Charles Brook (1814-1872)


Charles Brook was born on 17 or 18 November 1814[1] in Huddersfield, the son of James Brook and his wife Janet, and grandson of William Brook who founded a scribbling mill in the 1770s at Meltham Mills. The mill later became Jonas Brook and Brothers.

He was baptised 20 January 1815 at Huddersfield Parish Church and was usually referred to as Charles Brook Junior to distinguish him from his uncle, Charles Brook Senior.

By the time of the 1851 Census, he was residing at Wood Cottage in Meltham Mills.

He married Elizabeth Hirst, daughter of John Sunderland Hirst, on 20 February 1860 at St. James, Meltham Mills, and they lived for a few years at Meltham Hall.

A noted philanthropist, he enowed Meltham Mills Infant School as well as the Pleasure Grounds, Convalescent Home and Bank Buildings in Meltham. He was well-regarded within the community, reportedly knowing most of his 2,000 workers by sight.

In April 1864, he cut the ceremonial first sod of the Meltham Branch Line and later helped organise a tea party for the navvies who worked on the line.

He purchased Enderby Hall in Leicestershire in mid-1865 for a reported £67,000.[2] He retired there the following year and died on 10 July 1872, aged 57.

Following his death, a large portrait of Brook by Huddersfield painter Samuel Howell (1809-1878) was exhibited at the Huddersfield Infirmary in late August 1872 before being transferred to the Meltham Mills Convalescent Home. The Chronicle (24/Aug/1872) noted that Howell had previously painted Brook's portrait in 1844 and 1863.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900

The following description of Brook appeared in this publication:

BROOK, CHARLES (1814–1872), philanthropist, was born 18 Nov. 1814, in Upperhead Row, Huddersfield. His father, James Brook, was member of the large banking and cotton-spinning firm of Jonas Brook Brothers at Meltham. Charles Brook lived with his father, who in 1831 had moved to Thornton Lodge; and by 1840 he became partner in the firm. He made many improvements in the machinery, and showed remarkable business talents. He strenuously refused to let his goods measure a less number of yards than was indicated by his labels, and he was bent on promoting the welfare of the two thousand hands in his employ. He knew them nearly all by sight, went to see them when ill, and taught their children in the Sunday school which he superintended for years. He laid out a park-like retreat, which he himself planned, for his workpeople at Meltham, and built them a handsome dining-hall and concert-room, with a spacious swimming-bath underneath. His best-known gift is the Convalescent Home at Huddersfield, in the grounds of which again he was his own landscape gardener, the whole costing £40,000. He was constantly erecting or enlarging churches, schools, infirmaries, cottages, curates' houses, &c., in Huddersfield, Meltham, and the district; and on purchasing Enderby Hall, Leicestershire, in 1865, with large estates adjoining, costing £150,000., he rebuilt Enderby church and the stocking-weavers' unsanitary cottages.

He died at Enderby Hall, of pleurisy and bronchitis, 10 July 1872, aged nearly 58. A portrait of him, by Samuel Howell, is in the Huddersfield Convalescent Home.

In 1860 Brook married Miss Hirst, a daughter of John Sunderland Hirst of Huddersfield. In politics he was a conservative. Mrs. Brook survived him; but he left no family.


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Further Reading


Notes and References

  1. His baptismal record gives the 17th as his date of birth, whilst other records give the 18th.
  2. "Local News" in Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jun/1865).