8th January 2014: Members' Evening

Wye Historical Society's Members' Evening on Wednesday 8th January was, as usual, well attended. Members and visitors were treated to two exceptionally interesting talks, one by Sandra Noel and the other by Dr Graham Bradley.

The first talk, entitled 'Roof of the World', was based on photographs of Tibet taken by Sandra Noel's father Captain John Noel who accompanied both the 1922 and 1924 expeditions to climb Mount Everest. The talk focused on the scenery, customs and people of Tibet and began with images of the vast, desolate countryside that is a feature of that country. The expeditions used mules, donkeys and yaks for transport and passed typical Tibetan walled villages with buildings of mud and stone, as well as nomad camps. Illustrations of other forms of Tibetan architecture included several fortress communities (such Kampa Dzong and Shekar Dzong) as well as Rongbuk (the highest monastery in Tibet just fifteen miles from Mt Everest) where expedition members had a particularly interesting encounter with the head lama. Kept waiting for three days the visitors were entertained to music and dancing, and visited the monastery's very rich temple.

In addition to its architectural heritage Tibet is rich in customs and crafts. Photographs of costume, both simple and richly ornate, jewellery (including intricate amulet boxes), hairstyles (that indicated a woman's marital status) and craftwork (including prayer wheels, vases, jugs, teapots, cups and weapons, all intricately and beautifully made) provided a fascinating glimpse of Tibetan life as encountered by Captian Noel 90 years ago.

In the second talk of the evening Graham Bradley spoke about Brook and introduced his book (hot off the press) entitled 'Brook: A Village in Kent'. A linear settlement with two lanes (Nat's Lane and Troy Town Lane), Brook probably evolved from an Anglo Saxon settlement of the 600s and well before 1066 the Manor of Brook had been given to the Priory of Christ Church in Canterbury. Dr Bradley described the Manor Complex pointing out, in particular, the brook (skirting the south of the complex) from which the settlement gained its name. By the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Brook may have covered approximately 500 acres. The acreage of crops farmed in 1291 totalled 85.5 acres but, owing to the Black Death, this had dropped to 44 acres in 1371.

Brook has a number of historic buildings including, of course, Court Lodge (built around 1400) which was the hub of the Manor estate, Brook Barn (which now houses the Agricultural Museum) and Court Lodge Oast. St Mary's Church is also of special interest, with its wall paintings and fine medieval tiles. Although described today as "on the road to nowhere in particular", Dr Bradley demonstrated that Brook has a fascinating history and is most certainly a place worth exploring.

Jenny Oram