A Village History: Brook, West Wight
The website Brook Village History, www.brookvillagehistory.co.uk, offers an insight into the small but unique area on the south coast of West Wight. It includes memories and photographs that record the way people lived and worked in Brook, Mottistone, Hulverstone and Chessell from the mid-19th century to the 1970s.
Born in 1803 of respectable but modest Lincolnshire millers, Charles Seely was one of the largest landowners in the country by the time of his death in 1887. He owned coalfields in Nottinghamshire, 1 Carlton House Terrace in London and a substantial part of West Wight. It was said that he could walk from Brook toNewport, Freshwater orYarmouth without stepping off his land.
Charles suffered from TB as a child and discovered the Island when he came to convalesce. The story has it that while walking on the downs above Mottistone he made a mental note that, once he had made his fortune, he would buy all the land that he could see from the downs to the sea. In 1857, by the time that he had bought Brooke House and a number of other properties in the area, Charles Seely was 53 years old and the Liberal MP for Lincoln. The family continues to have strong connections with Brook and Mottistone. There are 10 of his great, great grandchildren with homes near Brook.
Charles Seely used some of his wealth to establish the Isle of Wight Library Service, until recently The County Seely Library, and the Technical Institute. He also converted a barn into the village school at Hulverstone and funded its teacher. He is best remembered for the part he played in setting up the first lifeboat station in Brooke and contributing to those at Brighstone and Atherfield.
Brooke Lifeboat Station was established in 1860. Before then rescues were carried out by the local longshoremen, and later the coastguards.
Up until 1937 when it was closed down, the Brooke service saved 381 lives.
After a succession of wrecks in 1859 local committees raised enough money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to build two boats for the villages of Brook and Brighstone. From then on everyone in Hulverstone, Mottistone and Brook was connected with Brooke lifeboat in some way. It took 13 crew, 10 heavy horses and 30 helpers on shore to launch the boat in heavy seas. The crew included five oarsmen on each side, coxswain, second coxswain and bowman.
Support work on shore included keeping a chest of dry clothes and experimenting to create a line to wrecked ships by firing a canon ball with the line secured through the middle.
The lifeboat house still stands but the original launching path has long since been worn away. The doors of the lifeboat house face away from the sea so that they can be opened in stormy weather. The last launch using horses is featured in a 1933 Pathe News film For the Last Time.