BROOKE, John (d.1607), of Weymouth, Dorset.
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Bailiff, Weymouth 1583, constable 1585; mayor of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis 1591-2.
Brooke, baker, merchant and shipowner of Weymouth, suffered some inconvenience for refusing to accept the union between the boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe imposed by the Privy Council. Called before them in 1577 for stirring up discontent against Melcombe, he was before the Queen’s bench on a similar charge two years later. By 1582 he was being charged with piracy, with acting as a j.p. illegally (he claimed that the Weymouth bailiffs had the powers of justices) and with being ‘the chief disturber of the government of this town’. On one occasion he and Hugh Randall, acting as bailiffs of Weymouth, raised a mob against the court at Melcombe. Fined and imprisoned, he broke out of gaol. Finally he was imprisoned until he gave substantial sureties that he would accept the union. In October 1584 he and one John Wilshire wagered—successfully—a groat each against a pound with the clerk who kept the court books that the long-talked-of bridge between Weymouth and Melcombe would not be completed within seven years ‘so that a cart may go over between Weymouth and Melcombe Regis’.
Still recalcitrant in 1586, Brooke lodged an objection to the action of Melcombe in arresting his brother Richard for tearing up the highway; next year he ‘spoke some hearty words’ against the union of the two towns when at the Boar’s Head, on a visit to London; and in 1588, in his capacity as constable, he signed a letter requesting ordnance for defence which was later the cause of more dissension between the two places. However, his hostility towards Melcombe Regis seems to have declined after 1590. In 1591 he was mayor of the combined borough during the visitation of the town by Clarenceux King of Arms. Following an abortive attempt in 1584 and, probably, another in 1586, Brooke at last reached the House of Commons after a disputed election in 1597, when he was chosen by the combined votes of the boroughs in opposition to one Randall who was still insisting upon the right of separate elections. This Randall brought a case in the Star Chamber against the mayor, in the course of which Brooke is described as a baker, the description he chose for himself in his will.
In his role as a prosperous shipowner he owned the Bark Way, otherwise the Bark Sutton and the Bark Brooke, which, in 1590, took prizes to the value of £1,715; in 1591, when one of his partners was William Hody, it captured a Portuguese ship laden with salt.
By his will, made 12 Dec. 1606, proved the following 6 Feb., Brooke left property in Weymouth to his wife, for her life, and to his four sons Morgan, Maximilian, John and William. Other bequests went to his grandchildren by his daughter Jane, who had married Richard, brother of Edward Reynolds. He appointed as overseers his ‘loving friend and kinsman, John Josten, of Sherborne, yeoman’, and William Pitt, ‘yeoman’ of Melcombe. The will was witnessed by Pitt, Richard Reynolds and other leading townsmen.
Roberts thesis; Weymouth Charters, ed. Moule; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 432, 476; APC, ix. 360, 364; M. Weinstock, More Dorset Studies, 12-13, 37; Laughton, Spanish Armada, ii. 16; St. Ch. 5/R38/3; Dorset Nat. Hist. Antiq. Field Club Procs. xxxii. 157; PCC 12, 33 Hudleston; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 43.