BROCKLEY, John (d.1444/5), of London.
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Family and Education
es. and h. of William Brockley of Brockley, Suff. by his w. Agnes, da. and h. of Alexander Manston. m. by June 1426, Katherine.1
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1421-4, 1428-30; alderman of Aldgate Ward by 12 June 1426-aft. 12 May 1433, Candlewick Ward by 6 Dec. 1434-23 May 1438, Walbrook Ward 23 May 1438-19 Oct. 1444; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1433-4.2
Warden of the Drapers’ Co. Aug. 1423-4; master Aug. 1441-2.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1425-6.
Alnager, Northants. and Rutland 1 Nov. 1434-d.
Assessor of a tax, London Jan. 1436.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, London Jan. 1442.
From his father and namesake, William Brockley, the subject of this biography inherited a modest amount of property in what was probably his native village of Brockley, performing homage for the land to his feudal overlord, the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, in 1431. It was through his mother, Agnes, a distant kinswoman of Sir John Cockerell (d.1427), that Brockley laid claim to the Suffolk manors of Ickworth and Wanford, although he never succeeded in proving his title against that of a powerful combination of local landowners, backed by William, earl of Suffolk. However frustrating his failure to recover the manors may have been, he could at least console himself in later life by looking back on an otherwise immensely successful career, during the course of which he rose to become one of the richest and most powerful men in early 15th-century London.4 Brockley had evidently settled there well before 1415, since he later complained that Drew Barantyn* (who died then) had confiscated the goods of certain Italian merchants with whom he and seven other Londoners were trying to do business. The transaction involved the sale of cloth worth £500, but only part of this sum had been paid by the Italians when their merchandise was seized. Between January 1420 and September 1423 the keeper of the Great Wardrobe spent over £280 on cloth and hangings supplied by Brockley, whose dealings with the royal household are hardly documented at all after this date.5 Indeed, only the most scattered evidence of his later commercial affairs has survived. In, or before, August 1426, he joined with Thomas Pyke in making a short-term loan of £20 to the Crown; and five years later he appeared among the prominent city merchants named as sureties for the repayment of £200 borrowed by the King in anticipation of the forthcoming clerical subsidy.6 Brockley had financial problems of his own, for he was then trying to recover a debt of £400 owed to him and William Blyton (who was probably the Lincoln MP) by a London fishmonger. Over the next few years he brought lawsuits against William Bertram† of Bothal, Northumberland, Sir Henry Fenwick† of Cockermouth, and John Stanley, a dyer from Northampton, each of whom owed him money.7 In June 1431, the abbot of Warden, Bedfordshire, bound himself to pay £320 jointly to Brockley, the vicar of the city church of St. John Zachary and John Carpenter, clerk to the mayor of London, in two instalments within the next few months. On this occasion, however, Brockley may well have been acting in an official capacity rather than as a private person. In May 1439 he advanced £100 to the Crown, and three years later he made a second loan of £179 17s.6d.: both sums appear to have been partly repaid in cash, but it is not entirely certain that he recovered all the money. Throughout his life, the MP retained a series of apprentices, and in 1425 he donated £2 towards the cost of building the Drapers’ hall. As late as 1443 we find him providing Henry VI with a length of scarlet cloth, which was given as a reward to the count of Armagnac’s envoy at court.8
According to the tax return of 1436, Brockley’s landed income of £40 a year came from property in London, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. It is now impossible to establish exactly where all these holdings lay, since Brockley was so often called upon to act as a feoffee-to-uses that his own property transactions, particularly in the City, are often indistinguishable from those of his friends and associates. He owned a tenement and shop in the London parish of St. Swithin, Candlewick Street, which he leased to the drapers John and William Southcote. There can be little doubt that he had other possessions in the area, but none of the many conveyances in which he was involved are clear upon this point.9 He acquired a joint title both to the Cambridgeshire estates of William Hasilden, esquire (in May 1435 he and six others chose a new incumbent for the vacant living of Harlton in that county), and to extensive farmland in Kent and Essex. In 1440 he became one of the co-feoffees of Cardinal Beaufort’s manor of Salden, his fairs and markets in Mursley and various rights of free warren in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Perhaps the two messuages and nine cottages which Brockley and his associates planned to settle upon St. James’s abbey, Northampton, in July 1442 were actually his, for he held at least one tenement in the town before this date. He was, as we have seen, also a claimant to two Suffolk manors, although his dogged attempts to establish his title in the court of Chancery came to nothing.10
Brockley was, meanwhile, involved in protracted litigation for the recovery of debts owed to John Saykyn, the draper, who appointed him to act as his executor. He performed the same service for John Butler (d.1436), another member of their company, and he was chosen by both the goldsmith, William Rous (d.1433), and his kinswoman Agnes Ickworth (d.1437) to supervise the administration of their estates. Between 1428 and 1437 at least three Londoners made conveyances to him of their goods and chattels as well.11 From August 1421 onwards Brockley took an active part in civic affairs; his presence at meetings of the common council held then and in January 1423 is specifically recorded in the city journals, and he attended at least six of the parliamentary elections held in London over a 20-year period ending in 1442. It is a further mark of his standing that in June 1426 he and his wife obtained a papal indult to hear mass celebrated before daybreak. As might be expected, Brockley’s name occurs frequently among the arbitrators chosen to settle commercial and property disputes heard before the mayor’s court during the early 1430s, for he then held aldermanic rank, and soon afterwards became mayor of London himself. In April 1440 he served on a committee set up by the civic authorities to supervise the building of a new granary, and in 1441 he was called upon to investigate disturbances in the City. He attended his last meeting of the court of aldermen on 6 Aug. 1444 after what appears to have been a long period of illness. Until 1443 he had regularly been present at about half the meetings of this court, being rather more punctilious than many of his colleagues.12
Although his will is not known to have survived, it appears that Brockley died soon after Michaelmas 1444, leaving a bequest of £3,000 to his widow, who also received all his household goods and plate. If a petition submitted to the Parliament of 1447 is to be believed, Brockley set aside the immense sum of over 7,000 marks for works of piety to be performed at the discretion of his executors. Katherine Brockley and her second husband, Nicholas Wyfold (whom she had married by February 1445), refused to part with the money, however, and steps were taken for all the interested parties to be examined before the chancellor of England. No more is heard of the matter after this date, perhaps because it was settled by arbitrators out of court.13
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C1/68/14; J. Gage, Hist. Thingoe Hundred, 276-82, 357, 384; CPL, vii. 431.
- 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 261, 273; K, 1, 14, 32, 79, 102, 112, 172, 184; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 2, 82, 217.
- 3. A.H. Johnson, Hist. Drapers’ Company, i. 287, 342.
- 4. C1/12/165, 68/14; Gage, 276-82, 357, 384. S. Thrupp, Merchant Class Med. London, 327 relies solely upon Brockley’s coat of arms for evidence of his background, and thus fails to identify his parents.
- 5. C1/6/97; E101/407/1, f. 3, 13, ff. 5d-6d, 11.
- 6. CPR, 1422-9, pp. 318-19; E404/47/320; PPC, iv. 89.
- 7. C1/11/450; C241/224/29; CPR, 1441-6, pp. 9, 17.
- 8. CCR, 1429-35, pp. 131, 157; E401/762, 778; E403/745; E404/59/245; Johnson, i. 290, 298, 320, 327-8, 340, 342, 345.
- 9. E179/238/90; Corporation of London RO, hr 146/45, 54, 147/74-75, 152/66, 153/14, 155/59, 68, 163/34, 164/2, 19-20, 169/10; jnl. 2, f. 11; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 175.
- 10. CCR, 1429-35, pp. 250-1; 1435-41, pp. 260, 262; 1447-54, p. 46; CPR, 1429-36, p. 456; 1436-41, pp. 394, 520-1; 1441-6, p. 95; CAD, vi. C4671; C1/12/165, 68/14.
- 11. Corporation of London RO, hr 195/49; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/3, ff. 385-5d, 393-4d; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 223; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 310, 430; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 158, 170.
- 12. C219/13/1, 3, 14/1-2, 4, 15/1-2; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, ff. 94d-95d; 2, f. 3; 3, ff. 40, 101; 4, f. 37d; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 248-9, 257, 262; CPL, vii. 431.
- 13. RP, v. 129-30.