BROMLEY, John I (c.1652-1707), of White River, St. Philip’s, Barbados, and Horseheath Hall, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1652. m. by 1682, Dorothy (d. 1709), da. of Thomas White of Fittleford, Dorset, 2s.1
Member of assembly, Montserrat 1678, Barbados 1685–90, speaker 1689–June 1690, member of council June 1690–3, 1696–aft. 1698.2
So considerable was the fortune made by Bromley in the West Indies, and so precipitous the social ascent achieved by his family, reaching the peerage in the third generation, that, as with many another self-made man, the obscurity of his origins became the stuff of legend. Whether in fact he had ever been a ‘pedlar’ in Barbados, as the 1st Lord Egmont (John Perceval†) was later to allege, must be regarded as highly questionable. By his own account his father ‘was of Hertfordshire and of the Bromleys of that country’, and the pedigree unearthed for the college of arms identified him as the only surviving son of George Bromley of Westmills, near Ware, and Waterford Hall in Hertfordshire. ‘I question the truth of this’, observed the Norroy king of arms, Peter Le Neve, ‘but dare not deny it.’ In fact the descent was quite impossible, since Bromley was himself a year older than his putative father. There may have been some connexion between the families, and Bromley’s eventual purchase of a Cambridgeshire estate may have reflected a desire to return to the vicinity of his paternal home. But equally suggestive is the fact that the Bromleys of Westmills were a family in financial decline in the late 17th century, and had indeed sold off their Hertfordshire property in the 1690s. If Bromley had been intent on manufacturing an armigerous descent for himself, a recently ruined family in a neighbouring county would have been an obvious choice. Whatever his real origins, he can first be traced as a member of the colonial assembly of Montserrat in 1678, bearing the title of ‘captain’. Some years later he was elected to the Barbados assembly, serving as its speaker for a spell after the Revolution until appointed to the island’s council. Having been suspended in 1693 by Governor James King for failure to take the sacrament in the Anglican church, he