Brook Church today

In 1862 Brook Church was totally destroyed by a fire. Mr Seely, then the lord of the manor, offered to give a piece of land and rebuild the church more in the centre of the village.  At a meeting of the villagers to discuss the matter,  his plan was turned down, as they all wanted it rebuilt on its original site.  It is said that he was so hurt that he there and then tore up the expensive architect’s plans and threw them into the fire, saying: rebuild your own church!

Charles Seely must have recovered from his pique, however, as we know the church was rebuilt and ‘beautified’ at a cost of nearly £2,000 and his wife, Mary Seely, laid the foundation stone of the new church on the 30th September 1863. Mentioned in Emily Tennyson’s diary as ‘kind Mr Cotton ... a country squire of the old type’, Benjamin Cotton, of Afton Manor, generously donated all the stone required from his quarries. He was also Charles Seely’s son-in-law.  The new church was completed and consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1864. Charles Seely also presented an additional piece of land to enlarge the churchyard. Miss Emmie D'Albiac, WI Scrapbook, 1958, writes: Many people these days wish his offer (of moving the church into the village) had been accepted, as they plod up the long hill to the church, culminating in the very steep path from the lych gate.

Emmie D'Albiac remembered: The church  contained an old-fashioned pew, square in shape and curtained off, for the use of the lord of the manor and his family, this was most comfortable, the curtains only being drawn back during the sermon; some of the older people slept unashamedly during most of the service, it was difficult not to.  This soporific pew was in use until early in the 20th century after which it was transformed into the vestry. It was unlikely that there was any sleeping at Harvest Festival in 1900, when the newspaper reported a ‘true blending of the holy day and the holiday spirit.’ 

The church was originally lit by candles, but after the Second World War Lord Sherwood (Hugh Seely) installed electric lighting in memory of his brother, Mr Nigel Seely. He also gave an additional piece of land adjacent to the churchyard in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The altar rail was given by the Dalbiac family in memory of their parents, in 1957.s carved in the glass of the window.  Two slender pillars in front of the East window are said to be made of polished stone from the fossilised forest in Brook Bay. The pulpit and font are of marble and were given by Miss Bowerman, in memory of her sister and her father, a former rector. The reredos (the ornamental screen at the back of the altar), was presented by Mrs Fenwick in memory of her husband, rector from 1833-1856.       

The church was originally lit by candles, but after the Second World War Lord Sherwood (Hugh Seely) installed electric lighting in memory of his brother, Mr Nigel Seely. He also gave an additional piece of land adjacent to the churchyard in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The altar rail was given by the Dalbiac family in memory of their parents, in 1957.

It always seemed that the wind blew at the church and if the rain was from the south west – watch out!