The Brokets of the Inns of Court in London
Situated on the edge of the City of London, around the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court were the schools of the late Middle Ages. Education was costly and “the Inns were even more exclusive than the universities, since they offered no scholarships, and in the early seventeenth century nine out of ten of the students there came from the aristocracy and the gentry”.1 Student records are spread across various books and some are cryptic and others have been lost, but piecing what we have together, supported by other evidence known about the Brokets, reveals 1 Broket in an Inn of Court in the 15th C, 12 in the 16th C, 5 in the 17th, 2 in the 18th and 1 in the 19th—making 21 altogether. All can be identified as members of the Hertfordshire Broket Grouping.
In what follows, the name of each of the 21 is first given as it first appears in an Inn context. The Inn they were a member of follows along with any relevant quote from the sources. The word Comment: then precedes any identification or discussion. Sources consulted:Read more
1. Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn 1521-1889 (J Foster, London 1889) = GI in the footnotes.
2. Students Admitted to the Inner Temple, 1571-1625 (No Brokets found. The first 46 pages are missing).
3. Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn: Admissions, 1420-1893 (Lincoln’s Inn 1896) = LI in the footnotes.
4. Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn: The Black Books (Lincoln’s Inn 1897. 5 vols) = BB in the footnotes.
5. Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (H A C Sturgess, London 1959. 3 vols) = MT in the footnotes.
6. A Calendar of the Middle Temple Records (ed C H Hopwood, London 1903. 5? vols) = MTC in the footnotes.
7. Baker (2012) The Men of Court 1440-1550. This masterly 2 volume work provides a wealth of information and references on 6 of the 21 Brokets, only very selectively repeated and discussed here. Baker understandably confused some of the Edwards and Johns, but these have been corrected in an online update. In several Broket entries Baker recorded that the person was “sued”. e.g. with Edward. Guy Holborn, Librarian, Lincoln’s Inn Library, kindly commented:2 ‘Sued’ just means that he is named as a defendant in a law suit, as identified from the plea rolls. As explained at pp 9-12 (see also pp 55-56) Baker’s discovery in the plea rolls of many groups of defendants being sued by an Inn for dues was a previously unknown source of information as to membership of an Inn before the extant Inn records start, and was the principal genesis of the whole work. The Inn and the term and year given in the entry, so here Middle Temple Michaelmas 1479, then allows one to cross-refer to the transcription of the relevant roll in Appendix 1 (in this case at p 119).
1479: Edward Broket Gent. Middle Temple. Sued in Michaelmas 1479.3 Comment: As Baker noted, this was Edward of Appleton and Wheathampstead, d 1488, and his daughter married Thomas Leventhorpe also of the Middle Temple.4 The 1479 law suit was brought by the Inn against 45 of their members for unpaid dues, including Edward.5 He was in his 60s by then and the normal age for admission to the Inns was about 21, 6 so he may have joined the Middle Temple in the 1430s. Admissions records survive only from 1501.
1508/9: … Broket. Middle Temple, admitted 5 Feb. “Master Broket was admitted to the Middle Temple generally by Master Wm Benstede.”7 The index supplied John as his name. Recorded again in Middle Temple records in 1510—as Master of the Revels—and in 1520—as one of a pair of auditors of the Treasurer.8 Comment This was John Broket of Swaffham Bulbeck Esq c 1485-1526. For William Benstede, see below. John’s heir was later to marry William’s daughter. William Bensted was also a pledge for Thomas Leventhorpe of the Middle Temple, John’s uncle.9 Baker partly confused this John of Swaffham Bulbeck with his father John Brokett of Wheathampstead Esq, b bef 1460 d 1532, sheriff of Essex and Herts who isn’t known to have attended an Inn of Court.10 John’s eldest 3 sons were all at an Inn of Court, following their father: John at the Middle Temple, Nicholas at Staple Inn, and Edward at Furnival’s and Lincoln’s Inn.
1510/11: Edward Brokat. Lincolns Inn. Broket in index.11 Admitted 8 Feb.12 Comment: This was Edward of Letchworth Esq, b 1490/1 d 1559. Records of admissions at Lincoln’s Inn survive from 1420, so Edward was probably the first Broket there, or if not then the first for at least 90 years. Baker recorded many references to his activities at the Inn through to 1553,13 including his admission being supported by William SEWALL (admitted at Lincolns Inn 1505, under-sheriff of Essex 1502-3)14 and being fined 12d in 1511 for “castyng down of Pety John in the chapell att the messetyme”. Edward was called to the bar in 1518 and appears to have sent all 4 of his sons to Lincoln’s Inn too (Edward, William, Thomas and John) and sponsored other relatives there (nephew John Baryngton and step nephew Leonard Hyde).
1543: Nicholas Brockett. “Of Staple Inn: principal in or before 1543; armorial window in hall.”15 Comment: “At the Inns of Chancery, of which Staple Inn was one (and Furnival’s Inn another), the principal was the equivalent of the Treasurer, i.e. head, of an Inn of Court.”16 Baker discussed the arms in the window at length, and the quartering of the arms of Hoo show that this was Nicholas of Wheathampstead (d 1585), 2nd son of John of Swaffham Bulbeck, rather than Nicolas of Willingale (born after 1551 d 1597), referred to at the end of Baker’s entry.
1544: Edward Brockett. Lincoln’s Inn. “Special admission 19 Nov; called to the Bar 1560”.17 Comment: Special admission meant admission with certain privileges. This Edward couldn’t have been other than the eldest son of Edward of Letchworth Esq, active member of Lincoln’s Inn 1511-53 at least and MP for Herts in 1554, the year this Edward was admitted. Under ‘Edward III’ Baker conflated this Edward the son with his 1st cousin Edward of Wingaledoe and Sawbridgeworth Gent, also of Lincoln’s Inn, but not admitted till 1580. Some references in Baker’s entry refer to this Edward, some to that. For instance “listed as a discontinuer 1573/4”:18Read more
1552: John Brokkett. Middle Temple. “Sued PT 1552 (Knight; procl. Hertford, Herts).”20 Comment: That John was sued—along with others—for non-payment of dues to the Middle Temple in 1552 and that the proclamation for him was sent to the sheriff in Hertford shows that this was Sir John I b 1511-4 d 1558. In other aspects Baker understandably confused this John with his father (a Middle Templar) and grandfather, both also John. This is an example of Baker finding details of membership from plea rolls that long predate admission records.21
1561: John Brockett. Sued by Clement’s Inn, proclamation sent to Letchworth, Herts. Comment: With little doubt this John was the youngest son of Edward of Letchworth, Esq,22 b c 1539, d 1607, and father of William of Gray’s Inn.
1562: Edward Brockett. Gray’s Inn.23 Comment: This was Edward of Wheathampstead Place Esq, b c 1534-38, d 1599, second son of Sir John I, a former member of the Middle Temple. Edward’s son John followed Edward at Gray’s Inn. In 1566-8 William MARSHALL, parson of Marston [Moretaine], Bedfordshire sued “Edward Broket of Grays Inn esquire” for the return of a silver bowl pledged to the defendant.24 The Complaint gave no other details about Edward, but there was no other Edward Broket at Gray’s Inn than this one. There were 2 Edwards at other Inns of Court, one Esquire and one Gentleman, however “at that time somebody couldn’t be a member of more than one Inn of Court at the same time, and at that period that there probably wasn’t migration between the Inns of Court, as became quite common later.”25 Baker was unaware of this Edward of Wheathampstead Place at Gray’s Inn, so there was naturally some conflation of references. He recognised the incongruity of this 1556-8 case by adding it as a ‘cf’ in square brackets at the end of the Edward III entry.
1564-75: William Brockette “armiger”, ie Esquire. Lincoln’s Inn. Comment: This was William of Essendon, 2nd son of Edward of Letchworth Esq, at Lincoln’s Inn before him.27 He was Clerk of the Peace for Hertfordshire for 33 years 1570-1603. William’s eldest son William followed him at Lincoln’s Inn.
1580: Edward Brockett. Admitted to Lincoln’s Inn 13 Feb 1579/80, “of Essex, barrister, Furnival’s Inn”.28 Comment: This was Edward of Wingaledoe and Sawbridgeworth Gent b c 1518 d 1584, 3rd son of John of Swaffham Bulbeck. Baker conflated this Edward with Edward son of Edward of Letchworth, whose dates were similar, and suggested that this Edward might have been at Furnival’s by 1541, fined for a moot fail.29 This Edward was not known to have been styled Esquire, which the other one often was. “Barrister” in the Lincoln’s Inn Admissions record doesn’t mean he was a barrister at Furnival’s Inn of Chancery: “There was, by definition, migration from the Inns of Chancery to the Inns of Court since the main role of the former at that time was to act as ‘preparatory schools’ for the latter. So you did not become a ‘barrister’ of an Inn of Chancery, but left its membership on proceeding to an Inn of Court, where you were called to the bar.”30
1588: John Brocket. Gray’s Inn. “Son of Edward Brocket of Wheathampstead”.31 Comment: This was John of Wheathampstead Esq, b c 1571 d 1649. He followed his father as a member of Gray’s Inn before him.
1597: William Brockett. Lincoln’s Inn. Admitted 19 Apr, “of Herts, Gent., son of William Brockett, arm.32 Comment: This was William eldest son of William of Esyndon Esq, who had been a member of Lincoln’s Inn before him.
1611/12: William Brockett. Gray’s Inn. Admitted 2 Feb, “son and heir of John Brockett of Kimpton, Herts, Gent.”33 Comment: William’s father John could only have been John, youngest son of Edward of Letchworth Esq, b c 1539, and no doubt the member of Clement’s Inn in the 1560s. In the early 1600s William was ‘of St Mary in Alderman Bury’, b c 1568, and worked for Nicholas Smythe Gent and deposed in a case brought by Nicholas’s son Christopher Smythe, see the separate page. It appears that he had had training in the law by the early 1600s but didn’t gain admission to Gray’s Inn till he was in his early 40s. It is not yet known what became of him thereafter.
1621: William Brockett. Gray’s Inn. Admitted 7 Aug, “son and heir of John Brockett of Codicote, Herts, Gent.”34 Comment: This was William, born c 1594-77, married 1618, widower 1620/1, imprisoned for debt 1640. It is not known what became of him thereafter.
From here on all references are to the Willingale Spains Hall clan. They were all members of the Middle Temple.
1672: John Brockett. Admitted 10 Jul. “2nd son of Charles Brockett, of London, gent. deceased.”35 Comment: This was John, 1649-1704, the head of the 2nd Broket Willingale clan that flourished 1688-1906. That he was the son of Charles of London, Gent, appears to have been John’s claim on admission to a better lineage than he had, as it can be shown that he was rather the son of a contemporary namesake distant relative Charles, Fishmonger and Citizen of London, who descended from a younger branch of the Hertfordshire dynasty.
1738: William Brockett. Admitted 8 Nov. “Son and heir of William Brockett of the Middle Temple, London, esq. Called 11 Feb 1742-3. Bencher 3 Jul 1778. Reader Lent 1785. Treasurer 1790.”38 Comment: This was William, 1719-91. He followed his father, uncle and grandfather.
1790: Stanes Brocket Chamberlayne. Admitted 27 Nov, aged 8. “Eldest son and heir of Stanes Chamberlayne of Ryes, in the parish of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, esq. Called 29 May 1812. Bencher 15 Jan 1836. Reader Autumn 1839. Treasurer 1842. Footnote: He later assumed the name of Stanes Brocket Brocket.”39 Comment: This was Stanes, 1782-1873, the son of Mary Brocket, daughter of William. He changed his surname from his father’s to Brocket in order to inherit Spains Hall.
1836: Stanes Brocket Brocket. Admitted 24 Nov, aged 13. “Eldest son of Stanes Brocket Brocket, a Master of the Bench. Called 7 Jun 1844.”40 Comment: This Stanes was born 1823, followed his namesake father, but died unmarried in 1844.
This long line of Spains Hall Brokets at the Middle Temple spanned more than 200 years: 1672-1873.
No records have been found of the Brocketts of Headlam, Durham, being trained at an Inn of Court, although two of them acted as attorneys in London: Lawrence and his son William. William worked in the Six Clerk’s Office that served the Court of Chancery, but in his Will of 1766 he called himself “of Lincoln’s Inn”, however his admission is not recorded.41
Associated members of the Inns
Baryngton, John, admitted at Lincoln’s Inn 1529 sponsored by Edward Brokett of Letchworth Esq, his uncle.42 John was son of Edward’s sister Elizabeth and her first husband Sir Nicholas BARRINGTON of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex.
Benstede, William, admitted at the Middle Temple 1 May 1505, “Perhaps son of Sir Edward Benstede (d. 1519) of Hertingfordbury, Herts; later knighted. Arms (of Sir Edward: Metcalfe): Gules three bars gemelles, or.”43 These arms can be seen quartering Broket in the shield of the daughter on the side of the altar tomb of Sir John and Dame Margaret Brockett in Wheathampstead parish church. William was also a pledge for Thomas Leventhorpe.44
Broughton, Ralph, admitted at Lincoln’s Inn 1532 to the chamber of Edward Brokett of Letchworth Esq.45 Might Ralph have been a relative of William BOUGHTON Esq of Caston, Sheriff of the counties of Warwick and Leicester in 1536. William was Edward’s sister Elizabeth’s second husband, see the separate page. However Ralph doesn’t appear on any of the Visitation pedigrees of the wider Boughton family.
Hyde, Leonard, admitted at Lincoln’s Inn 1535 sponsored (pardoned for 5 vacations) by Edward Brokett of Letchworth Esq.46 Leonard was the stepson of Edward’s sister Alice and her husband George HYDE Esq of Throkinge, Herts.
? Copwood, William, of Totteridge, Herts (re Jane d/o John of Swaffham Bulbeck)
Crawley, Francis, of Grays Inn
Cutts, Sir John
Dale, Roger, admitted to the utter (outer) bar 9 Feb 1583/4
Dale, Roger jnr. Specially admitted to the Inner Temple 6 Nov 1610
? Leach, George (re Millicent d/o Edward of Letchworh) by 1551
Nichols, Thomas: Admitted to the Middle Temple c 1546-50 and died 1568; he was the 1st son of William NICHOLS of Great Billing and Ecton, Northants.51 He and his father brought an action against Edward Brockett of Lincoln’s Inn, son of Edward of Letchworth Esq, that led to his outlawry. Thomas became a Member of Parliament 1553, “It is not known whether Northamptonshire was Thomas Nicolls’s native or adopted county. His father, who was born about 1480, came from the north of England and only settled in that county towards the end of his life, perhaps after his son had married into a Northamptonshire family and had begun to purchase land there. Nicolls entered the Middle Temple, established a reputation for himself and achieved high rank within the inn before his early death.”52 The Will of Thomas Nicolls, Gentleman of Pichelye, Northamptonshire, was written 20 Mar 1568 proved 22 October 1568.53
Page Last Updated: May 24, 2023