As isolated villages between the downs and the high seas, Brook and Mottistone have always been small communities that thrived on hard work. Employment was mostly from the land and the sea and incomes depended on an intimate knowledge of the physical environment, the sea state and the weather. The inhabitants had to provide for themselves and it surprises us today just how many jobs were undertaken within the village.

The 1841 to 1911 censuses tell us that every able-bodied man had a job, often more than one, and the same names crop up under different occupations. The work of fishermen, coastguards, farm labourers, servants, school teachers and rectors is covered in separate chapters of this book. In this section we piece together what we know about the local carriers, the blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, gardeners, shop keepers, inn keepers, post mistresses and the much-needed district nurse.

Most trades and professions outside the home were men’s work and consequently there are few records of the contribution women made to the local economy by keeping the home clean and the family fed and healthy. When the men came back from a lifeboat rescue, not only were they aching so much they sometimes had to be carried home, but they also had difficulty sitting down for days as their backsides were chafed raw from the sea water, rough thwarts and their coarse trousers.Alice Morris recalled how she had to carefully apply vaseline to her husband’s raw backside for days after a rescue.

In terms of women’s work, in 1881 the census notes a 17 year old dressmaker, Mary Jane Morey, and in 1911 an Eliza Ward. Harriet Johnson is busy as a laundress from the 1880s and in 1911 is working alongside Jane Cassell and Mary Vinney.When the Seely family came to live in Brook they brought new kinds of employment and the census shows an increase in general servants, cooks, housemaids, nursemaids and parlour maids. Many young girls in Brook were employed at Brooke House, the Rectory and some of the larger farms. A number of workers came with the Seelys from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and this provided welcome new blood in the village. We know, for example, that Polly Hookey married fellow servant Arthur Cole, from Lincolnshire, who will have come to Brook with the Seelys. Work in Mottistone was mostly on the land or at the Manor Farmhouse and the very small hamlets of Compton and Chessell were entirely focused on agriculture.