John Brokett of Wheathampstead, London and Grimston bap 1612 d 1663

John Brokett of Wheathampstead, London and Grimston
bap 1612 d 1664

Do you agree that these two signatures were written by the same hand?

John Brokett's signature in 1635 and 1646

The top one was the signature of John Brokett Gentleman on his bond condition to marry Mary Blackwell in Sandridge, Hertfordshire, in 1635.1 The one underneath was the signature of John Brokett, Clerk of Sion College, Master of Arts, on his Will of 1646, proved at Norwich, Norfolk, 1664.2

The only Gentleman John Brockett who could have married Mary Blackwell in 1635 was the son of John Brokett Esq of Mackery End, later of Caswell, Hertfordshire. The bequests in the Will of John Brokett of Sion College, later of Grimston, Norfolk, show that he too was the son of John Brokett of Caswell Esq. Madsen previously claimed that this John, baptised 1612, was the John Brockett who emigrated to New Haven,3 and many other websites have reproduced the claim. But this is clearly an error, as the evidence on this webpage further shows, and as Madsen has since acknowledged.    Read more

Contents of this page:
++Other contemporary John Brokets of the Gentlemen class
++Childhood to university
++Marriage to Mary BLACKWELL
++Marriage to Ann THOROWGOOD
++Rector of Grimston, Norfolk
++The Thorowgoods
++Other records
++Inventory made on probate of John’s Will
++Grimston Rectory

Other contemporary John Brokets of the Gentleman class

  1. John, b c 1594, son of Nicolas of Willingale, Esq. He married Elizabeth TAVERNOR and lived in Essex. His signature on his father’s Will is different to this John’s.
  2. John, b by 1601, son of Edmund. He was a student at Cambridge 1618 and became a priest in Herts and Hampshire. He married Susan …, who bore him 3 sons by 1634.
  3. John, b c 1602, son of Gentleman John and Dorothy of Codicote. He is recorded in London in 1638 along with his family as a Citizen of London.
  4. John, bap 1611 20 May Wheathampstead, son of John Esq of Wheathampstead and his first wife Mary Garroway. Madsen thought that this was John of New Haven,6 but changed his opinion in 1999. John was buried 1628.
  5. John, bap 1619 22 Nov Hemel Hempstead, only son of Gentleman William and Mary of Codicote. Mary died late 1620 or early 1621 and her father and brother then looked after John through to at least May 1636, but John died before 1640.

For other contemporary Johns not of the Gentleman class, see here.

Childhood to university

“John Son of Mr John Broket of Mackerie End” was baptised in Wheathampstead 29 Jul 1612.7 Like his father, John would have grown up in the fine Elizabethan manor house of Mackery End, probably till his teenage years, when in 1628 when it was conveyed to his aunt’s husband. He is recorded as going to school in Watford.8

In April 1634 John became a student at Christ’s College Cambridge, where he would have studied liberal arts:   Read more

The University record reads:10

BROCKETT, JOHN. Admitted Fellow-Commoner (age 21) at CHRIST’S, Apr 23 1634. Son of John of Wheathampstead, Herts. Born there. School Watford. Matriculated 1634. One of these names Rector of Graveley with Chesfield, Herts, 1643-7: one, Rector of Hertingfordbury 1646.

Fellow-Commoners were wealthy students from monied, landed families. The phrase ‘One of these names‘ means the Venns interpreted some non-University references to suggest that someone called John Brockett—but not necessarily this John Brockett for certain—was Rector of Graveley with Chesfield, and he or another was Rector of Hertingfordbury.

They were in fact wrong suggestions. John Brockett Rector of Graveley and/or Hertingfordbury could not have been John son of John of Caswell. Nine years before John matriculated at Christ’s a distant cousin and namesake had gained an MA from another Cambridge College:11

BROCKETT, JOHN. Admitted pensioner at PETERHOUSE, Mar 18, 1617-8. Migrated to Sidney Sussex College Oct. 25, 1619, age 15. Son of Edmund (1581). Born at Luton, Beds. School, Luton. B.A. 1621-2. M.A. 1625. Ordained deacon (Peterborough) Sep 25, priest Sep 26, 1625. Rector of Hertingfordbury, Herts 1629-30. Died 1630.

Up to 1751 there had been 5 John Brocketts at Cambridge and 1 at Oxford:   Read more

Marriage to Mary BLACKWELL 1635

John and John Mott each pledged £100 to secure a licence for John to marry Mary Blackwell in in Sandridge, Hertfordshire.12 This was a large sum of money.


+Read more


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These documents were standard forms, issued by the Diocese on a regular basis—Huntingdonshire ones were almost identical. In tightly-knit communities, consanguinity at marriage was a major concern, hence the practice of Banns. Marriage licences were a socially up-market alternative to Banns, which some perceived as vulgar. They also enabled people to get married elsewhere than their own parish.

St Michaels is the main parish church in St Albans, a couple of miles south of Sandridge Parish—which adjoins Wheathampstead—and about 6 m N of Bushey. Sandridge Parish Register recorded the marriage there the same day: 14 August 1635 Mr John Brocket and Mary Blackwell:13

John Brocket married Mary Blackwell Sandridge PR 1635

The Registers span 1559-1840 and these are the only Broket and Blackwell entries. The wedding was the same day as the licence and it was not in their own parish, but as the licence said, parental consent ought to have been given.

Mary would have died during the next 7 or 8 years because John married again 21 May 1646. A search through available records found no relevant burial for Mary in England, whether under the name Broket or Blackwell. She and John must have married as John is referred to as widower on his second marriage.


John’s Will shows that in 1646 he was ‘of Syon colledge Clerk within the Cittie of London’.  Read more

John may have been an ‘assistant’, although he was not recorded in the Minute Books.15

Second marriage 21 May 1646

The St Mary Aldermary Parish Register, London,16 recorded: “The 21th of May 1646. Mr John Brockett Clarke of the parish of Alphage London widow-woer was maryed to Mrs Ann THOROWGOOD of the parish of Faiths in London Mayden by licence” +Read more

We can be sure that John and Ann had no other children than the following 3 sons, since John was minister from soon after his marriage through to his death and had oversight of the registers of births, marriages and burials, which have no gaps, despite the turbulent times:

  1. Thomas, bap 18 Jun 1647 Grimston, Norfolk: “Anno Domm’ 1647 … the Sonne of Mr John Brokett Minister of Grimston was baptized the 18th of June”.20+Read more
  2. John, bap 22 Sep 1648 Grimston, Norfolk: under 1648 “the Sonne of Mr John Brokett minister of Grimston was Baptized the 22 of September Anno Domm'”.30 John, married Margaret CARTER 8 Nov 1669 in Congham, Norfolk: Under 1669 “John Brocket & Margaret Carter were maryed Novemb’ 8”.31 Congham is 1 m NW of Grimston.+Read more
  3. Briant, bap 16 Mar 1654/5 Grimston, Norfolk: “the Sonne of John Brokett Minister of Grimston was Borne the 3 day of March 1654 and baptized the 16th Daye”.33 Emigrated to Maryland 1669.

The only recorded Broket burial in Grimston was Rector John’s own on 27 Jan 1663/4. A search through available records found no relevant burial for Ann in Norfolk or England, whether under the name Broket or Thorowgood, and variants—sometimes widows of the gentry reverted to their maiden names on becoming widows.

Grimston, Norfolk, England 1646-64

John Brokett MA was instituted to the rectory and living of Grimston—c 6 m E of King’s Lynn near the Wash—on the resignation of the previous parson, Thomas Thorowgood,34 also the patron. Like John, Thomas had gone to Christ’s College Cambridge, which is perhaps how they met. John subscribed on 16 Jun 1646:35   Read more

John’s wife Ann was the daughter of the previous Rector of Grimston, Thomas Thorowgood, baptised there as Anna 1625/6.36 John Brokett would have been a good choice of husband for the eldest daughter of the priest and patron.

Much of John’s tenure was during the turbulent Commonwealth period 1649-60.    Read more

The Thorowgoods

To follow.

Other records

1638-9: Manors of Saunceys. On 20 Jan 1638 John shared with his father in conveying the manor of Sansey to James Ellis Esq and Alexander Humfries Gent. John was termed his father’s ‘heir apparent’:38+Read more

A treaty alledgedly existed c 1639 between Samuel Baker snr and John snr and jnr re the purchase of the Manor [singular] of Sancey, Rothamstead & Chivills. The Manors of Saunceys and Rothamsted were combined at this time39 but Chivills, acquired by Sir John Brockett I by 1555, was linked to Symondshyde.40

1639-1653: Brocket v Baker. John specifically figured in this long-running dispute between 1642-3 when he sold his reversionary interest in the estate, and in the 1650s when he and his father are alledged to have created secret estates and antedated the deeds.

1655: John was mentioned in his father’s Will of 7 Mar 1655/6 line 9.

1663/4: John Brocket Esq, Master of Arts, Rector of the parish church of Grimston was buried 26 Jan. The parish register recorded his name in extra large writing on a page headed Anno Domini 1663:41 “Johannes Brocket Armiger, Magister in Artibus, Rector parochialis ecclesia Grimston sepultus fuit vicesimo sexto die 26 Januarij Anno predict.”

Burial record of Rector John Brocket 1664

John’s Will

On 3 Jun 1646, less than a fortnight after he had married for the second time, and when he was still a Clerk at Sion College, John wrote his Will.42 It remained the same till it was proved in Norwich 26 Feb 1663/4 and was not altered to mention any of his sons who had been born in the meantime:  Read more

Along with its attachment, inventory and seals, John’s Will shows him as a comfortably-off land-owning gentleman Clerk and Farmer. He made small bequests to:

  • brother Edmond
  • sister Elizabeth—almost 20 at the time
  • ‘cozen’ Benjamin Hare, that is his brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Lacon. A John and Richard Hare were among the defendants in a Broket v Broket case brought by Edmond’s widow Judith.

Otherwise John left everything to his wife Anne, his sole executrix, their children of course were not yet born. But he didn’t alter the Will to add them later.

Charles I was still on the throne, and John’s Will bore a royal date (lines 2-4). The 1662 Will of his distant relative, Rev John Brokett of Bentworth, mentioned no king, even though the Restoration had occurred and Charles II had been on the throne for two years.

Attached to the Will is a smaller sheet naming property he owned in 1646:   Read more

The Bushey land perhaps came through marriage to Mary Blackwell. Dame Margaret Lady Leigh was his father’s sister.

Each page of the Will and the attachment was signed by John and also sealed with his seal measuring about 1.5 cm in diameter and containing a shield quarterly of 4—the essence on a small stamp of the 18 of his contemporary 3rd cousin Edward of Wheathamstead Gent 1606-69, or of the wider dynasty’s principal lineage claims:
++++++++A cross flory—Broket
++++++++A saltire argent—Neville
++++++++A pile a griffin passant of the field—Broket?
++++++++A lion rampant—Fauconberg

Probate Inventory on John’s death in 1664

The Probate Inventory of John’s possessions gives a fascinating insight into the life of a country parson at that time.43 John’s Parsonage had 9 bedrooms—his own would have been the Parlor Chamber, large enough to take a table, 8 chairs, 3 stools and other items in addition to the bedstead. In the Parlor below, among other items was a pair of Virginals. The content of the barns suggests a thriving small farm, and in the yards and stables were various animals, including 8 horses, a colt and a foal, 11 cows, 2 bullocks, 2 bulls and 4 calves, 13 swine and 29 beehives.

The Inventory’s total value of £683 17s compares favourably with the £72 14s 10d total of the inventory taken on the death of Gentleman Farmer Robert Brockett of Bramfeld, Suffolk, in 1582, and with the inventory total of £4 9s worth of goods left to Lady Elizabeth Brockett by her first husband in 1583.   Read more

The Rectory

To follow.

Page Last Updated: April 7, 2020


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) ms ..., reproduced with kind permission from the HALS.

[2] NRO PRCC/OW 1663 (1663/4) no 111 p 2, reproduced with kind permission from the Norfolk Record Office.

[3] 1999.

[4] accessed 9 Dec 2017.

[5] Madsen was an accredited genealogist when he published the 1999 online article, and is now an Emeritus AG® Professional, 9 Dec 2017.

[6] 1983

[7] Parish Register, as recorded by Gough in the Bodleian Manuscript Gough Herts. 4, p 3 (fol. 139a recto).

[8] Venn & Venn 1922

[9] Morgan 2004 p 437

[10] Venn & Venn 1922

[11] Venn & Venn 1922

[12] Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) ASA22/1, Marriage Bond and Allegations, 1635-1636. The transcription is from the original.

[13] Sandridge Parish Register, published by FindMyPast, courtesy of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies, accessed 20 Aug 2019.

[14] (accessed 24 Oct 2017) and (accessed 24 Oct 2017). See also (accessed 24 Oct 2017).

[15] 163 (Guildhall ms ...)

[16] Guildhall Ms 8990

[17] (accessed 24 Oct 2017)

[18] accessed 10 Dec 2017.

[19] Guildhall ms 5746/1

[20] Grimston Parish Register 1646-63

[21] Tingey 1891? p 165, reference R. 28, in d; Bryant 1910.

[22] Parish Register

[23] Parish Register, Norfolk Record Office PD 52/477.

[24] Latin: & Mariæ et vx’ et Joh’em Rolfe de ead’ Cl’icum, literally 'and of Mary and wife and John Rolfe of the same clerk', the 'et' probably carelessly added.

[25] Norfolk Record Office Probate Records Ref: ANF administration bond, 1710-1714, no. 360.

[26] Parish Register, Norfolk Record Office PD 52/477.

[27] Parish Register, Norfolk Record Office PD 52/478 p 51.

[28] Dec 2017

[29] Parish Register. For the 'o' see Robinson (no 26) and Jackson (no 29).

[30] Grimston Parish Register 1646-63

[31] Parish Register, Norfolk Record Office PD 725/1.

[32] Accessed 3 Dec 2017.

[33] Grimston Parliamentary Birth register (there being a gap in the normal Parish Register 1653-1660).

[34] NRO DN/REG 18

[35] NRO DN/SUB 1/1 p 160

[36] Parish Register

[37] Image kindly supplied by the former Rector William Howard.

[38] TNA CP25/2/430; VCH Herts 1908 vol 2 p 302 n 75. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.

[39] VCH Herts 1908 vol 2 p 302

[40] VCH Herts 1908 vol 2 p 102 n 74

[41] Grimston Parish Register 1646-63. Image and permission to reproduce kindly supplied by former Rector William Howard

[42] NRO PRCC/ow 1663 no 111

[43] NRO DN/INV 50B/102, standard abbreviations all extended in the transcription below.

[44] Spits?

[45] End of first page

[46] End of second page