Edward Brook (1825-1904)

Edward Brook was a Meltham manufacturer and local philanthropist, who gifted the town hall and recreation grounds to the town.


He was born on 30 August 1825 at Bent House, the son of Jonas Brook (1775-1836) and his wife Hannah (née Wilson), and baptised on 22 September at St. Bartholomew, Meltham.

Reportedly his father did not wish him to enter the family's manufacturing business and instead he became the successful occupier of a large farm at Hampole near Doncaster. However, the death of his cousin William Leigh Brook in 1855 necessitated his return to Meltham, eventually coming the senior partner in the family firm. The 1861 Census records him residing at Bent House.

He joined the Meltham Local Board when it was formed in 1860 and remained a member for 25 years.

He married Emma Brooke (1841-1912), the daughter of manufacturer Thomas Brooke, on 30 June 1863 at St. Mary's Church, Honley. They had four children:

  • Edward Jonas Brook (1865-1924)[1]
  • Charles Brook (1866-1930)[2]
  • Frances Mary Brook (1868-1955)[3]
  • Anne Ingham Brook (1870-1958)[4]

By 1869, he had moved him family into Meltham Hall, which had been vacated by his cousin Charles Brook (1814-1872) who had retired to Enderby Hall in Leicestershire.

Meltham Local Board had launched legal objections to the Huddersfield Water Act of 1869 and were forced to pass on the associated legal costs to local rate payers. Concerned that the poorest in Meltham would be hit hardest by the rate increase, Brook paid around £400 so that they would not have to pay anything extra.[5]

In 1874, he commissioned Sheffield artist Robert Mackley Gowland to paint a number of canvasses of horses. Over the course of around 3 weeks, Gowland spent time at Meltham Hall and occasionally stayed overnight at the Rose and Crown Inn. On the evening of 24 August, he appeared to be in good spirits but complained of a headache and retired to bed at the inn at around 10pm. It was not until around noon the following day before it was realised Gowland had not been seen again and John William Shaw, a worker at the inn, forced the bedroom door open — Gowland had committed suicide overnight and was found lying in a pool of blood. At the inquest, his wife Mary Ann stated that her husband had taken to alcohol and it seems he likely suffered from mental health problems. The jury returned a verdict that "the deceased had cut his throat in a state of temporary insanity."[6]

Edward Brook purchased the Hoddom Castle estate in Dumfries, Scotland, from General Sharpe in 1877 for a reported sum of £200,500. In 1896 he purchased the Kinmount estate for £130,000.

In 1879, he paid for a carillon to be installed in the tower of St. Bartholomew.[7] Built by Messrs. Gillett, Bland & Co., it consisted of 10 bells and could play 14 tunes, including "Abide with Me", "Rule Britannia", "Home, Sweet Home", "Auld Lang Syne" and "God Save the Queen". According to newspaper reports, a new tune was played each day over a fortnight.

In 1881, he began what became a local tradition of distributing new pennies to children on Collop Monday. In turn, this was carried on firstly by his son Charles Brook and then by his grandson, Edward William Brook, until at least the late 1930s.

In the mid-1880s and early 1890s, he partly waived the rents due by the tenants on Hoddom estate "in consequence of the continued depression in the value of agricultural produce and live stock" for several years in a row.[8]

To celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887, he donated around 13 acres of land for the Jubilee Recreation Ground, which was formally opened in September 1888.

In the 1890s, he entirely funded the building of the Town Hall in Meltham, which was opened by his son Charles in February 1898. The offer of funding also included a gift of £1,500 "for the building of the offices, on condition that any balance not expended be returned to him" — upon his offer being read out to them, the members of the Meltham District Council reportedly broke out into singing "For he's a jolly good fellow"![9]

His other acts of munificence included donating a field for the construction of a gas works and 5½ acres of land near Harden Moss for a water supply reservoir[10], and the gifting of land for a proposed new cemetery.[11] Whenever his workforce was placed on short time, "he made up the resulting deficiency in their wages." In their obituary article, the Yorkshire Post estimated that Brook had spent in excess of £15,000 to "advance the general welfare" of the people of Meltham.[12]

In the summer of 1899, he was reported to have returned 6 month's worth of rent to the tenants on his estate.[13]

In the early 1900s, it was reported that consideration was being given to erecting a bronze statue of Edward Brook outside the Meltham Town Hall.

In 1903 he purchased Wyborne Gate Villa at Southport (now Sunnymede School) and journeyed there in early January the following year to oversee the furnishing of the property. Whilst there, he caught a cold which quickly developed into something more serious and he returned home.

Edward Brook died on 29 January 1904 at Hoddom Castle, leaving an estate valued at £2,181,318 3s. 11d.[14] In his Will, he bequeathed £5 to all of the full-time workers employed in the Brook's mills at Meltham Mills and at Spring Lane Mills, Holmfirth.[15]

After a brief funeral service at Hoddom, his body was returned by train to Yorkshire, where he was buried on 3 February 1904 at St. James, Meltham Mills.

The Hoddom Castle Estate passed to his eldest son, Edward Jonas Brook.

Following her husband's death, Emma Brook moved to Beech Knoll in Oxted, Surrey, with her daughter, Mary Frances, where she died on 25 November 1912. She was buried at St. Mary, Oxted, on 28 November.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. Born 13 March 1865 and baptised 16 April 1865 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. He was schooled at Radley and then studied at Jesus College, Oxford. In later life he was a director of the Glasgow and South Western Railway. He died 17 July 1924.
  2. Baptised 12 December 1866 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Died 14 June 1930 in Dumfriesshire.
  3. Baptised 11 October 1868 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham. Died a spinster on 31 July 1955 at Hove, Sussex.
  4. Born 5 May 1870 in Scarborough and baptised 26 June 1870 at St. James, Meltham Mills. Married 1892 to Basil Edward Spragge of Suffolk and 1934 to John Kenneth Crawley. Died 27 March 1958 in Paddington, London, aged 87.
  5. "Meltham: Presentation to Edward Brook, Esq." in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Mar/1870).
  6. "The Suicide of an Artist at Meltham" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (27/Aug/1874).
  7. "Meltham Parish Church Chimes" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (13/Jun/1879) and "The Carillon at Meltham Church" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (26/Jun/1879).
  8. "Meltham: Remission of Rents" in Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Jan/1887).
  9. "A Musical District Council" in North-Eastern Daily Gazette (23/Oct/1895).
  10. "Meltham: Mr. Edward Brook's Generosity" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (11/Jul/1900).
  11. It is believed this the land which became Calmlands Cemetery.
  12. Yorkshire Post (30/Jan/1904).
  13. "Liberality of a Dumfries Landlord" in Aberdeen Journal (17/Jul/1899).
  14. Reportedly £170,580 14s. 3d. was paid to the Exchequer as Estate Duty.
  15. Yorkshire Evening Post (06/Feb/1904).

Edward Brook (1825-1904)


Manufacturers | People | People connected to Meltham | The Brooks of Meltham
This page was last modified on 24 June 2017 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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