It has not been possible to identify Florence Brooks definitively; however, the most likely candidate was born in Grays, Essex, in 1877. The father of this Florence Brooks was Edmund Wright Brooks (1834–1928), who founded the company that eventually amalgamated as Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd. 1 He was born a Quaker and was very active in Liberal politics, Armenian refugee relief and the Anti-Slavery Society. He left an estate of £106,499. 2 . Her politically and socially campaigning mother, Lucy Ann Marsh (1835–1926), was for many years an official of various total abstinence societies in Essex. 3 Her brother, Herbert E. Brooks (1860–1931), later became chairman of Essex County Council, while one of her sisters appears to have married a relative of the famous Quaker Fry family, some of whom lived in nearby Cuckfield and Brighton. 4 Her unmarried sister, Gertrude (1875–1952), trained as a doctor in her thirties, and lived at Henfield, Sussex, not far from Little Ease cottage. 5 Her brothers and in-laws all worked in the building-supplies industry, so she may have been familiar with the idea of commissioning architectural work. 6
'Miss Brooks' was listed on the electors' register in 1921 as an 'occupation voter', living at Little Ease cottage, in Hurstpierpoint Parish, East Grinstead Constituency. 7 It seems likely that she purchased the semi-detached cottages at a sale in 1919, suggesting that she was either relatively well-off, or sufficiently mature to have accumulated the necessary funds. Women's suffrage, granted in 1918, enfranchised women over thirty, and those who occupied a dwelling house, which Miss Brooks did (there were also other qualifications). 8 On 22 July 1919, at the sale of 'outlying portions' of the Sergison family's ancestral estates of Cuckfield and Leigh Manors, lot 33, Leigh Farm (or Little Lower Ease Farm}, included a 'pair of capital brick and tiled cottages', with a well and good gardens. 9
The two Sergison daughters, Prudence and Cynthia (wife of Sir Basil Stanlake Brooke, later Viscount Brookeborough), both married cousins belonging to a distinguished Northern Irish military family. 10 Prudence's husband, (later Lieutenant General Sir) Bertram Norman Brooke adopted the hyphenated name 'Sergison-Brooke'. 11 He sold much of the estate in 1919 after her death. 12
Miss Brooks appears in local directories at Little Ease cottage under either 'Cuckfield', or 'Anstye' (local householders used a variety of addresses) from 1924 to 1929, and on the Hurstpierpoint voters' roll until 1929. Thereafter, nothing is known of her. 13
1: Chelmsford Chronicle, 29 June 1928, p. 5; Essex Newsman, 8 September 1928, p. 2.
2: Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 July 1892, p. 8; 28 October 1892, p. 8; The Times, 16 February 1898, p. 14; 9 September 1910, p. 18; 12 November 1910, p. 4; 25 June 1928, p. 19; Manchester Guardian, 25 June 1928, p. 14; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar 1858–1966, online resource, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 14 June 2013].
3: Chelmsford Chronicle, 6 May 1892, p. 5; 28 October 1892, p. 8; 17 November 1905, p. 6; 2 April 1926, p. 2; The Times, 9 May 1903, p. 5.
4: E. C. Fry and L. E. Brooks 1889, England & Wales, Free Marriage Index, 1837–1915, and census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 17 June 2013]; 'W. & A. H. Fry – Brighton Photographers', Sussex Photohistory, www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk [accessed 17 June 2013]; England & Wales, Free Birth Index, 1837–1915; census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 14 June 2013]; Chelmsford Chronicle, 20 March 1931, p. 2.
5: 'Graduates to December 1926', p. 332, University of London Student Records 1836–1932, online database, Senate House Library, University of London, www.senatehouselibrary.ac.uk [accessed 17 June 2013].British Medical Journal, 23 August 1952, p. 451; 'Brighton Section', 1925–9, British Phone Books, 1880–1984.
6: Census data, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 17 June 2013].
7: Lewes, East Sussex Records Office: East Grinstead Constituency electoral register, autumn 1921, C/C 70/122. Information supplied by P. Bye, 15 May 2013, and A. Lusted, 20 May 2013.
8: Hugh Fraser, The Representation of the People Act 1918, London: Sweet & Maxwell, pp. 63–76; Living Heritage: Women Get the Vote, online resource, www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/ [accessed 14 June 2013].
9: Chichester, West Sussex Records Office: Sergison Estate, Illustrated sale particular of outlying portions of the Sergison Estate proposed to be sold by auction at Goldings Hotel, Haywards Heath, by direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Bertram Norman Sergison-Brooke, 22 July 1919, Sergison 3/3/16, information supplied by F. Lansley, 24 May 2013; L. F. Salzman, ed., 'Parishes: Cuckfield', A History of the County of Sussex, 7, 1940, ch. 36, pp. 147–63; online document (unpaginated), British History Online, www.british-history.ac.uk [accessed 17 June 2013].
10: Brian Barton, ‘Brooke, Basil Stanlake, first Viscount Brookeborough (1888–1973)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, www.oxforddnb.com [accessed 14 June 2013].
11: The Times, 28 March 1967, p. 10; 'Brooke: Sir Bertram Norman Sergison, Service Biography', Survey of Papers, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, www.kingscollections.org [accessed 17 June 2013].
12: The Times, 7 June 1919, p. 23; 28 June 1919, p. 25; The Sergison Archives, Part 3, Sergison 3/3/15–16 in West Sussex Record Office: Access to Archives, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/A2A/default.aspx [accessed 17 June 2013].
13: Chichester, West Sussex Records Office: Hurstpierpoint (1924) and Cuckfield Sections (1925–9), Clarke's Mid-Sussex Directories, 1924–30. Information supplied by F. Lansley, 24 May 2013. Brighton Section', 1925–9, British Phone Books, 1880–1984, www.ancestry.co.uk [accessed 17 June 2013]; Lewes, East Sussex Records Office: electoral registers for Hurstpierpoint, 1925–9, C/C 70/130–5. Information supplied by A. Lusted, 20 May 2013.