Brook Coastguards

Coastguards were stationed at Brook from 1817, mainly to combat brandy smuggling from the Channel Islands, Cherbourg and Barfleur.

The Preventative Water Guard, as the Coastguard Service was called before 1822, was established in Brook as early as 1817. Maps of the time show a couple of customs and coastguard buildings on the cliffs to the west of Brook Chine. The station was called Freshwater in those days with the name changing to Brook in 1838.

By 1841 the census shows four coastguards living in Brook and in October 1861 the Lords of the Admiralty purchased land from Charles Seely for £300 to build a more substantial coastguard station. Between Hanover Point and Chilton Chine a permanent two-man coastguard watch was maintained and the number of coastguards rose to six in 1861 and settled at five from 1881 to 1901.The census shows families with as many as eight members living in the individual cottages.

July 5th 1829  - The Carn Brae Castle split her hull on the rocks of Brook Ledge

January 18th 1856 - The English brig George Lord was driven aground in thick fog in Brook Bay

December 5th 1859 - The schooner Sentinel of Carnarvon came ashore in a tremendous south-westerly storm

Joe Hulse who was born at Brook Coastguard Station has looked into the origins of the building and the service:

Until the late 1800s the vast majority of ships still used sail as their main power. The ‘back of the Wight’ proved to be the final resting place for a large number of ships together with their crews and passengers.

While the coastguards were not entirely welcome, they and their families became part of the life of the village and from the 1860s a new baby arrived at the coastguard cottages in most years. The coastguards’ skills also contributed to the community as the following newspaper article of 1898 shows:

Relationships between the local fishermen and the coastguards were sometimes strained. The following interchange and court case between John Hayter (a fisherman who had just been appointed coxswain of the Brooke Lifeboat) and the Brook Chief Coastguard, shows the tensions: