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'
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.
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
BROCKET, John (c.1540-98), of Brocket Hall, Herts.
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
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.
1st wife Helen, eldest daughter of Sir Robert
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 1550sthe burial of a probable
son John in 1559 was recorded in the Wheathampstead
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
|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
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
All the cheese at £4 13s 4d
2 gray mares with there 2 sucking coltes
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
- Margaret married to Sir John CUTTES/CUTT
of Childerleigh, Cambridgeshire (Visitation of Cambridgeshire
1575 and 1619, pp 30-1).
- Anne married to Alexander CAVE Esq of
Bagrave (later Knight).
- Elizabeth d bef 1598 married to George
- Helene married to Richard SPENCER Esq
of Offley (later Knight: Metcalfe 1886 p 165).
- Mary married to Thomas
READE Esq (later Knight). Brockett
Hall descended to this family (Metcalfe 1886 p 162).
- 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.
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'
iv. Land in Bedfordshire:
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
7. yeare of her highnes raigne) within the Hundred
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
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
16. subsydie, was one of her maiesties
comyssioners for the
17. taxinge leavyinge & payinge of the said second
18. of the said second subsydie, had and kepte
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
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
27. handes and seales the xiiith daye of
maie in the
28. xxxvth yeare of the raigne of our
29. Elizabethe by the grace of god of
30. and Ireland queene defender of the faithe et c
31. Phillip Bottler Thomas Fanshawe
vi. Examples of disposal of property:
- 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).
- Sold the Manor of Herons in Wheathampstead
in 1565 to Thomas North (Munby 1974 p 50; VCH
Herts vol 2 p 302).
- 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
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.
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
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
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
54. my wief or any other for her or by her assent commaundment
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
The will was witnessed by Thomas Walkeden, William Pesley,
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).
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 armswith 5 quarterings;
arms of each of his wives; and his cresta stag lodged
proper, gorged with a gold ducal or crest coronet. Henry Gray
of Hatfield copied and painted the tabard
of October. 1598.
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.
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
between 14. & 15 years.
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
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
by Ri. Spencer