My life at Brooke’s began in 1964 when I spent the school summer holiday in the mechanics ‘shop’. Work began at 7.30 a.m. when the foreman, Frank Stringer of Hove Edge, arrived. His family owned the café in Spout House Lane. Next were Bert and Stanley, the plumbers, then blacksmith Joe Vickers. Bert, an ardent follower of Brighouse and Rastrick Band, arranged an audition for me. That was over 40 years ago and I still haven’t heard from them! There were Alan and George and another foreman, Joe Haley. It was through Joe that I got the job, as he knew my late grandfather.
I used to work with George quite a lot. He was a singer and a very good one too, and with me being a brass player we really hit it off. He would repair the cranes in the quarries, with me passing him the tools he needed, and then I gave him music theory lessons. Great days!
In the photograph are the office premises, known locally as ‘The Hall’, which were built in 1905 under the guidance of R. Farrar Fielding, a Leeds-based architect who worked on most of Brooke’s big projects. Externally it was a magnificent building, but inside it had many eccentricities. For instance, the main office telephone was in a kiosk in the middle of the room! The train in the foreground was driven for many years by Herbert Ward, and was one of ten trains the company operated during its long history.
The company was started in the mid-nineteenth century by Joseph Brooke of Northowram; on his death it passed to his eldest son Willie. Sadly, Willie was killed in a railway accident near the Lightcliffe tunnel, after which the company was run by his brother Newton until he died in 1955. The company then passed to his sons Edward, John and William, but in 1969 Brookes Limited closed. It is perhaps best remembered for having produced the first nonslip flagstone, patented in 1898, and purchased by almost every council and railway station in the country.
Little remains today of the once vast site. Even ‘The Hall’, having fallen into ruin, was demolished in 1995.
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