The Brook Tithe Dispute

One convoluted aspect of Brook history is the Tithe Dispute. For over two hundred years, from the 13th to the 16th century, the rectors of Freshwater claimed that the tithes of Brook belonged to them and the lords of Brook resisted the claim, both sides pursuing their claims with vigour.

In the 1660s Thomas Bowerman enclosed a churchyard and instigated a register of Births, Marriages and Deaths in order to consolidate his claim. It is during an early round in the tithe dispute that we find the first authentic voice of an ordinary person talking about their life in this area of the Island. Around 1565 Agnes Graunt, a fifty year old farm servant from Compton, gave witness in a court hearing. Some fifteen  years earlier Agnes was working at Freshwater Parsonage (then rented by Captain Girling and his wife, who were clearly eager to make sure they received all they felt was their due). Mrs Girling rejected some tithe cheeses saying they were: not fitt or lawful tyth cheses, because they were: newly had owt of the presse and sent…vpon the borde without salte or clowte and therefore.  Here is the voice of Agnes speaking to us down the centuries, telling us what it was like to be an Elizabethan dairymaid: The milkying of ewes is commodious and profitable to the owners, although troublesome and painfull to the servants. And ewes mylk renned yeldeth much more crud than cow mylke, and mingled with cow milke increaseth the dayrie. This book is based on the recollections of ordinary people like Agnes. This is their book and their story.