The Rev. Robert Bowyer (1953 - 1978)

 The Rev. Robert Bowyer (1953 - 1978) is remembered with great fondness by many who lived in the area when he was vicar of Brook with Mottistone. He came to the Island from Derby with his wife Elisabeth and in those days the Rectory was a wing of Mottistone Manor (see the article he wrote for a Derby newspaper, right).    

The Bowyers’ arrival is remembered by Robin Shepheard (Newbery) sixty years later: When I was young, the Rev Appleton was the vicar and on his retirement a young “with it” vicar took over.  The Rev Bowyer was modern, much to the annoyance of some of the older parishioners, as he changed many staid traditions, but boy was he good! He encouraged families to come back to the church and his sermons were always interesting, seldom boring.

As well as giving memorable sermons, Robert Bowyer was a keen writer, teacher and amateur artist. His wife, Elisabeth, also painted and wrote poetry. Erica Browitt (Newbery) recalls: There was a portable stage in the Seely Hall and Mrs Bowyer tried her hardest to turn us into actors - without much success! She did, however, manage to produce a highly successful passion play which she had written. It took place at Mottistone in the village, in the Manor grounds and in the Church and almost everyone in Brook and ‘Mott’ had a part to play. She was a forceful lady and I expect most people would have found it difficult to refuse to take part!

Ann Male (Hailey) recalls the fun involved: We went carol singing around the village each Christmas with the rector and lots of other people, it was great as we were invited into big houses - we had mince pies and nibbles and the adults had an alcoholic drink or two.  

It is perhaps notable that at Robert Bowyer’s funeral in Mottistone Church there were a number of women who, when young mothers in the area, had been tutored by him to take English Literature A-Level and without his support would not have gone on to higher education. With a group of friends, including Jack and Johanna Jones, Robert and Elisabeth Bowyer were the founding members of the Island’s cultural lifeline, the Quay Arts Centre.Robert was also a founder member of the Apollo Theatre and drama critic for the IOW County Press.

Erica Browitt (Newbery) remembers: When Reverend Bowyer became our Rector, he set up a youth-cum-social club which met once a week in the Seely Hall. This was a big leap forward for the young people and for some of the adults too, who came along to play billiards and table-tennis.

John Betjeman, a close friend of the Bowyers, made several visits and found ‘sheer delight’ in the two villages. He loved Mottistone Church. In 1970, after nearly 20 years as Rector of Brook and Mottistone, Robert Bowyer was asked to be ‘vicar’ to the Isle of Wight Pop Festival at Afton. He put his heart and soul into helping many young people left worse for wear and penniless after the event. He even married two ‘hippies’ in Mottistone Church - again, much to the astonishment and displeasure of some of the older members of the congregation.

It is hard, today, to understand the change Robert represented from previous village vicars. The Bowyers welcomed foreign students to the Rectory each summer, they enjoyed parties and, more scandalously, in their retirement, hosted life drawing classes (see The Sunday People, above). The affection felt by many for the Bowyers was mutual and on their retirement they settled in a flat in part of Brook House where they read, painted and brought the sunken garden back to its former glory. As President of the Tennyson Society Robert attended one of their events the evening before he died, peacefully in his armchair at home.