BROOKING, Christopher (c.1553-1627), of Totnes, Devon
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Family and Education
Brooking was the most prominent member of a merchant family resident in Totnes by the mid-fifteenth century. A leading local exporter of Devon cloth, he also imported French canvas and silk, and presumably traded with Spain, given his membership of the Spanish Company.7 Although not one of Totnes’ wealthiest figures, his subsidy assessments never exceeding £9 in goods, he was clearly an able administrator. Brooking presumably helped to secure the new borough charter granted in August 1596, during his first term as mayor, and was duly named as one of the 14 ‘masters’ or aldermen in the re-modelled corporation.8 In 1601, when the borough’s management of the Magdalene charity was challenged in the Court of Requests, he travelled to London to organize the corporation’s defence, and apparently also helped to negotiate a new financial settlement with the discontented almspeople.9
This track record doubtless contributed to Brooking’s election as Totnes’ senior Member in 1604, but he made little impact on the Commons. He conducted some more legal business in London for the corporation, and in February 1606 briefed the mayor on opposition in the House to the Spanish Company, which many West Country merchants such as Brooking had been forced to join. His letter does not survive, but the mayor’s reply noted that ‘of Parliament matters little [was] as yet effected’.10 This comment may indicate that the corporation was hoping for legislation to resolve its problems with the Magdalene almshouses. A bill ‘for the confirmation of the lands and tenements heretofore granted, devised, or conveyed to several corporations, for charitable, godly, and good uses’ received its first reading on 4 Mar. 1606, but the Commons immediately ordered that it be redrafted. After the revised version completed its second reading on 19 Mar. both Brooking and his colleague Walter Dottyn were named to the committee, but the bill was reported on 23 May as being ‘fit to sleep’.11
Brooking probably remained an active merchant until his death, though in the 1620s port books he cannot be clearly distinguished from two namesakes, his own son and another kinsman. He died in August 1627, and was buried at Totnes. No will or grant of administration has been found. He was apparently the only member of his family to serve in Parliament.12
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. REQ 2/417/118.
- 2. Devon RO, Totnes par. reg.
- 3. Devon RO, 1579A-O/5/45.
- 4. E. Windeatt, ‘Totnes Mayors’, Western Antiquary, x. 4, 148.
- 5. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 99.
- 6. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 254.
- 7. P. Russell, Good Town of Totnes, 61-2; E190/938/11, 14; 190/942/12.
- 8. E179/101/409, 421, 450; Windeatt, 4.
- 9. Devon RO, 1579A-O/10/16, 17, 22-3a.
- 10. Ibid. 1579A-O/16/47.
- 11. CJ, i. 277a, 287a, 312a.
- 12. E190/945/10; E179/102/463; Devon RO, Totnes par. reg.