Click here for the Haslemere Society Blue Plaque leaflet on Brook Bank.
The Society's second plaque was erected at Brookbank, Liphook Road in September 2008. Brookbank was originally a farm cottage of simple construction. Built in 1730 the front of the house has traditional ironstone walls to ward off evil spirits. The house was only upgraded for middleclass residence with the coming of the railways in 1860s. The house quickly acquired literary associations.
Ann Gilchrest moved out of London to Brookbank in 1862 following the untimely death of her husband. During her stay, Dante Gabriel and William Rossetti helped her complete her late husband's 'Life of William Blake'. This led to Ann's friendship with Christine Rossetti who stayed and wrote at Brookbank.
Ann's friendships at the Royal Society brought Alfred Tennyson to Brookbank in 1866 and it was with her assistance that he found and secured the site on Blackdown for Aldworth. Tennyson moved in 1869.
WR Trotter wrote in his local history book entitled 'The Hilltop Writers' that Ann Gilchrest's move to Brookbank in 1862 'was the seminal event that initiated the literary migration' to this area.
However, the house is best known for its association with Marian Evans, alias GEORGE ELIOT. In 1871 GH Lewes and George Eliot rented Brookbank for the summer months whilst their London home was being renovated and it was during this stay that she wrote much of Middlemarch.
Eliot's first letters grumbled about the poor local supplies. Yet her work progressed rapidly on Middlemarch and 2 months later she wrote 'I did not imagine that I should ever be so fond of the place as I am now'. She frequently referred to Brookbank as a 'queer little cottage'. Yet the peace she found enabled her to work faster than expected.
Virginia Woolf referred to Middlemarch as 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.'