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Q: Biographical Research -- English Tudor Personnage ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Biographical Research -- English Tudor Personnage
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: looksharper-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 01 Nov 2005 19:13 PST
Expires: 01 Dec 2005 19:13 PST
Question ID: 587813
Verify the existence of a personnage in an English portrait of the
second half of the 16th century. He is Henry Brommell, "Maister of
Surgurie". The painting is dated 1555, and has been verified by
Sotheby's as of the period, altho not necessarily that specific date.
He is shown holding a piece of paper, and the date may be when he
received his credentials  as a surgeon, a new profession in England at
this time (separate from barber-surgeons). I would want to know at
least some minimal biographical facts, such as birth/death dates and
city of residence. I must be able to somehow verify the source
material for the answer.
It is quite possible that his name may be spelled differently (such as
one "m" or "l", or even a "w" is place of the "m", which was not
uncommon at the time.
I can provide a jpeg of the portrait if requested. Thanks.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 01 Nov 2005 19:21 PST
Yes, a jpeg would be helpful.  Please load an image (the best one you
have) to an uplink so we can have a look at it.

If you need any help with uplinks, just let me know.



Clarification of Question by looksharper-ga on 01 Nov 2005 20:25 PST
I do need help with an uplink. Where to? It turns out it's a .bmp, by the way.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 01 Nov 2005 20:29 PST
bmp is no problem.

To upload the file, head to YouSendIt:

Ignore the box that asks for an email address.  Just hit the "Browse"
button, and use it to find the file you want to upload, and click on
the file name.

Then just press "Send it".

You should then get a page that say

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 01 Nov 2005 20:32 PST
...sorry....accidental premature posting...

You should then get a page that says:

File successfully stored!
We've stored your file on our server. The file will be available for 7
days or a limited number of downloads.

Here is a link for your reference: 

Just copy and paste the link that they give you, and I'll be able to
retrieve your file.

By the way, I found a record for a Henry Brommell (with that exact
spelling) that shows him to be alive, as an adult, in 1556.  But I
don't have much more than that, I'm afraid.

Hopefully, something else will turn up.



Clarification of Question by looksharper-ga on 01 Nov 2005 20:42 PST
Well that was easy. Thanks.
The link is: 

You can't see the writing very well in the picture, but it is as I
described. "Surgerie" is actually spelled "svrgerie" and the date is
"ano(sic) 1555".

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Nov 2005 07:57 PST

Wow!  That's a beauty.  A bit Titian-esque, even.

I've been searching since yesterday for information on one "Henry
Brommell", as stated in your question.

The painting clearly shows the name of the maister surgeon to be "Robert Brommell".

Is there something you're not telling us...?


Clarification of Question by looksharper-ga on 02 Nov 2005 09:31 PST
I am so sorry. I have no explanation, other than a major synapse
mis-fire. I have Henry in my head for some inexplicable reason, even
though I went and looked at the picture just before I wrote the query.
Once I "remember" something incorrectly, I have a hell of a time
wiping it off the disk. I'll make it up to you for any time you lost
because of this.
If I'm not  breaking protocol, my actual name is Larry, and I'm in Los Angeles.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Nov 2005 09:52 PST
Thanks for clarifying the name for me, and gee, *I* never get synaptic
misfires...(not sure my wife would agree, though!).

I'll continue looking for Maister Robert, and see what turns up.

Stay tuned...

paf aka Dave in DC

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Nov 2005 19:52 PST

I've gotten just one solid 'hit' thus far for a Robert Brommell in
mid-16th century England.

But other than the fact of his existence, and a rough idea of when and
where he lived, I haven't found out anything about him.  Was he a
surgeon?  Who knows.

I hope to get to a source where I can look at some chancery microfilm
records, but even then, I'm not hopeful of finding a heck of a lot

Do you have any suggestions at this point?  I'm hesitant to put a huge
effort into it, if the end result will be to come up empty-handed, and
not be able to provide a satisfactory answer for you.

One thing that might help would be to know more about the provenance
of the painting itself.  Is there anything more you can tell me of its

Looking forward to hearing back from you.


Clarification of Question by looksharper-ga on 02 Nov 2005 20:38 PST
Hi, Dave --
Thanks for the progress report. The painting was purchased from
Sotheby's by me about 3 years ago when they were offering some of
their lesser stuff thru the now defunct, but they didn't
have any provenance dating back far enough to be of any help. One idea
I had was to try to locate the early records of the appropriate
"guild" which surgeoons would have belonged to. I THINK it was
recognized as a separate profession under Henry VIII. I also believe
there is a College of Surgeons in London which may be the successor to
the original guild. It's the only idea I have.
At this point I'm absolutely happy to pay the $200.00 whether or not
you come up with anything beyond what you have at the moment -- partly
because I appreciate the effort you've been making, and partly because
I feel like such a dope about my Henry fixation . If you feel you can
put in a bit more time, great -- if, not, let me know what you have
and I'll be completely satisfied.

Clarification of Question by looksharper-ga on 03 Nov 2005 06:51 PST
Dave --
Here's a link to as good an explanation of the way surgeons were
organized in the mid 1500s as I have found. Maybe it will help you
find if their archives still exist.
Subject: Re: Biographical Research -- English Tudor Personnage
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 04 Nov 2005 09:59 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

I'm sure you understand the inherent difficulty of trying to uncover
the identity of an individual born about 500 years ago.

The task is made all the more challenging by having no idea of where
Robert Brommell lived or practiced his surgeries, since so many of the
records that survive from the 16th century are organized locally by
parish, county, town, etc.

However, the fact of having an occupation, along with knowing that
Maister Brommell was distinguished enough to have his portrait done,
suggests that the task is not a hopeless one, and warrants further
digging.  It also helps that the surname involved is not a common one,
which cuts down on the number of false leads to sift through.

I hope I've provided you with some clues, leads, and suggestions with
which to one day pin down the identity of Robert Brommell.

Let me cut right to the chase.  The best hit -- pretty much the only
hit -- that I got for the unusual name of Robert Brommell was from a
very useful genealogy site called the Origins Network:


View records - Boyd's Marriage Index  1538-1840 
Search criteria:  Last name: BROMMELL + Close variants
First name: ROBERT + Close variants  
Year Last Name 1 First Name 1 Last Name 2 First Name 2 Place County Misc. 
[Note: all first names are abbreviated...Rob for Robert, etc ]

From this, we can see that a Robert Bromel (all first names are
abbreviated) was married to Elizabeth Andrews in 1578 in Ipswich. 
This seems a bit on the late side to be getting married for your man,
who was already middle aged in 1555, but perhaps it was a second
marriage.  The spelling of the name is different, but quite close to
your portrait.

The marriage noted in 1597 seems rather late to be your fellow, and
the spelling of the name isn't as close, either.

Note that the Origins Network site offers several online
subscriptions, including a 3-day pass for about $10-15, in case you
want to do a bit more exploring here.  The subscription information
can be found at:


Another hit, of sorts, was found here:

The oddly-titled "Guild of One Name Studies" site is a resource for
folks who are researching a particular surname, and have an interest
in both getting and providing information about the name.

If you enter [brommell] in the search box, you'll see that there is a
listing for a women who is researching the history of the name
Brommell (spelled with one 'm'), and the listing provides snail mail
contact information.  I would suggest writing her, and letting her
know of your interest.  I suspect she would be thrilled to see the
link to your painting, and could perhaps be a source of information
for your quest.


They're apparently big on guilds over there, because another resource
is the venerable Guildhall Library in London:

The library is noted for its genealogical resources.  They offer a
free service for some very lightweight research on family histories,
and I emailed them asking about Robert Brommell.  They promised to
reply, but said it may be a month or more before they get to it...I
will certainly update this answer if and when any information arrives.

They also provide a more in-depth fee-based research service.  You may
want to contact them after finding out what their premlinary search
turns up.  They are at:


I also contacted some medical colleges (no barber schools, though!)
with a long history, and have not yet heard back from them (my
experience has been that, eventually, I will hear back, but it may be
many weeks before I do...again, I'll update you with any new
information that comes along).

The contacts are:

The Royal College of Surgeons, who offers a research service as well:
Should you find that your ancestor had clear College connections,
please write to the following address enclosing a 15.00 search fee
and all the information that you have on him (or her). Please note
that there may be a 2-3 month delay in response.

Deputy Librarian (Historical Services & Collection Management) 
The Royal College of Surgeons of England 
35-43 Lincoln?s Inn Fields 
London WC2A 3PE  

You can also email enquiries to Please include
details as above and your full contact details.

Note that they also recommend the services of the Guildhall Library
that I mentioned above.

and I also contacted the Royal College of General Practitioners, who
offers a good backgrounder on searching for medical histories:
Tracing Your Medical Ancestors

By the way, both these institutions -- particularly the College of
Surgeons -- may have a real interest in knowing about your painting. 
Worth reaching out to them, I would think.


Beyond that, there wasn't much.  The follow sources came up empty:
RootsWeb Surname List
A-Z of Family Surnames From England
UK Genealogy Interests Directory
Family History UK 

and to my surprise, there wasn't much that showed up at the motherlode
of genealogy sites,

Closest I got was this 1608 reference to what seems to be a marriage
record, though that isn't 100% clear:

England: Canterbury - Administrations in the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury, 1596-1608
 Index to Acts of Administration in the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury 1596 - 1608
County: General  
Country: England  
Bromley, Bromle als. Brommell, Robt., Luccombe, Som. To Eliz. B. als.
B. als. Fuller, rel., 1608 , p. 126.

but again, a 1608 marriage would be awfully late in life for Mr. B,
but this might also be a reference to some other sort of event...I'm
afraid the record itself is a bit on the ambiguous side.

There's also a variant name that showed up:

Shropshire: Lichfield - Wills and Administrations, 1516-1652
 Baptisms and Burials, 1769-1799.
  Lichfield Wills and Administrations Registered in The Consistory
Court of The Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. 1516 to 1652
County: Shropshire
Country: England
1580 Bromwell, Robert, ad. 139

and a death in 1580 certainly seems plausible timing.

I did come across a listing of variant spellings for Brommell that may
come in handy.  You can see it here:


Another terrific resource is

which also came up empty on Brommell, although a variant name did pop up:

  Spouse:  SUSAN SHEPPAM  Family
  Marriage:  19 OCT 1589   Saint Thomas The Apostle, London, London, England
942 U2mw


Well...that's it.

I know you had hoped for a positive identification...and who knows
what might come of the feelers I sent out.  But I hope you feel this
was money well spent, and that the information here has opened some
pathways to further investigation.

Let me know if you need anything else.  And by all means, let me know
what you ultimately find out, even if it's months from now.  You can
always post an updated note here, and I'll be sure to see it.

All the best,


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 07 Nov 2005 11:25 PST
Thanks for the kind words...and the stars!

Here's the first reply I received:

I am sorry to say that we have no information on this man but there is
a most interesting description of the role of ?masters of surgery? in
the opening chapter of the following book:


 Dobson, Jessie, 1906-1984 
 Barbers and barber-surgeons of London : a history of the barber's and
barber-surgeon's companies by Jessie Dobson and R. Milnes Walker
Publication info: 
 Oxford : Blackwell Scientific for the Worshipful Company of Barbers, 1979 
Physical description: 
 171p 24cm 
Editor/Add author: 
 Walker, Robert Milnes 
Corporate subject: 
 Barber-Surgeons Company, London 
Corporate subject: 
 Royal College of Surgeons of England. History 
Class mark: 
 DC 43 BAR / DOB 


I would imagine that your university library would either hold it or
be able to borrow it for you as it is full of useful information on
the early years of surgery.

Library and Information Services 
Royal College of Surgeons of England 
35-43, Lincoln's Inn Fields 
London WC2A 3PE 
Tel: 0207 869 6520 
Fax: 0207 405 4438 

Hope that helps.


Request for Answer Clarification by looksharper-ga on 07 Nov 2005 15:02 PST
Thanks, Pafalafa. You've given me a substantial number of leads which
I'll be following up. I would love to find out something aout
Henry-Robert. The Los Angeles Library system has a really good book
search service that includes many major university libraries -- I'll
try to find the barber-surgeon book!
I would have responded with a "thank you" before this, but I just
figured out that I needed to "ask for a clarification" in order to
post a response of any kind.
Your moniker, by the way, sounds like some weird character Candide
would have met on his travels.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 07 Nov 2005 15:51 PST
>>Your moniker, by the way, sounds like some weird character Candide
would have met on his travels...<<

Nothing quite so literary.  

Actually, it was Soupy Sales:

Anything else comes up, I'll be sure to let you know,


Request for Answer Clarification by looksharper-ga on 07 Nov 2005 17:39 PST
I think it's very clear that Soupy Sales was the spiritual successor
to Candide and his literary roots are deeper television historians
acknowledge. When I've got another 200 bucks I'll put you on the case.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 07 Nov 2005 18:33 PST
Ha ha.

Hope we'll see you back here one of these days.


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 17 Feb 2006 06:53 PST

Hello there.  I just now received a reply to one of my email queries
from last year.  No new information, but some possible research leads.
 Thought you'd like to see it.





I am sorry for the delay in replying to your enquiry concerning Robert
Brommell.  This has been caused by pressure of work and shortage of
staff time.


The term 'surgeon' traditionally described a person who performed
operations with the use of surgical instruments. However some
surgeons, particularly in the 19th century, also worked in other areas
of medical practice. Surgeons in London and the vicinity between the
early 16th and mid 18th centuries can often be traced at Guildhall
Library, in the records of the Barber-Surgeons' company or in
ecclesiastical licensing records.


I have searched the index to the freedom registers of the
Barber-Surgeons? company from 1522 to 1556 (Ms 5265/1) but failed to
find an entry for the surname Brommell.  However, only those who
practised their craft in or around the City of London are likely to be
found in these records.  In addition, many individuals who called
themselves surgeons (particularly those outside London, before the
19th century) did not belong to the company.


The Bishop of London was empowered by Act of Parliament in 1512 to
issue licences to any physician or surgeon residing within seven miles
of the City of London. However in practice very few, if any, of the
licences issued were to persons living south of the Thames. The
Bishop's licensing records cover the Diocese of London (Essex,
Middlesex, the City of London, parts of Hertfordshire and
Buckinghamshire).  An index of all the surviving records 1529-1725 can
be found in J H Bloom and R R James, Medical practitioners in the
Diocese of London (1935).  I have checked the index to this work but
again failed to find an entry for the surname Brommell.


Details of the careers of those medical practitioners who were
university graduates can often be found in published university
membership lists. Biographical registers of members of Oxford
University, c.1200-1886, and of Cambridge University, 1261-1900, are
available at Guildhall Library, together with some registers for other
English, Scottish and Irish universities. University membership lists
may also be available at other reference libraries.  In the time
available I have checked the registers of Oxford and Cambridge for the
relevant period.  No entries were found for Robert Brommell but the
Cambridge alumni has an entry which may be of interest: ?Hugh
Brommell, student of St John?s when ordained deacon (London) Mar. 30.
1560.  Of York diocese.?


I am sorry that you have waited so long for such disappointing news. 
If you have not already done so you could contact London Metropolitan
Archives (email to ask if Robert Brommell
appears in the City freedom archives.  Another course of action would
be to check the Mormons online database at to see
if he appears or any clue as to a possible locality.


We make no charge for our enquiry service but donations are always
welcome.  If you would like to help us maintain our present level of
service please send a Sterling cheque or postal order, made payable to
the Chamberlain of London, to Printed Books Section, Guildhall
Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ.   We also accept any Debit or
Credit Card except American Express and Diners.  Please give the name
and full address of the Card holder, (including house number and
post/zip code, if applicable), Card number, expiry date, issue number
(for Maestro Cards), and your 3 digit security number (on the
signature strip, if present).


Yours sincerely

Ruth Barriskill
for Printed Books Librarian


Hope that's of interest!

Request for Answer Clarification by looksharper-ga on 21 Feb 2006 14:48 PST
Hey, pafalafa --
Boy, if they put that much effort into every question that floats in
from the ether, no wonder it took a while to get an answer. Thanks!
I'm planning to follw up on some of the leads you unearthed this
month. I'll let you know if anything surfaces.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 21 Feb 2006 14:53 PST
Please do.  I'd love to hear what you find out.

looksharper-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
An excellent, resourceful, and creative effort with a difficult
question. I am very satisfied.

There are no comments at this time.

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