Something approaching consternation was felt in Slaithwaite on Monday morning last when it became known that Mrs. Brook had passed away during the previous night. The circumstances surrounding the tragic event were so painfully sudden and unexpected that it seemed impossible that it could be true. Mrs. Brook attended morning service at the Parish Church on the occasion of the harvest festival, for which event she had — as was her wont — done a great deal towards the decoration, and again at the service in the afternoon. On reaching home, Mrs. Brook complained of not feeling well, and in a short time it was observed that her speech was affected. Dr. Dean was summoned, and was quickly in attendance. He was so strongly impressed with the seriousness of the complaint that Dr. Irving, of Huddersfield, was called in, but from the first it was regarded as almost hopless. Mrs. Brook had been afflicted with haemorrhage of the brain, and after the first attack never again recovered consciousness. Members of the family were summoned, her father (Alderman John Sugden, from Huddersfield), her sister (Mrs. W. H. Varley, of Slaithwaite), and a message was sent to Mr. Varley, who was spending the week-end at Blackpool. Dr. Dean was in attendance until the end, which came at midnight. Some of the worshippers at the Parish Church had heard at the evening service that Mrs. Brook had suddenly been taken ill, but no one was prepared for the overwhelming intelligence of Monday morning that Mrs. Brook had passed away, and that the place which had known her would know her no more for ever.
Mrs. Brook was the eldest daughter of Alderman John Sugden, of Laurel Bank, Huddersfield, formerly of Slaithwaite, and was forty-three years of age. The early years of her life were spent with Mrs. William Sykes, of Slaithwaite, and in course of time she became a teacher at the Mechanics’ School, afterwards filling the post of infants’ mistress with conspicuous ability and uniform kindness to the children. She held this post until her marriage, fourteen years ago, with Mr. W.H. Brook, of the firm of William Brook and Sons, dyers, Slaithwaite and Honley.
Mrs. Brook had two children, the elder, Maud, being now thirteen years of age, the other, a boy, died in its infancy. Of her associations with church life and work, it would be difficult to do justice. The place she has left vacant can scarcely be filled. Her capacity for organisation and loyal devotion to detail are best known to the vicar and church officers, and in this regard they have suffered an irreparable loss. One of the objects that was nearest and dearest to Mrs. Brook was her Sunday school class. Composed of nearly one hundred girls and young women, this class regarded their teacher with feelings of deep affection and tender regard. Her lessons will never be forgotten by them. They were inspired by sincere solicitude for the spiritual welfare of her scholars, and were often delivered with an impressiveness, earnestness, and affection that moved her young friends to tears. She was more than a teacher to these girls. She was a close personal friend, and manifested deep interest in their lives and circumstances. Each one of these girls received a token of remembrance and good wishes on the morning of her birthday, and similarly at Christmas they were the recipients of the season’s greetings. Then, during the summer months, Mrs. Brook entertained her girls to tea at the Baths. These girls have lost more than a teacher: they have lost a friend, a counsellor, a living incentive and inspiration to a godly life. On Monday evening they were drawn instinctively to meet in the class-room where they had met before so often, to condole with each other, and consider how best to show the affection they felt for their beloved teacher. It was a sad meeting. They decided to obtain a floral tribute for the interment, and afterwards replace this with a permanent wreath.
Mrs. Brook was also president of the Mothers’ Union, to which organisation she was firmly devoted. The members had been invited to a coffee supper to be given by Mrs. Brook on Tuesday evening, but the supper was not held. The president was absent. This, too, was a mournful meeting. Eyes were dimmed with tears as they looked at the vacant chair that would never again hold the material form of their leader and fellow-worker. Her sympathies were not bounded by her own church. Her charities were larger than her creed, and her acts of kindness and helpfulness were done to all denominations.
Mrs. Brook was appointed to a seat on the Colne Valley Education Committee on its formation, a post she was amply qualified to fill by both natural capacity and interest in the work. Her knowledge of detail and the routine of school life made her an active and useful member of that body.
The poor of Slaithwaite have lost a friend. Whenever cases of poverty or distress were brought to her notice she was ever ready to minister to their creature comforts, without ostentation, and without patronage. Many dark homes in Slaithwaite and district have been brightened by her presence, and a spark of hope kindled by the ‘jilt she left behind. To the sick and bereaved she ministered as an angel of mercy, whispering words of hope and comfort, and infusing faith into lives that were ready to despair. Those who knew her best loved her most. What she was to her friends and neighbours must have been intensified a thousand-fold to her husband and child and the members of her family; and to these we voice the feelings of the people when we say that Slaithwaite mourns to-day, with a sense of irreparable loss, the death of Mrs. Brook.
Not for very many years has there been so large a funeral as that of Wednesday afternoon last. The universal respect in which Mrs. Brook was held was testified by the presence, not only of the members of St. James’ Church, but by people connected with other churches and chapels in the neighbourhood, and by those who were not regular attenders at any place of worship. A service was held in the Parish Church, the body of which was filled with mourners. As the funeral party entered the church, they were met by the choir and the vicar (Rev. H.H. Rose), while Mr. Lewis H. Eagland played Chopin’s impressive funeral march. The choir solemnly chanted the thirty-ninth Psalm, and Mr. Rose read the opening portion of the service for the burial of the dead. The choir also sang “Blest are the departed,” from Spohr’s “Last Judgment.’’ After that the congregation tried to sing “Now the labourer’s task is o’er,” but their eyes were mostly dimmed with tears, and their throats unable to articulate a sound. To the deeply moving strains of the “Dead March” in “Saul,” the cortege left the church on its way to the cemetery. The members of the choir, Mrs. Brook’s class, and of the Mothers’ Union, walked first, followed by members of the public, officers of the Sunday school, and general public. Included amongst the latter were Messrs. G.H. Walker, Edwin Gledhill (clerk to the Urban District Council), William Sugden, W. Hirst (churchwarden), and Messrs. Thomas Mallinson, J.P., Geo. Garside, T. Bamforth, James Woodhead, and John Furniss, representing the Colne Valley Education Committee.
The chief mourners were: Mr. W.H. and Miss Maud Brook, Mr. and Mrs. Sugden, Mary Varley, Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Varley, Mrs. William Sykes, Mr. and Mrs. Sam E. Sugden, Mr. and Mrs. Sugden, Mr. Georgie Sugden, Mr. Jack Sugden, Mr. John Meal, Miss M. J. Sugden, Mr. John Edward and Charles Gordon Varley, Mr. Edwin Brook, Miss Brook, Mr. and Mrs. J.A.H. Eagland, Mrs. Charlesworth, Mrs. Swift, Miss Betty Sugden, Mrs. Cotton, Mr. Joe Binns, Mr. John Senior, Mr. Sam Sugden (Lockwood), Rev. H.H. Hose, Rev. T. Haworth, Mr. A.C. Applebee, Dr. and Mrs. Dean, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sugden (Bury), Mr. and Mrs. Sam Sugden (Bury), Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Haigh, Mr. George Haigh, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Varley, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Haigh, Mr. and Mrs. Denton, Mr. and Mrs. B.H.S. Walker, Mr. Noel Whitehead (Oldham), Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Beaumont, Mr. and Mrs. James Woodhead, Mr. Handly (Settle), Miss Charlesworth, Mrs. Joseph Hirst and Miss Hirst, Mrs. William Hirst and Miss A. M. Hirst, Miss Smith, Mr. Robert Taylor.
Private carriages were sent by Alderman John Sugden, Mr. W. Quarmby (Buckley Hall), and Mrs. S. Sugden (Springfield House).
The following sent wreaths: Mr. and Mrs. J.H.G. Roberts and family, Mr. and Mrs. H. Denton, Mrs. J.A. Shaw and Mrs. J.H. Hirst, Ellen and Mitchell Charlesworth, Mr. and Mrs. A.E. Cotton, Dr. and Mrs. Chevers, Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Davenport, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Haigh, Mr. and Mrs. William Hirst, Miss M. Hunter, Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Sugden, Dr. and Mrs. Clampett, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Bates. Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Varley, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Beaumont, Mr. and Mrs. Sam E. Sugden, Mrs. Hirst, Louisa and Joseph, Dr. and Mrs. Dean, Lucy, Hildred, and Edgar Brierley, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Greenwood, Slaithwaite Tennis Club, Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Haigh, Aunt Mary, Cousin Martha and Mary Jane, Mr. Edwin and Misses Brook, Mothers’ Union, Parish Church Choir, workpeople at Slaithwaite, Mr. and Mrs. J. Furniss and family, Sunday School Bible Class, Parish Church Gymnasium, teachers St. James’ Church Sunday School, Mr. and Mrs. B.H.S. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. William Quarmby, staff and children at Nields Council School, Mrs. Sam Sugden, Mr. W.H. and Miss Maud Brook, Mr. and Mrs. John Sugden, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Varley, Rev. H.H. Rose, Elsie and Lizzie Sykes, Mrs. Enos Beaumont and family, Miss Smith, Mrs. W.E. Cotton and family, Mr. Sam Sugden (Lockwood), Mr. W.H. Cotton, Mr. and Mrs. George Haigh, Mr. and Mrs. William Hirst and family, workpeople at Honley, Bible Class, cousins Brierley.
On arrival at the cemetery, Mr. Rose read the committal portion of the burial service, and the coffin was laid in its last resting place. The coffin, which was of unpolished oak, was quickly covered with the floral tributes of the Sunday School class, and bore the inscription:—
To-day, the 17th of October, 1904, the flowers which were blooming beautifully a week ago are all a-dying, and a complete wreck compared with their former beauty. Alas! how this illustrates a painful feeling in many places, and fills many a soul with grief, and for which there seems no relief, and from which there seems no escape.
Think of it, dear reader, Mrs. Brook, the pride of the village, gone in a moment! Think of her largeness of heart, her generous disposition, and her help to all people, all religions, and all conditions in life. To her church ever devoted, and to her troops of friends most wondrous kind. Yes; the firstborn of young wedded life, her mother only eighteen years of age, whom she very much resembled. She was one of three little girls, who were left motherless at a very early period. Lizzie, the youngest, being then short of two years old, and now the only one living. The middle girl, Maud, the favourite of all who knew her, for the universal kindness she ever displayed, for the useful life she lived, her guileless disposition, her charming manner, and her winsome ways, which were, alas, cut short at twenty-one years of age by that terrible disease, consumption, which also robbed the family of a dear parent in the young days of a somewhat chequered life. This leads one back to the faded flowers of Monday as the exact simile of the altered conditions of to-day.
Yesterday, dear Mrs. Brook, after a week of devotion to many of her philanthropic objects, went to the afternoon harvest festival of her church, which she had done so much to decorate on the Saturday. She took part in the bright and pleasant service and returned home, where all at once she had a seizure, became at once helpless, and all that Dr. Dean could do, and later on assisted by Dr. Irving, was all in vain, and the dear woman died at 12 o’clock midnight, leaving a more than kind husband, one dear daughter, Maud, aged thirteen, the above-mentioned Lizzie, broken-hearted, with her dear little girl, Mary, aged ten. Her disconsolate father, mother, and four closely-attached brothers, together with the whole village in a sort of total eclipse, with no direct vision at hand to lighten the painful darkness.
This is a much more terrible reality for all concerned than the faded flowers of nature, but just that touch of similitude of the long and bright summer, with all its freshness, which, on the first touch of winter’s frost, which came a week ago, blighted all the blooms in nature to decay and death. So with this nobler life — only forty-three years. Done so much. Won her neighbours. Gathered her classes. Worshipped her God. Led others the same heavenly way. Never still. Always up and doing. Nothing or anybody came amiss. If a kindness had to be shown, a helping hand to be given, or a winning smile needed to encourage, Mrs. Brook was ever ready with
The loss to Slaithwaite of Mrs. Brook, of Field House, is too recent and happened too suddenly to be yet fully unrealised. Her absence will naturally be felt most in her home and in the church, but it will also be felt by the poor and unfortunate. Mrs. Brook had the private means to minister to the wants of the deserving poor, and she had what many other people with larger resources have not — the willingness to give. If we had more people with the kindly disposition and the generous heart of Mrs. Brook, a great deal of class bitterness would be done away with, and the complaining platitudes of Socialists would lose their point. While many persons in positions of affluence assume arrogant airs, and use their wealth for personal display and ostentatious parade, Mrs. Brook regarded it rather as a serious responsibility; a trust to be used for the benefit of her fellow-creatures; and as an incentive to public work. That work grew beyond the capacity of one brain and one body, however vigorous and strong to outward seeming, with the result that the tension became too great, and the silken cord broke beyond repair. Slaithwaite can ill afford to lose such a useful and active life, while the church is left poor indeed. The influence of such a noble life, and the impressiveness of such an untimely death cannot fail to exercise the mind of the community, and if such influence has the effect of inspiring others to walk in her footsteps and take up her work, the sad event will lose something of its gloom.
A large congregation assembled at St. James’ Church on Sunday morning to pay tribute to the memory of the late Mrs. W. H. Brook. The congregation for the most part were attired in the sombre habiliments of mourning, and conspicuous amongst the mourners were a large number of the members of the deceased lady’s Sunday school class, who were accommodated in the northern aisle. There was a large number of people from other denominations present, all testifying to the respect and esteem in which Mrs. Brook was held.
The organist, Mr. Lewis H. Eagland, A.R.C.O., played Mendelssohn’s “rest in the Lord” as an opening voluntary. The service was conducted, in the absence of the vicar, by the Rev. T. Haworth, M.A., vicar of Linthwaite, who was assisted by Mr. A. C. Applebee. The hymns were: “Now the labourer’s task is o’er,” “Days and moments quickly flying,” “How sweet the hour of closing day.”
The Rev. T. Haworth preached a helpful sermon from the words. “There were other little ships,” and before concluding said that he was there that morning in place of their vicar, whose life was almost crushed by the over-whelming sorrows that had overcome him within the past few weeks — first by the death of his dear wife, after years of suffering, and now the death of Mrs. Brook, who had been such a tower of strength and support to him in the carrying out of the work in that great parish. Had he (Mr. Rose) been there that morning, they knew how words of recognition of her services would have fallen from his lips. He (the speaker) knew from the vicar’s own mouth that he felt her loss to be almost irreparable, and her demise had created a void in his own life and the life of the parish which could never be filled. As a neighbour and friend, he joined with them in showing sympathy with the bereaved family, and also to add a tribute of love and respect to one who was as justly honoured in her place for her self-sacrificing service to the church and to the poor and needy, her devotion to duty, her interest in the Mothers’ Union and Sunday School, and every object which was for the good of the church and school. Her name would ever be remembered in love and esteem. If outward and visible demonstrations of feeling were any testimony of inward feeling, such were not wanting on the previous Wednesday, when the deceased lady was laid to rest. The long procession, a full church, and crowds of sympathising people who lined the road from Field House to church and church, to cemetery, drawn blinds, and the peaceful and orderly multitude who witnessed the ceremony, was in itself a tribute which could not fail to be some consolation for the sorrowing family. It was a tribute that men did not pay where they did not’ feel it. Though he, personally, had only known Mrs. Brook for the past few years, ne had known her long enough to perceive her sterling qualities. With her there were no half measures, no half-heartedness. Any task that she took up she entered into with an enthusiasm that was bound to succeed. And may they not say — was it not true to say — that she had been a victim of over-devotion to duty? In her self-sacrificing spirit she had allowed her zeal and enthusiasm to carry her beyond the limits of her not over strong constitution. As a soldier of the battlefield sheds his blood for his king and country, as the lonely missionary working in some far-off land lays down his life for his Christ and wins the martyr’s crown, so he readily believed their dear friend in the nobleness of her heart, in her love for the Master, and her love for the people of Slaithwaite, had laid down her life and won a martyr’s crown. They could not blame her now, but they must thank God that He had given them such a blessing and example in her life, such a self-sacrificing and devoted spirit. With her example before them, they must strive for and pray that there might be reproduced in their lives something of that nobleness of character, something of that enthusiasm and zeal for the service of God and for the good of their fellow-men, which was so marked a feature in her life. “She has gone from us,” said the preacher. “You will miss her well-known face, her well-known form, her sunny smile, her cheery voice, her sympathetic look.” To-day their hearts bled as they thought of the bereaved family, and their sympathy and prayers went out to them. In the homes of the poor and the needy she had always a glad welcome, and her winning smile brought sunshine to the sad and weary heart. The members of the Mothers’ Union, in which she took such a genuine interest, had lost a wise counsellor, for verily she was a mother in Israel. The large class of young women were now mourning the loss of a teacher and sympathetic guide, and a really personal friend. And to her friends the world seemed empty, dreary, and sad. They were decidedly poorer by the removal of such a noble life as hers, but they must remember that she was now at peace. Her life’s work was done; her Master had come; she had now entered into joy and rest. She had safely entered where they also might go at last after many struggles, after many ups and downs. “Meanwhile we will never forget her, and she will never forget us.” They must go on watching and praying day by day, for however long the hours might seem, they would come to an end, the sun go down, and give place to eternal light.
At the evening service the pulpit was occupied by the Rev. T.H. Greenhalgh, vicar of Paddock. During his discourse he made reference to the death of Mrs. Brook, and remarked that it came as a great shock to him to hear that one who was with them last Sunday in the fulness of life was here with them no more.
Crossley Place, Linthwaite,
October 26th, 1904.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden