BROOKE, Sir John (1575-1660), of Dean's Yard, Westminster and Heckington, Lincs.

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



1640 (Nov.) - 15 Mar. 1643
1644 (Oxf. Parl.)

Family and Education

b. 15 Aug. 1575,1 2nd s. of Sir Henry Brooke alias Cobham† (d.1592) of Sutton at Hone, Kent, and Anne, da. of Sir Henry Sutton of Averham, Notts.2 educ. travelled ‘the best parts of Christendom’; embassy, Brussels 1605;3 L. Inn 1614.4 m. (1) bef. 21 Jan. 1609,5 Anne (bur. 23 Feb. 1625),6 da. of one Milner, wid. of Thomas Redman, proctor, of Knightrider Street, London, 1s. d.v.p.;7 (2) 16 May 1628, Frances (d. 13 Dec. 1676),8 da. of Sir William Bampfield* of Drury Lane, Westminster, 2s. d.v.p.9 kntd. bef. 30 Oct. 1597;10 suc. bro. 1611;11 cr. Bar. Cobham 3 Jan. 1645.12 bur. 20 May 1660.13

Offices Held

Capt. ft. 1595, horse 1599;14 col. Mdx. levies 1601;15 lt. Dover Castle 1615;16 standard-bearer of the army 1639;17 capt. Holy Is. 1642.18

Esq. of the Body by 1599-at least 1603;19 gent. of the privy chamber by 1605-bef. 1612;20 commr. aliens 1622,21 trade 1622, 1625;22 member, Council of War 1628;23 commr. Crown lands compositions 1630,24 gov. Virg. plantation 1631,25 regulation of starch manufacture 1631,26 reform of drapery abuses 1639.27

Cttee. Virg. Co. 1609-24;28 member, Council for New Eng. 1620.29

J.p. Mdx. 1614-22,30 Yorks. (N. Riding) 1617-22,31 Lincs. (Kesteven and Holland) 1630-?43;32 assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1626;33 commr. sewers, Lincs. 1631,34 collector for repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1633,35 commr. array 1642.36


Brooke’s father, a younger son of the 9th Lord Cobham and twice MP for Kent, left him a third share of his lands under gavelkind.37 Following the example of his elder brother Calisthenes, Brooke began life as a soldier, serving as a captain in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. However, ‘afraid of my employment failing’, he made his way to Court, and by 1599 had entered the queen’s service, probably with the help of (Sir) Robert Cecil†.38 As commander of the Middlesex levies, he was subsequently responsible for the safe custody of those implicated in Essex’s rising. In May 1603 he was present at the queen’s funeral as one of the official mourners.39

Brooke was eager to obtain a seat in the first Jacobean Parliament to defend the family interests after the attainder of his cousin, the 11th Lord Cobham. At the general election of 1604 Sir John Holles*, whom he greatly admired, recommended him to Sir Percival Willoughby* for Tamworth in Staffordshire, but without success. He tried again in the following year when a seat fell vacant at Queenborough, in Kent. The borough was under the control of his ‘kinsman and old acquaintance’ Sir Edward Hoby*, who promised him ‘all the kindness I could show’, but in the event the place went to another.40 Hence it was only as a witness that he could attend the proceedings on the bill to confirm Cobham’s attainder.41

Having retired from military service, Brooke, now a gentleman of the privy chamber, devoted his energies instead to colonial and commercial ventures. He may not have made use of the licence to travel which he was granted in 1609, but in the following year he set sail with Sir Thomas Roe* for Guiana, and he later encouraged Luke Fox in his search for the North-West Passage, though he himself did not join the Company.42 In April 1611 he bought the rights to a pension of £200 a year for life from the earl of Dunfermline, chancellor of Scotland, and soon afterwards retired from his position at Court.43 He was considered for appointment as ambassador to the Great Mogul in October 1614 by the East India Company, but they eventually decided in favour of Roe.44

In 1614 Brooke was returned for Gatton in Surrey on the interest of his distant kinsman, lord admiral Nottingham (Charles Howard†).45 When Parliament met he was appointed to manage the conference with the Lords on the Palatine marriage settlement (14 Apr.) and to consider three private bills, one of them concerning the sale of lands in Lincolnshire by his brother-in-law Sir Edward Heron (20 May).46 Brooke’s only recorded speech during the Addled Parliament concerned the value of these lands.47 Shortly after the dissolution he bought the lieutenancy of Dover Castle from Sir Robert Brett*, but sold it on to Sir Thomas Hammon* for £1,100 a year later.48 He then invested in the alum industry, buying the rights to half of the profits of a patent held by Sir John Bourchier* in May 1615, and teaming up with a projector, Thomas Russell, who promised a new technique to increase production.49 In 1617 Brooke and Russell approached another alum patentee, Sir Arthur Ingram* whose works at Gisborough were in difficulty. New terms were negotiated, in which Ingram convinced the lord treasurer, the 1st earl of Suffolk, to write off £13,000 he owed to the Crown, on the strength of the returns promised by the scheme. Brooke visited Gisborough in September 1618, but by this time the project had failed, and he bargained to sell his interest back to Bourchier.50 In 1619 when Suffolk was attainted for corruption Brooke gave evidence concerning the alum contract, having himself escaped from the scheme without blame.51 As one of the patentees for Virginia he served on the New England Council in 1620.52

At the next general election Brooke was nominated by Suffolk’s son-in-law, Lord (William†) Knollys, for a seat at Oxford, where Knollys was high steward. He was named to ten committees, including those for privileges (5 Feb. 1621), the subsidy bill (7 Mar.) and for drafting a bill to prevent the export of ordnance (26 March).53 In his only known speech, in committee on 21 Apr., he described Sir Richard Wigmore’s patent for the monopoly of fish imports as ‘a great grievance to all the outport towns of England’.54 After the recess, Brooke was one of the courtiers appointed on 3 Dec. to present the address against the Spanish Match to the king.55 It is not known whether Brooke tried to get a seat in the 1624 Parliament. Undeterred by his experiences with the alum project, or by the Monopolies Act which had finally received the Royal Assent, Brooke joined with Bourchier, Russell, and five other partners, to procure a patent for ‘making hard soap with berila’ in May 1624.56 He was returned to Parliament for the Wiltshire borough of Bedwyn in 1625, perhaps through his connection with the descendants of the earl of Hertford, whom he had accompanied to Brussels in 1605. He was named to only one committee, for a bill to prevent the export of wool (27 June 1625) and made no recorded speeches.57 In 1626 Brooke was nominated at Scarborough by the duke of Buckingham, whose client and trusted messenger he had been since at least 1621; however, he was rejected by the town.58

In April 1626 Brooke and Russell made a last-ditch attempt to revive the alum project, and were supported by a royal Proclamation ‘for the better making of saltpetre’.59 When this finally failed Brooke petitioned the Crown revenue commissioners in 1627, ‘desiring that forasmuch as he had now surrendered his old patent of the alum works upon promise that he should be paid the arrearages of his pension, which is £800 per annum’, he should receive £4,475 then owing.60 After the chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Weston*, had agreed to let him have £4,000, the payment of £1,000 per annum was ordered for four years.61 In the following year he was appointed to the Council of War.62 He was nominated for a seat at Reading by Knollys in 1628, but was rejected once again.63

In 1632 Brooke joined with Theophilus Howard*, 2nd earl of Suffolk, and the lord chief justice, Sir Robert Heath*, to purchase an interest in a tin mine at Kentwyn, Cornwall.64 By the mid-1630s he had also invested in the aristocratic obsession with the drainage of the Fens, contributing towards the 1st earl of Lindsey’s scheme for the Lincolnshire ‘level’, and acting as a local sewer commissioner.65 He carried the standard in the Bishops’ War of 1639, and represented the Westmorland constituency of Appleby in the Long Parliament until disabled as a royalist. As heir male of the family on the death of his cousin Sir William Brooke* he was created Baron Cobham, though he had already sold what was left of his Kentish estates to the duke of Richmond, with whom he often stayed at Cobham Hall.66 His Lincolnshire property was heavily mortgaged, and he compounded for his delinquency at £1,300. The last of the Kentish Brookes, the old Elizabethan courtier almost survived to witness the Restoration, but he was buried at Wakerley in Northamptonshire on 20 May 1660. No will or letters of administration have been found.67

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/235/89.
  • 2. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 143-4.
  • 3. NLW, Carreglwyd mss I/643; G. Holles, Holles Fam. Mems. ed. A.C. Wood (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lv), 111-12; HMC Portland, ix. 95, 98.
  • 4. LI Admiss.
  • 5. CP, iii. 338.
  • 6. Kensington Par. Reg. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 107.
  • 7. PROB 11/145, f. 117.
  • 8. T. Allen, Lincs. i. 347; ii. 273.
  • 9. J.P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, ii. 217; St. Martin-in-the-Fields Par. Reg. (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 263.
  • 10. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 116.
  • 11. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 306.
  • 12. CP, iii. 338.
  • 13. Northants. N and Q, iii. 211.
  • 14. APC, 1596-7, pp. 194,199,1597-8, pp. 52, 566; 1598-9, pp. 140, 447; CSP Ire. 1598-9, pp. 452, 487, 497, 498; 1599-1600, p. 78; HMC Hatfield, v. 406; vi. 477, 523, ix. 146.
  • 15. APC, 1600-1, p. 156.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 295.
  • 17. Ibid. 1639, p. 99.
  • 18. Ibid. 1641-3, p. 237.
  • 19. Chamberlain Letters, i. 65-6; LC2/4/4, f. 47v.
  • 20. HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 63.
  • 21. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 239; Ibid. pt. 4, p. 31.
  • 22. Ibid. vii. pt. 4, p.11; Ibid. viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 563.
  • 24. C231/5, p. 27; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 186.
  • 25. Rymer, viii. pt. 3, p. 192.
  • 26. Ibid. 217.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 355.
  • 28. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, ii. 136; iv. 363.
  • 29. A. Brown, Genesis of US, ii. 834.
  • 30. SP14/33; C193/13/1.
  • 31. C231/4, f. 35.
  • 32. C231/5, p. 36; SP16/405; HMC 5th Rep. 100.
  • 33. LI Black Bks. ii. 261.
  • 34. C181/4, ff. 39v, 53
  • 35. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 14.
  • 36. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 37. C142/235/89.
  • 38. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 445.
  • 39. APC, 1600-1, p. 172; LC2/4/4, f. 47v.
  • 40. C. Brydges, duchess of Chandos, Willoughby Fam. ed. A.C. Wood, 36; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 335.
  • 41. HMC Hatfield, xv. 273; CJ, i. 310b; HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 6; 7 Jas.I, c. 18.
  • 42. SO3/4; HMC Downshire, ii. 251; Brown, ii. 834.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 22, 33.
  • 44. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 326.
  • 45. Carew Letters ed. J. Maclean (Cam. Soc. lxxvi), 12.
  • 46. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 82, 294; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 489.
  • 47. Ibid. 294.
  • 48. C2/Jas.I/H13/22; C54/2162/13.
  • 49. E214/933.
  • 50. A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 122-4; HMC Var. viii. 12, 14.
  • 51. Add. 12497, f. 82v.
  • 52. Recs. Virg. Co. iii. 624.
  • 53. CJ, i. 507b, 544a, 572b.
  • 54. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 295.
  • 55. CJ, i. 657b.
  • 56. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 256.
  • 57. Procs. 1625, p. 252.
  • 58. Procs. 1626, iv. 250-1; Harl. 7000, f. 84; Cabala sive Scrinia Sacra, 264.
  • 59. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 2, 303.
  • 60. Univ. of London, Goldsmiths ms 195, ii. ff. 61, 67v; SP16/180/18.
  • 61. SP16/148/37.
  • 62. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 563.
  • 63. Reading Recs. ed. J.M. Guilding, ii. 386.
  • 64. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 358.
  • 65. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 29; 1637, p. 365.
  • 66. E. Cust, ‘James Duke of Lennox and Richmond, of Cobham Hall’, Arch. Cant. xii. 96.
  • 67. W.A. Scott-Robertson, ‘Wills rel. to Cobham Hall’, Arch. Cant. xi. 206-7.