BROKE, John (d.c.1417), of Hartfield and East Grinstead, Suss.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
?s. of Nigel and Olive Broke. m. (1) Joan, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2).
Commr. of gaol delivery, Battle May 1378; sewers, Suss. Feb. 1381, Feb. 1382, June 1385, Feb. 1386, July 1389, Feb. 1390, Feb., July 1391, Feb. 1392, Apr. 1393; oyer and terminer Feb. 1393, Oct. 1398; inquiry, Surr., Suss. Mar. 1393 (concealments), Suss. Sept., Nov. 1393 (wastes, Wilmington priory), Hants, Suss. Nov. 1394 (smuggling), Feb. 1397 (wastes, Tregoz estates), Surr., Suss. Apr. 1398 (goods of Thomas, duke of Norfolk), Suss. Oct. 1398 (lands of Ellen Horham and Sir Thomas Salman†); arrest, Surr., Suss. Nov. 1397, Suss. Jan. 1401; to confiscate and sell goods of Richard, late earl of Arundel Apr. 1398; collect an aid, Suss. Dec. 1401.
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster estates, Surr., Suss. 7 Feb. 1381-bef. Nov. 1393; feodary 24 Oct. 1382-bef. 1392.1
Tax collector, Suss. Nov. 1382.
Escheator, Suss. 4 Feb.-3 Dec. 1386, 24 Nov. 1394-28 Nov. 1399.
Jt. guardian, temporalities of the bpric. of Chichester 3 Feb.-Mar. 1390.
J.p. Suss. 8 May 1393-June 1397, 27 July 1397-Nov. 1399, Surr. 27 July-Nov. 1397.
In 1346 certain properties in Grinstead, Horsham and elsewhere in Sussex were settled on Nigel and Olive Broke for life, with remainder to their son John. Four years later a John atte Broke and his wife Joan were named among the bishop of Chichester’s tenants at Horsham and other places. We cannot now be certain whether this was the same John and if so whether or not he was the future shire knight.2 But we are on firmer ground with the John Broke who, as ‘of East Grinstead’, was engaged in property dealings in 1368 and 1370, the latter transaction concerning land in Worth (Sussex) and Lingfield (Surrey). In the 1370s he gradually built up a sizeable holding at Hartfield, where his plans to enlarge his house entailed an application (made in 1388) for a royal licence to block off a right of way. In 1384 it was alleged that he had deviously acquired the manor of Knelle in Beckley by bringing a nun out of her convent to seal a deed in his favour; but, whatever his intentions may have been, he relinquished all rights to the manor a year later. By 1412 he could expect a net annual income of at least £20 from his landed possessions.3
Broke’s rise to a place among the minor gentry of Sussex was brought about by his activities as a lawyer. Precisely when this career began is uncertain, yet his practice, which specialized in the registration of conveyances of land in the court of common pleas, was firmly established by 1372.4 The most important of his earlier clients was Richard, earl of Arundel, for whom he acted in 1376 and again in 1380 — on the second occasion as an attorney for the prosecution of a gang of poachers in the Fitzalan chases. Broke also made appearances in the King’s bench (doing so on behalf of Bishop Rede of Chichester in 1380) and in Chancery (as for the Benedictines of Battle abbey in 1383).5 Before long this able man of law came to the attention of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, who retained him for some ten years as his local steward and feodary. His involvement in the duchy administration led to a violent encounter with the earl of Arundel’s leading retainer in the region, Sir Edward Dallingridge*, whose franchises were being challenged by Lancaster’s council. In May 1381 Dallingridge and his supporters prevented Broke from holding the duchy court at Hungry Hatch, burned his commission under the duke’s seal, and compelled him to take an oath never to call a court there again in Lancaster’s name. At about the same time, Broke and one of the duchy auditors were instructed to inquire into matters contained in a petition from Dallingridge. For the time being, the duke — his position seriously threatened by popular unrest throughout the country — chose to conciliate Sir Edward by appointing him master forester of Ashdown, and in the following year Broke and Dallingridge were associated in the task of selling wood from Ashdown chase for Lancaster’s profit. As proof of his goodwill, Dallingridge made the lawyer one of the trustees of his substantial estates, and thereafter they remained on excellent terms until Sir Edward’s death. When brought to trial by John of Gaunt in 1384, Dallingridge claimed that it had been the common rebels, gathered together with the intention of killing the duke’s officials, who had attacked Broke in 1381; he had done his best to pacify them as befitted his role as a j.p.6 Broke may have lost his stewardship of the duchy estates before his election to the Parliament which met at Winchester in January 1393, but the electors could be sure that their nominee had the ear of Dallingridge, who would be attending the Parliament in his capacity as trusted councillor to Richard II.
By then Broke had accumulated considerable experience as an administrator by serving on numerous royal commissions, as well as for a term as escheator. For a month in 1390 he had shared custody of the temporalities of the bishopric of Chichester. A measure of his competence may be derived from the fact that when he was reappointed escheator in 1394 he then retained the office for five consecutive years, relinquishing it only after Richard II’s deposition. It was as escheator that, in August 1396, he was made joint guardian of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury, only for the appointment to be cancelled before it took effect.7 Earlier the same year Dallingridge’s son and heir, Sir John,* grateful for Broke’s support over the previous 15 years as a trustee of the family estates, had named him among his own feoffees. Together with Sir John and the others so designated, in May 1398 Broke was required to pay a fine of 500 marks to obtain a royal pardon, ostensibly for exoneration from any claim King Richard might have had to the Dallingridge estates on the ground of Sir Edward’s earlier adherence to the Lords Appellant. Nevertheless, his position as royal escheator and j.p. in Sussex was not affected by the King’s evident animosity towards Sir John. He maintained amicable relations with the latter following his rise to prominence as a knight of Henry IV’s chamber, and in January 1400 they both provided securities for the appearance of Sir Thomas Sackville II* and Sir William Burcester* before the King’s Council, apparently on suspicion of involvement in the Epiphany Plot. Advancing age was no doubt the cause of Broke’s retirement from royal service a year or so later.8
Broke’s knowledge of the law made him useful to several members of the shire community for the performance of a variety of business transactions in the early 15th century. Thus, on a number of occasions he acted as co-patron of the chantry at Broadhurst, apparently on behalf of the Lewknors, and of the rectory of Worth, as part of his duties as trustee of the Dallingridge estates. He was party to a settlement of property for Sir William Brenchesle, the judge, and served as a feoffee-to-uses for Thomas St. Cler*, Sir Philip Mestede’s son and heir, and Sir Reynold Cobham of Sterborough. During this period a frequent associate was Thomas Joop, a fellow lawyer who had married his daughter, Margaret.9
The Joops were the chief beneficiaries of Broke’s will, which was made on 11 Mar. 1416 and proved on 15 Sept. 1418: Margaret Joop was to have a gold signet ring, her husband a scarlet robe lined with fur, their daughter £2 for her marriage and their son £2 for his schooling; while Nicholas Joop, named among the executors, was to have the contents of one of Broke’s houses. The lawyer left £10 as stipend for a chaplain to pray for him and his first wife Joan for ten years, as well as small bequests to the churches and clergy of Hartfield, East Grinstead and Chichester. His executors were to dispose of the residue of his goods in Sussex and London for his soul’s welfare.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Brokere, Brook.
- 1. Somerville, Duchy, i. 379-80; Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, nos. 1087, 1118.
- 2. Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), no. 2024; Chichester Cart. (ibid. xlvi), no. 798.
- 3. Suss. Feet of Fines, nos. 2354, 2356, 2390, 2438, 2465, 2477, 2491, 2497; C143/407/2; VCH Suss. ix. 144; Feudal Aids, vi. 526.
- 4. Suss. Feet of Fines, nos. 2408, 2411, 2415-16, 2510, 2573.
- 5. Ibid. no. 2468; Suss. Arch. Colls, xl. 199-200; Chichester Cart. no. 877; SC1/43/38.
- 6. Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, nos. 517, 1119; CCR, 1381-5, p. 394; CPR, 1381-5, p. 428; Suss. Arch. Colls. cxxi. 88, 90-91.
- 7. CFR, x. 312; xi. 187. In 1397 he was joined on commissions by another John Broke, probably his son. That John had been granted manumission by Archdeacon Wittelsey in 1373, by which date he was already married to Agatha (d.1434), da. and h. of John Rademylde of Rodmell and Ovingdean. He died not long after the illness which prevented his appearance before the King’s Council, in about 1398, at the suit of the royal dog-keeper. His widow married Richard Wayville*, on whom the elder John Broke settled various properties in 1400: CPR, 1396-9, p. 227; HMC 8th Rep. i. 342; Suss. Feet of Fines, nos. 2439, 2702; VCH Suss. vii. 71, 229; Suss. Arch. Colls. lxxix. 107; J.F. Baldwin, King’s Council, 520-2.
- 8. Suss. Arch. Colls. lxii. 79-80; CCR, 1392-6, p. 499; 1399-1402, p. 131; CPR, 1396-9, p. 341.
- 9. Suss. Feet of Fines, nos. 2583, 2720, 2762, 2767, 2782, 2798; Reg. Rede (Suss. Rec. Soc. xi), 243, 273, 299, 311, 313, 319, 327; Reg. Chichele, iii. 452; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 399; 1405-9, pp. 468, 469, 471; 1409-13, p. 299; 1413-19, p. 328; CPR, 1408-13, p. 36.
- 10. Reg. Chichele, ii. 139-40.