Charles Hyde Brooke (1841-1926)

Although he only served briefly in this parish (as curate of St Matthew Pell Street 1886-90), Charles Hyde Brooke had a colourful life, ao his story is worth telling. He was born in Leamington; his father, Charles Clement Brooke, was an army captain, and his mother Eliza the daughter of Sir Edward Pryce Lloyd, first Baron Mostyn, who owned estates in Flintshire and Wales.

Chancery lawsuit
His mother, on her marriage, or reaching majority, was to have inherited £20,000 from these estates; but when she married in 1840 Lord Mostyn declared that no funds were available at that time (most of the estate had been very profitably sold, but her interest later passed into the hands of a bankrupt). In 1843 a compromise agreement was therefore made that on her death the legacy would pass to her infant son when he attained majority, and various deed polls to this effect were executed. She died in 1845, and in 1864 he initiated proceedings in the Court of Chancery, seeking to set the compromise aside. The court held that the compromise must stand, even though the covenant given had become worthless. Brooke appealed successfully, arguing that material evidence and documents had been withheld, and was given leave to take action to claim the legacy - but this was cold comfort as no funds were available. There was talk of a further appeal to the House of Lords, but this did not happen. Brooke v Lord Mostyn was fully reported in 2 De Gex, Jones & Smith's English Chancery Reports (1864) 373, in the Weekly Reporter XIII p115, and in the Law Journal Reports 1864 p65; the remarks of Turner LJ on the question of imputed fraud in trust law have been widely quoted as a precedent.

So he was one of the surprisingly large number of clergy associated with parish who went to law over a family trust!

Christian mission in Melanesia had begun with a visit in 1848 by George Augustus Selwyn, first Bishop of New Zealand, with the first baptisms four years later. He recommended the creation of a new diocese, and a schooner Southern Cross (the first of a series of flagship vessels) was provided by friends to serve the work, which John Coleridge Patteson, responding to Bishop Selwyn's call, undertook from 1855, becoming Bishop of Melanesia six years later.  Brooke - his court case over - also responded to the call, and sailed to Auckland in 1865 on the Southern Cross, and worked for two years as a lay missionary in the central Solomon islands, where he trained young men, moving to Anudha. He was ordained deacon in 1867, licensed to Florida [Gela] Island - left is his house there - and priest in 1869, moving that year to Norfolk Island. Right is a traditional Solomon Islands kiala, or canoe house.

Bishop Patteson wrote to his cousin, the novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge on Christmas Day 1867 [full text here]:
My dear Cousin,
One line to you to-day of Christmas feelings and blessings. Indeed, you are daily in my thoughts and prayers. You would have rejoiced could you have seen us last Sunday or this morning at 7 A.M. Our fourteen Melanesian Communicants so reverent, and (apparently) earnest. On Sunday I ordained Mr. Palmer Priest, Mr. Atkin and Mr. Brooke Deacons.

The service was a solemn one, in the Norfolk Island Church, the people joining heartily in the first ordination they had seen; Codrington’s sermon excellent, the singing good and thoroughly congregational, and the whole body of confirmed persons remaining to receive the Holy Communion. Our own little Chapel is very well decorated (Codrington again the leader) with fronds of tree-ferns, arums, and lilies; ‘Emmanuel, God amemina’ (with us), in large letters over the altar.

In 1871 Bishop Patteson [left] was martyred, on the island of Nakapu, mistaken as a slave-trader when in fact he was visiting in an attempt to stamp out the trade and establish peace after a recent attack. (He, together with a group of native martyrs a few years earlier, is commemorated in the Anglican calendar on 20 September.) Hyde took part in his funeral service, and on the anniversary of his death wrote a memoir
The Finished Course. Full historical transcripts of these events, and the early history of the mission, can be found here - including reports by Brooke from 1873 and 1873-4. From the start, indigenous ministry on the islands was strongly promoted; see here for the Melanesian Mission today.

California and Scotland
In 1874 Brooke fled the Mission after criticism of scandalous behaviour with young men, though no ecclesiastical disability was attached; Robert Codrington, head of the mission school, reported that this dated back to his time on Florida Island, though Bishop Patteson was ignorant of it, and was an extraordinary inconsistency since Hyde was popular and effective. He went to the missionary diocese of California, where he was licensed from 1875-77; as Codrington later wrote, there will not be the same danger of offence as in the Colonies, and the Bishop is well able to calculate the extent of it ... the main cause to us was to keep away scandal ... [a] weight of anxiety [is] lifted from the Mission. His bishop in California, William Ingaham Kip, was satisfied, and asked for a formal transfer from Melanesia; but instead Brooke went to Scotland, as chaplain to the bishop of Argyle and the Isles from 1877-79, followed by curacies at All Saints mission in Glasgow and St James Springburn from 1878-1883.

London, Montgomeryshire, Norfolk and back to London
Moving to London, Brooke was curate of St Matthew Upper Clapton before his time at St Matthew Pell Street from 1886-90 (living at 13 Princes Square). From 1890-99 he was incumbent of the small village of Criggion, Montgomeryshire (in the diocese of Hereford - patron Valentine Whitley Vickers, a Staffordshire JP). After a few years back in London, living in Teddington, he moved to Norfolk, living at the Old Rectory in Scale, holding licences but no appointment in either diocese. From 1910 to his death he lodged at various addresses in Pimlico.

Brooke was the author of Percy Pomo, the Autobiography of a South Sea Islander (Griffith & Farran 1881) of which a reviewer said The story represents native character and missionary work apart from the unrealities of the conventional misionary meeting, and affords correct information regarding native religion, language, names, and customs, together with many criticisms of the weak points of our civilisation. It sold widely, and went into a second edition. He also wrote Dick Darley’s School Days – a Study of Boy Life (Alexander & Shepheard 1890). One review said A capital book for boys, full of healthy excitement and interest; likely to prove a favourite. We can say but very little for the illustrations. A cheaper edition was produced by Ellis & Keene in 1902:  [it] cannot be commended for its print, but the story has plenty of go, and has by this time some value as a document concerning East London. It would be interesting to know more about this book!

In more scholarly mode, he translated a number of French sermons and other works, old and new, including:
In 1923/4 his extended Reminiscences were published in the Southern Cross Log. On 17 November 1926 The Times reported his death at the age of 85, with no living relatives. He had been rowing on the Serpentine in Hyde Park three weeks previously. An obituary of 1 April 1927 in the Southern Cross Log spoke of his 'chequered life' and mentioned his fund-raising speaking for the National Society.

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