BROCKET, John (1513/14-58), of Wheathampstead and Brocket Hall, Hatfield, Herts.
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Family and Education
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 grandfather’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.