Home > Hertfordshire > Herts to 1599 > Sir John II

Sir John II of Brockett Hall c 1538-1598

Son of Sir John I, John spent most of his life at Brockett Hall in Hertfordshire. He succeeded to the estate aged c 20 in 1558, the year Queen Elizabeth stayed there. Later he served twice as her Sheriff, once as MP and on various royal commissions. Under Sir John's lead, the dynasty maintained an influential position in Hertfordshire throughout his life. But as the 2nd half of the century progressed he steadily sold off parts of the estate, latterly mainly to finance his daughters' dowries.

On his death in 1598 without a son the Hertfordshire family seat of Brockett Hall passed with daughter Mary to the Reade family and the rest of his estate was divided between his other 5 daughters or their heirs. Although descendants of his brother Edward lived in Wheathampstead for another 78 years, and although his cousin John was knighted 1599, the death of Sir John II marked the end of Broket influence at the ruling level of the County. A large memorial to him still stands against the wall of the Brocket Chapel in St Etheldreda's Hatfield, now in need of renovation. High above hangs his helmet.

  Contents of this page: 1. Hasler's biography 4. Will  
    2. Wives and children 5. Funeral  
    3. Various records    


1. Hasler's biography  

Back to the top

Following is John's entry in P.W. Hasler, The House of Commons 1558-1603, pp 487-8. A few links have been added. The estimated 1540 birth date is probably too late.

BROCKET, John (c.1540-98), of Brocket Hall, Herts. HERTFORDSHIRE 1572

b.c.I540, 1st s. of (Sir) John Brocket of Brocket Hall by his w. Margaret Bensted. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. matric. pens. 1554. m. (1) Helen, da. of Sir Robert Lytton of Knebworth, 5da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Roger Moore, wid. of Gabriel Fowler, 1da. suc. fa. 1558. Kntd. 1577.1

J.p. Herts from c.1561, q. by 1573; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1566-7, Herts. 1581-2; commr. musters by 1573; dep. lt. Herts. 1589-d.2

Brocket belonged to a leading Hertfordshire family established in the county since the reign of Henry VII. He inherited extensive property near Wheathampstead and a number of manors, including Water End and Robinstowe. His first marriage brought him further land, mostly in the vicinity of Hitchin. He continued to add to his Hertfordshire estates until his death, but in 1568 he disposed of valuable property in the Charterhouse district of London. Among his neighbours, Francis Walsingham proved a firm friend. Brocket's daughters brought him further connexions through their marriages with Sir John Cutts, Sir Alexander Cave, Richard Spencer, George Carleton, Sir Thomas Read and Dudley, Lord North.3

He sat in only one Parliament, serving on one committee in 1576 on tanned leather (18 Feb.), and three in the last session on supply (25 Jan. 1581), seditious practices (1 Feb.) and the bill against the Family of Love (16 Feb.). Though he is not known to have stood again, he was involved, as a leading Hertfordshire country gentleman, in the contested county elections of 1584 and 1593, in both of which he supported the losing candidate Denny against Sir Henry Cocke. He was also at loggerheads with Cocke and his fellow deputy lieutenant Sir Philip Butler, over a favour shown to one of the Coningsby family. He devoted himself to public affairs within the county, being active on commissions to inquire into the number of recusants and to provide for corn supplies. Above all, he concerned himself with the militia and trained bands. In 1588 he was given command of a group of Hertfordshire men ordered to protect the Queen's person. He also served on a commission to inquire into disturbances at St. Albans in 1578, and, by request of the Privy Council, investigated slanders uttered there against the Earl of Leicester in 1580. He was a trustee of the free school at Stevenage and governor of Chipping Barnet school.4

He died on 2 Oct. 1598. In his will, made 7 Aug. and proved 12 Oct., he asked to be buried near his first wife and directed that the funeral should cost not more than 200, Most of his lands and goods were left to the daughter of his second marriage, Frances. He provided legacies ranging from 100 to 600 for his other daughters and grandchildren, and made bequests of plate to his brothers and sons-in-law. Thomas Walkeden received 10, and 20 was left towards setting the poor of Bishop Halfield to work.5

1. H. Chauncy, Herts. ii, 16-19; Vis. Herts (Harl. Soc. xxii), 32 ; CPR, 1558-60, p. 361. 2. St. Albans RO misc. docs. I, i. 149. 3. St Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. Trans. 1889, pp. 24, 27-8; 1930-2, pp. 267-78; VCH Herts. ii. 300, 302, 311, 416, 434, 436; iii. 12, 23, 26, 64, 101, 145, 239; C142/257/42; CPR, 1558-60, p. 265; 1566-9, p. 301; HMC Hatfield, ii. 66; C. Read, Walsingham, iii. 218-19, 429; Chauncy, loc. cit.; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 124. 4. CJ, i, 106, 119, 121, 117; D'Ewes 298; Neale, Commons, 28-30, 330; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 561; 1581-90, pp. 602-3, 605; 1591-4, p. 194; 1595-7, pp. 98, 107-8, 127, 163, 206, 307; Lansd. 46, f. 193; 56, ff. 166, 168; 66, f. 268; 73, f. 163; 75, f. 212; 80, ff. 91, 95, 83, f.45; APC, x. 433; xi. 455; Rylands Eng. ms 211. 5. PCC 78 Lewyn. M.N.


2. Wives and children  

Back to the top

1st wife Helen, eldest daughter of Sir Robert LYTTON and coheiress to a third of her father's extensive estates, was mother to all John's children apart from Frances. They may have married in the late 1550s—the burial of a probable son John in 1559 was recorded in the Wheathampstead parish registers. John's brother Thomas married Helen's sister Anne.

2nd wife Elizabeth widow of Sir Gabriel FOWLER and d/o Thomas MOORE of Oxfordshire. '1583. A true and perfitt note of all the goods catells and other thinges which were lefte vnto Elizabeth fowler late wife of Gabriel fowler esquire & now the wife of Sir John Brockett knight: soulde vnto Richard Ferrers esquire vallued & prised as followethe' (BL Add 29438 f 23, an abbreviated selection):

56 fallowed acres at 6s the acre £6 12s
28 stirred acres at 6s the acre 56s
10 dunged acres at 2s the acre & for carying the donge 20s
6 dunged acres at 5s the acre 30s
All the wheate and missleden in the barne £38
The Rocke of Beanes & Pease £28 16s
The hay apon 4 cockes by the house 6s 8d
A parcell of grasse in the newe grownde called the Deane £4 10s
The grasse in the comen feildes £4 10s
A quarter and a halfe of maulte at 13s 4d the quarter 20s
All the cheese at £4 13s 4d

2 gray mares with there 2 sucking coltes £5
1 bay mare & 1 bade olde mare £3 6s 8d
1 Toune' ablinge' geldinge colte and 1 bay mare colte £3 6s 8d
1 bull 40s
6 yokes of Oxen at £6 the yoke. Somme £36
4 lambes 10s

20 hens and 4 cocks at 7d a peece 14s
38 geese and ganders at 8d a peece 25s 4d
8 turkey hens at 2s 4d a peece 18s 8d
2 turkey cocks at 6s 8d
7 bigge turkey chickins at 6s 8d a peece
4 ducks at 16d
3 pea hens at 2s 4d - 7s
1 pea cocke at 3s
Total £4 9s'

Dame Elizabeth's will was written 27 Apr, pr 2 Jul 1612 PCC PROB 11/120 executors son Richard Fowler Esq and William Bird Esq.

Children in 1598 (in the order of the funeral certificate):

  1. Margaret married to Sir John CUTTES/CUTT of Childerleigh, Cambridgeshire (Visitation of Cambridgeshire 1575 and 1619, pp 30-1).
  2. Anne married to Alexander CAVE Esq of Bagrave (later Knight).
  3. Elizabeth d bef 1598 married to George CARLETON Esq.
  4. Helene married to Richard SPENCER Esq of Offley (later Knight: Metcalfe 1886 p 165).
  5. Mary married to Thomas READE Esq (later Knight). Brockett Hall descended to this family (Metcalfe 1886 p 162).
  6. Fraunces b 1583 or 84, married to Sir Dudley NORTH, 3rd Lord of Kirtling (d 1666). The deference shown to parents by children in those days is described by their eldest son Sir Dudley 4th Lord North who well into middle age 'would never put on his hat or sit down before his father, unless enjoined to it' (L Stone 1977 p 122).

Following Berry and Clutterbuck, the 1860 Gateshead Pedigree gave Sir John II and Helen 2 sons: John and Salathiel, both of whom it said died without issue.

John's sons-in-law Dudley Lord North, Sir Richard Spencer and Sir John Cutt were all signatories to the 3rd Virginia Charter of 12 Mar 1612.


3. Various records  

Back to the top

Numerous records of his official and other activities survive and only a small selection can be referred to here.

i. 1577 18-23 May: John Brocket of Herts knighted at Goremanbury, the house of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (Shaw 1906 vol 2 p 78).

ii. 1580 As a Commissioner for the general muster of Hertfordshire, Sir John took part in the levy of 100 men for the service of the Queen (King 1996 p 3).

iii. 1585: First witness to uncle Nicholas' nuncupative will.

iv. Land in Bedfordshire:

  • ?1575: Acquired the Manor of Luton Hoo, sold by his trustees to Sir Robert Napier in 1601 (VCH Bedfordshire vol 2 p 355; Cobbe 1899 p 196).
  • ?1575: Acquired the Manor of East Hide—part of Luton Manor. On his death it passed by settlement to brother Edward, from whom it passed to his son John (VCH Bedfordshire vol 2 pp 357).
  • 1594: Paid £4 for £40 in land in Tyllesworth, but had sold it by 1597. Gabriell Fowler, 1st husband of John's 2nd wife, was 'of Tillsworth'.
  • 1598: Mentioned property in Stanbridge c 8 m W of Luton in his will.

v. Tax: 13 May 1592 (PRO E115/28/26 f 86). One of the Commissioners for Herts John paid £4 for lands rated at £60 and had resided for the period with his family at Brokett Hall:

1. We whose names are here vnder wrytten, her maiestes
2. Comyssioners Amongste others Auctorised for the
3. assessinge taxinge leavyinge and payinge of the
4. second payment of the second subsydie (graunted
5. to our soueraigne ladie the queenes maiesties [sic] by acte
6. of parliament holden at westminster in the xxxith
7. yeare of her highnes raigne) within the Hundred of
8. brodwater in the countie of hertford, doe hereby certifie
9. vnto the right honorable the lord Burghley lord
10. highe threasorer of England, the Barrons and
11. others her maiesties officers of the exchequer to whom
12. it doth or shall appertayne, that Sir John Brokett
13. of Broketthalle in the countie of hertford knyght at
14. the tyme of the assessinge taxinge leavyinge and
15. payinge of the said second payment of the said second
16. subsydie, was one of her maiesties comyssioners for the
17. taxinge leavyinge & payinge of the said second payment
18. of the said second subsydie, had and kepte his famylie
19. at his howse at Brokett halle within the countie of
20. hertford and in the parishe of Hatfeilde within the countie
21. of hertford, where amongst other inhabitaunce of that
22. same towne was taxed and assessed to paye to our
23. said soueraigne ladie the queenes maiesties, the some of fowre
24. poundes, accordinge to the valewe of his landes ratyd
25. at three score poundes / In wytnes wherof we the
26. said comyssionors to this our certificate haue sett our
27. handes and seales the xiiith daye of maie in the
28. xxxvth yeare of the raigne of our soueraigne ladie
29. Elizabethe by the grace of god of england Fraunce
30. and Ireland queene defender of the faithe et c
31. Phillip Bottler Thomas Fanshawe

vi. Examples of disposal of property:

  1. Sold land and fishing rights in Bolton Percy in 1558 and 1563 to Roger Ryley and Brockethall Manor there to Thomas Fairfax in 1565 (Leeds City Archives DB/65/8; YASRS 1888 vol 5 pp 273-4; see M J Harrison 2000, pp 85 n 38, 92).
  2. Sold the Manor of Herons in Wheathampstead in 1565 to Thomas North (Munby 1974 p 50; VCH Herts vol 2 p 302).
  3. Sold 174 acres in Wheathampstead in 1582 (WAM 14039, as cited in Munby 1974 p 62) although over half of these were bought by brother Edward of Wheathampstead Place.

vii. John's IPM is PRO C 142/57/42 1599 (41 Eliz). A very large parchment document, c 8x5 ft, in bad condition in places from damp. First wife Dame Helen Brockett's IPM also dated 1599 is PRO C142/258/76.


4. Will  

Back to the top

Written 7 Aug 1598, proved PCC 12 Oct 1598 PROB 11/92, executors son-in-law Richard Spencer and daughter Fraunces (under 21 and unmarried at the time):

1. In the name of God Amen the seaventh
2. daye of August Anno domini A thousand Fyve hundred nyntie Eight , and in
3. the fortith yeare of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Ladie Elizabeth by the grace
4. of God Queene of England Fraunce and Ireland defender of the fayth etes'. I
5. Sir John Brockett of Brockett hall within the Countie of Hertford knight

John left up to £200 for a funeral and £40 for a tomb near his 1st wife Ellen:

12. And I committ my bodie to the earth to be buried wheare yt shall
13. please [God] to appoyncte for me at and by the discretion of my Executors herevnder
14. named : And I will that there shall not be bestowed vpon my funeralles aboue the
15. somme of Two hundreth poundes ; And after my body buried then I will that all
16. such debts and dueties as I shall owe vnto any person or persons , in right or in
17. conscience shalbe trulie payde : Item I will and my minde is , That there shalbe
18. bestowed with as convenient speede after my decease as maye be ower and be side
19. the chardges of my said funerall for and vppon thererectinge and settinge vpp
20. of a Tombe or monument for me with my Armes To be engraven vppon the same
21. within the parishe of Hatfeilde in the aforesaide countie of Hertff : mor neere
22. the place where the bodie of my late wife Dame Ellen Brockett lyeth buryed the
23. some of Fortie poundes of lawfull money of England as to the discretion of my sayde
24. Executors shall seeme good

Bequests to the family:

1. Daughter Fraunces : All goods, chattels and cash, the lease of the house in Aldersgate St and of the stable in St Bartlemewes, all fixtures and fittings at Brockett Hall (ll 24-35). All this after the life interest or widowhood of her mother Dame Elizabeth, who was not to dispose any of it unless for Fraunces' benefit:

43. vnto which my
44. my sayde wief : I geve and bequeath the vse and occupacion of all my sayde goods and plate
45. before geven and bequeathed to my sayd daughter Fraunces notwithstandinge my
46. fore saide guifte thereof made vnto her for and duringe all such tyme onelie as
47. my said wief shall continewe in her widowe hedd and remayne vnmarried

53. and vnder condition to this effect That she the saide dame Elizabeth
54. my wief or any other for her or by her assent commaundment or procuremente
55. shall not at any tyme or tymes duringe hir naturall lief or tyme of the possession
56. of the same as afore saide allien sell put awaye alter or change the propertie
57. of anie the sayde goods or plate which I haue before geven and bequeathed to my
58. sayde daughter Fraunces vnles yt shalbe by the consent of my sayd Executors
59. for the betteringe thereof and for the benefitt and proffitt of my saide daughter

If Fraunces were to die before marriage or the age of 21, all these legacies were to be sold as soon as possible after Dame Elizabeth's death or remarriage and shared among the other daughters or their heirs (ll 71-82). Fraunces was also bequeathed 1000 marks at marriage or the age of 21 (l 85-9). If she were to die beforehand, £200 of this was to go to grandson John Cutts, £200 to grandson John Carleton and the remainder equally to his daughters or their eldest sons or heirs (ll 89-123).

2. Wife Dame Elizabeth: £100 within 6 months (ll 83-4).

3. Daughter Mary Reade: £100 within 1 year (ll 128-9).

4. Daughter Lady Margaret's son John Cutts: £200 at the age of 21 (ll 130-5).

5. Deceased daughter Elizabeth's son John Carleton: £600 at the age of 21 (ll 152-66).

6. Daughter Margaret Lady Cuttes: £100 within 1 year (ll 183-6).

7. Daughter Anne Cave: £100 within 1 year (ll 186-9).

8. Daughter Helene Spencer: £100 within 1 year (ll 189-92).

The Hall and servants were to be kept as normal for a month after John's death:

198. Item I will and my
199. mynde is , that my house at Brockett hall and all my ordinarie houshold Servauntes
200. shalbe their kepte by my Executors in the same manner as nowe it is kepte for the
201. space of one moneth next after my decease with all such manner of provicion towardes
202. the kepinge of the same house as shalbe their remayninge at the tyme of my decease

John bequeathed his wife all her clothing and jewels:

213. Item I geve and bequeath vnto my fore sayd lovinge wief all her Apparell and
214. Jewells

The will was witnessed by Thomas Walkeden, William Pesley, Frauncis Stepneth.

He described his house in Aldersgate St (near the Barbican and St Paul's and just north of London Wall) as 'in the subvrbs of London' (l 28).

5. Funeral  

Back to the top

The College of Arms has a decorated certificate issued on 23 October 1598 by William Camden, Clarenceux King of Arms, and Nicholas Paddy, Lancaster Herald, for the funeral of 'Sir John Brokett of Brokett Haule' (ms I.16/26). Funeral certificates were issued in connexion with the organisation of heraldic funerals. The certificate includes a painting of 2 standards; a tabard; his arms—with 5 quarterings; arms of each of his wives; and his crest—a stag lodged proper, gorged with a gold ducal or crest coronet. Henry Gray of Hatfield copied and painted the tabard and crest in 2004.

                                    23th. of October. 1598.
         Sir Jhon Brokett of Brokett Haule in the Countie of Hertford Knight maryed Helen
the Daughter and Coheyr of Sir Robert Litton of Knebworth in the County of Hartf' Knight
by whom he had yssue, Margaret maried to Sir Jhon Cuttes Knight. Anne maried to Allexander
Caue of Bagrave in the County of Leicester Esquier. Elizabeth maried to George Carleton
of Oxfordshyre Esquire. Helen maried to Richard Spencer of Offeley in the County of Hartf'
Esquire. Mary maried to Thomas Read of Barton neer Abbington in the County of Berk' Esquire.
         The sayd Sir Jhon Brokett maried to his second wyfe Elizabeth Daughter of Tho: Moore
of Bircester in the County of Oxon', widdowe of Gabriell Fowler of Tillesworth in the County
of Bedford. by whom he had onely Frances Brokett a daughter at his death of the age of
between 14. & 15 years.
         The sayd Sir Jhon Brokett died the 2d day of October 1598. and his Funeralles were
solemnized worshipfully according to his degree at the Parish Church of Hatfield the 23th
of the same Moneth following. The Standerd was borne by Jhon Brokett sonne to Edw:
Brokett of Whetthamsteed, The Penon of his Armes by Jhon Brokett of Macarelles end. The
Helmet and Creast by Nicholas Paddy Lancaster Heraulde. The Coat of Armes Sword
and Shield by Wm Camden Clarencieux attending at the sayd Funerall. The Executors
Rich. Spencer Esquire and Frances Brokett Daughter to the Defuncte./
         Signed by Ri. Spencer
         William Camden Clarenceulx
         Nicholas Paddie alias
         Lancaster Herrauld