BRERES, Henry (-d.1619), of Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
Sheriff, Coventry 1575-6,4 member, Gt. Council 1578-d., dep. alderman from 1581, mayor 1583-4, 1597, commr. musters 1584, alderman by 1589-d.,5 collector, tenths and fifteenths 1605,6 commr. enclosure riots 1607,7 aid 1609.8
Master, Drapers’ Co., Coventry 1579, 1583, 1590, 1598, 1603, 1612.9
Breres was born at Preston, Lancashire. He probably belonged to a junior branch of a local gentry family, since he appears to have been a cousin of Edmund Breres*.10 A draper by trade, he was evidently well established in Coventry by 1575, when he was chosen as sheriff. He joined the city’s Great Council three years later, and was an alderman by 1589, initially for Gofford Street ward, but later for Earl Street ward. He served twice as mayor, on the second occasion completing a term when the incumbent died in office, represented the city in three Elizabethan parliaments, and was master of the Coventry Drapers’ Company at least six times.11
By the start of James I’s reign Breres was the senior member of the Great Council, with many years’ experience of handling the city’s business in London. On 8 Feb. 1604, 12 days before he and John Rogerson were elected to the forthcoming Parliament, both men were granted a lease of the tithes of Coventry’s two principal parishes, but it is unclear whether this decision was in any way linked to their new status as the city’s representatives at Westminster.12 Breres is not recorded as speaking during the first session, but he was appointed to attend a conference with the Lords about the Union on 14 Apr., and named or added to three bill committees, concerned with the Statute of Bankrupts, plague relief and the leather trade (14 and 18 May, and 28 June). As a Coventry citizen he was also entitled to attend legislative committees which discussed felt manufacture and alehouses (31 Mar. and 23 May) and, more surprisingly, the problems of decayed coastal towns and maintenance of the Navy (12 Apr. and 10 May).13 He received £28 for his expenses during this session, a daily rate of 5s., though he seems to have returned home shortly before the prorogation, as he was paid only up to 4 July.14
Breres’s prominence in Coventry was reflected in the spring of 1605 by his receipt of a Privy Seal demanding £20. However, he ultimately paid only half that amount, as the Great Council assigned the residue to other residents. Whether he was present at the outset of the second parliamentary session is unclear. On 9 Mar. 1606 he and Rogerson were admitted as honorary members of Gray’s Inn, but it is not known how or why this was arranged. Three days later Breres was granted leave to depart from the Commons, and his wages were suspended between 22 Mar. and 27 April. On his return to the House, he received one committee nomination, to consider a bill for the relief of skinners (2 May). In total he was paid £23 15s. for the 1606 phase of this session, at the same daily rate as before.15
Breres made one recorded speech during the third session, on 11 May 1607, when he objected to a proviso in a bill about woollen cloth manufacture. Two of his legislative appointments related to issues with which he had been linked previously, alehouses, and the leather trade (9 and 13 December). The remainder of his committees concerned grants to corporations, free trade, logwood and legal costs (21 and 26 Nov. 1606; 15-16 May 1607). For the period before Christmas 1606, he received wages at the higher daily rate of 6s. 8d., totalling £11. He was paid another £14 up to Easter 1607, but his final reimbursement is not known.16
Around early 1609 Breres again travelled to London on the city’s behalf, this time seeking to confirm the titles of some properties belonging to two of Coventry’s principal charities. When the bill for this exercise rose to £200, the Great Council asked Breres to contribute £40, on the grounds that he stood to benefit personally as a lessee of the disputed lands. Breres then protested that he had received no allowance for his own expenses during the case, and secured a small payment towards these in October, but he was probably obliged to meet the Council’s demand.17
Coventry by this time was considerably less prosperous than it had been in the early sixteenth century, and in April 1609 Breres signed a letter from the city to the Privy Council, rejecting the government’s request for an increase in local subsidy assessments.18 In May 1610 the Great Council voted to spend £40 promoting a bill in Parliament ‘for the better relief of cities and corporations’. Breres had been paid an identical sum before setting out for Westminster in the previous February, but if he intended to promote such a measure he failed in his task.19 His principal duty otherwise during the fourth session was to request a by-election at Coventry, on the grounds that John Rogerson was incurably sick (19 February). He received two committee nominations, on 23 Feb. and 21 Apr., for bills concerned with the cloth trade and the statutes of rogues. As a Coventry citizen he was also entitled to attend a legislative committee to discuss an old highways Act (30 March). On 5 June he joined other Members in re-taking the Oath of Supremacy. There is no surviving record of his activities during the fifth session.20
Breres made at least one more official trip to London, accompanying Henry Sewall* in 1612, in which year he also served as master of the Drapers’ Company for the last time. An active member of the Great Council almost until his death, he presented his colleagues in October 1618 with ‘a fair salt cloth embroidered with gold’, decorated with gold buttons and tassels.21 He drew up his will on 1 Jan. 1619, requesting burial at St. Michael’s, Coventry, close to the graves of his two wives. His bequests included £5 to the poor of Preston, £21 for charitable purposes in Coventry, and over £70 in gifts to friends and relatives. To his grandson he left the furnishings of his best chamber, including taffeta bed curtains, and a tester, valance and pillow all of cloth of gold. His executors were his only daughter and her husband. Breres died before 10 Mar., when his place as an alderman was filled by Sampson Hopkins*.22
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. GI Admiss.
- 2. PROB 11/133, f. 416.
- 3. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 230.
- 4. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 178.
- 5. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, ff. 80, 86v, 94, 115, 135, 228v, 230; Coventry Leet Bk. ed. M.D. Harris, pt. 3, pp. 830-1.
- 6. E401/2404-5.
- 7. C181/2, f. 42v.
- 8. SP14/43/107.
- 9. Coventry Archives, PA 154/2, ff. 98, 105, 114, 128, 137, 160.
- 10. PROB 11/133, f. 416; Vis. Lancs. ed. F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 93; W.D. Pink and A.B. Beaven, Parl. Rep. of Lancs. 278.
- 11. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, ff. 115, 134v-5, 147.
- 12. Ibid. ff. 108, 149, 151.
- 13. CJ, i. 160b, 169a, 172a, 205a, 209a, 213b, 222b, 247b.
- 14. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/20/2, p. 82.
- 15. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 154; BA H/Q/A79/92B; CJ, i. 283a, 304a (Breres is incorrectly described as a Norwich burgess).
- 16. CJ, i. 318a, 325a, 329a, 330b, 372a, 374-b, 1043a; Coventry Archives, BA H/C/20/2, p. 84; BA H/Q/A79/92D.
- 17. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 172v; BA H/C/20/2, p. 93.
- 18. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 42.
- 19. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 176; BA H/C/20/2, p. 97.
- 20. CJ, i. 396b, 399a, 416b, 419b; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15.
- 21. Coventry Archives, BA H/C/20/2, p. 106; BA H/C/17/1, ff. 227, 228v.
- 22. PROB 11/133, f. 416r-v; Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 230.