Sir John Brokett I of Brockett Hall
b 1511-4 d 1558
You have probably seen images of the grand alabaster altar tomb of Sir John and Dame Margaret in Wheathampstead parish church—some details are below. Meanwhile, here is John’s signature restored from an expenses claim he submitted during the reign of Edward VI (1547-53):1
Would he have signed with a quill or a reed pen?Read more
Other features of the signatures on the expenses claim:
1. All three signatures included a paraph, an abstract design. As with John Brokett and the first signatory, Sir John Buttler, the paraph usually followed the signature:
2. Buttler’s ‘John’ also had 3 other stylistic features:
First, a line to the left of the top of the ‘o’ crossing through the ‘J’.
Second, a curved line touching the left of the upstroke of the ‘h’.
Third, a horizontal line above the ‘ohn’ extending beyond the ‘n’.
3. These 3 features are also present in Brokett’s ‘John’. The first two are less distinct because they merge somewhat and there has been some deterioration in the ink over time:
First, a short line to the left of the top of the ‘o’ sloping upwards and appearing to continue for a stretch in the same trajectory.
Second, a very slightly curved line crossing the curved upstroke of the ‘h’. Some people in writing English crossed all their ‘h’ letters.3
This third element will have been an abbreviation mark, commonly found in first names. Just as Latin Johannes was most often abbreviated Joh’es, it became customary to write John with some form of added line, apostrophe or flourish, even though there was no longer an abbreviation.4
Contents of this page:
Sir John Broket was commissioned by Edward VI (reigned 1547-53) with Sir John Buttler and Nicholas Bristow Esq to assess the goods, plate, jewels and ornaments of every church, chapel, fraternity, brotherhood and guild in Hertfordshire. It took them 17 days and they submitted their findings as a certificate followed by a claim for their expenses as follows:5
Buntingford 1 day 1 night £3 10s 2d
Welwyn 2 days £5 10s
Wheathampstead 4 days £7 5s 7d
St Albans 1 day 1 night £4 13s 5d
London 5 days 5 nights + carriage £11 19s 5½d
Total: £44 3s 7½d
Perhaps there were no expenses for any nights in Wheathampstead as they all stayed at Brockett Hall. The other two commissioners, John Buttler and Nicholas Bristow had other associations with the Brokets: for instance Sir John Buttler as fellow MP in Oct 1553, and Nicholas Bristow Gentleman as a fellow speculator in 1543.
Following is a transcription of the certificate, laid out in the original format: Read more
|Com Hertf||The certificat of us Sir John Butler knighte Sir John Broket knighte and Nicholas
Bristow Esquire Commissionours appoynted by vertue of king Edwarde the vjth his Maiesties
commission concernyng the Survey and sale of all maner of goodes plate Juelles and ornamentes
of euery church chapell fraternitie brotherhoode and guilde within the countie of Hertford / Wherein
we haue doon as shalbe declared in maner and fourme following that is to say /
|First we the said Commissionours do certifie that we haue appoynted to euery parish within
the saide countie of hertford suche po… … and [l]ynen for seruice of the same churches and to …
pover parisshonours theire the Lyne[n] stuf as at that present tyme we thought conuenient and meat …
togithers with all maner of Belles and sauntus belles aswell greate as smale / as at that tyme
hanged and remayned within the same churches and Steples there /
|Item we doo certefie / that we haue delyuered by vertue of our said commission vnto Sir
Fraunces Jobson knighte / then named Maister of the kinges Maiesties Juelhouse to his graces
vse all threst of the plate belonging to the churches within the said Shire which amounteth
to two thowsande Eight hundrethe eighte ounces and thre groats over and besides the Siluer
taken from … of hicchen chur[ch ..]des defaced and embesuled weying xxiij ounces in siluer
besides the woode Summe total delyuered as aforesaid MMCxxxj ounces iij groates / as by an
Indenture sealed and subscribed by the said Mr Jobson playnely apperith
|Item We doo certefie that by vertue of the said commission we haue delyuered to
Arthure Sturton Esquire / all such rich Ornamentes as were appoynted by the
said commission founde by vs in any place within the said countie of hertford as by an
Indenture subscribed and sealed by the same Arthure playnely apperithe /
|Also we doo certefie that by vertue of the said Commission we haue aswell collected
and taken in to our handes certeyn parcelles of churchstuf and money embesuled and purloyned
awey from churches / and taken money for the same to thuttermost valure that we colde
get / But also haue solde to divers and sondry persones all other maner of ornamentes and
metall to to thuttermost valure that we colde by alle meanes after our best discreacons / that
did apperteigne to any churche fraternitie brotherhoode and guilde within the
said countie of hertford Total aswell for embesuled goodes as goodes solde CClvj li xiiij s
Wherof we haue paide by vertue of our said commission to Sir Edmunde Pekham knighte Fourescore
vnleven poundes / and Fourtene Shillinges as apperith by an Indenture subscribed and
sealed by the same Sir Edmunde Pekham And soo Remaneth in thandes of vs the said
Commissionours the Somme of One hundreth Three score and Fyve poundes /
Oute of which somme we the saide Commissionours aske and desire to be allowed money taken
oute of the same for our charges spent in and aboughte thexecution of our said commission in
maner and fourme following that is to say /
|Ware||First paid and Leyed fourth by vs oute of the said Somme
for our charges at the Towne of Ware at two seuerall tymes iiij
Daies iiij nightes with our horsemeate also
|xj li v s||xliij li iij s vij d ob|
|Bontingford||Item paid likewyse for our charges and expenses at Bontyngford
occupied there aboughte the premisses one day and one night
|lxx s ij d|
|Welwin||Item paid for our charges at the towne of Welwin at two
seuerall daies in and aboughte the premisses occupied
|v li x s|
|Whetehamsted||Item likewyse paid for our charges at Whetehampsted by the
space of thre daies & one daie at harpden occupied as aforesaid
|vij li v s vij d|
|St Albans||Item paid also for our expenses at the towne of St
Albanes by the space of one daie and one nyghte occupied
in and aboughte the premisses
|iiij li xiij s v d|
|London||Moeouer Leyed ‘out’ of the [sic] foresaid Somme by
vs the said commissonours for carriage of plate and other
church goodes and ornamentes ‘from place to place’ and in thende to London
to delyuer to the Master of the Juelhouse Mr Sturton
and Mr Pekham / and Lying at London occupied in
and aboughte the premisses by the space of v daies and
v nightes and our horses also / and the charges of a carte
to carry the plate to London & rich ornamentes with trussing
corde and other thinges necessary
|xj li xix s v d ob|
|And soo Remaynethe in thandes of vs
the said Commissonours the Somme of Cxx li xvj s v d ob
John Buttler John Brokett N Bristow Esquier
Son of John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeck, the exact year of John’s birth is not known. In his grandfather’s IPMs he—the heir—was said to have been ‘aged 21 and more’ on 6 Sep 1532.7 This would date his birth by 5 Sep 1511. Later as a witness to a case re Walter Horley he was said to be aged 33 on 30 Jan 1547.8 This would date his birth 1513 or Jan 1514. John was a member of the Middle Temple in 1552, and Baker suggested an admission c 1535 aged 21, based on a birth c 1513/14.9
On his father’s death in 1526 John was about 14 and probably remained at Swaffham Bulbeck until he inherited the Wheathampstead estates on his grandfather’s death 6 years later. Of John’s 3 dynastic contemporaries, his uncle Edward of Letchworth was the next senior householder in the dynasty, then William I of Hitchin and John of Offley.
BROCKET, John (1513/14-58), of Wheathampstead and Brocket Hall, Hatfield, Herts.10
b. 1513/14, 1st s. of John Brocket of Wheathampstead by Dorothy Huston or Hewson of Cambs.m. Margaret, da. and h. of William Bensted of Bennington, Herts., 10s. inc. John, 3da. suc. gd.-fa. 6 Sept. 1532. Kntd. ?22 Feb. 1547.12
Escheator, Essex and Herts. Jan.-Nov. 1539; j.p. Herts. 1540-d.; commr. musters, Herts. 1546, goods of churches and fraternities 1550, 1553, relief 1550.13
The Brockets were an old-established and numerous family. John Brocket proved his grand-father’s will in 1532 and succeeded to five Hertfordshire manors valued at over £40 a year; little is known of his father or of Brocket’s own early life. The father could have been at either Lincoln’s Inn or the Middle Temple, but he himself seems not to have gone to an inn of court, presumably because of his early succession to the family estates.14
In 1539 Brocket filled his first public office, that of escheator, and in the same year he was among the gentlemen attendant at the reception of Anne of Cleves. He may have been the junior knight of the shire in 1542 – the damaged return supplies only that Member’s name and style, ‘armiger’; his uncle Edward Brocket is the only other likely candidate. He was called on to furnish 20 soldiers for the war in France in 1544, and his name appears in a list of those assigned for service with the rearguard. He had joined with two others to purchase in July 1543 for £728 the manors of Holmes and Ayot St. Lawrence, presumably as a speculation, since Brocket held none of these lands when he died. Later purchases by Brocket alone included houses in Charterhouse Lane in the City of London, in 1553, and the manor of Westington, Hertfordshire, from (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton in 1555. He was rated at £100 for the subsidy of 1545, when he was resident at Wheathampstead. He must have acquired much other land by private purchase, for he died possessed of property worth over £140 a year; this excludes what he settled on his heir-apparent, who married a daughter of Sir Robert Lytton of Knebworth, with whom Brocket had a lawsuit during Audley’s chancellorship over a tenancy of Knebworth lands.15
Brocket was among those knighted shortly after Edward VI’s coronation and he served on most county commissions for Hertfordshire during that reign. He sued out a pardon after Queen Mary’s accession, by which time he had made Brocket Hall his principal seat; his grandfather had obtained the Hatfield property from his own younger son Edward, to whom he granted in exchange a lease of Almshoe manor. Brocket remained on the Hertfordshire commission of the peace under Mary and in August 1553 sat on the special commission of oyer and terminer for the trial of Sir Andrew Dudley and other supporters of Queen Jane. Although his religious views are unknown, he was presumably considered reliable by the new regime for he was returned for Hertfordshire to the first Marian Parliament and again in 1555. He died on 24 Mar. 1558 and was buried, as he wished, in Wheathampstead church, where a fine marble tomb commemorates him.16
Brocket had made his Will in August 1556. He provided for his younger children from his lands in Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire and left his house at Hatfield, with its lands, to his wife for life, with remainder to his eldest son John. The executors, his wife and a younger son, were adjured to carry out the provisions of the will ‘without fraud or collusion’, and were left the residue of Brocket’s personal estate: they were also to have that part of it which was left first to the heir John, if he should vex or trouble them in their execution of the will.17
Comments on Coros’ biography
Overall it is a reliable summary of Sir John I’s life. Four points:
- John was probably brought up with his parents and siblings in Swaffham Bulbeck rather than Wheathampstead. His grandfather built Brockett Hall in the parish of Hatfield, where John would have moved to on his death in 1532. Nonetheless, he was buried in the ancestral parish of Wheathampstead, rather than Hatfield.
- 22 Feb 1546/7 is the date given by Shaw18 when John Brokett was dubbed Knight of the Carpet by the King.
- Yes, the Brockets were old-established—they had been in the county since the 1420s—but numerous, no. During John’s adulthood there were only 4 Broket families in Hertfordshire, including his own.
- John may not have gone to an Inn of Court, but he appears to have gone to Cambridge, recorded—without a first name—as B A 1526-7.
John married Margaret BENSTED. As the heir and future head of the dynasty, John’s marriage must have been politically, economically and socially strategic, yet it is difficult to be fully sure of Margaret’s parents or what her inheritance might have been. The inscription on the tomb described her as ‘dowghter an ayre of Willm Benstede’.19 Coros above described her as “da[ughter] and h[eir] of William Bensted of Bennington, Herts”, but his source has not been verified. The William Bensted who admitted this John’s father to the Middle Temple in 1509 was in all likelihhod Margaret’s father, but the Temple records give no further information about him. Unlike this John’s son John’s 1st wife Helen LYTTON, who held land from the queen in her own right, on which an inquisition was conducted, or his 2nd wife who left a Will as a Widow, no Will of Margaret as a Widow when she died in 1560 has been recorded or found.
According to the inscription on the tomb they ‘hade yssue X sonnes and 3 dowghters’. 7 children at least were living in 1557 according to John’s Will, mentioned in the following order:
- John, b by 1532, d 1598 (later Sir John II)
- Edward, b c 1534-40, d 1599 (later Edward of Wheathampstead Place Esq)
- Thomas ‘the elder’, b c 1536-40, married Anne LYTTON 1557-8, but died by 1560.
- Bensted, bap 1548, alive 1557 when his father bequeathed Harpfilde Hall to him (Will line 66) but he probably died young as it became eldest son John’s possession.
- Thomas ‘the younger’. In 1563, or a year or few before, a Thomas Brockett, Gent, was sued by Staple Inn for non-payment of dues as a member, and the proclamation was sent to the sheriff of Herts, as Thomas’ last known place of residence.20 This Thomas was most likely the son of Edward of Broadfield and Letchworth, given that Thomas the younger, son of Sir John, was probably not born before 1549, and that Edward of Broadfield and Letchworth sent his other three sons to Inns of Court. Judging from the flowery signature it’s possible that this Thomas, son of Sir John, was the Thomas working in Hertford in the judicial system in 1590. Otherwise, what became of Thomas the younger is not known. He is not known to have had issue.
Of the other 6, apart from a Radulfus or Randoll (1546-1621) the preserved Wheathampstead PR only recorded a William (bap 1544, bur 1545). Randoll apparently had no issue.
Was Robert of Wheathampstead, d 1562, a son?
13-20 years later Glover recorded 6 children: John, Thomas (married Letton and died without issue), Edward, Susan, Elizabeth (married John Pope), Elizabeth without issue. Glover alone recorded 2 Elizabeths.
It seems that only 3 or 4 of John and Margaret’s children had families of their own. Berry21 recorded only 4 children (the order governed by page layout):
- Edward married Ethelred widow of Sir Thomas CHALONER
- Susan married Edward BOUGHTON Esq of Causton, Co Warwick.22 Her great aunt Elizabeth had married into this family.
- Elizabeth married John POPE of Co Oxon
- John married 1. Helen d/o Sir Robert LYTTON; 2. Elizabeth d/o Roger MOORE.
They said they all had issue except Elizabeth. However the Complete Baronetage,23 records that Elizabeth, as John POPE’s 2nd wife, was the mother of his only surviving son and heir William POPE, baptised 15 Oct 1573 in Wroxton, Oxfordshire, created a Baronet of Wilcote, Oxfordshire, on 29 Jun 1611, and made Baron Pope and Earl of Downe on 16 Oct 1628, and died 1631:24
There are many records; we cite only a few. In the documents of the time the Hall was mostly spelled with two ts: Brockett Hall. The spelling of John’s surname varied.
With the dissolution of the monasteries Westminster Abbey ceased holding the manor of Wheathampstead in 1540. The new Dean and Chapter of the Abbey let their estates to John in 1543.25
1542 Justice of gaol delivery in St Albans.26
1543 For £728 14s 7½d paid by John Brocket Esquire, John Alwey and Nicholas Bristow Gentlemen were granted:27
- The manor of Holmes aka Canons, Hertfordshire, formerly owned by the dissolved monastery of St Bartholomew in Westsmythfelde, London, worth £4 13s 4d p.a.
- The manor of Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, formerly owned by Gertrude Courteney, marchioness of Exeter, lately attainted of high treason, worth £27 6s 11½d p.a.
- Robynstown aka Robynstowne in the parish of Sandryge, formerly owned by Gertrude Courteney, worth £3 13s 4d p.a.
- All property in Shenley, Ayot, Sandrige, Codicote, Whethampsted, Wymbley, Wellyn, Radwell, Newneham, Stevenage, Knepworth, Hichyn, Waldon, Lytton, Hatfeld, Kympton and St Albans belonging to these manors.
- The advowson, gift, presentation and free disposition and right of patronage of the parish church of Ayot St Lawrence.
Witness the king, at Terlyng, 24 July 1543.
1544 John Broket esquire brought a plea againstagainst John Brokett late of Ippollitts senior Yeoman, John Brokett late of Ippollitts junior Yeoman, and others, alleging that they forcibly broke into a close of his at Graveley and Ippollitts and cut down and carried off his trees and underwood to the value of 100s.
1578? Letter of attorney to deliver seisin of land in Sandridge parish.28
1545 John was commissioned to be a subsidy assessor for Casio Hundred, which included Brockett Hall.
1546 Thebrydge. John inherited this manor from his grandfather John of Swaffham Bulbeck29 and according to his own IPM passed it to his son Sir John II.30 John’s deposition in a dispute over his ownership of this Manor in 1546 began:31
To the first article this deponent saithe that he hathe a manour called the manour of Thebrydge in the parishe of Sandrydge in the County of Hertf’ whiche he and his auncestours whose estate he hathe haue had and enjoyed by the space of CC yeres and more …
That it had been in the family for 200 years was nearly double the actual period—Thomas Broket acquired it in 1437. It was for claims like this that Edward of Wheathampstead was preferably the son of Thomas’ husband of Elizabeth Ash rather than brother. Sir John I was Edward’s great grandson, but not Thomas’.
1555 John purchased the manor of Westingtons from Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, as mentioned by Coros above. Part of the parish of Ayot St Peter (c 1 m E of Wheathampstead) was in the manor of Westingtons.33 “Ayot Place, now a farm-house, was probably built by Sir George Perient, lord of the manor … On a frieze in the hall are five shields bearing the arms of Perient, Brockett and Boteler quartering Kilpee and the date 1615 in the middle.”34 Westingtons is mentioned in John’s IPM and his son’s in 1599.
1558 17 May 1558 …
Written 14 Aug 1557, proved 3 May 1558. Sir John died 23 Mar 1558.35 Executors: wife Margaret and 2nd son Edward [of Wheathampstead]. Transliteration is from two copies at the TNA in Kew.36 The British Library also has a fine copy with a large oval seal c 9×6 cm.37
John gave Margaret: Brokett Hall with all its lands, buildings etc and all his copyhold lands in Hatfield and Waterend Farm ‘for terme of hir Lief and so Longe as she keapeth hir self sole and vnmaried’ (lines 40-6) and if she remarried, she was still to receive £50 p.a. (lines 52-3).
There would have been a large gathering at the funeral. His will (lines 13-5) says, ‘I will that myne Executoures give to euery preist that shalbe at my buriall xijd and to euery Clarcke beinge above the age of xvj iiijd and to euery other clerc ijd and to euery poore man woman and childe jd to praye for my sowle.’ John died during Philip and Mary’s reign.
Among the bequests to his children was to:
1558: In the Michaelmas term of 155838 at the court of Common Pleas at Westminster Margaret Brokett widow and Edward Brokett executors of the testament of John Brokett knight tried to recover an alleged debt of £10 from John Robyns late of Pullockes Hyll in Bedfordshire Yeoman:39Read more
John Robyns late of Pullockes Hyll in county Bedford yoman otherwise called John Robyns of Pullocks Hyll in county Bedford yoman had been summoned to answer Margaret Brokett widow and Edward Brokett executors of the testament of John Brokett knight otherwise called John Brokett knight, in a plea that he render them £10 that he unjustly withholds from them &c. And wherein the same Margaret and Edward, by Thomas Hanchett their attorney, say that whereas the aforesaid John Robyns on the 20th day of July in the 2nd and 4th years of the reigns of the now lord king and lady queen, at London, in the parish of St Mary Arches in the ward of Chepe, by a certain writing obligatory of his, granted himself to be bound to the same John Brokett in his lifetime in the aforesaid £10, to be paid to the same John at Michaelmas then next following; however, the aforesaid John Robyns, although very often requested, has not rendered the aforesaid £10 to the same John Brokett in his lifetime, nor to the same Margaret and Edward after the death of the same John, but refused to render it to them, and still refuses to render it to the same Margaret and Edward, but unjustly withholds it &c. whereby they say that they are injured, and have damage to the value of 100s; and therein bring their suit &c. And they produce here in court both the writing aforesaid, which testifies to the debt aforesaid, the date of which is the day and years abovesaid, and letters testamentary of the aforesaid John Brokett, by which it is clear enough to the court here that the said Margaret and Edward are executors of the testament aforesaid and have administration thereof &c.
And the aforesaid John Robyns comes, by Richard Emery his attorney, and defends the force and injury when &c.; and says nothing in bar or preclusion of the aforesaid action of the aforesaid Margaret and Edward; whereby the same Margaret and Edward remain against the same John therein undefended. Therefore it is considered that the aforesaid Margaret and Edward recover from the aforesaid John their debt aforesaid and their damages by occasion of the withholding of that debt, adjudged by the court at 26s to the same Margaret and Edward, with their assent. And the aforesaid John Robyns in mercy &c.
IPM. Chancery and Exchequer copies of John’s IPM survive. The former is very large and the latter is in a bad state and largely illegible.40
In his Will (lines 9-13) John said, “I bequeathe … my bodie to be buried in the parishe churche of whetamsted in the Chappell whereas my Auncestours be buried and I will that an honest Tombe there be made for the remembraunce by the Discreacion of myne Executours.” Originally an altar tomb in the Brocket Chapel, it has since been moved through 90 degrees. For some excellent images and comment see Bob Speel’s website.41 The VCH 42 described it as:
The effigy of Sir John Brockett shows his head, uncovered, with long hair and a long beard (which has been broken off), resting on a helmet. Round his neck are two massive chains, from the lower of which hangs a cross patée, now hidden by plaster used to support the hands. He is dressed in plate armour with a hauberk of mail beneath. His hands are raised on his breast in the attitude of prayer. On his feet, which rest upon a lion, he wears sollerets, on his left side his sword, and on his right a misericorde hanging from the sword belt by a cord. The head of the lady, which rests upon a pillow, has been much damaged; she wears a close-fitting cap and a necklace, a long dress fitting closely to the figure with sleeves puffed and slashed at the shoulders; the arms are broken off; the skirt is open in front and ornamented by rows of knots. A pomander hangs from the front of her waist by a long chain. Her feet rest on a dog or leopard, much broken. From her shoulders hangs a cloak, kept in position by cords tied in front and hanging down to her feet. Around the tomb is the inscription, ‘Here lyeth the bodyes of Sir John Broket knighte and Dame Margaret his wiffe dowghter an ayre of Willm Benstede ye wch Sir John departyd this worlde ye XXIII of Marche in ye yere of or Lord God M° D° LVIII an ye sade Dame Margaret departede this world ye [blank] day of[blank] in ye yere of oure Lorde God M° D° [blank] whych Sir John and Dame Margaret had yssue x sonnes and thre dowghters.’ On the south side of the tomb are three small male figures, one bearded, each holding a shield, and in the middle the arms of Brockett within a garter. On the west side are two small effigies of Sir John Brockett dressed in exactly similar manner to the recumbent figure above. Each figure holds a shield. On the north side are three small female figures holding shields, and in the middle a lozenge containing the arms of Benstede in a garter. There yet remains a considerable amount of the paint and gilt with which the monument was ornamented.”
There are 8 small figures on the sides of the tomb, 3 males and 3 females each on the long sides, and 2 males on the visible short side. There may be another 2 on the hidden short side, which would make 10 in all, symmetrically representing their large family, which on the inscription around the tomb said comprised 10 sons and 3 daughters. The 8 small figures all stand holding a heraldic shield. “The two on the short side are miniature versions of the statue of Sir John, with the same style of armour, two chains round the neck, and a long sword by the side. On the south side, that is to the side of Sir John above, are three more standing men, robed rather than with armour, two together, one apart, really rather damaged. To Dame Margaret’s side, northwards, are three more statuettes, this time female and dressed rather like [Dame Margaret], with the same open outer garment and puffed sleeves, and in a better state of preservation than the other small figures – one is shown [below]. They wear some sort of headgear, or tightly curled locks, and this may be what Dame Margaret originally had on her head”:43
The Bensted arms—gules three bars gemelles, or—can be seen quartering Broket on the shield of the daughter below, although the colours have faded:
This quartering indicates that they were Dame Margaret’s arms.
Thus these families were recorded on the tomb: Brocket; Bensted; Lytton; Booth; Neville; Fauconberg; Harwood.
Page Last Updated: November 27, 2018