Sir John I of Brockett Hall b 1511-4 d 1558
The first Sir John is probably the most famous Brockett,
partly because of the grand alabaster tomb of himself and
wife Lady Margaret in Wheathampstead parish
Son of John
of Swaffham Bulbeck, the exact year of his birth is not known.
In his grandfather's IPMs hethe heirwas said to
have been 'aged 21 and more' on 6 Sep 1532 (PRO C142/53/29
and E150/233A/15). This would date his birth by 5
Sep 1511. Later as a witness to a case re Walter
Horley (PRO C24/230) he was said to be aged 33 on 30 Jan 1547.
This would date his birth 1513 or Jan 1514.
On his father's death John was about 14
and probably remained at Swaffham Bulbeck until he inherited
the Wheathampstead estates on his grandfather's death 6 years
later. Of John's 3 dynastic contemporaries,
his uncle Edward of Letchworth was the next
senior householder in the dynasty, then William I
of Hitchin and John of Offley.
He was knighted in 1547, and in 1553/4 served as MP for Hertfordshire.
Sir John died aged c 45 on 23 March 1558
(inscription on his tomb).
There are many records. Following Bindoff's biography we
cite only a few.
Following is John's entry in Bindoff (1982
pp 499-500), reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the
History of Parliament.
A few internal links have been added.
BROCKET, John (1513/14-58), of Wheathampstead and Brocket
Hall, Hatfield, Herts.
[MP for] HERTFORDSHIRE ?1542,1 1553 (Oct.),
b. 1513/14, 1st s. of John Brocket of Wheathampstead
by Dorothy Huston or Hewson of Cambs. m. Margaret,
da. and h. of William Bensted of Bennington, Herts.,
10s. inc. John, 3da. suc.
gd.-fa. 6 Sept. 1532. Kntd. ?22 Feb. 1547.2
Escheator, Essex and Herts. Jan.-Nov. 1539; j.p. Herts.
1540-d.; commr. musters, Herts. 1546, goods
of churches and fraternities 1550, 1553, relief 1550.3
The Brockets were an old-established and numerous family.
John Brocket proved his grand-father's will in 1532
and succeeded to five Hertfordshire manors valued at
over £40 a year; little is known of his father
or of Brocket's own early life. The father could have
been at either Lincoln's Inn or the Middle Temple, but
he himself seems not to have gone to an inn of court,
presumably because of his early succession to the family
In 1539 Brocket filled his first public office, that
of escheator, and in the same year he was among the
gentlemen attendant at the reception of Anne of Cleves.
He may have been the junior knight of the shire in 1542
- the damaged return supplies only that Member's name
and style, 'armiger'; his uncle Edward
Brocket is the only other likely candidate. He was called
on to furnish 20 soldiers for the war in France in 1544,
and his name appears in a list of those assigned for
service with the rearguard. He had joined with two others
to purchase in July 1543 for £728 the manors of
Holmes and Ayot St. Lawrence, presumably as a speculation,
since Brocket held none of these lands when he died.
Later purchases by Brocket alone included houses in
Charterhouse Lane in the City of London, in 1553, and
the manor of Westington, Hertfordshire, from (Sir) Nicholas
Throckmorton in 1555. He was rated at £100 for
the subsidy of 1545, when he was resident at Wheathampstead.
He must have acquired much other land by private purchase,
for he died possessed of property worth over £140
a year; this excludes what he settled on his heir-apparent,
who married a daughter of Sir Robert Lytton of Knebworth,
with whom Brocket had a lawsuit during Audley's chancellorship
over a tenancy of Knebworth lands.5
Brocket was among those knighted shortly after Edward
VI's coronation and he served on most county commissions
for Hertfordshire during that reign. He sued out a pardon
after Queen Mary's accession, by which time he had made
Brocket Hall his principal seat; his grandfather had
obtained the Hatfield property from his own younger
son Edward, to whom he granted in exchange a lease of
Almshoe manor. Brocket remained on the Hertfordshire
commission of the peace under Mary and in August 1553
sat on the special commission of oyer and terminer for
the trial of Sir Andrew Dudley and other supporters
of Queen Jane. Although his religious views are unknown,
he was presumably considered reliable by the new regime
for he was returned for Hertfordshire to the first Marian
Parliament and again in 1555. He died on 24 Mar. 1558
and was buried, as he wished, in Wheathampstead church,
where a fine marble tomb commemorates him.6
Brocket had made his will in August
1556. He provided for his younger children from his
lands in Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire and left
his house at Hatfield, with its lands, to his wife for
life, with remainder to his eldest son John. The executors,
his wife and a younger son, were adjured to carry out
the provisions of the will 'without fraud or collusion',
and were left the residue of Brocket's personal estate:
they were also to have that part of it which was left
first to the heir John, if he should vex or trouble
them in their execution of the will.7
Only the surname remains on a damaged return, C219/18B/37.
2. Aged 33 in January 1547, C24/23, but
said to be of age at gd.-fa.'s death, C142/53/29. Trans.
E. Herts. Arch. Soc. vii. 402; Clutterbuck, Herts.
i. 522; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, p. cccii. 3.
LP Hen. VIII. xv. xvi, xxi; CPR, 1550-3,
p.394; 1553, pp.354,414; 1553-4, p.20. 4.
Trans. E. Herts. Arch. Soc. vii. 402;
Chauncey, Herts. i. 32; M.T.Recs i.
27, 62; Black Bk. L. Inn, i.188, 198; C142/53/29;
PCC 20 Thower. 5. LP Hen. VIII,
xiv, xviii, xix; CPR, 1553-4, p. 380; 1554-5,
p. 13; C1/947/47-49; Herts. Gen. and Antiq. ii.
28. 6. C142/53/29; CPR, 1553-4,
p. 421; 1554-5, p. 42; Clutterbuck, i. 522. 7.
PCC 18 Noodes; C142/116/83. D.F.C.
Bindoff's entry is a reliable summary of Sir John I's life.
- John was brought up in Swaffham Bulbeck rather than Wheathampstead.
His grandfather built Brockett Hall, where John would have
moved to on his death in 1532. Nonetheless, he was buried
in the ancestral parish of Wheathampstead, rather than Hatfieldthe
parish of Brockett Hall.
- 22 Feb 1546/7 is the date given by Shaw (1906 vol 2 pp
59-60) when John Brokett was dubbed Knight
of the Carpet by the King.
- Yes the Brockets were old-establishedthey had been
in the county since the 1420sbut
numerous, no. During John's adulthood there were only 4
Broket families in
Hertfordshire, including his own.
- John may not have gone to an Inn
of Court, but he appears to have gone to Cambridge,
recordedwithout a first nameas B A 1526-7.
John married Margaret BENSTED. As the heir
and future head of the dynasty, John's marriage must have
been politically, economically and socially strategic, yet
it is difficult to determine Margaret's parents or inheritance.
The inscription on the tomb described
her as 'dowghter and ayer of Will'm Benstede esquyer'. But
no suitable Bensted records have yet been found. Unlike son
John's 1st wife Helen who held land from the queen in her
own right, on which an inquisition was conducted, or his 2nd
wife who left a will as a widow, Margaret apparently
left no will as a widow when she died 1560.
According to the inscription on the tomb they 'hade yssue
X sonnes and 3 dowghters'. 7 at least were living in 1557
according to John's will:
- Thomas the elder
- Thomas the younger
Of the other 6, apart from a Radulfus or
Randoll (1546-1621) the preserved Wheathampstead parish registers
only recorded a William (bap 1544, bur 1545).
Bensted (bap 1548) probably died young; John
bequeathed Harpfilde Hall (will l 66) to him in 1558 but it
became eldest son John's possession. Neither Thomas
the elder or younger nor Randoll apparently
13-20 years later Glover recorded
6 children: John, Thomas
(married Letton and died without issue),
Edward, Susan, Elizabeth
(married John Pope), Elizabeth without issue.
Glover alone recorded 2 Elizabeths.
of the daughters of Sir Robert Lytton
| Both Thomas
(the elder) and John were married to daughters
of Sir Robert Lytton (d 1551 or 5; www.knebworthhouse.com/history/earlyhistory.html
accessed June 2003; Hine 1929 vol 2 p 26 [a reproduction
of a portrait of him]). A lengthy (and costly) licence
was drawn up in 1557-8 by Letters Patent to Thomas
and Anne (PRO C 66/921). But nothing more is
known of either. Although the licence clearly shows that
Anne had inherited a third part of Sir Robert's extensive
estates, Burke (1838 vol 1 p 447) lists his daughters
and their husbands as:
1. Helen m 1
Sir Gabriel Fowler; 2 Sir John
Brocket. (This is mistakenrather it was Sir John
Brocket who married 1 Helen Lytton and 2 Elizabeth, widow
of Sir Gabriel Fowler.)
m 1 Thomas Little; 2 Edward Barrett
3. Mary m 1 Thomas
Harleston Esq; 2 Edward Pulter Esq.
The Visitation of Hertfordshire (Metcalfe 1886
p 151) is similarly corrupt, listing Sir Robert Lytton
of Shrubland's daughters as:
m Edward Barrett of Aveleigh, Essex
2. Anne m John
Burlacey of Marlow, Oxfordshire. [Other sources show him
as Sir John Borlace of Little Marlow, Bucks; MP 1586;
Sheriff of Bucks 1567, 1588; d 1593; and Anne d 1621 having
borne him 7 surviving children.]
3. Helen m 1
Gabriel Fowler; 2 Sir John Brocket
4. An unnamed
It seems that only 3 or 4 of John and Margaret's
children had families of their own. Berry (and Clutterbuck
after him) recorded only 4 children:
They said all had issue except Elizabeth.
- Edward married Ethelred widow of Sir
- Susan married Edward BOUGHTON Esq of
Causton, Co Warwick (the 1860 pedigree adds 'or Broughton').
Her aunt Elizabeth had married into this family.
- Elizabeth married John POPE of Co Oxon
- John married 1. Helen d/o Sir Robert
LYTTON; 2. Elizabeth d/o Roger MOORE.
Edward VI (reigned 1547-53) commissioned Sir John Butler,
Sir John Broket and Nicholas Bristow Esq
to assess the goods, plate, jewels and ornaments of every
church, chapel, fraternity, brotherhood and guild in Hertfordshire.
It took them 17 days and they submitted their findings as
a certificate on a royal quarto sheet of
paper (PRO E117/14/193) including an account of their
expenses as follows:
|| 4 days
|| 1 day
|| 2 days
|| 4 days
|| 1 day
|| 5 days
5 nights + carriage
19s 5d halfpenny
3s 7d halfpenny
Perhaps there were no expenses for any nights
in Wheathampstead as they all stayed at Brockett Hall.
Transcription of the certificate (E117/14/193) laid out in the original format:
||The certificat of
us Sir John Butler knighte Sir John Broket knighte and
Bristow Esquire Commissionours appoynted by vertue of
king Edwarde the vjth his Maiesties
commission concernyng the Survey and sale of all maner
of goodes plate Juelles and ornamentes
of euery church chapell fraternitie brotherhoode and guilde
within the countie of Hertford / Wherein
we haue doon as shalbe declared in maner and fourme following
that is to say /
we the said Commissionours do certifie that we haue appoynted
to euery parish within
the saide countie of hertford suche po... ... and [l]ynen
for seruice of the same churches and to ...
pover parisshonours theire the Lyne[n] stuf as at that
present tyme we thought conuenient and meat ...
togithers with all maner of Belles and sauntus belles
aswell greate as smale / as at that tyme
hanged and remayned within the same churches and Steples
we doo certefie / that we haue delyuered by vertue of
our said commission vnto Sir
Fraunces Jobson knighte / then named Maister of the kinges
Maiesties Juelhouse to his graces
vse all threst of the plate belonging to the churches
within the said Shire which amounteth
to two thowsande Eight hundrethe eighte ounces and thre
groats over and besides the Siluer
taken from ... of hicchen chur[ch ..]des defaced and embesuled
weying xxiij ounces in siluer
besides the woode Summe total delyuered as aforesaid MMCxxxj
ounces iij groates / as by an
Indenture sealed and subscribed by the said Mr Jobson
We doo certefie that by vertue of the said commission
we haue delyuered to
Arthure Sturton Esquire / all such rich Ornamentes as
were appoynted by the
said commission founde by vs in any place within the said
countie of hertford as by an
Indenture subscribed and sealed by the same Arthure playnely
we doo certefie that by vertue of the said Commission
we haue aswell collected
and taken in to our handes certeyn parcelles of churchstuf
and money embesuled and purloyned
awey from churches / and taken money for the same to thuttermost
valure that we colde
get / But also haue solde to divers and sondry persones
all other maner of ornamentes and
metall to to thuttermost valure that we colde by alle
meanes after our best discreacons / that
did apperteigne to any churche fraternitie brotherhoode
and guilde within the
said countie of hertford Total aswell for embesuled goodes
as goodes solde CClvj li xiiij s
Wherof we haue paide by vertue of our said commission
to Sir Edmunde Pekham knighte Fourescore
vnleven poundes / and Fourtene Shillinges as apperith
by an Indenture subscribed and
sealed by the same Sir Edmunde Pekham And soo Remaneth
in thandes of vs the said
Commissionours the Somme of One hundreth Three score and
Fyve poundes /
Oute of which somme we the saide Commissionours aske and
desire to be allowed money taken
oute of the same for our charges spent in and aboughte
thexecution of our said commission in
maner and fourme following that is to say /
paid and Leyed fourth by vs oute of the said Somme
for our charges at the Towne of Ware at two seuerall tymes
Daies iiij nightes with our horsemeate also
li v s
li iij s vij d ob
paid likewyse for our charges and expenses at Bontyngford
occupied there aboughte the premisses one day and one
s ij d
paid for our charges at the towne of Welwin at two
seuerall daies in and aboughte the premisses occupied
li x s
likewyse paid for our charges at Whetehampsted by the
space of thre daies & one daie at harpden occupied
li v s vij d
paid also for our expenses at the towne of St
Albanes by the space of one daie and one nyghte occupied
in and aboughte the premisses
li xiij s v d
Leyed 'out' of the the [sic] foresaid Somme by
vs the said commissonours for carriage of plate and other
church goodes and ornamentes 'from place to place' and
in thende to London
to delyuer to the Master of the Juelhouse Mr Sturton
and Mr Pekham / and Lying at London occupied in
and aboughte the premisses by the space of v daies and
v nightes and our horses also / and the charges of a carte
to carry the plate to London & rich ornamentes with
corde and other thinges necessary
li xix s v d ob
Remaynethe in thandes of vs
the said Commissonours the Somme of Cxx li xvj
s v d ob
John Buttler k John Brokett k N Bristow Esquier
With the dissolution of the monasteries Westminster Abbey
ceased holding the manor of Wheathampstead in 1540. The new
Dean and Chapter of the Abbey let their estates to
Sir John in 1543 (Munby 1974 p 50).
1545 John was commissioned to be a subsidy
assessor for Casio Hundred, which included Brockett Hall.
Thebrydge. John inherited
this manor from his grandfather John of Swaffham Bulbeck (his
IPM) and according to his own IPM passed it to his son Sir John
II (VCH Herts vol 2 p 434 n 38). John's deposition
in a dispute over his ownership of this Manor in 1546 began
(PRO E321/37/12 ll 52-9, 82-3; VCH Herts
vol 2 p 434 n 37):
of Whethampsted in the county of hertf' esquyer
sworne and examyned the xxth day of May in the xxxviijth
yere of the reigne of our Souereigne lorde king henry
the eight sayeth and deposeth vpon the said articles as
To the first article this deponent saithe that he hathe
a manour called the manour of
Thebrydge in the parishe of Sandrydge
in the County of Hertf' whiche he and
his auncestours whose estate he hathe haue had and enjoyed
space of CC yeres and more ...
To the ixth article this deponent saieth that he hathe
said manour of Thebrydge by dyscent lynyally
from his auncestours
That it had been in the family for 200 years was nearly double
the actual periodThomas acquired it in 1437. It was
for claims like this that Edward
of Wheathampstead was preferably the son of
Thomas husband of
Elizabeth Ash rather than brother. Sir John
I was Edward's great grandson, but not Thomas'.
IPM. Chancery and Exchequer copies of John's
IPM survive. The former is very large and the latter is in
a bad state and largely illegible (PRO C142/116/83, E150/331/14).
Written 14 Aug 1557, proved
3 May 1558. Executors: wife Margaret and 2nd son Edward
[of Wheathampstead]. Transliteration is from two copies at
the PRO in Kew: PROB 11/40/f18 and PROB 10/34/Doris.sp/2202703.
The British Library also has a fine copy with a large oval
seal c 9x6 cm (ms Add Ch 28953).
John gave Margaret: Brokett Hall with all
its lands, buildings etc and all his copyhold lands in Hatfield
and Waterend Farm 'for terme of hir Lief and so Longe as she
keapeth hir self sole and vnmaried' (ll 40-6) and if she remarried,
she was still to receive £50 p.a. (ll 52-3).
There would have been a large gathering at the funeral.
His will (ll 13-5) says, 'I will that myne Executoures give
to euery preist that shalbe at my buriall xijd and to euery
Clarcke beinge above the age of xvj iiijd and to euery other
clerc ijd and to euery poore man woman and childe jd to praye
for my sowle.' John died during Philip and Mary's reign.
He referred to the upcoming marriage of Thomas the elder
to Anne Lytton (ll 56-64):
|I will and give to Thomas
Brokett the elder my sonne his heirs and Assignes
for ever all my
landes tenementes and hereditamentes
with their appurtenaunces lieng in
the Countie of Nottinghame
in full recompence and satisfaction of one Obligacion
made for the payment of two hundreth
poundes wherein I stonde bounden with John Brokett
my eldest sonne to Anne Lytton
one of the daughters and heirs of Sir Robert Lytton
so that no aduantage be taken of that Obligacion
or els this Legacy of tenne poundes to be voide whiche
god willinge the saied Thomas shall take
to wief . And if the saied Thomas Brokett happen to dye
before mariage then I will and give
the mariage of the saied Anne and the proffitt thereof
to Edwarde Brokett my sonne towardes his
aduancement in like manner and fourme as
I aught to haue it by order of the Lawe.
In his will (ll 9-13) John said, 'I bequeathe ... my bodie
to be buried in the parishe churche of whetamsted in the Chappell
whereas my Auncestours be buried and I will that an
honest Tombe there be made for the remembraunce by
the Discreacion of myne Executours.' The VCH
(Herts vol 2 p 311) described it as:
|A large altar tomb
on the east side of the south transept [of St Helen's
Wheathampstead] to Sir John Brockett and Margaret
his wife, with two life-size recumbent figures
in alabaster... [A detailed description follows.] On the
south side of the tomb are three small male figures, one
bearded, each holding a shield, and in the middle the
arms of Brockett within a garter. On the west side are
two small effigies of Sir John Brockett dressed in exactly
similar manner to the recumbent figure above. Each figure
holds a shield. On the north side are three small female
figures holding shields, and in the middle a lozenge containing
the arms of Benstede in a garter.
The 3 small figures on each side symmetrically represented
their large family.
Henry Brockett, compiler of the 1860 Gateshead pedigree, studied
the tomband heraldrycarefully:
|At the West End of this monument
are three shields, upon which are these arms :- On the
first shield, under the female figure, quarterly, 1st
and 4th, or a cross patonce, sable, Brocket;
2nd and 3rd, gules, three bars gemelles, or, Bensted;
impaling, quarterly, first, ermine, on a chief indented,
azure, three ducal coronets, or, Lytton;
2 and 3 argent, three boars' heads, erased and erect,
sable, tusked, or, Booth. 4th, or, on
a cross, gules, five pomegranates, or. On the second shield,
under the male figure: quarterly, of six coats - 1st,
Brocket; 2nd quarterly, 1 and 4, gules,
on a saltire, argent, a mullet, sable, Neville
[according to the rules of cadency, a mullet, a five pointed
star = third son = Wm Neville Earl of Kent although with
a mullet gules [Simple Heraldry, p.20]]; 2 and 3, or,
a lion rampant azure, Fauconberg; 3rd
gules, three escutcheons, or; 4th gules, a fess truncetted
between two lions passant, or, Harwood;
5th, or, on a pile, azure, a griffin passant of the field.
6th, or, a pair of birds' legs erased sable, in the talons
of each a torteaux, impaling quarterly, 1st and 4th gules,
two bars gemelles, or, Bensted; 2nd,
or, a bend sable and chief gules; 3rd, or, a chevron between
three griffins' heads, sable. On the third, the dexter
impalement of the last shield, impaling sable, on a cross
engrailed argent, five mullets of six points of the field.
So these families were recorded on the tomb: Brocket; Bensted;
Lytton; Booth; Neville; Fauconberg; Harwood.