Select Brett Miscellany

Here are some Brett stories and accounts over the years:

Bretts in Somerset

The Odcombe manor in south Somerset near the border with Devon was a small pre-Conquest estate which belonged to Ansger the Breton in 1086.  The Domesday Book made the following record:  

“Ansger the Breton holds it of the count of Mortain. There Ansger has three villani who have one plough and twenty acres of pasture.  It is worth ten shillings and was worth the same when the count received it." 

The family name was first Brito and then le Bret.  William le Bret, the last of this line, held the land until his death in 1199.

The Bretts of Sampford Brett in Somerset came from this family; as probably did the Bretts of Maperton in Dorset.  Richard le Bret, one of the assassins of Sir Thomas a Becket, was said to be of Sampford Brett. Later these Bretts continued in nearby Thorncombe and Whitestaunton.

Brett Stone in Wye Church, Kent

In the center of the nave there is a large stone which is enscribed as follows:

"In hope of a joyful resurrection within the vault are deposited the remains of Gregory Brett, buried March 6, 1541.  Gregory, his son and churchwarden.

He rebuilt the old steeple (burnt by lighning) on July 15, 1572 to which he was a great contributor to forgiving the parish a debt of £92 besides his sess of £30, for which benefaction they granted burial place to him and his heirs on paying 6s 8d at each interment.

Buried February 18, 1586."

Reader Feedback - The Brett Name and Stupidity

There is one thing that makes me cringe about that "stupidity" thing that the French said about my Brett line and surname.  

Yes, I would believe the French people probably did say that, back before the 1066 date about my family ancestors.   But, after 1066, when the Brett's returned triumphantly with the Duke of Normandy, I wonder what the French had to say about the treasures that landed within the Brett family?  

I have what might be a medical explanation regarding what seemed to be the "stupidity" factor within my family.  

Mind you, I am not a medical profession, but I have dealt with several issues within the brain within my family.  There is such a thing called Fahr's Disorder or syndrome.  This disorder is related to the basal glanglia and calcium growths growing from the basal ganglia upwards into the brain.  It is a rare genetic inherited disease, which one of the parents must have the gene themselves in order to pass this disorder on to their offspring.  The symptoms are like Parkinson's Disease and usually manifests itself when an adult reaches the age of thirty years old. 

Instead of me attempting to remember all that you should be aware of, might I suggest you have someone look this disease up on a computer?  I would highly suggest that since it is a genetic based inherited disease, which I am a sufferer with the Brett (Britt) surname, that anytime something happens to a brain, symptoms are very well going to occur.  And since I am a sufferer and a descendant of the Brett family from Normandy (first in the southwest of England), I strongly believe that this "stupidity" factor believed by the French, could very well be the result of what was once called "Fahr's Disease."  

And, since this disease is a rare genetic inherited disease, should you place this fact after the "stupidity factor", would you not believe your site would be doing the Bretts a worldwide service, as well as other family surnames that suffer the same disorder? 

Thank you for your consideration and hopefully some kind of statement may be placed after that "stupidity" remark. 

R. Britt (
Sgt of Marines  
UH-1E Marine Armed Attack Helicopter Machine Gun Door Gunner  
Decorated Vietnam War Veteran 
Cold War Veteran  Virginia Police Worker  
Wisconsin Deputy Sheriff Veteran 
Wisconsin Selected State Trooper

The Tablet to William Brett

"William Brett
Presiding Elder of the Church of Christ in Bridgewater
Under the ministry of Rev. James Keith
Born in England in 1618
A settler in Duxbury in 1640
An original proprietor of Bridgewater,
A deputy to the Old Colony Court 1661-1666
Died December 17, 1681
A grave and godly man.

What have we Lord to bind us
To the land where pilgrims trod?
Their memories and their ashes
Be Thou their guard, Oh God."

The tablet was erected by Mary and Anna Brett, sixth in descent from William Brett.  It is to be found in the West Bridgewater Historical Society building.

The Madame Brett Homestead

The Madame Brett Homestead is an early 18th century home in upstate New York, located in Beacon, Dutchess county.   It was named after Cathryne Rombout Brett, a Dutch woman who had married  Captain Roger Brett of the British Royal Navy in New York in 1703.

The house itself was built in 1703 and was noteworthy as the residence of the first white woman to settle in the Hudson river highlands.  She lived there until her death in 1764 and it was lived in by seven generations of descendants until 1954.

The house was then threatened with demolition (to make room for a supermarket).  It was purchased instead by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution who have turned the building into a museum.

Reader Feedback - Bretts in Newfoundland

I am a direct descendant of a William Brett or Britt who was born in Christchurch in Hampshire and moved to Newfoundland in the early 1800's.  To-date I have been unable to verify his birth record in Christchurch but the information that I do have comes from his headstone.  My research indicates that there was probably another family of Bretts that came to Newfoundland around the same time.  

Dave Brett (

Walter Brett and His Birds

From 1871 to 1888, he said, I kept a log book, a sort of general diary.  It was not until after that time that I commenced a regular systematic system of measurements and records.

The measurements taken of birds, were: length, extent, wing, tail thus 4.90 x 2.15 x 2.10 in inches and hundredths, usually adding verre tausus, middle toe and claw, and bill thus 1" 85, M.T.C 70, Bill 45.  To the skin when made up was attached a gum wad with a catalog number.  The permanent label had locality, date, sex, scientific name, field number and A.O.U. number on the front, the measurements on the back together with any remarks as to condition.

Collecting for Brett really began when he settled in Lakeport, California in 1891.  The three years spent there resulted in a large number of bird skins and later of mammals.  From California, Brett moved to Nova Scotia and then to Huns Valley in Manitoba.  Overall, his field books recorded 1,586 bird skins and 237 mammals.

In 1916, when he was eighty, a visitor described him as follows:

"I found him, as his letters had indicated, the perfect type of an English sportsman-naturalist, interested in wild life and in collecting, but beyond that a keen student of nature.  Brett felt that he could no longer care for his collection and he passed it into my hands for purchase."   

Sylvia Brett as Lady Vyner

Sylvia's early life was troubled.  At the age of 12 she had made two attempts to kill herself, the first by eating rotten sardines and the second by lying naked in the snow.

In 1911, she married his Highness Rajah Yyner of Sarawak at St. Peter's church in Cranborne.  Her husband, the last white rajah, ruled a 40,000 square mile jungle kingdom on the northern side of Borneo with a mixed population of half a million.  She was invested with the title of Ranee of Sarawak in 1917.

She became a social butterfly, organizing theater and dances for the European community at Kuching  The Rajah built a cinema which he named after her.  Yet she quickly got bored.  She soon consoled herself with another splash of big spending.  It was indeed a heyday for social life in Sarawak.

Not everybody liked her.  Her brother described her as "a female Iago" and the British Colonial Office as "a dangerous woman, full of Machiavellian schemes to alter the succession, and spectacularly vulgar in her behavior."   She had become distraught that her daughter Leonara could not inherit the throne under Islamic law and had hatched various plots to blacken the name of the male heir apparent. 

Her husband, the Rajah, didn't seem to care, occupying himself instead with a string of mistresses.  They later parted and she took her royal role abroad, to England and America.  She was the author of books such as Sylvia of Sarawak and Queen of the Head Hunters which gave her a certain allure.

Bill Brett to England

It was in the year 1937 and elections were being held all over Ireland. There was a struggle for power.  Bill Brett was a young man living in the Carnagopple family home in Sligo.  Across the street, young Bill's neighbor was running for the council election.  He promised Bill that if he worked hard for him and if he was elected he would see to it that young Bill got a good job.

Alas, it was not to be.  In that year de Valera's candidates swept the boards and Bill's man was defeated. Bill was a handsome young man, full of life and ideas, saw the writing on the wall, and so he set his course for England and arrived in Heyward near Manchester.  Good jobs in England were also scarce and after some consideration he joined the Irish Guards.  He was tall, well spoken and a fine recruit.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Brett Main Page