William Brokett of Hitchin I - The Broket Archive

William Brockett I of Hitchin Yeoman
b 1489-1496, d 1556-7

The first definite record so far found of “Willyam Brokett of the Towne of hechyne”  is from 1538—the 30th year of the reign of Henry VIII—when he purchased a property from a Gentleman of the King’s household and the bailey of Hitchin for “threescore and fyue poundes of good and lawfull money of Englande” (£65).1 That was a large sum of money and the property was large. Subsequent records all show that William was a well-to-do Hertfordshire Yeoman and Maltster. He became the progenitor of Brockett clans that flourished in Hitchin till the late 18th C, nearby Dunton and—with little doubt–neighbouring Steeple and Guilden Morden from the late 16th to the 21st, with branches now around the world. There is also a probable record of William as young man in 1523, see below. We hope more will emerge as research progresses.

Research history: +Read more

The contents of this page are William’s:

1. Relationship to Edward Brocket of Broadfield and Letchworth Esq
2. Contemporary namesakes
3. Last testament and Will
4. Property and Wealth
5. Wife and children
6. Other records
7. Birth date

Other closely related pages:

1. William’s family home in Bancroft Street
2. The court case his executors brought against Edward Brockett Esq/Gent of Bradfield

Relationship to Edward Brocket of Broadfield and Letchworth Esq

On what basis did Coros say that William was a relative of Edward Brocket of Broadfield and Letchworth Esq? He or she either saw it explicitly mentioned in the Complaint in TNA C3/132/103 when the parchment was in a more legible condition than today, or else assumed it as obviously implicit in the situation— in those days a loan of that size given on an oral agreement of repayment to someone with the same uncommon surname would clearly only have been given by a kinsman. So despite the fact that no document has so far been found that explicitly mentions William’s parentage, this loan coupled with other extensive research shows that the following is his most probable ancestry:

Disappointingly, the History of Parliament have no record of who D F Coros was but the entry for Edward in the History of Parliament, shows a historian of fine calibre with a thorough familiarity with the sources and the period in particular. Coros contributed well over a hundred Member Biographies for the the 1982 History of Parliament, most of them from the 16th C, including the one on Sir John Brocket I, which is a reliable summary of his life too. So there is no reason to doubt the statement that William Brocket of Hitchin was a relative of Edward Brocket of Letchworth. The two settlements were only a couple of miles apart. Furthermore, we know that Edward, hearing that William was on his death bed, rode to Hitchin to reassure him he would pay back the debt: “William Brockett beinge sicke and lyinge in extremes and daunger of death in his mansion house at hitchin aforesaid the said Edward Brockett esquyer repayred and came then and there openly in the audyence of dyuerse honest credible witnesses did knowledge and confesse the said dette”.3 Then “vppon consideracion that the said Edward Brockett shuld be frendly vnto [William’s] wyfe children and executors” William granted him a £20 reduction from the £140 4 “which said graunt the said Edward Brockett thankfullye receyved and promysed to performe the consideracions aforesaid after whiche tyme the said Willyam Brockett made his last will and testament in writinge beringe date the seventh daye of Aprill … After which that is to saye within fourtene dayes next after the foresaid graunte made as is aforesaid the said Willliam Brockett at hitchin aforesaid died”.5 This means that William died by 21 Apr 1556.

Contemporary namesakes

1. William, recorded in 1512 as former Husbandman of Ippollitts, c 2 m S of Hitchin. William I of Hitchin’s father? Possible youngest son of Edward Broket of Appleton and Wheathampstead and father of William I of Hitchin.
2. William Broket, Citizen and Goldsmith of the City of London, Will written 31 Oct, proved 25 Nov 1536. William was born in Alnham, Northumberland.
3. Wyllyam Brocket of Tattershall, near Coningsby, c 12 m NE of Sleaford and near Horncastle, Wood Enderby, Bolingbroke, Toynton, but c 80 m N of Hitchin, d intestate 1566. Probably a close relative of William Broket Citizen and Goldsmith of London, d 1536.
4. William I’s own son William II, d 1563.
5. William Brockett of Wildhill/Essendon Gent c 1531-1611, 2nd son of Edward of Letchworth; first recorded in the 1560s.

No records of others have yet been found.

William’s last testament and Will

Written 7 Apr 1556, Memorandum 12 April, proved PCC 18 Mar 1556/7.6 Read more


  1. Robert Nicholl / Nycolles was a citizen and Merchant Tailor of London. He was not a Hitchin man, but to have been made William’s executor he must have been a close acquaintance or business associate. He was probable master of William’s son William, his apprentice.
  2. John Gaddesden was probably also a witness to William’s son William’s Will in 1563. A 1591 reference shows a John Gaddesden as late owner of the Dragon House, which was next to the Berry Barns, a property held in the 1550s by William Broket.8 There was a John Gaddesden, schoolmaster in Hitchin …, who was probably this John’s son.

As executors pursuing debts owed to William, Robert and John sued Edward Brockett [junior] in Chancery. It isn’t yet known when Robert died, but it was possibly before Edward Brockett’s debt to William had been recovered, since two other Nicolls had been pursuing Edward Brockett in court for debt by 1569.


Thomas Parys was a wealthy and prominent Hitchin Gentleman. +Read more


John Chamber, James Chamber and James Chamber the elder were all witnesses. +Read more

Other named witnesses were John Derdys, William Marshall, Thomas Upton and John Gaddesden: +Read more
In contemporary subsidies for Hitchin these men were assessed as follows (Robert Nicholls was not a Hitchin man and was not recorded in any): +Read more
For complete subsidy lists see … (to follow).


“The testament of the said deceased was proved before the lord at London, the 18th day of the month of March in the year of the Lord 1556, by the oath of Robert Nicholl and John Gaddesden executors in such testament named and approved &c. And administration of the goods of the said deceased was committed to the executors aforesaid, to well and truly administer the same &c. sworn on the Holy Gospels in due form of law.”   Read more

The old style of dating was in force then so 18 March ‘1556’ meant 18 March 1557. Probate was therefore 11 months after William wrote his Will, and he died some time between 12 Apr 1556 and 18 Mar 1557. His property was recorded in the 1556 Survey of the Manor of Hitchin, dated 17 Aug 3 and 4 Philip and Mary.28   Read more
William therefore probably died between 17 Aug 1556 and 18 Mar 1557.

Why was his Will proved at the PCC?

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London was the highest probate court in the land and the 3 main reasons for proving Wills there were:

  1. the testator’s lands being in more than one diocese
  2. the likelihood of the Will being contested or useable in litigation
  3. status.

William’s Will was probably proved there for the second: his executors saw trouble brewing. They were preparing to challenge an elder doyen of the clan and a former Sheriff of the County. That the challenge related to land in Kent previously held by William may have been an additional reason. But the fact that William had copyhold lands in Hitchin “holden of the Quenes maiestie” would not have necessitated the higher probate.

Up to 1650 only 15 Broket Wills had been proved at the PCC: +Read more


William’s Will refers to his social status, a Yeoman—a farmer who worked the land with his own hands—and the Will mentions a Querne,30 which he bequeathed to his son, perhaps as an important piece of equipment in the family business. William held a fair number of acres in the fields in and around Hitchin. But a 1554 land licence is the only record found stating his occupation: “Maltman”, i.e. a Maltster, which would have occupied him for the summer at least. Certainly his elder son’s elder son was a Maltster. Malt is “Barley or other grain prepared for brewing or distilling or vinegar-making, esp. by steeping, germinating, and drying.”31

Crosby describes the thriving Hertfordshire malt industry in these times due to the “increasing demand for beer in London, not only as a social drink but also as an essential commodity in the times before there was a reliable supply of good-quality drinking water”.32 Behind William’s house there would have been a malthouse—a long, narrow, two or three storey-building with a lucam (a hoist housing) at one end to take in the sacks of barley, then cisterns to soak the grain for germination, then growing floors with shuttered windows to control temperature and humidity, and finally the kilns where germination was arrested and the malt given its distinctive flavour, with their conical or pyramidal flues. Beyond this would have been the malt store where it was bagged up ready for transportation.33

An analysis of 16th and 17th C Hitchin Wills and Inventories confirmed “the Hitchin area as a great barley producer, for Queen Elizabeth’s Hitchin ‘grape’ from which the best beer was made” and in the 17th century “we can be sure that Maltsters, like Brewers, were among the richest of Hitchin tradesmen.”34 William’s bequest for the repair of highways,35 showed that William was a senior member of a Tudor market town. It was customary for the gentry to leave money for the poor and often for the Church reparation fund, but it was only usually the larger landowners who left money for maintenance of highways. Following the Highways Act of 1555 that made “parishes responsible for the upkeep of the roads within their bounds”,36 Hitchin Maltsters like William, apparently trading with London Brewers, needed roads in good repair for business to prosper.


When William was in his 40s and probably a churchwarden, he would have been a participant in the lively discussions in Hitchin in 1534 when Henry VIII threw off the Pope’s authority and became Head of the Church in England. The Protestant Reformation which followed brought about major alterations in local worship and churchwardens had the responsibility of implementing them. The progress of the Reformation came to an end with the death of Edward VI in 1553, and William’s last 3 years saw the rapid return to Catholic forms of worship under Edward’s sister Mary Tudor. In July 1554 she married Philip II King of Spain and the Netherlands, a strict enforcer of Catholic policy. William’s last 2 years were lived during the persecution that followed. He would have known in August 1555 that the Sheriff—his cousin Edward of Letchworth—officiated that month at a burning at the stake in nearby St Albans, nonetheless the preamble to his Will written 7 months later was firmly Protestant.

Property and wealth

William’s Will portrays a well-to-do member of the community. The terms ‘Yeoman’ meant a man who held “a small landed estate; … of respectable standing, especially one who cultivated his own land”37 and ‘Gentleman’ a man “whose wealth freed him from the need to follow a trade or profession”,38 but some Yeomen could be wealthier than some Gentlemen. William was wealthy, his Will shows he held 2 properties in Hitchin and various copyhold lands in Wratton and Hitchin. Holding 2 freehold properties in those days meant that William probably inherited property originally; a man then could not easily rise in status from landlessness. This is another indication that his ancestry had landed origins. One property was a house was in Bridge Street, near the market place occupied by a tenant, and the other was the house he and his family were living in. A contemporary document called it “his mansion house”.39 He left his widow Elizabeth the house in Bridge Street with all its appurtenances for term of her life, and he willed she could live in the family house for a year. This was perhaps to allow sufficient time to move and for the tenant to vacate the Bridge Street house. More detail of the 2 properties are given in the 1556 Survey of the Manor of Hitchin: “William Brockett held freely one and a half burgages in Bancroftstreate once Abbotts for 23d a year and one tenement in Bridgestreate called the diehouse once Scottes for 14d, in total 3s 1d a year [rent].”40

TNA E315_391 Hitchin rental 1556_62v Bancroft

3.1 The Bancroft Street residence

A burgage was a substantial house or other property—not just a tenement—held in return for service or annual rent.41 As the Rental says the one and a half burgages in Bancroft Street were formerly held by [Thomas] Abbott, a wealthy Hitchin merchant. The property has been identified as the house known in the 19th century as The Croft.

William’s purchase of the Bancroft property was enrolled in a Close Roll dated 17 May 1538. He bought it from Henry CHRUCH, “of the kyngs howsolde gentilmane and baylye of the Towne of hechyne” for £65.42 The bailey or bailiff was an important public official, like a mayor or the agent of the lord of the manor—in the case of Hitchin the Queen.43 A summary of the Bargain and Sale held in HALS describes the premises as: “Tenement and messuage with garden adjoining in Bancroft Street between the house of William Chambers late Thomas Huntlowe’s on north and houses belonging to the brotherhood of Our Lady on the other part and a toft lying in Charlton in the parish of Hitchin with 30 acres of free land being severally in the fields of Hitchin, Ipolletts and the hamlets of Charlton and Dynesley Furnival. All the above premises were bought by the said Henry Church of one Thomas Huntlowe of London haberdasher and were sometime in the possession of Thomas Abbott of Hitchin aforesaid.”44

This deed styled William ‘Husbandman’ of the town of Hitchin but this should not mislead. The size of the property, its previous wealthy inhabitants, and the price William paid—£65—showed that he had resources. As Laslett said, there was no clear demarcation or boundary between ‘yeoman’ and ‘husbandman’,45 indeed “All yeomen were husbandmen, because they worked the land… There was a very special sense in which even a gentleman might sometimes describe himself … as a husbandman…” 46

3.2 The Bridge Street house

The 1556 survey of the Manor of Hitchin shows this to have been called the Die House, formerly Scottes. William I’s Will says, “my house in Brygstrete with all the appurtenances the which one John Parker nowe do dwell in”.47 The 1556 survey records a tenement next to the river in Bull Street (an alternative name for Bridge Street) in the tenure of John Parker. In 1591 the Die House was recorded belonging to William I’s son Edward I and in the tenure of John Parker’s son William.48

William’s Bridge Street property was mentioned in the Exchequer Survey of the possessions of the former Carmelite Friary in Hitchin, dated 11 Apr 1546. It was mentioned only as a location for another property: “John MUNNER occupies a tenement with a garden in Bridge Street between the tenement of William BROCKETT on the west and the tenement of Thomas ELDRINGTON on the east paying 13s 4d a year.”49 Curiously, the very next entry in the Survey recorded Margaret BRICKETT’s tenement in Bull Street. The name Briket is usually distinct from Broket and not a variant. For further details see Brikets.

3.3 Copyhold lands

As well as recording William’s freehold properties in Bancroft and Bridge Street the 1556 survey of the Manor of Hitchin also listed William’s 7 Copyhold properties, all on a 40 year term as was the custom of the manor. The 7 entries all state that he was admitted to them at a court held on the last day of April 1551 (5 Edward VI):50 E315_391 Hitchin rental 1556_71r William I's copyholds
1. One dole51 formerly Edward Elmes. Rent 8s a year.
2. One tenement beside Waltesforthe and 27 acres of arable land. Rent 10s a year.
3. One tenement called Brokes with certain lands and meadows belonging. Rent 17s 10d a year.
4. A close of land with certain arable lands lying in divers parcels (Latin: vnu’ cl’m trre cum crts. terr’. arr’. iac’. in diurs’ pcell)52 in the fields of Walteswothe and Hyover called peltoftes. Rent 10s a year.
5. One cotland53 called brigmans or Bridgemans lying beside Hyover. Rent 10s a year.
6. One cotland called Coollys. Rent 5s a year.
7. One cotland beside Highover called maltemans. Rent 6s 8d a year.

“The Survey is dated at the top 17 Aug 1556 so was 4 months after the death of William I. Probably no manor court had been held between April and August 1556 so his son Edward—or rather his mother as his guardian—had not yet been admitted. The omission from the 1556 Survey of William’s copyhold in Wratton (the Wratten) is puzzling. The 1591 rental does record that William Brockeyt (III) held 5 acres of copyhold arable land at The Wratton rent 20d for 6 months. I think much of this land was used as brickyards and brick kilns in the 17th century. One possible explanation of its omission from the 1556 Survey is that William I had bought the land shortly before his death and had not yet been admitted at the Manor Court and that he purchased it from one of the men who appear in the 1556 Survey as holding several acres of arable land in the fields of Hitchin which are not described in detail.”54

3.4 Land in Kent

A record towards the end of his life in 1554 shows that William was purchasing property further afield than Hertfordshire. A licence issued 10 Oct 1554 allowed Cuthbert and Mary Thomson to alienate 32 acres in Plumstead Marsh to him for a fee of 21s 4d.55 Cuthbert Thomson was a Brewer of Saint Lawrence Poultney in the City of London.56 A complaint in Chancery brought by Michael Tomson against William Beswike and his wife Mary, widow of Cuthbert Thomson, concerning the “Estate of Cuthbert Thomson of London, brewer, deceased with lands in Bedford, and Barton, and lands in Abbots Salford, Warwickshire”.57 Barton is only 7m W of Hitchin. William as a Hitchin Maltster and Cuthbert as a London Brewer probably did business together.

The licence further illustrates William’s close relationship to the wider Broket dynasty, since it appears to relate to the deal he made with Edward Broket of Letchworth. A second licence, identical to the first with one significant exception, was issued one year later on 15 Oct 1555. This one allowed Cuthbert and Mary Thomson to alienate 32 acres in Plumstead Marsh for a fee of 21s 4d, no longer to William Brockett of Hitchin Maltster, but to William Brockett Gentleman.58 This William was the much younger William Brockett, husband of Anne Bardolfe and 2nd son of Edward of Letchworth.

Perhaps Cuthbert and Mary did not implement the first licence; perhaps it was renewable annually. In any event, the second was when William of Hitchin was still alive and must have been bound up with the Kent land deal Edward of Letchworth had made. This had been with the help of the loan from William. Edward seemingly got the licence transferred to his son William, to whom he bequeathed his lands in Plumpstead Marsh in his Will.

3.5 Cash and other items

Over and above the rest of his estate in his Will, of which the house he lived in must have been passed to his son, he left legacies of at least £198 1s, along with gifts to the church, the poor and the upkeep of the high ways. His memorandum shows that he had a further £80+ in cash in his house previously unbequeathed. An equivalent in 2005 of all these legacies might be £300,000, with property valued at several times that amount. The Will shows that William was a wealthy yeoman farmer:

  • He had a considerable amount of ready cash along with the gold and silver in the house.
  • His house had hangings covering the walls, a luxury at the time.
  • He willed to be buried inside the Parish Church, an expectation only of prominent members of the community. Not surprisingly for a Yeoman of so long ago, no record of the monumental inscription is found.59
  • Silver spoons were a status symbol of wealth in those days, to be displayed in sideboards,60 and William willed each of his 5 or more children to have one.
  • He had several godchildren.
  • It was customary for the gentry to leave money for the poor and often for the Church reparation fund, but it was only usually the larger landowners who left money for maintenance of high ways. William was a senior member of a Tudor market town. The roads in and out of Hitchin needed to be in good repair for it to prosper.

Wife and children

William’s Will of 1566 is the principal source for information about his family. Surviving Hitchin Parish Registers only date from 1562. It shows his family in 1556 to have been:

In 1998 Henry Gray produced a fine, handwritten pedigree of William’s subsequent Hitchin descendants, and much other information has since been discovered. About William’s first wife, however, nothing is yet known—what her name was, when they married, or when she died.

William’s 2nd wife Elizabeth

Robert Same of Welbury in the neighbouring parish of Offley mentioned his daughter Elizabeth Brokett in his Will, written 13 Dec 1546:61

“Item I geue and bequeithe the residue of the halff of my goodes boith moueable and vnmouueable Deuydide from my wiffes halff. vnto John Samme Robert Samme Thomas Samme William Samme and Henrie Samme my sonnes to Margette Hale Elizabeth Brokett and Joone Vpton my doughterys to be equallie Deuydide amonge them …”

Clearly, Elizabeth daughter of Robert Same was married to a Brokett, but where the couple were living Robert didn’t specify. The wife of John Brokett of Offley/Ippollitts at the time was Joan, and the only known 1510-80 Elizabeth married to a Brokett was the second wife of this William Brokett I of Hitchin. Elizabeth Thwaites, wife of Edward Broket of Wheathampstead died 1507 and Elizabeth Fowler didn’t marry Sir John Brockett II till c 1583.

Robert Same was assessed at 20s in Offley for the 1545 subsidy, the highest and first on the list.62 This was the same assessment as this William Brokett’s in Hitchin. Robert would have been older, but the two men were of similar well-to-do Yeoman status in society. It looks as though Elizabeth, second wife of William Brokett I of Hitchin was a Same, or Samme, by birth. Robert’s daughter Joone was married to Upton. Was he perhaps Thomas Upton, a witness to William Brokett’s Will and holder of a freehold burgage in Hitchin in 1556?63

When might William and Elizabeth married? William’s Will of April 1556 mentioned Elizabeth Chamber as a daughter from his second wife. If we assume that Elizabeth the daughter married no younger than 16, then the latest William and Elizabeth senior married would have been c 1540. This fits a possible date of c 1536 for William’s son William from his first wife.

It was incorrect to say that William only provided a house for his wife for one year after his death.64 As mentioned above he left Elizabeth his house in Bridge Street—then occupied by a tenant—with all its appurtenances for term of her life, and it was the other house—the one in Bancroft Street that they currently lived in—that he willed she could live in for a year. This was perhaps to allow sufficient time to move and for the tenant to vacate the Bridge Street house.

Not only that, but William also bequeathed Elizabeth all his grain and crops, all his plate and other household effects, as well as the profits from the lands due to son Edward while a minor. So William actually provided generously for Elizabeth, making no condition common at the time, for instance, that her bequests were dependent on her remaining single.

By Sep 1563 her stepson William owned the Bancroft Street residence and a house in Bridge Street (which may not have been the same one left to Elizabeth), as shown by his Will. Her burial wasn’t recorded in the Parish Register, but these didn’t begin till 1562, so Elizabeth may have died before 1563. Much more likely, however, is that she remarried. This was the prudent course for widows with young families. The following 1568 record from Astwick, Bedfordshire, c 8 m N of Hitchin, leaves little doubt that this was what Elizabeth did:

The 26th day of September in the year of the Lord 1568, master Henry Worleye, commissary, committed administration of the goods of Elizabeth Squyer, late wife of William Brockett, intestate, deceased, to John Squyer of Astewycke, sworn in form of law, saving the right of whoever &c.65


1. Astwick is only c 8 m N of Hitchin. Elizabeth was “late wife”, i.e. widow, of William Brockett. William Brokett I of Hitchin had died 11 years previously and his widow was an Elizabeth. No other contemporary Williams are known, see above.
2. “intestate, deceased” here referred to Elizabeth. William left a Will. Married women neither normally left Wills, nor were subject to Administration—unlike spinsters and widows. Unless there was a marriage settlement, married women’s property was owned by their husbands. So this record shows that Elizabeth owned property in her own right that hadn’t passed to her second husband.
3. The administrator was normally the heir. However, John Squyer may not have been her husband, but her stepson or other relative of her former husband. William Brocket had died 1556-7 so there was not time for Elizabeth to have had a Squyer son who was of legal age by 1568. Nonetheless the record doesn’t preclude John Squire from being her living husband.

1562: A John Squyer purchased a “messuage etc. in Bancrofte Strete in Huchyn” from Thomas Maye and Anne his wife.66 However, John was not listed in the 1567 subsidy for Hitchin.

Squires appeared as tenants of the manor of Astwick in 15-17th C Court Rolls,67 but no relevant common pleas actions for John Squire or the like for Bedfordshire between 1520-80 have been found. The Will of John Squire, Yeoman of Astwick, Bedfordshire, written 31 Mar 1590, showed no connection to any Broket.68


William’s Will mentioned the following children:69

  1. William—whom we call ‘William Brokett II of Hitchin’ was the only surviving son from William I’s first wife. He was bequeathed copyhold land in the Wratton, probably a recent acquisition by William I.70 This confirms that he was born by April 1534, see the separate page. The family residence—the Bancroft Street house—was unnamed in the Will but would presumably have already been passed over to William II. William I gave his second wife tenure of it for a year after his death.
  2. Alice, daughter from his first wife and unmarried in 1556, was left £30 in the Memorandum. This was the significant new element in the Memorandum:
    “… he had as then presently in his house 80 pounds and odd money in gold and silver. He willed and bequeathed 20 pounds thereof unto Elizabeth his wife. And all the residue of the same money he willed gave and bequeathed unto William Brockett and Alice Brockett his son and daughter begotten of his first wife”71

    The bequests for his other daughters were all once they reached 20 or married. Alice was therefore probably 20 or more in 1556, and born by 1536. Maybe she was older than her brother William. Perhaps she was named after her mother, or her father’s aunt. It isn’t known what became of Alice. It was thought that she was the Alice who married George UNDERWOOD 21 Nov 1563 Hitchin:

    Alice Broket married Hitchin 1563but it was later discovered that this was Alice, widow of William Brokett II of Hitchin, formerly Papworth.

  3. Elizabeth
    “I give Elizabeth Chambers my daughter and all my other daughters forty pounds each to be paid them when they reach the age of 20”.72

    One of the two witnesses to William’s Will called James CHAMBER/S could have been her husband. He was probably not the elder one, because since Elizabeth was a daughter of William’s second wife, she would have married relatively recently, and could even have been as young as 16 at marriage. Her husband might also have been the Chamber/s witness called John, or indeed another Chambers—the family had several branches in Hitchin at that time. On 15 Jun 1567 the Hitchin Parish Register recorded “The 15 daie was buryed Elizabeth Chambers wife of James Chambers” and on 10 Feb 1568 or 69 “The 10 daie was buried James Chambers”.73 These may well have been the burials of Elizabeth and her husband. Whether they had surviving children isn’t known.

  4. Edward, the only surviving son from William’s second wife. We call him Edward I of Hitchin, see the separate page. He was bequeathed all William’s copyhold lands apart from those in the Wratton. Under 20 in 1556, he would have been born at the earliest 13 April 1536. He married Barbara. In 1593 sold his Bridge Street property in Hitchin, but kept the lands in Walsworth. The only issue we know of is a son Edward, whom we call Edward Brockett I of Walsworth.
  5. “Other Doughters”, to each of whom William left £40. The plural implies at least 2. One was probably Annys who married Robert THOROWGOOD 9 Oct 1570 in Hitchin: “The 9 daie were maried Robert Thorowgood & Annys Broket”. Robert is recorded as the father of Marye Thorowgood bap 23 Dec 1571 in Hitchin: “The same [23] daie was baptized Marye Thorowgood daughter of Robert”, but he was buried there 5 Nov 1572: “The 5 daie was buried Robert Thorowgood”. In 1571 Robert Thurowgood was assessed at 8s 4d tax on goods worth 100s in Hitchin.74 He didn’t pay in 1572, 1576 or 1588.75 No further record of Ann or Mary has been found in this period. The Ann Thorgood, Widow of High Roothing [Roding], Essex, whose Will was proved 1592 was another Ann.76 From other evidence, it is likely that Joane, wife of Laurence MANFELDE was another of William’s “other daughters”, see the separate page.

William’s Will also mentioned Grace Brokett and two other females—Johan Mathewe and Johan Wylkynson—who received bequests of 20s each. One or more of them were probably in service in William and Elizabeth’s large house. One or both of the Johans might well have been sisters or cousins of Elizabeth. As for Grace, she was the daughter of John Brokett of Offley Yeoman,77 probably William’s younger brother. 17 years after William’s death, in 1573, she married Richard PRIOR of Barton-le-Clay, Bedfordshire. Richard was most likely son and heir of John Prior, senior, died by 1588 and whose copyhold lands in Barton he had left to son Richard and his heirs after the lifetime use of his wife Agnes.78 Richard would have been the ‘lovinge brother’ of Edward of Millow,79 grandson of this William I of Hitchin. As adolescence approached most children in those times were sent from their parents’ homes to serve in others’ homes. So Grace need have been no older than 12 or 13 at the time of this Will, born at the latest 1543. She gave Richard 9 children 1575-93 at more or less two-yearly intervals.80 It would have been rare in those days for 50 year olds to give birth. If then, she was no more than 45 when her 9th and last child was born, her own birth would have been no later than 1548. So at the time of this Will of William’s, Grace was probably between 8-13 years old, a young niece helping in the household in his last years. Grace was still living 18 Mar 1617 when husband Richard’s Will was proved in the Archdeaconry of Bedford. She was buried in Barton 19 Jan 1630, aged about 82-87.

Other records

1523: Will of Richard Burwell of Stevenage Butcher

Following is a transcription of the Will of this well-to-do Yeoman Butcher, written 5 Jun 1523, proved 16 Jul 1523. Stevenage is c 6 miles SE of Hitchin, and less than 5 from Ippollitts:81+Read more

It has been transcribed here in full to show his status and ownership of property, livestock and crops in various local parishes. It also shows he had at least 4 servants and contacts with Hitchin, like Richard Chamber/s, his grandson and godson. William Brokett I of Hitchin’s daughter Elizabeth also later married into this family, and his son William II continued the contact. As for his servants, Richard Burwell left bequests to:

Johan my maid 6s 8d
Margaret my maid 3s 4d
John Spencer [?] my servant 6s 8d
William Broket my servant 3s 4d

It was normal English custom for young males and females to join the households of local pillars of society, relatives or friends “often until after the age of twenty-one or even considerably longer”.82 From the simple mention in this Will it isn’t possible to deduce much about William Brockett’s age, except that it would have been extremely unlikely that he was less than 13, and possibly as Laslett said, considerably older. Also, given the proximity of Stevenage to Hitchin and the connection to the Chambers family, it is likely that William was a member of the wider Hertfordshire Broket family which had come down from Yorkshire a generation or two before. Other than this 1523 record records of only two William Brokets have been found in the Hitchin area—or indeed Hertfordshire and Essex—up to the 1560s: William I of Hitchin and William of Ippollitts, both of whom are recorded several times. The likelihood is strong therefore that this William of Stevenage in 1523 was William I of Hitchin, and he was the son of William of Ippollitts. The latter was already a Husbandman in his own right by 1512, so it is much more likely that Richard Burwell’s servant was from the next generation, and an early William I of Hitchin.

1544 Hilary: Common Pleas action

In the 35th year of the reign of Henry VIII the attorney of William Brokett made a plea at the court of Common Pleas held at Westminster against Ralph Saunder of Hitchin, Maltman, for a debt of 100s, which William had presumably lent him. Ralph did not come to defend himself and the court ordered the Essex [sic] sheriff to take him and bring him to court on 27 April 1544:83+Read more

The plaintiff must have been William of Hitchin, also a Maltman; there was no known contemporary William Broket of Essex until the 17th C. So why was the writ addressed to the sheriff of Essex? Two possible reasons:84

  1. There were cases where the plaintiff deliberately wanted to make things difficult for the defendant; one way to do this would be to nominate a county in which the defendant could not be attached, summoned, found or taken, because he did not live there; and such cases would naturally run through to an outlawry. It was going to be difficult for the Essex sheriffs to find and take a Hitchin defendant.
  2. A clerk may have mistakenly recorded Hitchin as if in Essex, or else made a mistake with the marginal note as to which sheriff to send the writ to. Cases like this arose because the clerk copied out the details of the defendants from the writs, and sometimes did that thoughtlessly. So, occasionally, an address is given ‘in the county aforesaid’, when it clearly doesn’t tally. There were usually two documents from which the clerk was working, one the original bill and the other the writ to the sheriff. In this case ‘Huchyn’ was probably copied from the original bill as if in Essex, so Essex would be a logical county to send the writ to. “The reference to Hitchin under the heading Essex must be a mistake. Hitchin never was in Essex and is not particularly close to the county boundary with Essex.”85

By Tudor times when sheriffs said that someone “has nothing in their bailiwick”, it just meant that the defendant was not gentry.86 There is a short Will of Richard Saunder Yeoman of Hitchin proved in 1597,87 but it provides no information relevant to Brokets. There were also 3 Wills proved at the Arch. Hunts court of 1552 John Saundere senior of Offley 1552, Richard Saundere yeoman of Dachworth 1555, and Richard Saunder yeoman of Offley 1570.88

1544 July 24: Thomas Hemynge Gent, John Buttelere priest, John Trustram [jnr], Elizabeth Fryday and William Brokett were witnesses to the Will of John Trustram the eldare of Hichyn Yeoman, proved 2 Oct 1555.89 He willed “To Margaret my wiff … my copie hold called the bery stede …” This is different from the Bery Barns.90 Elizabeth Fryday’s Will was proved 11 Jul 1559. “Elizabeth Fryday, widow of John Fryday of Hitchin, yeoman was the daughter of John Hemming or Emmyng of Hitchin, yeoman, who lived in Bancroft in the house later called The Hermitage, Will dated 1524.”91

1545 Hilary: Common Pleas action

In the 36th year of the reign of Henry VIII the attorney of William Brokett made a plea at the court of Common Pleas held at Westminster against Robert Rogers late of Aldenham, Yeoman, and John Gayllour late of Ashwell, Husbandman, for debts of £18 and 40s respectively, which he had presumably lent them. They did not come to defend themselves and the court ordered the Hertfordshire sheriff to take them and bring them to court, both on 29 Feb and 19 Apr 1545:92+Read more

Birth date

Assuming, as discussed above, that William Broket, servant of Richard Burwell in June 1523, was William Brokett I of Hitchin, we can deduce that William would hardly have been less than 13 in 1523, and possibly as Laslett said, considerably older. This puts a date of birth for William no later than 1509—and most likely earlier. The next record of him was as a Husbandman who purchased a large residence in Hitchin in 1538.

Page Last Updated: June 13, 2022


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


[1] TNA C 54/416.

[2] 1982 pp 498-9; now also at goo.gl/zCDEJ5 (accessed 20 May 2017).

[3] C 78/25/17 lines 8-11.

[4] C 78/25/17 lines 15-17.

[5] C 78/25/17 lines 18-24.

[6] TNA PROB 11/39/107. Numbers for the lines are for ease of reference.

[7] The court scribe corrected to this to John, having initially written another name, perhaps James.

[8] Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this information.

[9] Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this information.

[10] TNA E 315/391.

[11] Lines 42-3.

[12] Many thanks to Bridget Howlett for much of the following information (other than the tax details).

[13] Proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Huntingdon, vol 4.

[14] TNA E315/391 f63r.

[15] Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this information.

[16] Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this information.

[17] TNA E315/391 f 61r.

[18] TNA E179/120/147.

[19] TNA E179/121/165; mentioned in Herts Genealogist, vol 1 p 329-330.

[20] TNA E179/121/180.

[21] TNA E179/121/193.

[22] TNA E315/391 f 61r.

[23] TNA E179/121/209.

[24] TNA E179/121/217.

[25] TNA E179/121/224.

[26] TNA E179/121/230.

[27] Transcribed and translated by David Bethell Nov 2016.

[28] TNA E315/391 f 60r.

[29] Communication from Bridget Howlett 19 Jun 2019.

[30] 'A hand-mill for grinding corn, esp. one consisting of two circular stones' NSOED.

[31] NSOED.

[32] 2008 p 375.

[33] Crosby 2008 pp 375-6.

[34] Unpublished 1985-6 paper by Lionel Munby. Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this reference.

[35] Line 28.

[36] Crosby 2008 p 372.

[37] NSOED (1993) II 3.

[38] NSOED (1993) 5b.

[39] TNA C78/25/17 line 9. The plural 'mansyon houses' of TNA C3/132/103 Complaint line 7 looks like a scribal error.

[40] TNA E 315/391. 'It was usual for freehold property to pay a fixed annual quit rent to the Lord of the Manor'---many thanks to Bridget Howlett for this reference and information.

[41] goo.gl/nbd8nx (accessed 27 May 2017)

[42] TNA C 54/416.

[43] Hey 1998 p 32.

[44] HALS DE 3091A.

[45] Laslett 1983 pp 27, 38.

[46] Laslett 1983 p 44.

[47] Lines 9-10.

[48] TNA SC 12/31/12---thanks to Bridget Howlett for this reference.

[49] TNA SC 12/8/29 p 1r---thanks to Bridget Howlett for this reference.

[50] TNA E315/391 f71r, reproduced by kind permission of the National Archives. Many thanks to Bridget Howlett for drawing my attention to this Survey, containing much information about the properties of William and Edward Brockett.

[51] NSOED 1993 2b 'A portion of an area of land, esp. a common field'.

[52] Thanks to David Bethell for this transcription and translation 30 Jan 2018.

[53] Land attached to a cottage of c 5 acres.

[54] Email from Bridget Howlett 29 Jun 2017.

[55] TNA C66/892; Calendar of Patent Rolls Philip & Mary vol 2 1554-5.

[56] PROB 11/40/256 is his Will, dated 17 May 1558. .

[57] TNA C 78/15/56, date of decree: 11 June 1560.

[58] TNA C66/913; Calendar of Patent Rolls Philip & Mary vol 3 1555-6.

[59] Neither in the Hertfordshire Family History Society's St Mary's Hitchin Monumental Inscriptions, nor in William Dunnage's unpublished History of Hitchin 1815. Thanks to Bridget Howlett for this information, Aug 2015.

[60] Abbott 1993 pp 11, 16.

[61] Proved 19 Jan 1546/7, Wills and Administrations Archdeaconry Court of Huntingdon 1545-1550 vol 8 f 105r; Family History Library film 187859; with many thanks to James Lively for this reference 29 May 2019.

[62] TNA E179/121/165; Brigg 1895 vol 1 p 332.

[63] TNA E315/391 f 61r.

[64] Hine 1929 vol 2 p 343.

[65] Archdeaconry of Huntingdonshire Act Book 1559-1614 no.1, Family History Library film 187900; Noble 1911 p 148. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.

[66] Brigg 1895 p 313.

[67] 'Parishes: Astwick', in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1908), pp. 203-206. British History Online at https://tinyurl.com/yxfs4tlo (accessed 18 May 2019).

[68] Proved PCC 7 Dec 1590, TNA PROB 11/76/397, copy kindly sent by James Lively 8 Jun 2019.

[69] Quotations below in inverted commas are all our transcriptions from the Hitchin parish registers, images accessed on FMP May 2021, with any comments or explanations not in inverted commas.

[70] I owe this point to Bridget Holwett.

[71] William's Will lines 57-60 modernised.

[72] William's Will lines 19-21 modernised.

[73] The Jan-Mar entries for these two years were possibly mixed up (note in the register).

[74] TNA E179/121/217.

[75] TNA E179/121/224, E179/121/230 and E179/248/17.

[76] PROB 11/80/171.

[77] As mentioned in his Will.

[78] Bedfordshire Archives AD3740 - Copy of Court-Roll manor of Barton in the Clay 18 Oct 1588

[79] One of the 2 supervisors of his Will.

[80] Barton Parish Register.

[81] Wills and Administrations Archdeaconry Court of Huntingdon 1500-1526 vol 2 f 263v-265v, Family History Library film 187856; with many thanks to James Lively for this reference 1 Sep 2019. The spelling has been modernised for ease of reading.

[82] Laslett 1983 pp 2-4.

[83] 1544 Hilary, TNA CP 40/1120. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.

[84] Kindly supplied by David Bethell Jun 2015.

[85] Communication from Bridget Howlett Jul 2015.

[86] Communication from David Bethell Jul 2015.

[87] TNA PROB 11/90/322. Communication from Bridget Howlett Jul 2015.

[88] vol 9 p 119, vol 10 p 51 and vol 14 p 34 (Noble's list), not seen.

[89] Arch. Hunts vol 10 fo. 82. Unfortunately this is a court copy and not an original, so no actual signatures.

[90] Communication from Bridget Howlett.

[91] Communication from Bridget Howlett 13 Jun 2019.

[92] 1545 Hilary, TNA CP 40/1124. For the original Latin contact the Archivist of this website.