Farms and Farming


For centuries, farming was at the heart of village life, and Brook was no exception. There were at least 11 working farms in the area for many hundreds of years: Downton, Hanover, Brook, Chessell, Shalcombe, Dunsbury, Compton, Hulverstone, Longstone, Mottistone, Pitt Place and two smallholdings, Seaview Dairy and Grange Farm (see map at front of book). Up until the 1960s most farms were run by tenant farmers.




Today there are just three farms working the same land: Dunsbury, Chapel Furlong and Compton, two owner-occupied and one owned by the National Trust. While increased mechanisation and intensified farming in the 1960s and 70s resulted in the removal of hedges and enlarged fields across the country, this area has remained relatively unchanged and many fields in the tithe map of 1838 (see end of this chapter) are the same today. For a comparatively small area, the soil types in the area are suprisingly varied.

Each team of horses attached to a farm was well known to the village and had to be harnessed and ready for action at any time of day or night in case the lifeboat maroon went off.

All over the country, but particularly in the south, where farmers did not have to compete for labour with large manufacturing towns, agricultural wages were extremely low throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the WI Village Scrapbook, Bunty Minchin (Dockerell) of Dunsbury Farm describes how in the old days, after the exhausting work of harvest:

For 159 years, from 1851 to earlier this year (2010) Downton Farm has meant the Hookey family. Originally owned by the Hookeys, the farm and smithy was bought in the mid-1850s by Charles Seely.

Ploughing skills make all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful crop and today ploughing matches continue to be strongly fought in the Brook area.

Dunsbury Farm was owned by Sir Charles Seely as part of the Seely Estate in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and farmed by the Brown family for many years.

In 1086 the manor of Compton, which Earl Tostig had held before the Conquest, belonged to the king, William I. The overlordship was granted to Richard de Redvers in 1100.

Chessell is known today for its thriving Pottery Cafe. It is perhaps a coincidence that in early history it was a Jutish settlement, where instead of weapons, archaeologists found jewellery and cooking pots.

In 1989 Pat and Dick Carder and family bought farmland that had originally been Hulverstone and Brook Farms, but which, in the 1970s and 80s had been amalgamated into Dunsbury Farm with hedges and pastures taken out.

The 1841 and 1851 censuses show Brook Farm was farmed by brothers William and James How.

The Phillips’ at Compton Farm were on good terms with their neighbours, the Cheeks, on their smallholding Seaview Dairy (what remains of the buildings was High Grange, now known as Compton Grange).

Hulverstone Farm was managed as a working farm until 1957 by Mrs Heal.

Like most farms in those days, Hanover Farm was a dairy farm.

Of Mr Jackman’s children, Peter took on the tenancy of Pitt Place Farm and his brother Bill took on Longstone Farm.

In 1926 Jack Seely sold Brooke House to his brother Charles and worked with his son John on bringing Mottistone Manor back to the condition it was in before the great landslip in 1703.