A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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The parish of Brooke lies to the south of Oakham near the Leicestershire border, and was formerly within the bounds of the forest of Rutland. It contains 1,439 acres, the subsoil of which consists of Middle and Lower Lias formation. The river Gwash flows through the northern part of the parish and for about half a mile forms the boundary between Brooke and Braunston, its north-west neighbour. The highest land, some 500 ft. above Ordnance datum, is near the centre of the parish, and the village lies on the northerly slope overlooking the Gwash, about 2¼ miles from Oakham station. Most of the houses are of stone, with thatch, stone or slate roofs. They stand at the place where the road or path from the south divides, one branch going west and then north to Oakham, and another east and north-east, past the church, towards Egleton. The priory of Brooke stood on the south bank of the river about half a mile to the north-west of the village. The site was bought by Andrew Noel in 1549, (fn. 1) and a portion is now occupied by a picturesque red brick house (fn. 2) known as the Priory, which incorporates some remains of the monastery. Near to this house are the ruined gateway and porter's lodge (fn. 3) of the late 16th-century mansion known as Brooke House, which was the home of the Noel family in the 17th century. The second Viscount Campden lived here, and after his death in 1642 his widow remained here until her death in 1680, aged 100 years. (fn. 4) The lodge is a small octagonal building (fn. 5) of two stories, faced with ashlar, with stone-slated roof and projecting chimney, with the gateway on its south side. Access to the upper room was by an external balustraded stair, but the steps and the floor (fn. 6) are gone. At some later time, probably in the 18th century, the lodge was converted into a dovecote, the interior being lined with nesting-places in brick. The gateway has a semicircular keystoned arch on moulded imposts below an entablature supported by Tuscan columns, but of the entablature only the architrave remains. The doorways of the lodge have four-centred heads and the square-headed windows are of two lights. On the west front, below the upper window, are the arms of Noel. (fn. 7)
It is uncertain whether the terraces remaining near the site of the priory were the work of the canons or of the Parliamentary forces. (fn. 8) Farther to the west are earth mounds and a rampart close to the Gwash which appear to be the remains of an early settlement. (fn. 9)
The manor of BROOKE is not mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), but was one of the five berewicks attached to Oakham Manor. (fn. 10) It was presumably in the hands of Queen Edith, who held Oakham in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and its early history followed that of Oakham (q.v.). (fn. 11) As is shown under Oakham, Hugh de Ferrers (Ferrieres) gave Brooke to the priory (later the abbey) of Kenilworth probably before 1153, and his grant was confirmed by his brother William and his nephew Walchelin. (fn. 12) The small priory of St. Mary was founded at Brooke for Austin Canons, as a cell of the abbey of Kenilworth, (fn. 13) apparently during the third quarter of the 12th century, and the manor of Brooke was assigned to it. The priory of Brooke continued to hold the manor until its surrender in 1535. (fn. 14) The prior, anxious to obtain a good pension for himself, maintained that the priory at Brooke was independent of Kenilworth, (fn. 15) while the abbot claimed it as a cell of his abbey to which the manor of Brooke would revert on the dissolution of the priory. (fn. 16) To placate Cromwell, the abbot leased the manor to a friend of Cromwell, (fn. 17) apparently Sir William Fielding. (fn. 18) After the surrender of the priory, (fn. 19) Henry VIII in 1536 granted the site of the priory and the manor in fee to Anthony Cope. (fn. 20) The rival claims of Fielding and Cope were brought for arbitration before Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, who assigned Brooke to Anthony Cope. (fn. 21) In 1549 he sold it to Andrew Noel, (fn. 22) who held the manor in chief by knight service. (fn. 23) Noel died seised in 1563, when it passed, under a settlement of 1559, to his executors for thirteen years, for the performance of the terms of his will, and then to Andrew, a younger son, in tail male with further remainders. (fn. 24) Sir Andrew Noel died seised of the manor in 1607, when he was succeeded by his son Edward. (fn. 25) The latter married Juliana, the elder daughter of Baptist Hicks, first Viscount Campden, (fn. 26) and obtained a fresh Crown grant of the manor and site of the priory in 1610, a confusion probably having arisen regarding the lease and grant after the surrender of the priory. (fn. 27) Noel succeeded his father-in-law in 1629 as Viscount Campden, (fn. 28) and his grandson Edward, fourth Viscount Campden, was created Earl of Gainsborough in 1682. The manor has continued in the possession of the Earls of Gainsborough, (fn. 29) and the trustees of the present Earl are now lords of the manor and own the entire parish of Brooke.
The lords of the manor appear to have held view of frankpledge during the reign of Henry III, without paying any dues to the sheriff. In 1278 complaint was made that Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and later Edmund his son, as lords of Oakham Soke, unjustly took 10s. a year from the township. (fn. 30) The Noels continued to hold view of frankpledge after their purchase of the manor (q.v.). (fn. 31)
In 1459 Henry VI granted to the abbey of Kenilworth various privileges in their lands in Rutland, including the privilege for the abbot's bailiff to act for the steward, marshal and coroner of the king's household within the township of Brooke and elsewhere. (fn. 32)
The church of ST. PETER consists of chancel 30 ft. by 14 ft. 6 in., with north aisle or chapel its full length, nave of three bays 40 ft. by 15 ft., north aisle 13 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower 8 ft. square, all these measurements being internal. The width across nave and aisle is 29 ft. The chapel or chancel aisle is separated from that of the nave by an arch, but as it now exists is of the same build, and both are under one continuous gabled roof. The chapel is of equal size to the chancel, and as originally built may have been set apart for the canons of the priory. The chancel and nave are under separate roofs, with intervening gable, the roof of the chancel being slightly the higher. There is no clearstory. All the roofs are eaved and covered with Colleyweston slates. Internally the walls are plastered and the floors flagged. There was a restoration in 1880.
The original building was probably erected in the first half of the 12th century and would consist of a small square-ended chancel and an aisleless nave covering the area of the present one. About 1190– 1200, a north aisle was thrown out and the existing arcade of three semicircular arches inserted. The arches are of a single chamfered order with hoodmoulds, and spring from cylindrical piers and halfround responds, with circular moulded bases (fn. 35) and carved capitals with square abaci. The capitals have heavy volutes at the angles, the spaces between which on the piers have stiff-leaf ornament, and on the west respond a plain indented pattern. The capital of the east respond is badly mutilated and the abacus has a hollow chamfer and bevelled angles. The south doorway is apparently contemporary with the arcades and has a pointed arch of two orders, the inner with a round edge-moulding, continued down the jambs below a restored impost which is supported at the ends by shafts with moulded bases. The outer order, which consists of a double cheveron forming a lozenge pattern on both wall and soffit plane, sits on the walls beyond the shafts, and the label is an enriched cable moulding.
The tower was added in the 13th century, and is of three receding stages, without buttresses or vice. It is built of rubble, with a lancet window on the west side of the lower stage and another in the middle stage facing south. The bell-chamber windows (fn. 36) consist of two plain lancet lights divided by a mullion, set within a pointed inclosing arch springing from moulded imposts on slender jamb-shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases. The spandrels are blank. A corbel table of notch-heads supports the later battlemented parapet. The arch to the nave is a pointed one of three chamfered orders, springing from hollow impost mouldings which, in the outer order, form the upper member of the plain bell capitals of angle shafts.
The further development of the plan before the end of the 16th century is uncertain, as the extensive reconstruction then carried out obliterated nearly all the old work, a late 14thcentury square-headed window of four lights alone remaining in the south wall of the nave. It is, however, reasonable to assume that the nave aisle was originally of less width than now and that the chancel aisle, or chapel, whenever added, was from the first its present size. No record remains of the architectural character of the east end of the church before the rebuilding of the chancel and its aisle in their present form in 1579. The whole of the nave aisle was rebuilt at the same time or immediately after. The porch also is an addition or rebuilding of this period: it has a round arch and coped gable.
All this work, with the exception of the porch, is faced with ashlar, and the windows are of one type— square-headed, with plain rounded lights, returned labels and moulded jambs. The ashlar facing and chamfered plinth are extended along the lower part of the south wall of the nave for about 12 ft. west of its junction with the chancel, and two three-light windows in the same wall, one on each side of the porch, were inserted at this time. The east wall of the chapel is flush with that of the chancel, with a buttress of three stages at the junction, the east end of the church thus consisting of two approximately equal gables. The chancel has a four-light east window and two windows of three lights on the south side. The chapel has also a four-light east window, but its north wall is blank. The dividing arcade is of two semicircular ashlar arches of Renaissance character on a square pier and responds with bevelled angles, moulded capitals and chamfered bases: there is a short length of wall at each end. The chancel arch and the arch between the chapel and nave aisle are of similar design. The nave aisle is lighted by two three-light windows in the north wall, and one of two lights at the west end; there is also a four-centred north doorway, now blocked. The chancel has a modern curved rafter roof, and there are modern flat-pitched boarded ceilings to the nave and aisles.
There is a stone bench against the west wall of the nave aisle, extended along the north wall as far as the doorway. The font is of late 12th-century date, and consists of a rectangular bowl with arcaded sides in high relief, the round arches resting on circular shafts with moulded bases and volute capitals. (fn. 37) The pyramidal oak cover is of late 16th or early 17th century date.
The late Elizabethan oak fittings (fn. 38) are of more than usual interest. There is a good oak screen in the eastern arch of the chancel arcade, with two tiers of solid panels and turned balusters at the top, and at the west end of the chancel two high-backed square pews, one on each side, with fluted panelling, door with good hinges, and open balustraded or pierced tops, the west sides of which form a chancel screen. Attached to these pews are two short seats facing east, with fluted back panelling, and under one of the windows in the south wall a pew with good strapwork panelling. In the nave and aisle (fn. 39) are eleven square oak pews with long fluted wall panels, doors, and turned knobs, and below the tower arch a screen with two tiers of solid panelling and balustraded top.
Against the north wall of the chapel is a canopied Renaissance marble monument, with recumbent effigy, to Charles Noel, second son of Sir Andrew Noel, who died in 1619, aged 28. The figure is in plate armour and above the cornice is a large circular strapwork panel with the arms and crest of Noel. On the wall behind the figure is a Latin inscription, and on the pedestal a rhyming English inscription on two panels. (fn. 40) The colours on the monument are still good.
On the same wall is a memorial to three men of the parish who died in the Great War, 1914–18. There are floor slabs in the chapel to Endymion Cannynge (fn. 41) (d. 1683), and to Henry Rawlins (d. 1742), 'who was buried by his fifth wife.' (fn. 42)
There are four bells, the first by Edward Arnold of St. Neots, 1780; the second by Tobie Norris of Stamford, 1610; the third dated 1648, and the tenor by R. Taylor of St. Neots, 1811. (fn. 43)
The plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1629–30, both inscribed 'Brooke church.' (fn. 44) There are also a pewter plate and flagon.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1576–1630, (fn. 45) marriages 1582–1630, burials 1574–1630; (ii) all entries 1632–1683; (iii) baptisms 1685–1786, marriages 1687–1779, burials 1685–1766; (iv) baptisms 1786–1812, burials 1787–1812.
No dependent chapel at Brooke is mentioned in Domesday Book, where, however, the church and priest of Oakham are recorded. (fn. 46) In 1086 the church of Oakham belonged to Albert, a Lotharingian clerk, (fn. 47) but Westminster Abbey claimed the church by grant of Edward the Confessor, (fn. 48) and later obtained the advowson. (fn. 49) From the architectural evidence there was a chapel at Brooke in the first half of the 12th century, when it was dependent on Oakham (q.v.) and was served by a chaplain. During the 13th century and later the patronage was with the prior and convent of Kenilworth, the church being usually served by a canon of either Kenilworth or Brooke, (fn. 50) but it was probably held under a lease from the Abbey of Westminster and certainly remained dependent on the church of Oakham. The chapel had a separate endowment, and in 1509 the rectory of Brooke was leased by Westminster Abbey to the prior of Brooke for an annual rent of 106s. 8d. (fn. 51) In 1542, after the dissolution both of the Abbey of Westminster, which had held the patronage of Oakham, and the Priory of Brooke, the church of Oakham and its chapelries were granted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, together with certain tithes in Brooke. (fn. 52) The custom of leasing the rectory of Brooke to the lords of Brooke was continued. Sir Andrew Noel appears as lessee in 1605, (fn. 53) Edward Lord Noel in 1619, (fn. 54) and in 1640 Baptist Noel, Viscount Campden, obtained a new lease at the yearly rent of £6 and 6 'fatt muttons,' or 10s. for each sheep. (fn. 55) In 1652 the commissioners under the Act for abolishing Deans and Chapters granted the rectory and tithes to John Grainge. The rectory then consisted of a parsonage house, half a virgate of land, and other houses, etc. (fn. 56) The chapel was served by a curate of the vicar of Oakham, who, however, found it difficult to maintain his church and chapels. Consequently, in 1658, the inhabitants of Oakham petitioned for a grant of the rents from the different impropriations to increase the income of the vicarage Out of this they proposed to increase the endowmen of Brooke chapel, valued at £20 a year, by £21 Egleton was to be joined with Brooke. An Order in Council confirmed this scheme, (fn. 57) but probably in never took effect, and after the Restoration the Dear and Chapter of Westminster recovered the patronage. (fn. 58)
The condition of the parish at the end of the 16th century was very bad, judging from the archdeacon's visitations. The chancel was 'very ruinous in 1577 by default of Sir James Harington, and was rebuilt in 1579. Other parts of the church were also in decay. 'The curate will be overcome with drink marvellously,' he did no catechising, and had 'some times a drunken evening prayer.' In 1584 there was no service at Brooke for 16 weeks. The curate was inhibited in 1587, but in 1590 he was again serving Braunston and Brooke. (fn. 59)
Poor's Land, founded by indentures of lease and release dated 29 and 30 March 1682, consists of 2 cottages at Morcott, farmyard and land containing 15 acres 26 poles at Morcott, and land containing 15 acres 1 rood 10 poles situated at South Luffenham, which are let at a net rental of £50 per annum. The income is applied for the benefit of the Sunday School and for coal for poor families resident in the parish and the balance given to poor people at Christmas and Easter.
James Grocock's Charity, comprised in an indenture of feoffment dated 20 October 1721, whereby in consideration of £15 a dwelling-house was conveyed to the minister, churchwardens and overseers, the rents to be distributed in bread to the poor. Of this sum £10 was bequeathed by James Grocock. The dwelling-house and property have been sold and the endowment of the charity now consists of a sum of £260 9s. 4d. 2½ per cent. Consolidated Stock held by the official trustees, producing an annual income of £6 10s.
The above-mentioned charities are administered by a body of trustees in accordance with a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 23 November 1926, and the income is applied towards the general benefit of the poor.
Poor's Money or Kemp's Charity.—There is a sum of £5 supposed to have been left by will of Thomas Kemp, dated 1749, for bread to the poor of the parish. (fn. 60) The endowment of this charity is included in that of Grocock's Charity.