The Brent family in Langford

Members of the family that came to take the surname “Brent” rose to prominence as landholders in north Somerset in 1254 when Robert de Brent was granted the manor of Cossington.  He held this three-hide estate from the Abbot of Glastonbury, Roger of Ford, in return for a knight’s fee.  That is, the obligation to put a fully armed knight in the field with supporters for 40 days per year.  In the chapter on Cossington in volume 3 of his History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset (1791), John Collinson detailed more than 15 generations of the Brent family.  The line is also set out, with references, in the articles on Cossington and on the manor of Ford in Bawdrip in Volumes 8 and 6 of the Victoria County History of Somerset.
These may be accessed on-line via British History Online:

However, there remain some ambiguities and uncertainties in the family history.

As well as their estates north and south of the Polden Hills, the family also came to hold land in the Vale of Wrington.  It is thought that the Robert de Brent mentioned above was born about 1220 to a family with substantial landholdings in the area around Brent Knoll known as Brentmarsh.  These, like Cossington and Wrington, were held from Glastonbury.

The first known reference to Robert dates from 1242/3, when he acted as surety for the Abbot in an action brought by Robert of Aldwick who claimed to have been dispossessed of his right to common pasture in Wrington.  Then, in 1247, he bought nine messuages and one hide of land in Wrington.  These, too, would have been held from Glastonbury.  He leased back to the vendor (Henry of Ambelbard):  1 messuage and half a hide, of which 17½ acres lay in Eastfield, 16 acres in Westfield, 2½ acres in a croft called la Garston, 1 acre of meadow in Cleyacre, & another in Underwhatlegh.  In return, Henry was to perform the services belonging to this holding and render yearly to Robert one pair of white gloves at Easter.

Robert died in 1261.  His son, Robert de Brent II, married Isabella of Montacute and, in 1277, he attended the king in Gascony, as a knight of the shire.  In that capacity, he was sent to the Westminster parliament of 1297/8.  He died in 1308/9 and was succeeded by his son, Robert.  Robert de Brent III married Claricia of Ford, the above-mentioned manor in the parish of Bawdrip, which they inherited.  In 1303, they bought three messuages and several hundred acres of land in “Cossington, Wrington, Syndeland, Legh, South Brent, Cotes & Glaston” from William of Bourne. 

Collinson describes Robert III as ‘also a knight and a great benefactor to the abbey of Glastonbury’ and he was buried on the north side of the choir of the abbey church.  However, in 1315, he and his brothers were accused of flooding crops and carrying away timber from land at Mark held by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Dean of Wells.  In 1340, Robert and Thomas de Brent were accused with others of abducting a man indicted for murder from the fetters in which he was being held in Wrington.  A fine of 20 shillings was levied.  On 20 Mar 1343 at Westminster, a commission of oyer and terminer was called to investigate the complaint of a widow (Margaret Beaupre) that Robert and Thomas de Brent with others had broken into her house and assaulted her and her servants.  A fine of 10 shillings was levied.  Then, on 20 Jun 1344, John de Sully was pardoned by the King for an assault on Robert de Brent before the justices in Somerton on the grounds that he was trying to keep the peace.  These graphic entries in the Patent Rolls may indicate that the Brent family behaved more like Norman thugs than the benevolent landlords the peasants of Wrington Vale might have wished for.

Robert and Claricia had two sons, Robert de Brent IV and John.  John settled on estates the family held in Kent.  Robert IV remained in Somerset and married Elizabeth Denebaud.  An entry in the Feudal Aids for 1346 implies that Robert IV had died, although Collinson gives a date of 25 Edw III (1351/2).  Robert and Elizabeth were succeeded by their son John Brent, who married Joan le Eyre and died in 1373.   An entry in the Patent Rolls records that on 16 May 1373 at Westminster, a pardon was granted to Robert Purveyour of Botecle, Somerset, ‘with respect to the death of John Brent of Somerset; as well as of the abjuration of the realm which he made at Bautrip church for this cause’.

John & Joan’s son, John Brent II, was married twice: first to Ida Beauchamp and secondly to Joan Latimer. He died in about 1413.  By his first wife, he had a son who became Sir Robert Brent V, and a daughter, Joan, who married John Trethek from Cornwall.  By his second wife, he had a son, John Brent III.  Sir Robert (V) married Jane Harewell but died in 1421, apparently without issue.  The inheritance of the Brent estates then became a matter for the courts to decide.  The settlement was that John Trethek should retain them for his life and that they should then be entailed to John Brent III and his heirs.  An entry in the Calendar of Feet of Fines for 1421/2 [Somerset Record Society 22, 181 (1906)] reads:

“9 Hy 5. At Westminster in the quinzaine of St. John Baptist and afterwards in the octave of Trinity in the tenth year of the same king, between John Hals and William Trethek querents ; and John Trethek esquire, and Joan his wife deforciants ; for the manors of Wryngton, Whateley, Cosyngton, Ford, Middelsowey and Cheslade, and five messuages and a carucate and a hundred and forty-five acres of land in Blakeford, Estbrent, Bruggewater, Hunspell, Merke, Pennard, Glaston, Wollavington, Chelton, and Edyngton (and lands in Essex). John Trethek and Joan acknowledged the right of William; for this he granted the same to John Trethek and Joan to hold to them and the heirs of Joan.”

An entry in the Close Roll of 1434 reads:

“John Brent, son and heir of John Brent, to John Tretheke esquire. Confirmation of his estate for life in the manors of Cosyngton and Forde and in all lands, rents, reversions and services in ‘Middelsowey,’ Wryngton, Whatelegh. Chesdade, Stawell, Edyngton, Cadecote, ‘ Estbrynt, Southbrynt,’ Briggewater, Hunspell, Merke, Blakeforde, Weilavyngton, Chelton, Glastonbury and Pennarde co. Somerset, with licence to make waste therein without impeachment, and warranty thereof for his life ; and because his seal is to many unknown the grantor has procured that the seal of John abbot of Athelney be hereto attached. Dated Cosyngton, 2 September 13 Henry VI. Witnesses: Humphrey Courtenay knight, Richard Chedder, John Hille, John Cokir, William Michell.”

John Trethek still held Cossington in 1445, when Bishop Bekynton’s register records him presenting a new rector.  However, records of Courts Baron show that around 1450 Whatley and Whatmans, together with a number of other small manors, were held by the trustees of the late John Brent.  This has to be John Brent III.

Langford Court Archives 114b

In 1472/3, the son of John Brent III, Robert VI, bought a significant landholding in Churchill.  The transaction is recorded in Feet of Fines [Somerset Record Society 22, 141-2 (1906)] as:

“Robert Brent esquire querent; and John Haukyns cousin and heir of Robert Whatman, deforciant; for four messuages, fifty acres of land, twelve acres meadow, four acres pasture and four acres wood in Netherlangford, in the parish of Churchehill.  John acknowledged the right of Robert and quit claimed; for this Robert gave him forty pounds sterling.”

Robert Brent VI had certainly recovered the family estates by 1486, when Bishop Stillington’s register records him presenting candidates for the living at Cossington.  A Court roll of 1490 shows him to be the lord of Whatley and Whatmans.  Robert Brent VI died on 24 Oct 1508.  His real estate holdings are detailed in the Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Hy7, iii, pp. 309-310 and in Somerset Wills 1501–30 [Somerset Record Society 19, 181 (1903)]:

“Robert Brent, esquire.

Writ, wanting ; inquisition 1 February, 24 Henry VII.

He died seised in fee of the under-mentioned manors and advowsons of Cosyngton and Fourde, lands &c. in Bawderip, Catcote, Edyngton, Stowell, Chauton, Wullavyngton, Hunspill, Rokesbrigge, Southbrent, Marke, Blakeforde Episcopi, West Pennard, Winston, Glastonbery, [Briggewater], Puttenell, Brodelake, Cheselake, Samford, Pery and Sutton Malet, manor of Wrington, rents in Wrington, messuage in Ligh and rent in Siddecote.

William Carant and John Capron, clerk, with Alexander Hody, deceased, were seised of the under-mentioned manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford, Synderlond, Whatley and Whatmans, and by their indented charter dated 3 February, 6 Edward IV, demised them to Robert Brent aforesaid and Joan, his wife, and the heirs and assigns of Robert. Joan survives, and still occupies the premises by reason of the said gift.

The said Robert Brent and John, his son, were jointly seised in fee of the under-mentioned manors of Godwynsbower and Estbagborowe and lands &c. in Godwynsbower, Estbagborowe, Compton Bishop, Wibbyngton, Berton, Wokikole, Wellis, Westbury, Estbower, MoUisney, Slape. Dunwere, Hamme, Periton, Pawelet, Dounend, Andresey and Weston Abbatis. Robert died so seised, and John, his son, holds himself in the premises by survivorship.

Robert died 24 October, 24 Henry VII. The said John Brent, his son and heir, is 35 years of age and more.

His lands in and around Wrington are given as:

“Manor of Wryngton and rents of 2s. and 1 lb. pepper in Wrington, whereof the manor, worth 100s., is held of the abbot of Glastonbury.
A messuage in Ligh in the parish of Wryngton, worth 6s. 8d., held of the same abbot, services unknown.  22d. rent in Siddecote in the parish of Wynnescombe.
Manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford, Whatley, Synderlond and Whatmans, in the parishes of Beryngton and Churchehill ; whereof the manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford and Whatley, worth 10s., are held of the abbot of Glastonbury in right of his monastery, and the manor of Whatmans, alias the lands called ‘Whatmans,’ worth 40s., are held of John Keme, as of his manor of Keme ; services unknown.”   [“Keme” should be “Kenn(e)”]

The clear implication is that the manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford and Whatley were in Burrington and thus part of the Glastonbury manor of Wrington, while Synderlond and Whatmans were in Churchill.  ‘Ligh’ refers to Lye Hole in Wrington.  The reference here to a parish of Burrington is the first example known to the author.  However, the chapel there was described in 1498 as being newly rebuilt and waiting to be consecrated or reconciled, so perhaps this was associated with the creation of a new parish.  John Knyght was installed as vicar shortly afterwards.

Robert’s will is transcribed as:


August 27th, 1505. Robert Brentt “armiger ac dominus de Cosyngton” My body to be buried in the chancel of the parish church of the B.M. of Cosyngton. To the fabric of the cathedral church of Wells 20s. To the glazing of a window in the tower of the parish church of Cosyngton 40s. I will that Joan my sister have her food and clothing of John my son and heir while she lives. To the prior of Byrkyll 20d. To the friars minor of Bridgwater 6s. 8d. To the poor of the house of blessed Margaret near Tawnton 20d. To Alexander Hody now rector of Byschford 6s. 8d To Sir Richard Mylcome, rector of Cosyngton 6s. 8d. To John my son and heir, my chest where lie my evidences with all things contained in it.

Residue : Joan my wife and John my son and heir (executors).

Witnesses : Sir Richard Mylcome my curate, John Nett junior, and John Joce. I leave Sir George Nawll, chaplain of Ford1 20d. To John the hermit of St. Thomas super Powldom 4d.

Proved November 7th, 1508.”

It is recorded by Collinson that Robert VI married Margaret Malet and that they had a son, John.  In that case, Joan, who survived him, must have been Robert’s second wife.  John IV was born in 1473.  He married Maud Pauncefoot and died in 1524. There is a memorial brass to John and Maud on the chancel floor of Cossington church.  In Abbot Beere’s terrier of the Glastonbury manors (1517), John Brent IV is recorded as holding one hide in Wrington from the abbot by military service.

beere04 John Brent

John Brent’s will is also transcribed in Somerset Wills 1501–30:


August 20th, 1524. John Brent, my body to be buried in the chauncell of the church of Our Lady of Cosyngton by Mawd late my wif. To the church of S. Andrew in Wells I0s. To the church of Our Lady in Cosyngton to bye a tenour bell performed to be rong with all £20. To the churches of Bawdrepe, Puryton and Wullavyngton 6s. 8d. each, and (to the) 2 chauntrie prests of Wullavyngton, Sir Nich’as Neele and Sir John Pople 6s. 8d. To the gray freres of Briggewater 6s. 8d. To the freres of Yevilchester 6s. 8d. To the Spetilhous of Taunton 3s. 4d. To the Spetill house of Brewton 3s. 4d. To the Spetill hous of Lamport 3s. 4d. To the spitill house of Bath 3s. 4d. To all my servants men and women dwelling with me the day of my deth a hole yeres wages after. To Richard Brent my son 200 marcs. To Barbara my doughter 200 marcs. To Thomasyn my doughter 200 marcs, the part of one dying to be divided among the survivors, and if two die the survivor to have 400 marcs, the rest being disposed for my soule, the soule of Mawd my wife, and all that we be bound to pray for. And if all die, the whole sum of 600 marcs shall bye lands and tenements to the yerely value of 8 marcs for a perpetual chauntrie, to be founded in the church of Cosyngton to pray for me and Mawd my wife. And my will is that if it could be done by wisdom of my exors the chauntrie of the Forde shuld be parcell of the perpetuytie in Cosyngton church. The residue to William Brent and Richard Brent my sons and exors to be equally divided by the advice of Bawdwin Malett, William Vowell, John Poxwell, clerk, and Sir Thomas Keove. And I make coadjutors John Poxwell, parson of Cosyngton, and Sir Thomas Keove one of the chauntrie prestes of Wullavington, and to each of them £6 13s. 4d. To my suster Agnes a nonne in Shaftisbury £6 13s. 4d. To my cosyn Mary Poulett an ambling horse named Symon. And I make supervisors Bawdwin Mallet and William Vowell, and to each of them £3 6s. 8d.

Witnesses: John Powlett, John Pokiswell, clerk, Thomas Keive, clerk, William Broke, Richard Pery and John Mors.

Proved at St. Paul’s, London, October 15th, 1524.”

As well as his wife, Maud, his sister, Agnes, and his cousin, Mary Poulett, John mentions two sons and two daughters in his will:  William (born 1505/6), Richard, Barbara and Thomasyn.  Collinson mentions another son, John, one of whose descendants later was said to have purchased the manor of Cossington and thereby taken it back into the family.

William Brent, who inherited the real estate of his father, married the daughter of Lord Stourton.  He died in 1536 leaving a son, Richard.  Richard Brent was declared an idiot in 1552 and died in 1570, leaving his only daughter, Anne, as his heir.  Anne had married Lord Thomas Paulet (died 1586).  He was the second son of the eminent and long-lived courtier, William Paulet, who became the first marquis of Winchester (died 1572). Anne and Thomas had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Giles Hoby (1565 – 1626) and inherited the Brent estates.  Their main estate and home was at Hursley in Hampshire.  Collinson is very unkind to these two ladies, Anne and Elizabeth.  He says that they: “sold and squandered away all the patrimony of this ancient family”.  Certainly, there are records in Common Pleas (Feet of Fines) of the Hilary Term, 33 Eliz I (1591), showing that Giles and Elizabeth sold “The Manor of Langforde or Whatleigh or Whatmans Brentes and tenements land and rent in Over Langford Nether Langford Berrington, Churchel, Wibbington, Westburye, Akehole and Wells” to “John Allotte, mayor of London”.  Thus ended the direct involvement of the Brent family in Langford.

Thus far, the Manor of Langford had been in different hands.  Records of some of its Courts Baron are held at the Somerset Heritage Centre (DD/X/PRO).  In the first part of the 15th century, this small manor was one of the holdings of the Chedder family.  They had large landholdings along the southern slopes of the Mendips and elsewhere in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  Robert Chedder (died 1384), had acquired great wealth through exporting cloth from Bristol, where he was twice mayor in the 1360s.

The Chedder inheritance passed to Robert’s eldest son, Richard, who was clearly a colourful character.  He is described in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons  1386 – 1421 (pp 537-8) as ‘By all accounts … a violent and lawless man’.  Accompanying his step-father to the Parliament of 1404, he was assaulted in London and severely injured about the face and head, an incident that led to a petition by the Commons to the King concerning freedom from arrest and molestation for MPs and members of their households in time of Parliament.

Following the deaths in 1437 of Richard and his mother, the Manor of Langford and other estates came to Robert’s youngest son, Thomas.  The Court held at Langford in May 1438 is recorded as being the first of ’Thomas Chedder, brother and heir of Richard Chedder’.

With Thomas’s death in 1443, his holdings passed to his daughter, Isabel, and to her husband, John Newton.  John was the son of Richard Newton (died 1448), at one time Chief Justice of England.  He and Isabel lived at Court de Wyke in Claverham.   John died in 1488.  There are magnificent tombs of John and Richard Newton, with recumbent statues of them and their wives in Yatton parish church and an equally fine tomb of Thomas Chedder, with brasses of him and his wife (another Isabel) in St Andrew’s Church, Cheddar.

The considerable Newton estates, including the Manor of Langford, were inherited jointly by two sisters, granddaughters of John and Isabel.  They were Isabel (1487 – before 1555) who married Giles Capell, and Joan (1495 – 1558) who married Thomas Gryffyn.  The elder son of Giles and Isabel, Henry Capel (1505 – 1558), inherited the manor of Ubley from his mother and continued to live there following her death in about 1512.

The families of the two sisters disputed their inheritance in the Court of Chancery but eventually agreed a settlement in 1555.  The deed of settlement is held at the Somerset Heritage Centre: (DD\X\BDN/6). Giles and Henry retained Ubley, where they lived, and also, among many other estates, Langford.   With the Glastonbury estates reverting to the Crown in 1539 following the dissolution of the monastery and subsequently being sold off manor by manor, many changes of land ownership will have occurred during this period.  In 1546, Wrington was granted to Henry Capel and his wife Anne in consideration of £1,952 1s. 6¼ d.

The Capel and Hoby families were loosely related both socially and by marriage so, although there is no known reference to any such transaction, it seems likely that the Capels transferred the Manor of Langford to the Hobys, in order to tidy up their landholdings.  As a result, the “Manor of Langford, alias Whatley, alias Whatmans Brent”, came into being.

Records of a survey of this manor made in 1636 and of its Courts Baron held between 1652 and 1777 remain extant.  Its ownership passed from John Allott to Edmund Kenn, to Francis and then John Creswick, to John and then Edward Jones, to Elizabeth and John  Withers Sherwood, and finally to Elizabeth Sherwood and Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.  Many deeds of properties in Langford still refer to “the manor or purported manor of Langford, alias Whatley, alias Whatmans Brent”.

John Gowar
23rd January, 2016

This article is based on the following Langford Manorial Documents

Date Regnal year A.D. Manor(s) Document Lord/Steward
??Hy6 ???? Langford Court Baron John Newton & Isabella(?) his wife
13 Oct 28Hy6 1449 WhatleyWhatmans Court Baron Alexander Hody & the feoffees of the late John Brent
20 May Whatley Court Baron Alexander Hody & feoffees
04 May 29Hy6 1451 Whatley Court Baron Alexander Hody & the feoffees of the late John Brent
22 Oct 30Hy6 1451 Whatley Court Baron
15 Jan 30Hy6 1451/2 Whatley Court Baron
34Hy6 1455 Langeford Court Baron
11 Oct 7EdwIV 1467 Langford Court Baron John Newton
05 May 6Hy7 1490 Whatleigh
Court Baron Robert Brent
24Hy7 1508 Langford Court Baron
12 Aug 19Hy8 1527 Langeford Court Baron Giles Capell & Thomas Gryffyn & Joan his wife
12 Oct 34Hy8 1542 Langeford Court Baron Henry Capell & Thomas Gryffyn
May 1636 Langford Survey Edmund Kenn
Francis Creswick
15 Oct 1652 Langford als Whatley als Whatmans Brent (LWW) Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
09 Oct 1654 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
16 Apr 1657 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
20 Oct 1658 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
21 Jun 1660 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
16 Apr 1662 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
07 Aug 1664 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
08 Oct 1664 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
15 Nov 1665 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
1669 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
19 Sep 1670 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1670 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1672 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1673 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1674 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
31 Mar 1679 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
28 Apr 1681 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
01 May 1682 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
04 Jun LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
?? Nov 1686 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
21 Oct LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
1708 LWW Court Baron John  Jones
18 Apr 1708 Langford Survey John Jones
04 Jun 1724 LWW Court Baron John Jones
04 Jun 1724 LWW Court Baron John Jones
1728 LWW Court Baron
22 Apr 1738 Marriage Settlement Edward Jones & Mary Musgrave
08 Aug 1738 LWW Court Baron Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
03 Jan 1739/40 Release Mary Somers
12 Feb 1741 LWW Record of exchange of land Edward Jones
16 Apr 1743 Will Edward Jones
19 Jan 1746/7 LWW Court Baron Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
12 Jan 1747/8 Codicil Edward Jones
08 Jun 1757 LWW Court Baron Trustees of Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
31 Oct 1770 Probate John Withers Sherwood
04 Sep 1773 LWW Court Baron Elizabeth Sherwood/Richard Jenkyns
31 Dec 1773 Marriage Settlement Elizabeth Sherwood & Thomas Sedgwick Whalley
24 Jan 1777 LWW Court Baron Thomas Sedgwick Whalley & Elizabeth his wife/Richard Jenkyns