Yorkshire Post (13/Jul/1920) - Sir John Arthur Brooke

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.



We regret to announce the death of Sir John Arthur Brooke, Bart., of Fenay Hall, Huddersfield, which took place at his residence yesterday morning after a long illness. Last July he sustained a fracture of the ankle, from which his recovery was slow. In October his illness took a more serious turn, and he had since been entirely laid aside.

Sir John, who was 76 years of age, received the honour of a baronetcy in August of last year. He was one of Huddersfield's foremost public men; a conspicuous and zealous Churchman; and during the whole of a long and active like he was associated with the management of the family business at Armitage Bridge — Messrs. John Brooke and Sons, woollen manufacturers.

Like the rest of a long line of five brothers and eight sisters, he was born at Honley. The family of Brooke — one of the most distinguished in the district of Huddersfield, for commerce has its aristocracy no less than territorial acree — may be traced back to the first of the Stuarts, when it was represented by a yeoman stock settled at Scholes and Kirkburton, probably on some small freehold. In 1639, when stirring events in the nation's history were afoot, we find the record of a marriage licence granted to William Brooke, yeoman, of Honley, and with this locality the Brookes have since been associated, and with ever-increasing importance, resting not, indeed, upon the pursuit of agriculture, but upon the practical genius with which, in the seventeenth century, the family led the development of the woollen industry in that neighbourhood. The establishment and growth of the business at Armitage Bridge is a long story; its full development came with the age of machinery, utilised and directed by the generation to which Sir John Arthur Brooke belonged.

Five Distinguished Brothers.

Born in 1844, he was the fourth son of Thomas Brooke and of Anne, daughter of Joseph Ingham, of Hunslet, Leeds. The married life of these two was spent at Worthgate House, Honley, and, as has been remarked, they had a numerous family, in which they had afterwards just cause for pride, for in their different spheres the five sons were all destined to add dignity and importance to the family name. Two of them — Sir Thomas (deceased) and William (who died in February last) — were made freemen of Huddersfield; and two others are gratefully remembered as distinguished members of the Church of England ministry — the late Archdeacon Brooke, of Halifax, and the late Canon Brooke, of Kensington.

Of the three sons marked out for a business career, John Arthur was the youngest, and he was a youth at school in the anxious period of the father's unexpected death, when affairs were left to the intuitive genius of William, then only just out of his teens. William, in fact, was ten years older than John Arthur, and in the heyday of his strength; therefore, he bore a fuller share of responsibility in the management of the business, for the eldest brother, Thomas, did not long remain the active head, his bent being more in the direction of public affairs. A sudden emergency in the business interrupted William's educational career, but there was not the same urgency in the case of John Arthur, who proceeded to Oriel College, Oxford, from Repton, and graduated M.A.

A fine figure of a man, well built, and athletic, those who remember him in his earlier days recall the splendid form he showed in the cricket field. But in the realm of sport, the chief hobby of his riper years was shooting, for which purpose ho rarely used to miss an autumn sojourn to the moors of Scotland. He had a shooting box in Ross-shire, at Ardgey, near to Skibo Castle, and in the neighbourhood, also, with which his wife's early years were associated, for he married Blanche, daughter of Major Weston of Morveck, Sutherland, and of Hampden, Berks., being then himself 29 years of age.

Home Life and Public Work.

Shortly after their marriage, they went to reside at Fenay Hall, Almondbury, and it is with this ancient Tudor home — whose surroundings have been fancifully likened to the Vale of Tempe — that Sir John's life was most intimately linked; a delightful retreat, historic in its reach back through the centuries, and fascinating in a certain quaintness of beauty which Sir John always strove to maintain. Similarly attractive in an artistic sense is the old church at Almondbury, which, with loving enthusiasm, Sir John generously helped to restore, in keeping with its ancient style and design.

Like his brothers, he had interests much wider than those attaching to the business, though these always received the advantage of his ability and foresight. He was one of Huddersfield's prominent public men, though modesty held him in check when the highest positions were offered to him. For six years, from 1901 to 1907, he sat on the Town Council as an Alderman, but his friends could never succeed in inducing him to accept the mayoralty. He had previously endeavoured to enter the Council by what democratic sticklers would call the front door, but the burgesses rejected hie advances, and be did not try again. But the Town Council was very glad when he consented to be elected an Alderman, and equally sorry when he cut his comparatively short period of service to a close, for his advice was always sound and his association with the Council had an elevating and steadying tendency.

Education was what Sir John most cared to stimulate, and the fruits of his work for the borough in the domain of secondary education will survive as a tribute to his ideas and public spirit. He was for a long time the chairman of the Technical College, and when elementary education passed into the hands of a subcommittee of the Council he consented to serve as a co-opted member of that body, being elected vice-chairman.

Conservative Leader.

This — and politics — absorbed a great deal of his real for public service. Which of the two predominated it would be hard to say, for Sir John was always a strenuous party man and an eager fighter for the Conservative cause, all the more so, no doubt, because in the locality in which he lived there was reed for resolute discipleship. Having no Parliamentary ambitions himself, he yet lent consistent help to Unionist candidates not only in the town of Huddersfield, but in the neighbouring Colne Valley Division, of the two central organisations of which he was for many years the president — not an ornamental figure head, but an officer who made himself acquainted with every detail of the party machine, and did his best, with time and money, to make it efficient. On the platform he was a forceful speaker, and to the knowledge and grasp of current affairs which he displayed in speech there was added a sonorous, musical voice which added to the pleasure of hearing him speak. By nature frank, generous and kindly, there was in his intercourse always a note of cheerfulness and gaiety which made it impossible not to like him, while his sincerity was so transparent that his opponents in controversy were bound to respect his point of view. Friends, indeed, regarded him with feelings of admiration, and with the townspeople in general be shared in full measure the popularity of the whole family.

He gave liberally to churches and to all other purposes which had his sympathy, and, like his brothers, was a devoted member of the Church. He figured prominently in the lay counsels of the diocese, being chairman of the Wakefield Diocesan Board of Finance, and also a member of the Standing Committee of the York House of Laymen. During 41 years, up to 1916, he was vicar's warden at Almondbury Parish Church.

Sir John was made a magistrate of the borough of Huddersfield in 1876, and in 1887 his name was added to the commission for the county. He is survived by Lady Brooke, and by a son and two daughters, one of whom is Mrs. Hoste, wife of the vicar of Dewsbury, and formerly vicar of Almondbury. Two sons were born to him. The elder, Lieut. J. W. Brooke, a gallant officer who fought in South Africa, met with his death in 1900 in a frontier scuffle in the far-away borderland of Tibet, whither his intrepidity and taste for adventure had led him. Tribesmen made an attack upon the little party, stole their rifles, and in the affray young Brooke was shot. The news of his death was received with great regret at home, and was a lasting sorrow to the father. The other son, who succeeds to the baronetcy, is Major Robert Weston Brooke, who served with distinction in the war, and received the D.S.O. end M.C.