The John Hooke Tragedy

to Isle of Wight History Centre
The Scientist, The Grocer, The Governor and Grace. Full commentary
Hooke's Diary Extracts from Robert Hooke's diary 1672-1680
Newport Corporation Documents relating to the suicide of John Hooke.
Hooke Family Tree
John Hooke Timeline
Hooke Family Home
Freshwater area in the 17th century
Hooke and Geology
Freshwater Parish
Robert Hooke Timeline
Sir Robert Holmes Timeline
Character Glossary


John Hooke
Freshwater Parish

The parish of Freshwater, like several other large parishes, was established in Saxon times. On the Isle of Wight, these Anglo-saxon parishes tended to be very large areas. They generally stretched from the north coast of the Island down to the South coast, so ensuring each parish possessed an amount of each of the different agricultural soil types: the clay pasyure/woodland of the north; the chalk Downland of the central ridge; the fertile sandstone soil of the south part, suitable for arable; and finally a stretch of north and south coastline. Eight large parishes were originally marked out across the Island: Freshwater, Shalfleet, Calbourne, Carisbrooke, Whippingham, Arreton, Newchurch and most probably Brading. Each of these had a mother-church, sited roughly in the centre.

The Saxon church of Freshwater was one of a group of six Island churches that were donated with various tithes by William Fitz Osbern, Lord of the Island, to the Norman Abbey of Lyre at some time between 1066 and 1071, when he died. This meant that the advowson of Freshwater belonged to the Abbey of Lyre along with all payments, rents and dues of any land belonging to the church.

In 1414, all alien priories were suppressed and their property and titles taken over by the Crown. In April 1415, having taken over possession of the Isle of Wight property of the Abbey of Lyre, Henry V bestowed them on the Charterhouse of Sheen in Surrey, a foundation set up by Henry in September 1414 as "the Priory of the House of Jesus of Bethlehem".

With the expulsion of the alien monks from their Island property, it meant that there was now no direct administration of the old Lyre estates on the Island. Instead, what had formerly been done directly by the prior and monks themselves, the Charterhouse of Sheen now entrusted these Island affairs to 'farmers': local gentry, who were charged with the collection of rents, tithes and payments, owing to Sheen.

At the dissolution of the Monasteries, Freshwater was forfeited to the King and remained with the Crown until 1623, when James I gave it to John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. In turn, he granted it to St. John's College, Cambridge on 24th March 1623. The first rector of Freshwater to be presented by the College was Cardell Goodman, instituted in 1641. Before Goodman, the rectorship of Freshwater was held by George Warburton, and he was the incumbent when John Hooke senior arrived to act as his curate. Warburton had attended Brasenose College, Oxford and was chosen as rector for Freshwater in 1621. On 4th June 1631, he became Dean of Gloucester and on 20th August, he was made Dean of Wells. In 1638, Warburton was active locally in organising a petition on behalf of the parishioners and himself alleging the harshness of the Ship Money tax on them. Warburton himself was charged £6 5s. 0d. for his property in Easton, Freshwater. This petition was addressed to Sir John Oglander, as the High Sheriff of Hampshire [OG/16/105]. It is not known whether the one-time tutor of Oglander's son, John Hooke, now curate of Freshwater church, had any part in this petition or whether he even signed it, but he undoubtedly must have known about it.

It was during his rectorship that a longstanding dispute, concerning parish authority and tithes, came to a head between the rectors of Freshwater and the Bowerman family, Lords of the Manor of Brooke. The 'rector' of Brooke claimed, as did the Bowerman family, that Brooke was a separate parish. However, both Warburton and Goodman maintained that Brooke was within the parish of Freshwater and therefore all tithes and rights belonged to Freshwater. This dispute had rumbled on since the start of the 16th century and occasionally broke out into a court action. In 1545, the "Courte off Thagmentations off the Revenues of the Kynges highnes Crowne" registered this in an "Inquisition and Survey".

"Suthampton - The Isle of Wight.
The Freechaple of Broke within the parishe of Freshwater: ...
Howbeit at this time it is in controversy betweene the said Nicholas Borman and the Parson of Freshwater. And hath soe contynued in variance thys xviii yeres

On 16th October 1639, John Percivall, appointed to Brooke church by Charles I, sent a petition to the King and Council in London complaining that Warburton was trying to usurp his parochial rights as self-styled "rector" of the "parish church of Brooke".

"to the Kings most excellent Majestie
The humble peticcion of John Percivall, clerk.
Humblie sheweth ... That whereas your petitioner in March last obtayned your Majesties presentacion unto the parish church of Brooke in the Isle of Wight, which had for manie years past been concealed. nevertheless so it is, may it please your Majestie, That one Mr. George Warburton, Parson of Freshwater within the Isle of Wight, under pretence that the said parish church of Brooke is within the lymitts and circuite of the parish church of Freshwater aforesaid, and soe a chapell of ease unto Freshwater and not parochiall, disturbeth your petitioner of his quiet enioyment thereof and forcibly gathereth and taketh tithes from your petitioner, albeit your petitioner doth dischardge his dutie to the said Church to the great comfort of the parishioners there and the glorie of God
Warburton, calling himself "Parson of Freshwater", sent a counter-petition several weeks later in November. This dispute was to simmer on for another hundred years. And it would seem that the claim of Freshwater was generally upheld in court actions, in which several verdicts went their way during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: in 22 Henry VIII; in 2 James I; and in 17 Charles I.

Cardell Goodman took over as rector of Freshwater in 1641 on the death of the Warburton. In a Lay Subsidy of 1642, Goodman was assessed for one property in Freshwater parish, presumably the parsonage, situated in Stroud Road. In Oct. 1649, he was sequestered for refusing to take the Engagement and was considered "as dangerous to the Commonwealth". However, in a 1650 survey of the parishes of the Isle of Wight, he is still listed as vicar of Freshwater. In Feb. 1651, he was again brought before the Committee in London and was sequestered on 18 March and replaced by J. Dalton. He died in 1653.

Goodman had inherited from the previous incumbent, Warburton, the dispute concerning the tithes of Brooke. However, thanks to opportunities provided by the disturbed aftermath of the Civil War, Thomas Bowerman, the then Lord of Brooke Manor, seized the chance to establish Brooke as a parish by endowing it with parochial trappings and it is during this period, when Bowerman was powerful, that Brooke established its claim as a parish in its own right. Bowerman was one of the Committee that governed the Island from about 1643 and he was also made one of the Deputy Lieutenants, who took over when the Governor, Col. Sydenham, was absent in London. This meant Bowerman wielded considerable power over most matters throughout the Island, especially during the Governorship of Col. William Sydenham from 1649 till 1660. Using his position, it was most probably Thomas Bowerman who demanded Goodman's final sequestration in 1651. Once Goodman was under scrutiny from the Commonwealth government, and therefore vulnerable, Bowerman set about providing Brooke church with the status of a parish. He railed in a piece of his ground as a churchyard; provided a register book; encouraged the inhabitants of Brook to bury their dead in Brook burial ground; allowed them to hold christenings and marriages and to receive the sacraments there; and finally demanded that people living in Brooke 'parish' pay their tithes to the person that he, Bowerman, had presented as 'rector'. Once Goodman was out of the way for good in 1651, Bowerman was able to consolidate Brooke's position during the next ten years until about 1662.

Therefore, the 1640's may have been a difficult time for John Hooke as his rector, Goodman, was under suspicion, finally being sequestered a year after Hooke's death. Hooke was no doubt aware of the friction between Goodman and Thomas Bowerman and must have witnessed the events leading up to Goodman's sequestration. Hooke had a close personal, as well as proffessional, relationship with Goodman, who was one of the executors of Hooke's will, as well as one of the appraisers of Hooke's possessions. Indeed, in his will, he writes, "...And this care and trust I commend unto my worthy and well beloved friends, Mr. Cardel Goodman, Mr. Robert Urrey and Mr. Nickles Hockley,...". That Hooke also accompanied Goodman to the church at Brooke on occasions to officiate is mentioned in a statement of evidences supporting the case of Freshwater church to the tithes of Brooke. In the section entitled "Witnesses who uppon oath testified their Knowing & remembring", the fourth entry records "Mr. Goodman Rector of ffreshwater and his Curate to have sometime officiated in ye church of Brooke supplied and served that Cure in ye right as was alleaged of ye Church of ffreshwater" [AC. 95/32 178].

The dispute between Freshwater and Brooke erupted after the Commonwealth and continued for many years after. John Hooke himself was a part of the dispute, as well as being present in Freshwater when Warburton petitioned against the Ship Money. On top of all this, Hooke and his wife were bringing up a young family when the Civil War broke out in 1642. How all this affected his young sons, John and Robert, is unknown at the moment but presumably, John being twelve at the time, was more aware, and therefore more influenced than his brother, Robert, by the events of the forties.