BROCAS, William (c.1379-1456), of of Beaurepaire and 'The Vine', in Sherborne St. John, Hants
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.c.1379, s. of Sir Bernard Brocas (exec. 1400), of Beaurepaire, by Joan, da. of Sir Thomas Midelton;1 gds. of Sir Bernard* and er bro. of Bernard*. m. (1) by Nov. 1398, Sibyl; (2) by June 1414, Joan, da. of Sir Walter Sandys*, 2s. at least 3da.
Master of the King’s buckhounds, ?1400-d.2
Commr. of array, Hants July 1402, May 1406, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421, May 1435, Jan. 1436, Mar. 1443, Sept. 1449; inquiry Jan. 1414 (lollards),3 Jan. 1415 (dues to Southampton castle); to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1434, Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, Sept. 1449; assess liability to contribute to a subsidy Apr. 1431; of oyer and terminer Nov. 1433; to take musters, Portsdown Dec. 1435, Southampton July 1436; treat for payment of subsidies, Hants Feb. 1441, Aug. 1450.
Sheriff, Hants 1 Dec. 1415-30 Nov. 1416, 4 Nov. 1428-10 Feb. 1430, 7 Nov. 1435-8 Nov. 1436.
J.p. Hants 12 Feb. 1422-Mar. 1455.
The constant loyalty of the Brocas family to Richard II continued even after his deposition, and in January 1400 William’s father, having joined the conspiracy against Henry IV led by the earls of Kent, Salisbury and Surrey, was forthwith executed for treason. The Brocas estates (conservatively estimated to be worth 200 marks a year) were forfeited to the Crown, but almost immediately Sir Bernard’s widow was granted dower and her late husband’s goods and chattels, and as early as November following the rest of the property was restored to William, who had only recently attained his majority. He had earlier come into his inheritance of Weekley (Northamptonshire) under the terms of a marriage settlement made by his father in 1398, and in his youth he evidently lived either there or on the family estate at Denton in Yorkshire. However, his mother retained for life all of the Yorkshire estates as well as dower lands in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire, so that when William was assessed for a subsidy in 1412 his landed holdings were valued at no more than £85 a year. Nor was this revenue to be greatly increased until his mother’s death in 1429. Brocas subsequently sold the estates in Yorkshire to the Vavasours of Weston, a branch of his grandmother’s family. He did, however, consolidate his holdings in the south, where they centred on Beaurepaire and the neighbouring manor of Sherborne Coudray (afterwards known as ‘The Vyne’), a property which had been settled on him and his second wife by her father, Sir Walter Sandys. Brocas’s income from land in Hampshire was assessed for the purposes of taxation in 1436 as £120 a year, doubtless an underestimation.4
Although restored to his father’s estates within a year of their forfeiture, Brocas found rehabilitation under the Lancastrians anything but easy; and he chose to follow the career of a country gentleman rather than to try to emulate his distinguished grandfather. It was not until the reign of Henry V (who sought to bury in oblivion the consequences of his father’s quarrel with Richard II), that Brocas’s standing among the local gentry began to receive official recognition in the shape of his regular inclusion on royal commissions. In November 1413, when his kinsman and friend, William Warbelton† of Skierfield, was escheator of Hampshire, Brocas obtained a favourable report regarding his proposed enclosure of a road which cut through Beaurepaire park. Also, he was returned to Parliament in the following spring, along with Sir Walter Sandys, who was shortly to become (if, indeed, he was not already) his father-in-law. Brocas apparently took no part in the royal expedition to Normandy of 1415, for he sat again in the Commons that November, and in December he was appointed as sheriff of Hampshire (as such holding the elections to the Parliament of March following). He was included, however, among those 20 who were considered by the j.p.s for the shire to be best able to do military service in the defence of the realm, a list of whom was sent to the Council in the winter of 1419-20.5
Brocas’s last Parliament assembled in 1422, more than 30 years before his death, but he continued to take an interest in parliamentary affairs, at least to the extent of attending the elections held at Winchester in 1423, 1425, 1426, 1427, 1435, 1442 and 1447 (on the last two occasions heading the list of electors), and as sheriff officiating at those of 1429. (Indeed, he returned his relation, William Warbelton). It was during this, his second shrievalty, that the burgesses of Southampton voted to send him a hogshead of Gascon wine worth 30s. to procure his favour when he empanelled a jury in a suit between the borough and the Crown. Five years later Brocas was named among the gentry of Hampshire required to take the oath not to maintain anyone who broke the peace. He continued to take little or no part in affairs at national level, although in 1436 he did make a loan, of £40, in aid of the duke of York’s expedition to France.6 Brocas was called ‘King’s esquire’ in 1443, a description warranted by his hereditary office as master of the buckhounds. Six years later he petitioned Parliament regarding the payment of his official fees and allowances (amounting to £50 a year), which had fallen into arrear because of preference being given to other annuitants drawing upon the same source (the issues of Surrey and Sussex). In accordance with his request, the office was formally confirmed by letters patent, it being then stipulated that he should indeed have preference.7
Brocas’s other dealings (with the exception of his trusteeship of a manor in Berkshire on behalf of Eleanor, Lady St. Amand), for the most part concerned the affairs of members of his family. He is recorded in transactions on behalf of his brothers-in-law, Sir Thomas Romsey of Rockbourne and Robert de la Mare* of Aldermaston, and for William Warbelton. Among his own feoffees were Robert Dingley II (his fellow MP of 1421), who was married either to his aunt or his sister, and a close friend, John Golafre* of Berkshire.8 William and his younger brother, Bernard, were joint executors and residuary legatees of their mother’s will, and under its terms the former received bequests of a ‘gilt cup painted with clouds’ and ‘a gold necklace with two clasped hands’ along with the blessing of the testatrix ‘so that he be friend and benefactor to her soul and to the soul of her late husband, his father’ . In 1449 Bishop Waynflete of Winchester granted Brocas a licence to have the marriages of his children solemnized in the chapel on his manor of ‘The Vyne’ . However, by the time he came to make his will, on 14 Mar. 1456, two or more of his daughters were still unmarried. One of them, Margaret, had married a kinsman, Arnold Brocas† of Surrey, but the terms of their marriage settlement had been disputed, and only shortly before Brocas had been forced to bring a Chancery suit against the couple. No doubt forewarned or disheartened by this experience he now, in his will, left 100 marks to each of his unwed daughters on condition that they married as he wished, or as his executors approved; otherwise this dowry was to be employed in providing masses for his soul. He left each girl a mere four marks a year for her sustenance in the meantime. Brocas’s sons, William (a member of Lincoln’s Inn) and Bernard, were appointed executors, and William Warbelton as overseer. Brocas died on 29 Apr. following and was interred in a chapel in the Benedictine priory of Monk Sherborne. Probate was granted on 10 May.9