BRERETON, Thomas (1585-1632), of Yard, Combe Florey, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 2 Feb. 1585,1 o.s. of Thomas Brereton of Yard and Jane, da. of Robert Hill of Yard.2 educ. G. Inn 1602.3 m. 18 July 1603,4 Elizabeth, da. of Christopher Anketill of Stour Provost, Dorset, s.p.5 suc. fa. 1602.6 d. 21 Aug. 1632.7

Offices Held

Treas., W. Som. 1613-14;8 j.p. Som. by 1614-d.,9 commr. sewers 1616, 1625, 1629,10 subsidy 1621-2, 1624,11 Forced Loan 1627,12 enclosure, Sedgemoor 1628.13


Brereton used the arms of the Cheshire family of this name, but as he failed to identify his grandfather when supplying his pedigree to the heralds in 1623, the asserted descent cannot be substantiated. His father acquired Yard manor by marriage, and Brereton also owned St. James’s rectory in Taunton and a number of messuages in the town.14 An adherent of Sir Robert Phelips* in Somerset politics, he was described by John Poulett*, the leader of the opposing faction as ‘a right country justice, a simple man’.15 Brereton’s mother, who became the stepmother of Francis Courtenay*, was an ardent Catholic, and about 1620 his two unmarried sisters set up house in a remote corner of Dorset where they could have the services of a priest.16

Brereton himself was sufficiently untainted by Catholicism to be returned for Taunton to the 1621 Parliament. However, while serving in the Commons, he had a subpoena served on him by one Robert Napper, an attorney much employed by West Country Catholics, apparently in connection with a family dispute. On 29 Nov. Sir William Spencer* claimed parliamentary privilege on his behalf, and Napper was duly summoned before the House. Four days later, Brereton rebuffed the lawyer’s efforts to excuse himself, and Napper was committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms for three days.17 Apart from this episode, Brereton left no trace on the records of this Parliament or of its two successors. In March 1624 he received a letter from one of his constituents, complaining that West Country trade was threatened by letters of marque issued in France in response to Sir Henry Mainwaring’s* earlier privateering ventures. As the English government appeared unwilling to intervene, the writer hoped for some remedy in Parliament. However, Brereton opted to pass the letter to Phelips, who successfully spurred the government into action.18

In 1626 Brereton made way at Taunton for Phelips’s brother-in-law, Sir Robert Gorges. His reputation may have been damaged by the growing notoriety of his sisters’ household, although soldiers who raided the property later that year in search of a seminary priest were arrested by the local magistrate, Sir John Strode. One of the sisters became a nun on the Continent, while the other married into the Catholic Arundell family of Chideock, Dorset. Phelips nevertheless looked to Brereton for support in the county election of 1628, and he continued to attend quarter sessions.19 He conveyed St. James’s rectory to Phelips and John Symes* in June 1630 to provide for his widow, and by his will of 10 Feb. 1631 he bequeathed the rest of his Taunton property, including a lease of the town mills and Swithin’s Mead, to his nephew Francis Anketill. To the poor of his former constituency he bequeathed £20. Brereton died in August 1632, the only member of this family to enter Parliament.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. C142/272/55.
  • 2. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 14.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 364.
  • 5. Vis. Som. 14.
  • 6. C142/272/55.
  • 7. C142/720/18.
  • 8. Q.S. Recs. 1607-25 ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 100.
  • 9. Q.S. Recs. 1625-39 ed. E.H.B. Harbin (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 116, 156.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 246; 181/3, f. 186v; 181/4, f. 21.
  • 11. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 12. C193/12/2, f. 50.
  • 13. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 267.
  • 14. Vis. Som. 14; Collinson, Som. 248; C142/720/18.
  • 15. T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p.297.
  • 16. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 247; Som. and Dorset N and Q, xiii. 348-51.
  • 17. CJ, i. 650b, 652b, 655a-b; CD 1621, ii. 469; vi. 220; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 268.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 173; T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 160-1.
  • 19. Som. and Dorset N and Q, xiii. 348-51; Ashley Case Bk. ed. J.H. Bettey (Dorset Rec. Soc. vii), 94-95; Som. RO, DD/PH221/3.
  • 20. C142/720/18; PROB 11/162, f. 363.