BROCAS, Thomas, of Compton, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. of Simon Brocas of Compton. m. by 1394, Elizabeth, 3s. inc. Arnold†.
Tax collector, Surr. Mar. 1401.
Brocas was almost certainly a kinsman of Sir Bernard Brocas the younger, of Beaurepaire, Hampshire, one of the richest landowners in that county, who, like his more celebrated father, Sir Bernard*, held office at the court of Richard II, and who, in 1400, was executed for his part in the conspiracy to restore his dethroned master. His precise relationship to Arnold Brocas (d.1395), another highly-placed member of this prolific family, remains unknown, but it seems to have been fairly close. The latter possessed considerable influence, both locally as rector of St. Nicholas’s church, Guildford, and at a far higher level as master of the King’s works (1381) and chamberlain of the Exchequer (1388).1 These powerful connexions undoubtedly proved most valuable during the early years of Brocas’s career, although by the time of his first return to Parliament in 1390 he was already well-known in the Guildford area. He had been admitted into the guild merchant, the main instrument of government in the borough, by 1376, when its members met the cost of unspecified fines incurred on his part; and he had no doubt already inherited his father’s property in the nearby manors of Compton and Artington. He was certainly living in Compton by February 1385, since he then witnessed the first of many local deeds.2
Together with William Seward, Brocas had begun suing one Thomas Padynore for a debt of £16 at about this time, although eventually, in July 1397, the latter was pardoned his outlawry in Surrey for failing to appear before the court. No striking additions were made by Brocas to his various holdings until 1394, when he and his wife acquired the reversion of a messuage and over 40 acres of land in Compton, Godalming and Worplesdon. The following year saw his appearance before the justices of assize at Guildford, firstly on behalf of Thomas Semere, who, being a minor, was unable himself to resort to the law, and secondly on his own account as plaintiff in an action of novel disseisin, possibly concerning property in the borough. No verdict seems to have been given either then or at any later sessions. Again, in 1395, he and his wife made a quitclaim of a messuage and 30 acres of land in Greenfield, Sussex, to Arnold Brocas. On this occasion they may well have been acting as his feoffees, for the transaction took place shortly before his death, and Thomas had been named among his executors. He also became involved in a dispute over the title possessed by other members of the family to the manor of ‘Folle’ in Hampshire; this was finally settled in June 1398 when Sir Bernard Brocas the younger not only recovered the manor, but also obtained a promise of 50 marks from Thomas himself. The latter may have suffered financially as a result of this arrangement, but he was rather more fortunate in his dealings with Sir Bernard’s son, William*, who, in September 1403, granted him a 20-year lease of all his lands in Guildford and Artington at the very modest annual rent of 16 marks.3
Between 1400 and 1412 Brocas and his three sons, Arnold, Thomas and John, were constantly in demand as parties to the property transactions of their neighbours in Compton. Brocas was frequently called upon to act as a feoffee and had dealings of this kind with most of the leading families in west Surrey.4 Other more pressing legal affairs preoccupied him during this period. In November 1404 he and John West were still trying to recover the £20 owed to them as executors of Arnold Brocas by William Hope, a clerk; and as late as 1406 they had yet to deliver the 20 marks bequeathed by the testator to the King. Meanwhile, in December 1404, Peter atte Barre of Guildford had begun an action of novel disseisin against Thomas Brocas at the local assizes. Neither this particular case, nor the similar action brought by Brocas himself against William West in the following year ever came before a jury and were no doubt settled out of court. Brocas was dead by 7 Dec. 1426, when his eldest son, Arnold, had succeeded to the family property in Compton. It was, however, his second son, Thomas, who added to these holdings, probably through his marriage to Maud Swanton, a local heiress. Although clearly intended to bring the two branches of the family closer together, Arnold’s subsequent marriage to William Brocas’s daughter, Margaret, merely served to poison relations between him and his powerful father-in-law.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. It has been suggested that Brocas was the son of Arnold Brocas by an early marriage to Alice Sydney, contracted in 1362 before he took holy orders (M. Burrows, Fam. Brocas of Beaurepaire, 178-85). The evidence for this is entirely circumstantial, however, and a reference to the property of Thomas Brocas of Compton, held by his father, Simon, before him seems to offer more concrete proof of his ancestry (Guildford Mun. Room. LM339/26/3).
- 2. Guildford Mun. Room, BR/OC7/1 f. 138, LM338/17/3.
- 3. CPR, 1385-9, p. 334; CP25(1)231/64/18; JUST1/1503 rot. 77, 82; Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii. 205; Burrows, 422-3, 433-4.
- 4. Guildford Mun. Room, LM338/17/3, 339/1, 2, 8, 10, 11, 24/1, 3, 26/1, 35, 39; Add. Chs. 7603, 7616.
- 5. CPR, 1401-5, p. 442; 1405-8, p. 120; JUST1/1512 rot. 71-71v; Guildford Mun. Room, LM339/26/2; VCH Surr. iii. 18; C. Chute, Hist. The Vyne, 31.