In 1860 William Henry Brockett, newspaper editor and former mayor of Gateshead in the NE of England, privately printed a Pedigree of BROCKETT of Steton and Brockett Hall, co. York; of Brockett Hall, Herts; and of Spain’s Hall, co. Essex. It was a fold-out, measuring about 6 inches in width and 1 foot 8 inches in length, and it took careful typesetting and proof-reading—and research. It is of inestimable value. William Henry was noted in an obituary for his “regard for stern accuracy”,1 and information to question some of the accuracy of the main source was probably not easily available at the time.
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Printed privately without commentary and only published after William Henry’s death in the few Gateshead Tracts copies, the 1860 Gateshead Pedigree in its original form is only available in certain libraries. It was published more widely in the United States in 1905 at the back of E J Brockett’s book. This form differed from the original 1860 Pedigree only in a couple of post 1852 details about the Spains Hall clan. Edward Judson’s research assistant, FS Brockett, may have visited Spains Hall and gained these extra details from Mary, the last Brocket Lady of the Hall 1895-1906.2 From there it has become widely available in various forms on the internet, some more reliable than others.
The 1860 Gateshead Pedigree was principally an amalgamation of earlier pedigrees of the Broket dynasties of:
- Steton in Yorkshire down to the 15th C—top 3 inches
- Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire down to the 17th C—middle 14 inches
- Spains Hall in Essex down to the late 19th C—last 3 inches,
plus miscellaneous other research. William Henry had clearly consulted Visitations and wills, and also travelled to Bolton Percy, Hatfield and Cambridgeshire—not straightforward undertakings in the mid 18th C.
Each of these earlier pedigrees displayed landed clans. Younger, landless lines were either ignored or only followed through to a limited extent.
The Steton and Wheathampstead sections down to c 1570 were an almost exact reproduction of Harley 807, a manuscript compiled 1570-77 by Robert Glover, Herald at the College of Arms. William Henry studied it in London and a transcription in his own hand survives in a folio volume in Gateshead Central Library.3
Glover lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when it became the fashion amongst the nobility and gentry to construct family trees and display them as works of art. They heightened prestige and authority. This one by Glover focussed on the Wheathampstead dynasty’s eldest line and embellished their Hertfordshire and Yorkshire origins. William Henry did not have the resources at the time to question its accuracy.
The 1860 Pedigree suggests that William Henry visited Spains Hall in Willingale, Essex, between 1847 and 1852. He recorded the death of William Brocket Brocket in 1847, aged 21, but not of Thermuthis Brocket in 1852, aged 23. The Squire at Spains Hall at the time was Stanes Brocket Brocket, who must have allowed his northern visitor access to some of the family records; the Spains Hall dynasty is recorded in the 1860 Pedigree in particular detail, including maternal lineages. William Henry would have gained many of the details of the post-Glover Wheathampstead dynasty from these Spains Hall manuscripts too, supplemented by researches in London.
These Spains Hall manuscripts are now lost. They are not at Spains Hall, nor in the Essex Record Office, nor apparently at the PRO. The last of the Spains Hall Brocket line died an old lady without any Brocket relations, so any Brocket pedigrees among her papers would probably have been thrown away by executors or heirs. William Henry did a great service in preserving them—some important details are not recorded elsewhere.
John, the progenitor of the Spains Hall dynasty, and his descendants were mainly London attorneys and gentlemen and although they were well heeled, their wealth was small compared to the earlier, eldest-line Brokets of Hertfordshire. The Spains Hall family were very proud of their connection to that earlier Hertfordshire family and they were also very proud of the coat of arms. Both would have given them a certain status and talking point in their society. So they were naturally keen to make their descent as impressive as possible. William Henry’s impartial source criticism has helped us see this:
Glover had improved Dionisia Sampson by making her a direct Fauconberg heiress. The Spains Hall clan improved this further by replacing Dionisia with ‘Joan d. and heir of William Nevill, Lord Falconbridge, and Earl of Kent’. This provided a tacit royal descent from John of Gaunt son of Edward III, which the upwardly mobile Spains Hall Brockets would certainly not have been unaware of. William Henry rightly dismissed it as an error.
The Spains Hall Brocketts may have specified which Neville they claimed as an ancestor, but the Elizabethan Brocketts had already used Neville arms. Glover recorded them diagramatically, and they were carved on the Brockett tombs in Hertfordshire. But despite being ‘set in stone’, William Henry again realised that this Neville connection was impossible. He omitted Glover’s attribution of the Neville arms to Dionisia, gving her only the Fauconberg arms: ‘Arg. lion, rampant, az.’
- William Henry put the name of Luca de Brochesheved at the very top of the pedigree as though it were the original form of the name Broket. But rules of phonology apart, to derive the name Broket—already hereditary in 1207—from de Brochesheved of 1201 was not plausible.
- Generation 4 of Harley 807—the alleged marriage to a Harwood heiress—was for some reason missed from the 1860 Gateshead Pedigree.
- The Spains Hall mss were confused about Nicholas Hughson.
- The 1860 Gateshead Pedigree had William ‘of Wild Hill’ as Edward of Letchworth’s only son and as the father of Edward married to Bolfield. The Edward who married Ellen BELFIELD was in fact William’s brother, not his son.
- The 1860 Gateshead Pedigree included Sir John III—although simply called John—and two generations of descendants, Clutterbuck and Berry excluded him.
Page Last Updated: April 4, 2020