BROCKMAN, William (1658-by 1742), of Beachborough, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1690 - 1695

Family and Education

bap. 2 Sept. 1658, s. and h. of James Brockman, of Beachborough, by Lucy, da. of James Young, merchant, of London.  educ. Canterbury; M. Temple, 1674; St. John’s, Camb. 1674; travelled abroad (Germany, Netherlands) 1686.  m. settlement 15 Dec. 1692, Anne (d. 1730), da. and coh. of Richard Glyd of Pendhill, Surr.; sis. of John Glyd†, 3s. (2 d.v.p.)  suc. fa. 1684.1

Offices Held

Commr. Dover Harbour, 1706?–1725.2

Member, SPCK.3


Most of the lands eventually inherited by Brockman were purchased by his great-grandfather, but the Brockmans could count themselves a truly local family, tracing their connexion with Kent back to the time of Richard I. Brockman’s grandfather, Sir William Brockman, gained local fame during the Civil War. A staunch Royalist, Sir William was imprisoned from 1642 to 1645, and in 1648 he came with a troop of 800 men to the aid of Maidstone, under siege from General Thomas Fairfax’s† Parliamentary army. Sir William and his brother Zouch were fined for their delinquency in 1651. In an apparent break with this Royalist tradition, Brockman’s father, James, made known his desire to stand as a Whig candidate for Hythe in the second 1679 election, although in the event he stood aside in favour of Edward Hales†.4

Brockman’s own Whig inclinations were well enough known that in 1683, after the discovery of the Rye House Plot, his house was searched for arms. In 1685 he made a trip to France when the persecution of Protestants there was at its height and, assisted by the English envoy in Paris, Sir William Trumbull*, by clandestine means successfully conveyed a Protestant refugee to England. Brockman left for Europe again in May 1686, returning by September. This second trip seems to have been a conventional sightseeing tour through Germany and the Netherlands.5

Brockman’s political ambitions were endorsed in September 1688 when, at a meeting of East Kent gentlemen to decide on candidates for James II’s abortive Parliament, he and James Chadwick* were nominated to stand for New Romney in case John Brewer* did not stand. In December Brockman travelled around Kent carrying messages about the capture of James II at Feversham. His enthusiasm for the Revolution swept Sir John Knatchbull, 2nd Bt.*, further into the affair than he would have wished when, on Brockman’s information, he was ordered to bring his troop of horse into Feversham after having resolved to stop at Ashford. At the end of December Knatchbull sent Brockman the Kent Association to sign, which no doubt he did readily. In 1689 Brockman was actively involved in the local election campaigns for the Convention Parliament, being closely associated with the attempts by (Sir) Edward Dering† (3rd Bt.) to stand for Kent. Brockman himself did not sit in the 1689 Parliament, and Hon. Anchitell Grey’s* attribution to him of a speech on 4 June in the debate on the indemnity bill must be mistaken.6

Brockman was active in the county elections of March 1690 and entered Parliament himself, defeating three other candidates for Hythe. The retiring Member, Julius Deedes, gave his interest to his good friend Brockman. Brockman also attempted to enlist Hon. John Beaumont’s* support, but without success because Beaumont was in the process of attempting to assert the right of the lord warden to nominate one of the candidates for each of the Cinque Ports and did not have Brockman in mind. Indeed, Beaumont asked Deedes to explain his support of Brockman, which he did, replying that he could not be more useful to the King

than by endeavouring to send such a Member to Parliament who hath shown himself as forward for the bringing in the King, and hath been as careful for their Majesties’ interest since their accession to the throne in all matters, especially in the due levying of money granted, as any man whatsoever.7

Brockman’s parliamentary activity belies the fact that he was only to sit for five years. The true extent of his undertakings went far beyond the official record of his committee appointments and tellerships and is revealed in the large quantity of papers that he left. Much of this archive relates to his business as a local dignitary: a justice for Kent from 1688, he was removed in July 1702, reappointed in July 1705 and remained on the bench until his death. He was also active in local assemblies, such as that regularly held by the lords of Romney Marsh, and he was a deputy-lieutenant for Kent from May 1689 until at least 1703. In what can only be described as an obsession with his ‘rights’ (mainly to do with property), he conducted many lengthy court battles, the correspondence for which is also among his papers. Local affairs and moral reform were very much a part of Brockman’s parliamentary concerns and his political papers reveal a man who was the very image of a Country Whig.8

Brockman’s Whig credentials were, then, well known by 1690 and it is not surprising to find him marked as a Whig in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of Members of the new Parliament. He started his parliamentary career with high hopes. After the debate on the Plympton election on 27 Mar. he wrote to Julius Deedes that ‘the King’s friends are many, and I believe it will be hard to carry a point that shall favour any ministers more than the constitution’. He looked forward to the ‘doubtful’ elections being satisfactorily resolved so that the important issues could be tackled, ‘and I would not have the public business interrupted, if I could help it, by private bills or other concerns’. This letter illustrates a characteristic tetchiness at unnecessary delay and another theme, that of freedom of elections on a local and national level, which was to preoccupy him throughout his life. Brockman’s first action as a Member was to pursue the question of freedom of elections for the Cinque Ports. A bill had been introduced in January 1690 and Brockman was very much involved when it reappeared in March. It was not put into committee but there seems to have been a group which met and discussed how to get the bill through. With the help of other Cinque Ports Members, Brockman collected evidence of Court intervention in the election, particularly letters sent by Beaumont to the relevant corporations putting forward the lord warden’s claims to one seat. When Julius Deedes protested feebly that Beaumont’s letter to him had been private, Brockman persisted until he obtained a copy. The bill was passed in May 1690.9

On 24 Apr. 1690 Brockman was appointed to a committee for drafting an abjuration oath, an unsuccessful Whig move proposed by Hon. Thomas Wharton*. In the debate on the bill, 26 Apr., Brockman took notes on what was said by Members who opposed, and then made a speech himself in reply. He said that the Act of Recognition having passed so readily and King William having been acknowledged king, he could not see how any could scruple to abjure King James. He used the occasion for irony at the expence of the Churchmen who had pressed an address of thanks to the King on the change of the London lieutenancy with great eagerness; ‘this zeal I say should be extended to other instances’. He also vigorously attacked the idea that the clergy should be exempt from the oath, expressing his view that the clergy were no more than the most eminent part of the Church of England and that they should demonstrate their loyalty and lead by example. A table of the fees of Commons officers in Brockman’s hand suggests that he was interested in the inquiry into the House’s fees, although he was not named to the committees on 23 and 30 April. Somewhat quixotically, Brockman spoke against King William going to Ireland after the bill to make Mary regent had been passed in both Houses by 13 May. Raising the issue of the danger to King William, he proposed that a committee be appointed to draw up an address to express the ‘sense of the House’ on William’s going, a suggestion which was not taken up. He also queried what the legal situation would be in Scotland as no provision had been made for a regency there.10

During the summer of 1690 Brockman’s political activities did not cease, and after the naval debacle at Beachy Head he acquired copies of letters on the case against Admiral Torrington (Arthur Herbert†). In the second session Brockman became even busier. By this time he seems to have acquired a reputation for industry and was sent proposals by other Members on various subjects, particularly on raising revenue through different taxes. On 28 Nov. he told for the Whig side in the vote on the disputed Cardiganshire election, and on 1 Dec. was added to a drafting committee of a bill for preventing the export of wool. This was a matter of particular importance in Kent and Brockman received advice about possible remedies from such men as Julius Deedes and Sir James Oxenden, 2nd Bt.* An act was not passed at this time, progress being swamped by endless representations from special interest groups. Brockman also told on 2 Dec. against the question of whether to receive the London common council petition promoted by the Tories in an attempt to close loopholes in an earlier act which had allowed the Whigs to retain control of the bench of aldermen and the mayoralty.11

Brockman was listed as a Country party supporter by Robert Harley* in April 1691. On 31 Oct. he was the first-named to a committee to prepare a bill for maintaining and securing the rights and privileges of corporations. Brockman worked hard on this bill, attending committee meetings and preparing drafts, and presented it on 1 Jan. 1692. On 21 Dec. 1691 he presented a rider to the land tax bill, regulating and limiting the fees of Exchequer officers, which was accepted. On 8 Jan. 1692 he was appointed to an inquiry into ways to encourage the fisheries, another matter of local importance. On the same day he spoke for the bill for lessening the interest rate from 6 to 4 per cent, a measure promoted by another Country Whig, Sir Edward Hussey, 3rd Bt.* Notes made by Brockman on a paper objecting to the proposal are similar to the arguments put forward by the promoters of the bill: that such a move would keep up rents and land values and would help farmers to pay wages, and would encourage trade. Brockman’s notes also reveal his belief in the importance of land, which ‘principally preserves property and supports the government’. Ten days later, in the debate on supply, it was suggested that the salaries and fees of crown officials should go towards the war effort. Brockman, in a compliment with more than a hint of sarcasm, moved that since men who had places had made such a generous offer it should be supported.12

Brockman was granted leave for a month from 26 January. In Lord Carmarthen’s list of March– December 1692 he was marked as a possible Court supporter, to be approached through Colonel Robert Austen I*. This may seem surprising given Brockman’s obvious distrust of all ministries, but Carmarthen’s optimism may have been founded on Brockman’s support for the war. On 2 Feb. 1693 he voted for an unsuccessful bill for frequent Parliaments, and in the debate on 10 Feb. he supported the view that the measure was not an encroachment on the King’s prerogative: ‘it is better for the King to rely on his people, than on a ministry, not excepting the present ministry’. His proposed amendment, which is left somewhat obscure by Grey’s report, seems to have been a call for the bill to be better drawn so that there would indeed be annual sessions. Another leave of absence was granted for a fortnight on 17 Feb.13

In the 1693–4 session Brockman concentrated on two measures. One was a bill for more frequent Parliaments, which he presented on 14 Nov. but had to withdraw and re-submit on 16 Nov., without a specified date of dissolution for the present Parliament. On 28 Nov. he told against the vote on a clause allowing an unspecified number of years before a session need be held, presumably because he supported annual sessions. The bill itself was voted down on the same day. The other issue to occupy Brockman was that of the mismanagement of the fleet in June 1693. The Whigs pursued several Tory admirals for the disasters which had struck the Smyrna convoy and Brockman’s copious notes from the examinations of the admirals and their answers at the bar of the House, together with his own memoranda and questions interspersed, indicate both his Country and Whig sympathies. His written ‘opinions’ on the affair were threefold: that it had been the duty of the admirals to gain intelligence on the Brest fleet before they parted with the Turkey fleet, that they had neglected their duty and betrayed their trust in not doing so and that such neglect and treachery had been the cause of loss and dishonour to the English nation. These opinions were echoed in a vote which passed the House on 17 Nov. 1693 that ‘upon the examination of the mismanagement of the fleet, and the loss the Turkey Company sustained this summer, there hath been a notorious and treacherous mismanagement of the fleet this year’. Brockman was a successful teller for the question of whether there was enough beer on board to have enabled the fleet to have conveyed the merchant ships out of danger of the French fleet, rather than returning for more supplies. If he needed any encouragement to pursue the matter, Brockman received an anonymous and threatening letter the same day to the effect that failure to punish those who were responsible would be a betrayal of the nation and lead to suspicions of treachery. The fact that the extremely partisan nature of the proceedings had left some Whigs disinclined to pursue the admirals does not seem to have deterred him.14

After these highly controversial debates Brockman was on leave of absence for three weeks from 12 Dec., during which time it is likely that he married Anne Glyd, the settlement being made on 15 Dec. Anne apparently held the same Whig ideals as her husband, as her letter to her brother of 10 Feb. 1689 indicates: ‘it is high time to mingle our joy with yours, applauding that providence which has brought things to so happy a union, we all most zealously espoused your cause as far as words and wishes would reach’. Back in the House, on 14 Mar. 1694 Brockman told successfully on the question of sending Hugh Fortescue* into custody for continual absence. Brockman’s hopes of a reward ‘in the county where I distinguished myself with the earliest and forwardest actions for the support of this Revolution’ were disappointed that summer when he was not given the governorship of Sandgate Castle in Kent.15

In the 1694–5 session, Brockman was the sole Member appointed to draft a bill for the improvement of freehold estates and the encouragement of trade, presenting it and being first-named to the second-reading committee. Brockman was also involved in one of the major issues of the session, that of bribery and corruption. He was particularly concerned at the bribery of Members. Recalling in his notes the Commons’ resolution of 4 Jan. 1693, that no Member accept entertainments for the carrying on any matter under the consideration of the House, on pain of censure, he wrote that ‘if a small bribe suffice to vacate an election, shall not the like serve for expulsion’. If not, then the practice seemed ‘a crime only without and not within doors, and that it’s the privilege of a Member only to be corrupt and make the House his sanctuary’. On 19 Apr. he told for the motion to delay the report on the supply bill until 24 Apr. (a measure probably designed to allow time to prepare for the examination of Sir Thomas Cooke* about the allegations), and on the 23rd was elected one of the committee charged with the examination of Cooke. He was then appointed to the committee to draw up the articles of impeachment against the Duke of Leeds (formerly Carmarthen). Brockman’s papers contain a draft of the articles, with alterations in his own hand. On 30 Apr. Brockman was a teller in a successful party vote against the question of recommitting the bill to reverse the attainder of Jacob Leisler, the radical who had taken over the government of New York in 1689.16

In July 1695 Dr Richard Kingston wrote from Kent to Trumbull, ‘here is in this neighbourhood one Mr Brockman, a justice of the peace, a Member of Parliament, an over busy man of “the ’48 size and cut”’. This scathing (but accurate) description was prompted by Brockman having spoken against Trumbull. He had apparently ‘made very sad prognostications of ill things that are to happen upon the management of so great a Tory’, which could be a reference to Trumbull’s appointment as secretary of state in May 1695. Kingston hoped that he would be able to counteract Brockman’s campaign against Trumbull. The letter also indicates Brockman’s local influence: in conjunction with Sir Basil Dixwell, 2nd Bt.*, he ‘has a great hand in placing and displacing officers of all sorts’. This influence, however, did not ensure his success in the October 1695 elections when he was defeated by Jacob des Bouverie*.17

Despite being out of the House, Brockman’s interest in politics did not diminish. He defended the 1696 proposal for a land bank in an ‘Advertisement’, the militia bill of 1698 was evidently sent to him at the draft stage for his comments, and he signed the highly controversial Kentish Petition of May 1701. In December 1699 he had written to Robert Harley with suggestions to prevent the ‘vexatious’ and ‘frivolous’ seizures of wool by customs commissioners in Kent and to alleviate the land taxes on non-jurors who had since sworn the oaths. The land tax was a source of grievance for Brockman himself in 1707 when he again wrote to Harley to protest at the burden it placed on one of his estates. In May 1708 Brockman again stood for Hythe, in conjunction with Hon. John Fane*, but was defeated. His election expenses reveal that he was not averse to treating the corporation, although the sums involved were so small that he may have thought this practice did not conflict with his anti-corruption stance. Brockman also wrote several drafts of addresses to local politicians which attest to his continued concern for ‘Whig principles’. One of these drafts, in October 1710, protested at the dissolution, played down the idea of the ‘Church in danger’ and called for vigorous prosecution of the war; another in July 1712 protested at the peace; and in October 1714 there was a loyal address to King George. Brockman was also a subscriber to the SPCK. He stood unsuccessfully in the Hythe election of 1715 and his ‘Remarks’ on a letter from the Duke of Dorset of October 1727 reveal that the campaign to oust the sitting Tory Members had cost approximately £1,000. Thereafter, Brockman’s political hopes rested on his son, James, and he was very bitter at Dorset’s refusal to support James at a by-election in Hythe in February 1728, when he was defeated.18

Brockman lived in London for five years from December 1724, during which time he prosecuted a case on behalf of the lords of Romney Marsh about water rights in the marsh. ‘Retiring’ in 1733, he made over his estates to his son and began drafting political tracts. With campaigns for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts gathering pace in the early 1730s, Brockman’s writings included various proposals concerning the possibility of full civil rights for Dissenters; further addresses to Parliament urging, among other things, the reconciliation of differences between the parties; such material as ‘a Friendly Address from an old Revolution Whig’ in 1734; and considerations of the relationship between church and state in 1739–40.19

In his will, written on 5 July 1739, Brockman gave precise instructions for his burial, which was to be very private and plain and, while maintaining his preference for the Church of England, he expressed his sympathy for Dissenters and bequeathed £5 for the poor of each Dissenting congregation in his locality. In a final protest about the rejection of his son’s candidacy for Hythe (and in an attempt to control elections from beyond the grave), Brockman railed against ‘a certain Duke’ (i.e. Dorset) who, despite being obligated to Brockman for his interest in Hythe, had turned several members of the corporation against Brockman’s son. These members, ‘more from zeal to foster a separate Court ministerial administration than to strengthen our happy Revolution establishment by a conjunction of Court and Country interest’, had told Brockman that they would frustrate James’s hopes at any cost. Brockman went on to enjoin James never to stand again for Hythe but, if ever it appeared that there had been a free and fair election, then James was to pay £100 to the majority,

in such a manner as shall appear to him most beneficial in . . . recovering the native rights and liberties of the said corporation . . . which have been so ignominiously . . . trucked away by some . . . members thereof, making merchandize of their personal public faith and trust for private present spells of filthy lucre since the said thrice happy Revolution.

Brockman died between 8 Sept. 1740 when the last codicil to his will was written and 21 Apr. 1742 when the will was proved. James Brockman, whose papers reveal a similar temperament and political outlook to that of his father, was faithful to the latter’s wishes and a rather more polite version of the clause in Brockman’s will about Hythe elections was read out at the town council meeting of 2 Feb. 1743.20

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Sonya Wynne


  • 1. IGI, Kent; Burke, Commoners, iii. 367–9; Add. 42691, ff. 61–79; 42603, f. 110.
  • 2. Add. 42650, ff. 92–159.
  • 3. SPCK Archs. Abstract letter book 3, item no. 2904.
  • 4. Hasted, Kent. viii. 191, 196–7, 202–3, 208–9, 226, 262, 267, 320, 389, 392–4; Add. 42618, ff. 4–8, 12–17, 22–24; Burke, 368; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1643–60, p. 457; Stowe 746, f. 20.
  • 5. CSP Dom. July–Sept. 1683, p. 117; Add. 42618, f. 34; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 23, Brockman to Trumbull, 22 Dec. 1685; Som. RO, Bouverie of Brymore mss, DD/BR 3/10, (Sir) Thomas Hales* to Thomas Hales, 20 Jan. 1685–6.
  • 6. Add. 33923, ff. 462, 434; N. and Q. (ser. 3) vi. 23, 41, 121; Grey, ix. 286.
  • 7. Add. 33923, f. 480; 42596. ff. 79, 81–82; G. Wilks, Barons of the Cinque Ports, 89.
  • 8. Info. from Prof. N. Landau; Add. 42596–42600, passim; 42596, ff. 33–36, 47; 42621–42649, passim; 42653, passim; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 20; 1702–3, p. 394.
  • 9. Add. 42586, ff. 78–80, 85–87; 42592, ff. 98–99.
  • 10. Add. 42592, ff. 134–8.
  • 11. Ibid. ff. 107–15, 123, 126, 154; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 64.
  • 12. Add. 42592, ff. 167–8, 170; 42593, ff. 102–4; Luttrell Diary, 93, 117, 136.
  • 13. Horwitz, 124; Luttrell Diary, 398; Grey, x. 307.
  • 14. Add. 42592, ff. 198–201; 42593, ff. 11–31, 33; Horwitz, 12, 125.
  • 15. Add. 42586, f. 65; 42587, f. 157; 42601, ff. 61–98; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 271.
  • 16. Add. 42593, ff. 50, 55–56, 78; Horwitz, 152; G. B. Nash, Urban Crucible, 24–28.
  • 17. HMC Downshire, i. 505; Add. 70018, ff. 94–95, 104.
  • 18. Add. 42593, ff. 38–39, 80–84, 88, 93, 118–23, 136–7; 42612, f. 4; 42707, ff. 12–13; 70161, Brockman to Harley, 20 Dec. 1699; 70156, same to same, 30 Oct. 1707; SPCK Archs. Abstract letter book 3, item no. 2904.
  • 19. Add. 42589, ff. 77–215; 42593, ff. 140–2, 144–53; 45198, f. 184; 42613, ff. 1–2, 8–11, 15–110.
  • 20. PCC 111 Trenley; Wilks, 96–97.