Home > Hertfordshire > Herts to 1599 > Sir John I

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 church.

Son of John of Swaffham Bulbeck, the exact year of his birth is not known. In his grandfather's IPMs he—the heir—was 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.

  Contents of this page: 1. Bindoff's biography 4. Other records  
    2. Wife and children 5. Will  
    3. Expenses claim 6. Memorial  


1. Bindoff's biography

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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.), 1555

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 estates.4

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

1. 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. Four points:

  • 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 Hatfield—the 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-established—they had been in the county since the 1420s—but 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, recorded—without a first name—as B A 1526-7.


2. Wife and children

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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:

  1. John
  2. Edward
  3. Thomas the elder
  4. Bensted
  5. Thomas the younger
  6. Susan
  7. Elizabeth.

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 had issue.

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.

Marriages 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 mistaken—rather it was Sir John Brocket who married 1 Helen Lytton and 2 Elizabeth, widow of Sir Gabriel Fowler.)
    2. Elizabeth 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:

    1. Elizabeth 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 daughter.

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:

  • Edward married Ethelred widow of Sir Thomas CHALONER
  • 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.
They said all had issue except Elizabeth.


3. Expenses claim

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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:

Ware 4 days 4 nights
£11 5s  
Buntingford 1 day 1 night
£3 10s 2d  
Welwyn 2 days
£5 10s  
Wheathampstead 4 days £7 5s 7d  
St Albans 1 day 1 night
£4 13s 5d  
London 5 days 5 nights + carriage
£11 19s 5d halfpenny  
£44 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:

Com Hertf The certificat of us Sir John Butler knighte Sir John Broket knighte and Nicholas
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 /
  First 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 there /
  Item 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 playnely apperith
  Item 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 apperithe /
  Also 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 /
Ware First paid and Leyed fourth by vs oute of the said Somme
for our charges at the Towne of Ware at two seuerall tymes iiij
Daies iiij nightes with our horsemeate also
xj li v s xliij li iij s vij d ob
Bontingford Item paid likewyse for our charges and expenses at Bontyngford
occupied there aboughte the premisses one day and one night
lxx s ij d
Welwin Item paid for our charges at the towne of Welwin at two
seuerall daies in and aboughte the premisses occupied
v li x s
Whetehamsted Item likewyse paid for our charges at Whetehampsted by the
space of thre daies & one daie at harpden occupied as aforesaid
vij li v s vij d
St Albans Item 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
iiij li xiij s v d
London Moeouer 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 trussing
corde and other thinges necessary
xj li xix s v d ob
  And soo 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

4. Other records

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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):

John Brokett 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 folowith ...

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 by the
space of CC yeres and more

To the ixth article this deponent saieth that he hathe all the
said manour of Thebrydge by dyscent lynyally from his auncestours

2 lines from the original document

That it had been in the family for 200 years was nearly double the actual period—Thomas 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).

5. Will

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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.

6. Memorial

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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.

William Henry Brockett, compiler of the 1860 Gateshead pedigree, studied the tomb—and heraldry—carefully:

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.