Queer Places:
1 Manchester Square, Marylebone, London W1U 3A
Honor Club, 118 Great Titchfield St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6SS, UK
In Haven, 9 Crowthorne Rd, Bracknell RG12 7DW, UK

Honor (1861-1940) with her younger sisters Olive (1868-1945) and Evelyn (1866-1947). Photograph by Lewis Carroll.Honor Florence Brooke (1860 – July 3, 1940) was the daughter of Rev. Stopford Augustus Brooke (14 november 1832, Glendoen Manse, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland - 18 march 1916, Ewhurst, Surrey) and Emma Diana Beaumont (before 30 august 1830, St. James, Piccadilly, London, Middx. - 20 june 1874). She had a twin brother, Graham Vernon Brooke (1861, London, Middx - april 1869, Marylebone, London, died of typhoid fever). Her older brother was Stopford William Wentworth Brooke (1858, Kensington, London, Middx - 23 april 1938, Surrey South Western district). Her younger sisters were: Maud Henrietta Brooke (23 july 1863, London, Middx - 5 november 1946); Evelyn Anna Brooke (28 july 1866, London, Middx - 13 april 1947, Surrey South Western district); Olive Cecilia Brooke (6 july 1868, London, Middx - 1945, Ploughley district, Oxon, married Lawrence Jacks, a Unitarian philosopher who became the Principal of Manchester College, Oxford); Sybil Diana Brooke (7 may 1870, Marylebone, London - 1957, Hampstead district, London); Rosalind Verona Brooke (29 september 1871, London, Middx - 10 april 1956).

Honor was the eldest daughter in a family of six girls and two boys who originally lived at 1 Manchester Square, a stone’s throw from what is now the Wallace Collection, with their father Stopford Brooke. Their mother Emma Beaumont had died when her youngest daughter Verona (1871-1956) was one year old, and their father’s sister Cecilia took on the role of mother substitute for what was now a family of seven young children. Their father occupied a study at the top of the house where he would entertain literary giants like Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and he would also prepare the seemingly interminable sermons with which he would assail the conscience of late Victorian London.

The children’s education followed a pattern that was familiar in those days. The surviving son Stopford, later a Unitarian minister in Boston, Massachusetts and then a Liberal MP for Bromley and Bow (1906-1910), was sent for his education to Winchester and University College, Oxford. Education for the six girls, on the other hand was sporadic. Sometimes they attended day schools and sometimes they benefited from the ministrations of governesses and what they could pick up from a household in which art, poetry, music and religion were constantly being discussed. Honor and her sister Maud attended Camden School for Girls (under the formidable Miss Buss) for a time, and later a school near Swiss Cottage, for which they caught the Underground at Baker Street station.

Later still they both went to a school on the outskirts of the forest at Fontainebleau. When they were older, some of them would travel as their father’s companion to interesting places both here and on the continent of Europe. In the summer of 1881 Stopford took his two older daughters on a Grand Tour embracing Brussels, Coblenz, down the Rhine to Mainz, Basle, Lucerne, and then over the St Gotthard Pass to Italy, where they visited Florence, Venice and Baveno on Lake Maggiore before returning home. None of them even contemplated a university education.

Honor inherited her father’s passionate concern for the appalling living – and – working – conditions of so many Londoners, particularly in East London. Like him, she was a member of the Christian Socialist movement, and one snippet of surviving history tells of her accompanying Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor Marx and another female friend to address the Silvertown strikers at an open air meeting in November 1889. (Earlier they had shown common cause with the match-girls’ strike at the Bryant & May factory two years earlier).

That female friend was Edith Lees Ellis (later Mrs Havelock Ellis), who wrote in her memoirs how Honor Brooke had saved her from a depressive illness and had channelled her energies into social work in the London slums.

In 1890 Honor founded the Honor Club – one of a number of clubs run for working-class women to give them some respite from the tedium of their working lives. It was originally based in FitzRoy Square, but later moved to 118 Great Titchfield Street, just north of Oxford Street. Other clubs in the area included Lily Montagu’s West Central Jewish Club & Settlement, Maude Stanley’s Soho Club for Girls, and a dress-making co-operative founded by Emmeline Pethick and Mary Neal. The area was the centre of the rag trade, well known for its poor working conditions.

In 1891 Honor left home and went to live for the next 40 years with her friend Agnes Valeris (1871-1922), a singer and music teacher. They often performed together for charity, with Honor reciting poetry or works by Shakespeare and Agnes providing a musical accompaniment. At her death she left the house, Woodpeckers (Honor called in In Haven), in Crowthorne Road, Bracknell, to her brother's widow and her children. The house has long since been pulled down, although the small hilly wood at the bottom of the garden remains.

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