manor of Hitchin Rectory was keen to keep track of its freehold tenants and occasionally obtained payments of reliefs when a freeholder died.15
3. 1620 11 Oct: “Edward Brockett acknowledges to hold freely of the Lord of this mannour tenn acres of land whereof 4 lye in Gosmerfeild & 6 in Spittle Feilds. Redd’ 21d.”16
4. 1632 24 Oct: “Nicholas Brockett surrenders All his Customary lands & tenements To the vse of himselfe for life and afterwards to Thomas Braye & his heires forever who are admitted. Fine £26 13s 4d.”17
Comment: Nicholas apparently had no surviving child or wife as his heir. Thomas Braye may have been the son of Nicholas’ sister Elizabeth.
Mention of Brockett land has also been found in the following abuttals to other properties in the Maydencroft Court Rolls, 4 to Nicholas and 1 to William:18
1613 7 Oct: “Edward Hurst admitted to 6 acres of land in Moremead Feild 2 acres whereof lye in Sweetings Vale between the land of Thomas Dearmer North the land of Edward Hurst south & 2 other acres lyeing between the lords land south & Thomas Dearmer North another acre lyeth between the land of Wm. Brockett south & the land of Robert Hurst north the other acre residue thereof lyeth between the land of Luke Norton Esq West & John Tristram east surrendered by Michaell Papworth.”19
1636: “… includes 7½ acres lying between land of John Wallen alias Poulter on the south and the land of Simon Lucas on the north, one head abutting on the land of William Giver gent on the east and on the land of Nich Brockett to the west.”20
“Elizabeth Bray admitted to one Close of pasture in Gosmer lyeing between the Close & house of Nicholas Brockett west & the Close & house of Affabell Bybsworth east & one head abutting vpon Gosmer Streete surrendered by John Bray her father. Rent 6d, Fine 20s.”21
1637 24 Apr: “Robert Papworth gent admitted in fee to seaven acres of land in Ridgefeild lyeing Next Maydencroft Lane the land of Nicholas Brockett on the South & west partes thereof surrendered by Francis Rogers & Anne his wife. Rent 3s 1¾d, Fine £7.22
1628/9 12 Mar: The 1637 item above appears to be the same as one of the properties listed in the schedule annexed to the settlement by William Papworth the elder of Hitchin gent on his son Robert and his intended wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Hawes of Bedford gent:23
“In Ridge Feild.
Item three acres of arrable land the land of Edlinge Tristram on the East, the land of Nicholas Brockett on the south, and Fower acres more in the same feild, the land of Mrs Rogers on the south and the land of the said Nicholas Brockett on the north.”
Richard d 1604
1598: Richard Brockett and Edward Papworthe were both assessed at 4s for 20s in land in Ippollitts.24 William Brockett was assessed in Hitchin at 10s 8d tax for £4 in goods.25 No Brokets were assessed in Pirton or Weston.
Richard’s Will shows that he lived in the hamlet of Gosmer, or Gosmore, on the road from Hitchin to Preston.26 the inventory on his death showed that house had two upstairs bedrooms above the hall and a kitchen, and that there was a stable and a barn, and about 17½ acres of crops. In the court surrender by his son Nicholas the house had 15½ acres of land, fine £7.
The Will of Richard Brockett Yeoman of Gosmer, Ippollitts written 18 Jan 1603/4, proved Hitchin 7 Aug 1604.27
His Will shows that:
- His wife was Johan, i.e. Joan. He left her his best milch cow, his best hog, his best ewe, and half of his household stuff.
- They had two daughters living, both married: Johan Auncell and Elizabeth Braye. It seems less likely that they had two daughters named Elizabeth than that she had married twice, once to Field, and currently to Braye. It’s possible that Elizabeth was the mother of Thomas Braye, to whom her brother Nicholas left all his customary land in Maydencroft.
- Elizabeth his daughter had two daughters alive of her own: Grace and Johan Field.
- John apparently had one son living—Nicholas, who was his sole Executor, therefore born before 1583. The residue went to him.
The inventory gives an insight into a Yeoman family’s way of life:
- His house had two bedrooms above the main downstairs area, the hall. There was also a kitchen.
- There was a stable and a barn.
- There were 4 Horses and various cattle, pigs and sheep.
- Wheat and barley were growing in about 10 acres of land, and oats and lentils in another 7½ acres.
- Thomas Bybsworthe of Ipollyttes, one of the appraisers may well have been the son of John Bybsworth, one of the two executors of whose Will in 1549 had been Johne Brokette, probably Richard’s father.28
- The other appraiser was Robert Draper of Hytchyn, who was probably one of the witnesses to Richard’s Will.
Nicholas d 1645
In addition to the Maydencroft Manor records above, the following records of Nicholas have so far been found:
1603/4: Executor of his father Richard’s Will.
1645: Nicholas’ burial 24 Jul: “Nicolaus Brocket Sepultus erat 24o die Julij”.29
Since no further Brokets were recorded in the Ippollitts registers or Maydencroft court rolls it looks as though the family died out in the male line. It wouldn’t have been this Nicholas who had an interest in a ship which transported cargo to Virginia in the 1630s.
Page Last Updated: September 20, 2020