The Brooks of Larchfield Mill

On another page can be found an account of Huddersfield Hall of Science. [     ]  While writing this I became aware of the importance of George Brook and his son in the early socialist and radical movement.  I was also aware of their role in local manufacturing and had accumulated several references to Larchfield Mill, founded by the younger George.  Meanwhile, my interest in natural history had led me onto the younger George’s son,another George, who was involved with Huddersfield Naturalists’ Society and also the Yorkshire Naturalists Union.  I was therefore delighted to receive an inquiry from a descendant of the Brook family  who provided me with new detailed information and some fascinating photographs, along with a request to carry out further research.  I am therefore endebted to Ben Blackden and the Brook descendants for the prompting which led to this essay and also for their kind encouragement and support. The Brooks’ story is an extremely important addition to the history of Huddersfield covering, such varied aspects of  politics, social and industrial history, and popular science.


Larchfield Mill, Firth Street, Huddersfield. (early 1980s - photo from Brooke Collection)

Larchfield Mill, Firth Street, Huddersfield,  early 1980s (photo from Brooke Collection)

George Brook Snr was from a relatively well-off background.  He was the youngest son of James Brook of Bridge End (later Somerset Bridge), resident agent to John William Ramsden, whose estate included most of the town of Huddersfield and much of the neighbouring township of Almondbury, as well as land further afield.  Presumably Brook was agent for the Manor of Huddersfield and not the estate as a whole, but nevertheless this was an influential position, particularly now when the town was rapidly expanding as a result of the industrial revolution. It seems to have been a position handed down in the Brook family.  James took over from his father Mark Brook in 1788, who had held the job ‘for a long period’ and passed it on to his son Joseph in 1820. 1

George Brook senior.

George Brook senior.

Born in 1803, George had a good education by local standards of the time since he went to boarding school at Honley until he was 16. However, the Brooks were clearly not too well off to expect George to make his own way in the world.  He was apprenticed as a dyer at Alexander’s works at Folly Hall, until he was aged 21. (Alex Alexander, who also had brewing interests, was one of the many local casualties of the bank crash of 1825 becoming bankrupt in 1826, perhaps this is actually when George left). 2  According to his obituary George was ‘an adept in his business’ and was clearly apprenticed not just in the techniques of dyeing but in all aspects of running a dyeworks since in his next position at Messrs Starkey’s factory at Longroyd Bridge he rose to foreman. The Starkeys were in the process of expanding their woollen factory to become the biggest in the town.  It was only a few hundred yards from Alexander’s works at Folly Hall and George and his family would very likely be well known to his new employer.

This profile of George’s early years presents us with an unanswered question which is central to understanding the intellectual development of the Brooks and which changed the course of the family’s history.  Why did someone from a respectable, church-going and at least comfortable background, who had fine career prospects and the patronage of the Starkeys, (one of the leading manufacturing dynasties of the town and part of its conservative political establishment), adopt such radical views?  Views which were considered by most people in the social circles from which he originated to be dangerous and revolutionary.  By 1830 he was married to the daughter of William Dawson, a butcher and hotel keeper at Paddock, and was embarking on family life with the birth on 8 June 1830 of George jun, which also should have been grounds for caution3.  Nevertheless, the obituary says he was one of the ‘originators’ of the Voice of the West Riding (VWR), an unstamped, and therefore illegal newspaper established in 1833 which championed every working class cause, including the radical reform of parliament, co-operation, Factory Reform (for the Ten Hour Act) and trade unionism.

George must have been on close terms with the paper’s editor Joshua Hobson, who was jailed for his activities and who remained prominent in Huddersfield’s political affairs, although he turned coat to become a Tory around 1850. A George Brook occurs in the  VWR of 10 Aug 1833 on the list of subscribers to the  ‘Victim Fund’ to support those prosecuted for fighting for a free press.  This was the time of the national agitation for parliamentary reform which saw rioting in some parts of the country and raised the spectre of revolution.  It was also a time of industrial unrest as workers tried to recover their living standards after the depression of the late 1820’s.  The Starkeys were one of the firms who resisted trade unionism and consequently were slated in the VWR.  In December1833 it criticised them for posting a notice warning of instant dismissal for any workers who absented themselves from work to attend a public meeting of the radical candidate in the elections. George’s name does not appear among those speaking at such meetings, or on any public platforms, but since his obituary says ‘he was very reserved in many respects’, he possibly preferred working behind the scenes. Whether this reflected some degree of tact and compromise with the responsibilities of his social position can only be surmised. However, despite this reticence, he played a key role in establishing one important working class institution, which did bring him to the notice of his employer.

When and why he became attracted to the ideas of the Socialist Robert Owen is again unknown.  In its brief existence the VWR acted as a platform for local Owenists whose main preoccupation in 1833-34 was the establishment of a trade union which would take over the running of industry itself on cooperative principles and thus ameliorate workers’ conditions.  This was crushed by lockouts in 1834.  The emphasis then shifted to establishing Owen’s ‘New Moral World’, where common ownership of the means of production and equality of all, including men and women, would form the basis of society.  This was to be done by establishing communities based on these principles and also by building ‘Halls of Science’ where Owen’s fiercely secular ideas were propagated to local congregations of Socialists, with services, hymns and rituals very much modelled on non-conformist chapels.4  George’s obituary confirms that he was ‘one of the promoters’ of Huddersfield’s Hall of Science, a building which still stands today, perhaps the last remaining in the country.   In fact he helped obtain the land on which it was built.   The deed of conveyance for the five hundred and seventy square yard site, part of a field known as ‘the pasture’,  off  Bath Street, (then surrounded by fields at the northern edge of the town, just outside the Ramsden estate)  was finalised on 1 August 1839 between George Brook, dyer, Huddersfield, Richard Smith Jackson, dyer of Paddock and John Platts, cloth dresser of Lowerhouses and  the managers of the Hall of Science.  5 The foundation stone had already been laid on 2 April and building was well underway although the official opening had to be delayed from 22 September to 3 November.  It is likely that George, behind the scenes man or not, would have attended such an important event in which he had played a key part.

George Brook

George Brook’s signature on conveyance of land for building of Huddersfield Hall of Science (Thanks to John Clay for permission to copy these documents)

One of the other movers of the Hall was Read Holliday, owner of a local chemical works involved in manufacturing dyes, so probably known to George in a professional as well as political capacity. He had also been a radical in the VWR days, but, being self employed he was less vulnerable than George.  The opening of the Hall severely perturbed the local clergy who saw the Socialist’s preaching of a secular and antireligious philosophy as blasphemy.  Anti-socialist campaigners toured the country, holding several public meetings in the town denouncing the socialists and calling for their suppression.  In this atmosphere of persecution a few local millowners dismissed some of their workers, including the Starkeys, who sacked seven men, two of who had been with the firm 19 years.    George was among them, and though it was said that it was not long before he was asked back because his successor had made such a mess of the job, he never returned.  This incident was referred to by Robert Buchanan in his ‘Concise History of Modern Priestcraft’.  He was a Scottish tailor, socialist missionary, poet and pamphleteer, who lived in Huddersfield in the 1830s and must also have been well known to George. (His son, also of the same name, went on to become a well known late Victorian poet).6

For George this victimisation proved a blessing in disguise since he was forced to establish his own business. He went into partnership with William Henry Kaye, John Tolson and a Mr Mackie at premises at Folly Hall.  Nevertheless he continued his involvement with the Socialists and remained a lifelong Owenite.  Moreover, he ensured that George Jun received a socialist education since the latter’s obituary records that he was educated at Harmony Hall, Hampshire, one of Owen’s experimental socialist communities. 7  By 1843 this school had 35 boarding pupils paying a fee of £25 a year as well as children from the community under the charge of  the principal, Dr Oestreicher  from Germany.  The aim was to educate the leaders of future socialist communities and so the timetable included industrial pursuits, ‘suited to age, capacity and interest.’  Geography, geometry, drawing, gardening, French, arithmetic, natural history, history and music were also taught.  As often with such experimental schools there was a problem striking a balance between discipline and free expression, one backer of the colony complaining, ‘it would drive me mad to witness the rudeness, the utmost rudeness and disorder prevailing in the schools and be at the same time told that all is excellence and beauty.’   By mid 1845 due to growing indebtedness the colony had collapsed and the property was sold off at the end of the year.8

The Hall of Science was also burdened by a combination of debt and falling membership.  The 1840’s, saw both the decline of Socialism and Chartism due to persecution, increasing economic hardship and growing disillusionment that society could be changed, politically or economically. One consequence of this was a rift between Joshua Hobson and the socialists.  What George’s relationship with him was by this time we don’t know.  Many leading activists emigrated, including Chris Tinker of Huddersfield who left to try and establish a socialist colony in Wisconsin.  In 1844 the Hall was actually advertised for sale but some rescue plan was devised.  George remained one of the title holders to the property since he appears on an indenture signed on 10 March 1845.  But whatever this arrangement was, it only postponed the inevitable, being leased and then, in 1853, sold to the Baptists.  George is again named on the conveyance of the property, registered at Wakefield on the 12 May 1853, but whether he financially benefited from this or whether the whole affair had instead been a drain on his finances is not apparent.  However this disappointment in his political aspirations was offset by developments in his business affairs.

Around.1847 his partnership was dissolved and he set up his own dyeing concern at Folly Hall.  By 1851, now aged 47, he was living at East Parade and is described in the census as a woollen dyer employing 10 men.  His son George was still at home and is also described as a woollen dyer.  It was about two years after this that George Snr built a new dyeworks at Colne Road.  When he retired is not clear.  It  may have been as early as 1861 when, now living at Marsh, he described himself in the census as ‘Gentleman’.  The following decade he declared himself to be a ‘retired dyer’ and was now residing at ‘Elmgrove’, Edgerton, the expanding suburb to the north of the town where the town’s prospering manufacturing and professional classes built large houses and villas.  He enjoyed another ten years of retirement. Shortly before his death he transferred land and a house he had built at Edgerton to George Jun, with the provision that owing to ‘the natural love and affection George Brook the Elder bears towards his wife Sarah Brook…’ she was to be granted the right to live there for the rest of her life9.   However, in 1884 the residence of the late George  Brook Snr, at Murray Rd, Edgerton was advertised to let, probably indicating that Sarah had passed away. 10   George Snr appears to have been a good natured man who reconciled his socialist beliefs with his role as an employer. ‘He was always ready to assist working men either by giving them advice or lending them money’.  Despite suffering from headaches for the last thirty years of his life, his ‘very cheerful disposition…aided him many times in tiding over temporary difficulties’.  After three years of ill health he died on 22 December 1880.

Like many former Owenites George channelled his interests into the secular movement which also attracted former Chartists , Republicans, co-operators and advocates of various progressive causes.  They were organised around the journal ‘The Reasoner’  and, both  George Brooks  appear among the subscribers to the Committee of European Freedom listed in the issue of 8 December 1852.  For the first time they appear together as ‘sen’ and ‘jun’ .  Each donated 2s/6d to this fund which was to help the exiled liberal nationalists Kossuth and Mazzini in their struggles to liberate Hungary and Italy following the defeats of the revolutions of 1848.  Henceforth, George Jun appears to have been the most politically active.  He was certainly more prominent in public life than his father.

George Brook Jun. – Radical Liberal.

During the election campaign of 1853 when the Liberal Candidate , Lord Gooderich, was contesting the seat of Huddersfield with Tory Joseph Starkey JP, George Jun saw an opportunity both to help the liberal cause and also to settle an old score.  On the morning of Tuesday 5 April, in the vicinity of Chapel Hill, PC Gledhill saw James Hoyle and his son posting anti-Starkey bills which did not bear the imprint of the printer.  Hoyle refused to say who it was, but the source of the anonymous posters was traced later to William Atkinson of New Street who said he had printed it for bookseller Jonathan Moore of Buxton Road. It was established that the original manuscript was provided by George Jun.  A warrant was issued and George was arrested at his father’s dyeworks, on the charge that he  ‘unlawfully and maliciously composed and published a certain scandalous libel upon Joseph Starkey esq…’ He admitted to the police that he had written it and asserted. ‘I will prove it to be true.’

Among the allegations that Starkey treated his workers badly was the account of the dismissal of the Socialists for their ‘speculative opinions’.  More hard to sustain was the accusation that he had so persecuted one of his employees of 14 years service that he had died of madness in an asylum.  The magistrates court at the Guildhall was crowded with supporters of both sides.  Sidney Kelshaw an apprentice to Moore identifies George Jun as one who had given the  order for 150 double crown bills (poster size) and 1,000 crown quarto (handbill size) although only the double crowns were actually printed.  He was bound over to appear at York Sessions on £100 bail put up by his father and by John Brook, registrar, who may have been his uncle.

He appeared at the York sessions on 8 July, but the case was dismissed since he had issued a public apology in the press and Starkey had withdrawn the charge. The grovelling retraction on the front page admitted to a ‘False and Foul Libel’ for which he had been pardoned by Starkey, adding,  ‘I hereby express my gratitude for his leniency’.   The Chronicle’s editor, Joshua Hobson, one time radical and socialist and now Tory backer of Starkey, was condemned for his hypocrisy in a letter to the Examiner by Richard Brook, a radical bookseller and printer, (probably no relation to George), since a couple of years before an anonymous, libellous poster had been issued by a Tory supporter against one of the magistrates and nothing had been said or done about it.   This incident probably did George Jun’s reputation little harm as politics at this time was not a very genteel affair and his surrender to force majeure would have been understood !  His tendency to pull no punches was recognised by the author of his obituary in the comment that he was a ‘ keen and incisive’ writer who ‘always hit out straight when he had anything to say.’11

In 1856 George jun hit out again in the sabbatarian controversy, opposing the growing clamour by some Christians to enforce strict observance of Sunday as a day of rest – or as it was in reality, the prohibition of any non religious activities, particularly enjoyable ones.  At a meeting at the Philosophical Hall on 14 February he opposed sending a petition on this question to parliament, saying that he did not object to Sunday being a day of rest for working men, but that those promoting it, ‘…had no right to bind him from doing certain acts on a Sunday, so long as he confined himself to not doing any illegal act, as it would be unjust and unfair. (hear, hear and applause). ’ The following day he wrote an indignant letter to the Chronicle complaining that the motion to send the petition had been declared carried by the chairman, although his own amendment against it had been in the majority,’ …and yet, sir, the chairman refused to put the question again. I need not designate such conduct. I need not tell any sensible man that trickery cannot permanently make, “the worse appear the better cause”’
Another stormy election took place in the town the following year, when Richard Cobden, backed by the radicals and reform Liberals, was brought in to stand against the Tory-Liberal compromise candidate Edward Akroyd. At an electors meeting at the Philosophical Hall on 11 March George denounced Lord Palmerston, (who had called the election after defeat in a motion moved by Cobden condemning the bombardment of Canton). The report of his speech is worth quoting in full both to give an idea of George’s style and a flavour of election meetings at the time:
‘He supposed Lord Palmerston was supported by the gentlemen on the platform, as the representative of a liberal government. If so there were certain principles on which they ought to act, and certain things they ought to attain. Amongst other things was a reformed representation and the ballot.  He said, and he believed everyone knew perfectly well, that Lord Palmerston was one of the greatest enemies of reform in the House of Commons. Those gentlemen must know that he obtained the aid of the tories to swamp Locke King’s motion. (Hear, hear). The man who could arrest a thing such as that was not a liberal minister; he was a tory and had been a tory all his life. He had with him an epitome of the most important events of Palmerston’s life – but he would be trespassing too much upon their time. (Cries of “go on”, and “at another time”).  He felt that the union of parties was much more important to the town than the approval of Palmerston as a liberal minister.  He should not therefore read what he had prepared to prove that Lord Palmerston had been a Tory all his life. (A VOICE – “We all know it”).  There was however the fact that Lord Palmerston was one of the government that sanctioned the massacre of Peterloo.  He must have been a tory of the deepest dye to have sanctioned such a thing as that.If they again trusted him, they would find him always against the people, and always a supporter of despotism. (Hear , hear, and a voice.”Good, George”)
The ‘union of parties’ George referred to involved forming a committee of six men from each of the two main contending factions, (‘the double-sixes’, ‘the twelve apostles’ or the ‘twelve –umvirate’ as they were variously dubbed) to agree a suitable candidate and avoid an election.   Both Akroyd and Cobden’s names, amongst others were put forward.  George seconded a motion at a subsequent meeting that, ‘…having heard the explanation of Mr Akroyd’s views from the six gentlemen  representing the advanced section of the electors, [the meeting] is of the opinion that Mr Akroyd’s principles are not sufficiently liberal, and they , therefore, instruct the six gentlemen not to concur in calling him out.’ 12

Akroyd was elected by 823 voted to Cobden’s 590.  The fact that only around 1500 men had the vote in a parliamentary borough with a population of over 30,00013 clearly underlined the need for electoral reform.  On 8 April both electors and non-electors met in the Gymnasium Hall to consider ‘the best means of maintaining and advancing liberal principles in the borough.’  George seconded a resolution calling for reform of the voting system,

‘He need not say much about the extension of the suffrage, as he thought they were all for it. (Applause.)  The persons, who had been brought as candidates by the party who introduced Mr Cobden, had always been the popular men in the borough. (Hear, hear.) He was of the opinion that if the ballot had been in operation, the men who were popular would have been returned…As regarded the extension of the franchise, he considered that it would not be of much benefit without the ballot.  [Mr Brook then entered into some lengthy details respecting a redistribution of electoral power on the principle of population, and compared the population of several towns and the number of members they returned…]’

This meeting, like the earlier one where he had prepared a detailed account of Palmerston’s career, shows that George didn’t indulge in mere rhetoric but liked to present a factually argued case.  His speech was frequently interrupted by applause and cries of approbation on both occasions, attesting to his popularity.

George jun also attended a meeting of the recently formed Reform Association in December the following year and seconded a proposal that a petition containing the resolutions of the meeting be sent to Lord Goderich MP for presentation to the Commons. The meeting agreed on the need for the ballot and triennial parliaments but was divided on the extent of the suffrage. An amendment by David Gledhill, (a workingman and former Chartist from Lockwood), supporting adult male suffrage was defeated and the meeting resolved that only those who qualified to pay the poor rates should qualify for the vote.  Gledhill also made a cryptic reference to a resolution drawn up by George Brook sen, but it is not clear what he is referring to.  It appears that George jun at this time accepted the call for the limited franchise, but whether this was because he believed this was the only realistic reform, or the most desirable,  is unknown.14

Brown earthernware tyg commemorating the Yorkshire Liberals 1880 election victory (Courtesy of Mr Ben Blackden)

Brown earthernware tyg commemorating the Yorkshire Liberals 1880 election victory – Brook family heirloom. (Courtesy of Mr Ben Blackden)

Despite his obvious enthusiasm for politics at this time George jun still found time for other interests and was a member of Huddersfield Chess Club. On 18 April 1857 he was at the annual meeting at the George Hotel which marked the passing season as ‘the most notable in the past history of the club’.  Visitors from Manchester, Halifax and Leeds played ‘the Huddersfield amateurs, including George jun, in ‘a great many games…several being marked by great brilliancy, others not.’ 15

George also appears at some meetings in the 1860s, such as one in May 1865 in support of E A Leatham’s election campaign, but he no longer appears to play such a prominent role, perhaps due to increasing family and business commitments.  His sympathies towards secularism must have remained in 1877 when he invited the secularist and cooperator, George J Holyoake to dinner at his house at Fernbrook. (see note 45). While remaining a staunch liberal he seems to have increasingly lost his more radical views, on 1 November 1885 writing a letter to the Huddersfield Examiner strongly condemning Parnell and the Irish ‘rebels’,

George jun –  Manufacturer.

In 1854 George Jun married Grace Farrar, daughter of John Farrar at St James chapel Slaithwaite. 16  Although in the 1841 census John is described as a ‘shopkeeper’ he was in fact a scribbling miller, in 1834 employing 44 people at Bankgate Mill, (near the canal reservoir) powered by a 10hp water wheel and a 12hp steam engine, scribbling, carding and slubbing wool for small clothiers who would then weave it in their own homes, or those of employed weavers.  17.

By 1851, when he was aged 58, he had added spinning to his occupation.  Grace was 20 at this time.  That decade had seen great changes in Slaithwaite with the building of two large railway viaducts, one of them just below the mill. By 1861 John was recorded as the employer of 49 persons.  The address in the censuses is variously given as ‘Back Lane’ or ‘Old Church Yard’   Grace lost her mother before 1871, when her widowed father was recorded as employing 19 men. Four pair of spinning mules were sold that year and the mill was leased to J Brierley . 18  However, this was not a symptom of economic stringency since he also had mills at Meltham and a large farm in Lincolnshire.  1877 marked an annus horribilis for John.  The mill, which he stilled owned, was gutted by fire in March causing over £5,000 worth of damage.  Then, on 20 August, while on a shooting trip, he was thrown by his horse and died at Muker in Swaledale.  His obituary described him as one of Slaithwaite’s oldest inhabitants. 19

Bankgate Mill, Slaithwaite, early 1980s - now sadly in a state of deriliction. (Brooke Collection)

Bankgate Mill, Slaithwaite, early 1980s – now sadly in a state of dereliction. (Brooke Collection)

George had therefore married into a family which was comfortably off and with an expanding estate.  Possibly his father-in-law also assisted him in branching out on his own.  Although George jun’s obituary is not clear as to when he actually left his father’s firm, in 1861, (now heading his own household at East Parade and father of the third George, aged 4), he is in the Census as a woollen dyer and employer of 14 men. The obituary says that he was in partnership with James Armitage & Co, woollen manufacturers before establishing his own mill, which was initially on Colne Road, where the firm continued to have dyeworks. The ground leases described in the advert for the Larchfield mill sale in 1901 date from 1866 and therefore tie in with the information in his 1888 obituary, that it was about 20 years previously when he built the mill, which is on the narrow strip of land between Firth Street and the Canal tow path. This area to the south of the town  had begun to be built on in the late 1850s until there was an almost a continuous belt of mills extending from Starkey’s massive factory at Longroyd Bridge to Leeds Road on the north east edge of Huddersfield. 20

The first mention of the mill is in 1868 with the report of a fire at George Brook’s mill, Firth Street..  Disaster was narrowly averted on the night of Tuesday 28 April when wool in the drying stove overheated, sending flames bursting through the roof, fortunately seen by a passing policeman.  Five fire engines attended and thanks to the plentiful supply of water the blaze was brought under control. ‘The stove is situated at the gable end of an extensive mill and it required all the tact, energy and perseverance of the brigades to prevent the fire communicating with the surrounding property.’   The stove was gutted with damages estimated at £100 and £200 for the lost material.  A fire in the same place only a few weeks previously also ‘did considerable mischief’.  This was one of the most common causes of fires in woollen mills at the time. 21

We know who the mill manager was in 1870  from a report of a workpeople’s annual treat at the Navigation Inn.  Joe Sykes, presided over the event during which ‘refreshments were very liberally handed round’.  A toast was drunk to ‘The health of Mr and Mrs Brook and family.’  followed by ‘singing, reciting and dancing.’  22

A couple of more sombre aspects of mill life are also recorded.  In 1871 a tragedy occurred when George Alfred Lodge, aged 13 of Laithe Hill, Castle Hill, a sizers and beamers’ assistant, was killed when he became entangled in the ‘drum’ of a drying machine. 23  The next year Henry Brown, age 17, fell through the floor into boiler house and injured his face on pipes. 24

At this time the mill earned a reputation that George certainly didn’t want. In June 1872.he was charged with committing a smoke nuisance on 24 May and appeared in the  Borough Police Court. He told the court that he had discharged two men within three months for making smoke and that ‘he had spent more money and given more care, to the abatement of the smoke nuisance than any man in Huddersfield.’  This was challenged by Inspector Black who said that  ‘he must state that Mr Brook’s chimney was the worst in the town’. An order was made for abatement in three months, otherwise he would be fined, on top of the  costs of the hearing.25

According to the 1871 census George Jun was now a woollen manufacturer employing 300 hands.  In 1872 they were still taking on new workers, an advert stating: ‘Wanted, three warpers. Constant work and good wages. – Apply George Brook jun., Larchfield Mills.’ 26His family had also expanded. By now he had  two daughters, Agnes Helen (8), Kate (6) and another son John Grant (4).  27

George Jun, was apparently keen on improving his manufacturing technique and worked with the firm of Read Holliday, (his father’s former Socialist colleague ), who had UK royalties for a new reducing agent used in a process to dye broad worsted cloth, samples of which were shown at a Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society (HLSS) lecture on indigo dyeing in 1873.  George was said to have used his ‘long experience’ in indigo dyeing to perfect the process.  Schutzenberger, the French chemist who discovered the re-agent, also visited Huddersfield and experimented on local pieces.  From plain worsteds George Jun moved into producing fancy worsteds, ‘falling in with the wants of the times’ according to his obituary.  It was around 1880 that these became fashionable and Huddersfield began the manufacture of the type of cloth it was to become famous for.  .28

The mill had some more close escapes. In 1874 a fire broke out in the engine house, the heart of the mill, when a lamp was knocked over by mechanics repairing the engine. The Corporation engine trained a jet of water into the window of the engine house and firing up place and only £150 of damage was caused.   A fire in the teasing room in 1880 was brought under control because the room, which was also fireproofed, was ‘fortunately fitted with great completeness with apparatus for extinguishing fire and the workmen are well acquainted with the whereabouts of every requisite…’.29

The obituary describes his business as a ‘marvellous success’.  The conversion of production from woollen to worsted saw a rapid expansion of the firm.  By the 1881 census, although George jun was not at home, his son Georger ‘ter’ (short for ‘tertius’, the third) is entered as a ‘worsted manufacturer employing 750 workpeople’ .  George Brook ter was certainly taking an active role in running the mill.  The firm, (despite paying above average wages), was embroiled  in the great Huddersfield weavers’ strike of 1883, when 5,000 men and women came out in protest against a new pay scale announced by the Manufacturers’ Association, which threatened to reduce their wages.  George ter was on the employers committee which met representatives of the Weavers’ Association in the Municipal Offices, Ramsden Street on 10 March.  He was clearly frustrated with the union’s approach, stating dismissively .
‘They were there to try and agree and they never would do so if they did not approach the subject in a spirit of fairness.  He complained of the weavers selecting the highest wage firms in the district for illustration and said that, if that was the spirit in which the base of the scale was to be tackled, personally he should have nothing whatever to say to them’.
The following week it was reported that George Brook’s of Firth Street was one of the first firms to begin moving looms to Bradford in order to continue production’

But the firm was also pushing for a compromise. Unfortunately we don’t know who was taking the lead in this since the reports don’t specify which George Brook it was.  The open letter to the striking weavers published in the  the Examiner certainly has a ring of George jun’s blunt and homespun prose.  The address is given as Dundas Street, which was the location of the firm’s town centre offices at that time.  It transpired that George, (probably jun, but maybe ter), while visiting the Examiner offices on some unspecified business, bumped into the editor Joseph Woodhead, who revealed his plan to mediate in the strike and asked George to become involved.  On Friday13 April he and three other manufacturers met three weavers, not officials of the Weavers’ Committee, to discuss a solution.  He told them ‘Now it’s no use haggling and jaggling about picks and half pence at all.  You have been at that for five or six weeks and are as far off a settlement as ever.’   He produced instead a proposition for arbitration he had drawn up.  The manufacturers were to open their mills on Monday and the weavers were to return ‘nominally’ on the new scale, while the question was ‘referred to some eminent man agreed upon, accustomed to weigh evidence.’  The weavers would then be paid according to the scale he awarded.  The three weavers said they would support the proposal and on the following morning three members of the Weaver’s Committee, Albert Shaw, Allen Gee and a ‘Mr Sykes’, ( probably a reference to D F E Sykes the radical lawyer acting for the Committee, although, according to Allen Gee, it was not Sykes but Committee member Harry Etchells who was present.)  Having satisfied them that the proposal had come from George himself and that no one else was behind it they agreed to back it and meet with four manufacturers in the Brooks’ office on the Monday morning.  However, that morning, only Allen Gee turned up, explaining that Albert Shaw was away and they would come tomorrow.  George fumed in his letter, ‘I was utterly disgusted with such conduct’. He recommended that the manufacturers open their mills anyway. ‘..we shall then see’, he said, addressing himself to the strikers, ‘how many of you are sensible men, willing to make a honest attempt to end the struggle.’  Otherwise, he warned them, more looms would be driven out of the district.’  He closed on a slightly patronising note, ‘I give you credit yet for having more brains than this.’

The intervention struck a nerve with the Weavers’ Committee.   At a mass meeting on Crosland Moor on Tuesday afternoon Albert Shaw and Allen Gee put forward their version of events.   Shaw had been urgently summoned by a letter from D F E Sykes to a meeting with manufacturers at Southport on Sunday, which turned out to be a wild goose chase.  Allen Gee explained that they had made clear there could be no meeting with the masters based on Brook’s proposition until the Committee had discussed it. The three weavers Brook claimed were backing it had no authority to do so.  One of those, Ephraim Lodge, who favoured reconciliation, admitted to the meeting that he had no authority and he had not assured Brook that he had.  How realistic an opportunity there was for the Brooks’ efforts to produce a solution is lost in the fog of recrimination.  The strike lasted ten weeks and was resolved following mediation by the mayor.  A mass meeting at the Town Hall on 5 May agreed to accept some concessions from the masters and an ultimatum that this was the last offer.  The Brooks may have genuinely sought a fair solution to the dispute, but their brusque, no-nonsense approach did nothing to endear them to the weavers. 30

George jun’s obituary records that the mill was enlarged several times.  It grew to include a main five storey mill, (55 by 16 yards), four three storey buildings, a two storey  weaving shed, warehousing and office space, as well as the engine house, boiler rooms and 130 foot square stone chimney. When it was sold in 1901 it was powered by three boilers driving two vertical steam engines, which were probably the original ones installed.  The total frontage to Firth Street was 475 feet.  There was also a finishing mill at the other side of the road.

George ‘ter’ – Naturalist.

Another incident at the mill in 1868 also connects us with a different facet of George Jun, one which had an important influence on his son, George ‘ter’s’, direction in life.  In July Patrick Hopkins of Paddock was charged with stealing a brass steam engine indicator from the  engine house. The former engine tenter, now employed at Fenay Bridge Mill, was called to identify the indicator, (which had been deposited as security to buy drink at a pub), as the one from the mill. This man was Henry Mosley, son of James Reid Mosley, who was well known to George Jun. 31 An account of this friendship was preserved by Seth Lister Mosley, JR’s other son, who was to become one of the area’s leading naturalists and the curator, first of his own museum near Beaumont Park and later the council’s new museum at Ravensknowle.

James Reid Mosley, naturalist and secularist, photographed by George Brook jun.

James Reid Mosley, naturalist and secularist, photographed by George Brook jun.

JR, by occupation a joiner and sometime handloom weaver, was the best bird stuffer in the area and ‘cased up’ specimens for collectors, who often visited his house at Almondbury Bank to see how work was progressing.  George Jun’s obituary records that he ‘was a good shot’ and like many gentleman of his time probably brought down anything which came in his sights – trophies which the elder Mosley preserved for him.  He does not seem to have had such an extensive collection of birds as some other local manufacturers, but from what Seth Mosley tells us he had a genuine interest in nature.  He also had an interest in photography, indeed, his obituary describes him as ‘the cleverest amateur photography we ever knew…’ and he succeeded in persuading JR Mosley to sit for him – the only photo he ever had taken.  Seth later used this portrait as the frontispiece of his ‘Birds of Huddersfield’ which was published in 1915 and dedicated to his father.   Seth also recorded that JR, who was also literally a poacher turned gamekeeper, kept game for George at Heaton Lodge Woods, where he had a hut in which Seth sometimes stayed as a child in the 1850’s.  Seth mentions that George was known as ‘Robin Hood’ and his shooting companion John Eastwood as Little John. Does this refer to George as a champion of the poor?  George also took an interest in Seth, encouraging his artistic leanings, advising him to make a living painting game portraiture.  He also promised in later years to bring back a ptarmigan from Mull for Seth’s collection of birds, but died before he could fulfil his promise32.
There was a further link between the families.  JR Mosley was also a keen secularist.  Seth recalled that as a child he went with him to town to collect his ‘National Refomer’, although at this time it would have been the ‘Reasoner’, the same journal the Brooks supported. George Snr’s obituary records that he remained ‘an ardent secularist and advocated that children should be educated in matters secular on Sundays as well as weekdays.’  Seth had exactly this kind of secular upbringing and played a prominent role in the Huddersfield Secularist Society and Secularist Sunday School in the 1860s. There is no doubt that George Jun’s likeminded friendship with the Mosleys fuelled his own interest in natural history which he then passed on to his eldest son George ‘ter’.

George Jun managed to combine running his business with the usual gentlemanly pursuits of shooting and fishing as well as the more exotic sport of sailing.  He cruised the west coast of Ireland and Scotland in his yacht the Dotterell, photographing the sights, although he never brought back to Seth Mosley his promised ptarmigan.  However, he did make it to Norway and in 1885 he published a limited edition book called ‘Our Trip to Norway’, including many photos, a copy of which he  sent to Gladstone, who responded with a letter of thanks 33.  He clearly had more leisure time than his father’s generation. But his eldest son did not have the same interest in industry as himself, or his father. George ter, as he was frequently referred to, ‘ displayed a far greater interest in his scientific work  than he did in the woollen trade…’  34  – an interest in which he had his father’s full support.

The Dotterel - George juns yacht.

The Dotterel – George juns yacht. (Photo courtesy of the Brook descendants)

George ter, born on  18 March 1857, was educated at Lindow Grove School at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, a Quaker establishment, at least nominally, founded by James Wood.  Probably its most famous, or infamous, pupil was the wayward novelist George Gissing from Wakefield, born the same year as George ter.  (His father was a chemist and amateur naturalist with a particular interest in ferns).  It seems an unusual choice of school for a secular family like the Brooks but because Wood was not a strong Quaker it was perhaps the next best thing to a secular institution.  In the 1871 census George appears among the 54 pupils at the school35  From here he matriculated at Owen’s College, Manchester, where he studied chemistry under Professor Henry Roscoe and geology and botany and other natural sciences under Prof. W.C.Williamson.  According to his obituary in the ‘Naturalist’ he was the Honorary Secretary of Huddersfield Naturalist Society (HNS) in 1875 and so had possibly graduated by then, although there is no reason why he could not have been living at home, attending College, learning his father’s business and pursuing natural history in his ‘leisure hours’. We know, for example, that in July of this year he visited Redcar where he collected a specimen of the Lunar Yellow Underwing moth, ( Tryphaena subsequa),  which the leading authority on Yorkshire lepidoptera, George Taylor Porritt, recorded as ‘the only one I have seen.’  In fact this is still the only accepted record of the species in the county 36

From this time until leaving Huddersfield in early 1885 he was prominent in both the HNS and HLSS.  His particular interest was microscopy and in 1876 at a microscopic soiree  held at the HLSS, South Street  Rooms he exhibited slides of ‘the cerebellum of man’.  Charles P Hobkirk presented a talk on the deep sea dredgings of the Challenger expedition. (It was C.P Hobkirk who was to write George’s obituary in the Naturalist, and later George would carry out his own research on the Challenger specimens). 37

Also in December this year he became a joint Hon. Sec. of the recently formed Yorkshire Naturalist Union,  (YNU) and was at the HNS meeting in May the following year where it was decided to affiliate to the YNU. 38 At the YNU meeting at Wakefield in October he read the report in his capacity as Joint Hon.Sec.  His address was given as Fernside, Huddersfield, as it was the following year when he exhibited the ‘wing scales of butterflies’ at the HLSS annual microscopic soiree. At such events he regularly used his sobriquet ‘tertius’, usually abbreviated to ‘ter’. 39  George was secretary of the society’s biological section.  The HLSS was more middle class in composition, whereas the HNS was founded by working men, although it did have manufacturers and merchants among its members.  There was much interchange of members and ideas between the different organisations, which George ter. typifies.  In the HLSS Annual Report of 1879 it was announced that he was to give elementary science lectures, beginning the following year with a series on biology.  He was also elected vice president. 40 He was clearly held in high esteem, despite his youth and had by now become a FLS, a Fellow of the select Linnaean Society.

On 3 November 1880, in his capacity as secretary, he was part of a delegation from the YNU which visited Charles Darwin at his home in Down, Kent, to present a memorial printed on parchment in a Morocco leather case celebrating the ‘coming of age’ of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’41.  Accompanying him on the deputation were W. Cash, F.G.S., and J. W. Davis, F.L.S., F.G.S., from  Halifax who, along with Hobkirk and one or two others including George, had formed a ‘close club’ called the ‘bios’ dedicated to researching the biological sciences. 42   In 1884  the HLSS was subsumed under the Technical School where they now held their meetings, effectively ending their independent existence.  At the last meeting George, in the chair, agreed with the move, saying they could do more good by being part of technical school43.   Sometime this year he found time to travel to a conference in Canada.

At the end of the year he accepted an appointment with the Scottish Fishery Board and the Naturalist announced in March 1885  that ‘[YNU members]…will also be interested to note that their former secretary, Mr George Brook, ter, FLS, who has carried on biological investigations for some years past by means of his well equipped and large private aquarium at Huddersfield, has been appointed naturalist to the Fishery Board for Scotland, in which capacity his duties will be to study the life history and development of food fishes.’44  His Examiner obituary records that his father assisted him ‘in the construction of one of the best aquaria in the kingdom, with special pumping and aerating apparatus designed by himself…’ which he used to keep the marine creatures he was studying. This remained at the family home at  Fernbrook at least up to its sale in 1908, when it is described as ‘brick built’ and so was something more than a mere fish tank !45  Hobkirk credits him with being the discoverer, (with the help of Hobkirk), of the cause of a mystery disease which was affecting salmon rivers all over the country in 1878.46  It was found to be a hitherto unknown micro fungus on which George published several papers including one in the journal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He also studied crustaceans and published reports on corals from the Challenger expedition. He was eminently suited for his new job, but due to some disagreement with a colleague he resigned in 1887.  However, he had a lectureship in comparative embryology at Edinburgh University to fall back on.  By now he had a wife to support, having married Fanny Elizabeth Scott, daughter of Walter Scott Their first child Dorothy was born, in Scotland, on 16 November 1888 47.

Fernbrook, 4 , Murray Road, Edgerton (Photo courtesy of the Brook descendants)

Fernbrook, 4 , Murray Road, Edgerton (Photo courtesy of the Brook descendants)

His father died earlier that year, 29 January, from a heart attack. Although he had been ill for several months he continued to go to the mill and warehouse. When the end came he was at home sat peacefully in a chair in front of his wife who saw no signs of distress. George ter. returned home for the funeral at Edgerton Cemetery, where the service was conducted by a Unitarian minister. Perhaps George Jun had revised his secularist beliefs, although the Unitarians were considered the most rationalist of the denominations and several secularists later adopted the creed48.  He was buried close to the plot of his father and mother.

The heart condition may have been inherited, since George ter suddenly died in similar circumstances only five years later, whilst he was at dinner at the shooting lodge of his father-in -law at Allendale in north Yorkshire.  It was the ‘glorious twelfth’ of August, he had appeared in the best of health that day and had ‘been shooting in his best form.’   His second daughter,  Kathleen Grace had been  born only a couple of months before on 14 June 1893.  His work on the Madreporarian Corals in the British Museum, which he had illustrated with his own photos had also only recently been published.  Not only his family but his colleagues felt bereft.   ‘In Mr Brook science morns a master and we a friend’, lamented C.P Hobkirk.
John Grant Brook – end of a dynasty.

Since George ter had shown no interest in business, the running of the mill after their father’s death devolved onto the younger brother, John Grant Brook, born in 1866..  How ‘hands on’ his management of the mill was is hard to tell and there are certainly signs that the regime at the mill had changed, although the firm continued to be entitled George Brook Jun.  In 1889 worsted spinning machinery was sold, whether this was to make way for new or whether this part of the process was cut back is not clear 49.  But by 1891 relations with the workers had certainly deteriorated. In January the firm proposed to reduce male weavers pay to female prices and threatened to stop the looms if they didn’t accept.  In turn the weavers demanded the same pay scale as that used by the large firm of Crowthers.  In May two woman weavers claimed in the Court for wages of £1.3s.6d.owed to them for a piece they had worked on for 46 hours.  The mill manager, James Cairns, lodged a counter claim for damage to cloth.  It was claimed that 33 defective pieces had been found after they were dyed. However, according to the menders there had been no damaged cloth for at least seven years.  ‘It was ultimately agreed that the matter should be referred to Mr Josiah France as umpire…’.  (France was a leading fancy worsted manufacturer in the Huddersfield area).50  This incident reveals that there was some management problem, either affecting labour relations or the quality control of the pieces.

However, industrial harmony seem to have been repaired. In July 1893 the annual excursion  for ‘the workpeople and their friends’ was to Grimsby and Cleethorpes, while ‘the members and their friends’, that is presumably members of the firm, went to Ingleton.  Back at work on the Monday morning a meeting was held in the top room of the mill, ‘at which a heart vote of thanks was accorded to the firm for their kindness and generosity’. 51

The 1890s were a very difficult time for the textile trade due to increasing foreign competition and tariffs shutting local manufacturers out of US markets.  Perhaps a combination of economic conditions and management problems were putting extra pressure on the firm – or was John Grant Brook swindled as family tradition maintains ? In 1891 John G, aged only 24, was still living with his mother Grace at Fernbrook and is described as ‘worsted manufacturer’.  A decade later he is described as a woollen, rather than worsted, manufacturer.  If this is not an error it appears that the mill had undergone a change in production.  George jun’s obituary described how he used to drive to the mill or warehouse every day.  Perhaps this was not the sort of humdrum existence John wanted and he was not happy bearing the responsibility of the family business.  His elder brother George had, after all, been allowed to pursue his scientific career instead. It may be that John just wanted to divest himself of the responsibility and become a gentleman of leisure, pursuing his other interests such as billiards.

For whatever reason, by early 1901 the mill was up for sale. The advert of the auctioneers, George Tinker & Sons, stated that ‘Messrs George Brook junr’ were ‘retiring from business’.  The mills were sold in three lots.  The main complex; the group of buildings opposite between Firth Street and the river Colne; and the dyehouses, warehouse , cottage, and stables etc on Colne Road52 .  The machinery was sold separately and included scribbling, spinning, winding, weaving and finishing machinery along with warehouse and office furnishings and effects.  Whoever purchased the main mill spent ‘a considerable amount of money’ in 1904,  installing two new boilers and a modern tandem horizontal engine with rope drive, along with new gearing, shafting and other alterations.   This was sold again in 1906 when it had three tenants, Jos. Greenwood & Son, Shaw Bros.Ltd, yarn spinners, and  Richard Mellor & Co, worsted manufacturers occupying a total floor space of 12,000 square feet53.  However, two years later, on the occasion of a fire at the mill occupied by Mellor & Co at the other side of the road, Shaw Bros Ltd was still in occupation of Larchfield and were reported to be the owners of Mellor’s premises.  Possibly they now owned Larchfield as well.  The mills were so close that the Larchfield workpeople were able to direct a jet of water from a hose plugged into the mains in the mill yard into the burning building54.

John Grant Brook married Isobel Richardson of Hillas Creek, New South Wales at St Mary’s Roman Catholic cathedral in Sydney in July 1906.  Isobel was from a family of large sheep ranchers, but how they met we unfortunately don’t know as it could throw some light on John’s life since retired from manufacturing.  Isobel had spent some time in Huddersfield in 1905 but they may already have known each other from one of her previous trips to Europe – or indeed, John may already have visited Australia.   After staying a few months at Fernbrook they bought a house  at 24 York Road, Harrogate which they named ‘Wahroonga’. 55

Grace Brook, nee Farrar (Photo courtesy of Brook descendants)

Grace Brook, nee Farrar (Photo courtesy of Brook descendants)

His mother, Grace continued to live at 4 Murray Road until 1911, although Fernbrook was advertised for sale with her still in occupation in 1908.  As well as George ter’s aquarium the features included ‘extensive Vineries, Peach-house, Greenhouses, [and] Potting Sheds.’  The solicitor, E Foster Brook , was of the same practice who acted for the family in the sale of Larchfield Mill. In 1911 Seth Mosley recorded that the small natural history collection of George Brook jun of Fernlea [sic], had been donated by his widow to the Technical College museum.  56  Grace, now 80, along with her 48 year old spinster daughter, Agnes moved to Wahroonga. John and his family were not there in 1911 and may have been on a visit to Australia, Grace and Agnes continued the family’s radical tradition as supporters of female suffrage and a photo survives of Grace nursing a copy of the journal ‘The Vote’. She died on 25 September the following year, leaving an estate valued over £1,251 to John who is described as ‘out of business’. 57
John died in 1939 leaving four daughters but no male issue.  It was just one century on from the founding of Huddersfield Hall of Science in which his grandfather had played such a vital role.  In that time vast social, economic, technological and political changes had taken place.  Not afraid to defy convention, the Brooks had played a prominent part in shaping both Huddersfield’s industrial landscape and its intellectual and political culture. It is perhaps appropriate that Larchfield Mill, which arose from a combination of intellectual pursuits and practicality, is now incorporated into the University of Huddersfield.


1 See the obituary of George Brook in the Huddersfield Examiner, 15 January 1881. (Hereafter cited as ‘GBI Obituary’.  The Obituary states that James had a son ‘Joe’. He died in May 1844 and  had a son Thomas who was a surveyor for the estate.  The record of the Brooks as agents for Ramsden comes from an account of the background to the ‘Tenant Right agitation’ in the Huddersfield Chronicle 18 August 1860.   For this agitation, aimed at establishing security of tenure on the ground leases of the Ramsden estate, (and also for mentions of the role of Joseph and Thomas), See D.F.E. Sykes History of Huddersfield and its Vicinity’,  p221-222.  According to his obituary George Brook jun took part in the agitation and wrote to the Huddersfield Examiner on the matter.  Since his uncle and grandfather were accused of failing to ensure that tenants had safe leases there is a certain irony in this.  Local newspaper obituaries tend to be reliable at this time because they were written by people who often knew the deceased personally and who was writing for people who also had local knowledge.
2 Bradford and Huddersfield Courier  27 Feb 1827, 15 March 1827.
3 This is according to GB jun’ s obituary in 1888 when he died aged 57. This does not square with a recorded age of 21 when he married in 1854, but is confirmed by the census.
4 ‘The Hall of Science – Cooperation and Socialism in Huddersfield c.1830-1848’  Alan Brooke 1993 (out of print)
5 West Yorkshire Archive Service,Wakefield, Registry of Deeds, NM: 604:633.
6 The GB I Obituary, which refers twice to this incident, seems very careful not to explicitly state that the Starkeys sacked him.
7 Obituary George Brook Jun , Huddersfield Examiner 28 Jan 1888.  (Obituary GB II)
8 see Garnett, R G. ‘Cooperation and the Owenite socialist communities in Britain 1825-45’  (Manchester 1972) for Harmony Hall particularly pp192-199 for school.
9 Mr Ben Blackden’s research
10HEW 8 Nov 1884 Does this mark the death of Sarah and where was George Jun living at this time ?
11 1853 Huddersfield Examiner 2 Apr; Huddersfield Chronicle 9.Apr  libel case before magistrates,  HC 16 Jul.  assize hearing.; HE 16 Apr R Brook’s letter.
12  HC 14 Mar 1857, Peter Locke King introduced several bills calling for reform of the House of Commons.This may be a reference to his 1851 County Francise Bill.;  HC 21 Mar 1857. A George Brook was one of these twelve, but as ‘jun’ is not appended to the name we can’t be sure whether it was our George.
13  The population in 1861 was 34,877
14 HC 24 Dec 1858
15 HC 25 Apr 1857
16 Mr Ben Blackden’s research
17  1834 Factory Commissioners Questionnaire.  John was in partnership with one Joseph Farrar.  John’s birthplace is given as Holmfirth in the census. A John son of John Farrar, dyer, of Prickleton (Prickleden) was baptised in 1792. One of the earliest occupants of Bankgate Mill in the early 1800s was Edward Eastwood, a friend of the manufacturer William Horsfall, shot by the Luddites in 1812.  In rushing for assistance Eastwood was thrown from his horse and received fatal injuries.
18  HEW 26 Aug 1871. premises to be let John Farrar machinery to be sold, including four pair of mules total 2040 spindles; 1871 HEW 23 Sep: Mill taken by J Brierley, (formerly of Old Corn Mill) and fitted up with new machinery.
19 HEW 24 Mar 1877., Fire.  1877 HEW  25 Aug, Obituary.  Probate: 1878 24 Jan. John Farrar obit 20 Aug 1877, at Muker in Swaledale, scribbling miller and spinner.  Execs William Daniel Henshaw, linen draper, Huddersfield, James Kilburn, ironfounder, Meltham.  Estate less than £6,000. There is a strange coincidence here in that John’s grandson George Brook (‘ter’ the third) also died on a shooting party to the dales.  George Brook Jun had shooting rights on Muker Moor and held property in the village at Muker Lodge by the late 1870s. Whether this was already is, or he inherited it from Farrar is not known. It was rented by a local farmer, the father of Richard Kearton, who, along with his brother Cherry, was pioneer of wildlife photography, and is described his autobiography.  ‘The house is a large stone building standing gaunt and square between the main road running through Swaledale and the village.’ ‘A Naturalists Pilgrimage’ (Cassell 1926) p.57
20 HE 16 Feb 1901, mill sale . HE 28 Jan 1888 Obituary GB II. Colne Road: the road which runs parallel with the River Colne from Folly Hall. to the bottom of Queen Street South. Firth Street runs from the bottom of that street to Aspley.
21 HC 2 May 1868.
22 HE 12 Feb1870  where it is referred to as ‘Marsh Field Mill , Firth St, probably a mis-hearing of Larchfield.  The Chronicle’s report has it as ‘Larchfield’.    :
23 HEW 28 Oct 1871; HC 18 Oct 1871.
24 HC 7 Dec 1872.
25  HC 22 and 29 Jun 1872.
26 HC 16 Nov 1872.
27 HEW 14 Sep 1917, HEW 2 Sep 1922; HEW 28 Feb 1925 for Seth L Mosley’s recollections of George Jun.
28HEW 15 Nov: 1873.Read Holliday himself had by now retired to Harrogate (Thanks to David Griffith for this correction).
29 HEW 11 Jul 1874    HEW 6 Mar 1880.
30 30 HEW 17 March 188; 24 Mar 1883; 21 April 1883; 12 May 1883 .In his ‘Short History of the General Union of Textile Workers’ (1920), the union leader, Ben Turner, himself a former secularist and radical turned socialist says ‘Mr Brook, junior, of Firth Street, the Secularist and Radical cloth manufacturer, tried his hand at a settlement…This also came to nothing.’ (p.58).    He also records that Geo. Brook jun’s workers received  £48.7.6d strike pay.  This is not a large amount for a ten week strike, but it is the second largest on the list after Martin, Sons & Co of Lindley where the payout was £154.8.6d. (p.68)
In 1875 Larchfield Mill workers had themselves collected funds totalling over £7 for the lockout women heavy woollen weavers of the Dewsbury area (Leaflet of strike/lockout Committee in Ben Turner papers, Huddersfield LHL (DD/ET), Dewsbury 5 April 1875.
31 HE 25 Jul 1868, indicator theft.
32  HEW 1917 Apr 21; Ptarmigan. GB Jun also played a part indirectly in the making of another naturalist. In footnote 19 I have referred to the link with Muker and Richard Kearton. In 1882 Kearton was asked to assist a guest of George’s out on a shoot – Sidney Galpin, son of Thomas Dixon Galpin of the firm Cassell, Petter and Galpin.  As a direct result of this Kearton was set on as office boy at the London publishing house, which eventually led to his first foray into nature writing. Kearton op. Cit. P. 75 et seq.
33 Mr Ben Blackden’s research.
34 Obituary, HEW 19 Aug 1893.  (Obit GB III)
35 In the census there are three Gissing brothers listed.
36 Naturalist April 1893 pp353-355. (Obit GBIII/2); G T Porritt’s list of Yorkshire Lepidoptera. This was republished in 2011 by Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire and the YNU.
37 HEW 23 Dec1876
38 HEW 12 May 1877
39 HEW 13 Oct1877: YNU meeting.    HEW 19 Jan 1878     HLSS.
40 HEW 9 Oct 1880: HLSS, Ann Mtg. Rept.
41 Darwin, C. R. 1880. [Letter of thanks to the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union]. The naturalist 6, No. 65 (December): 65-68.
42 Obituary GB III/2.
43 HEW 6 Dec: 1884 HLSS – now ceased to exist –
44 Naturalist 1885, March.  X p183, ( In the Naturalist of Jun 1885 an article by George entitled ‘Notes from my Aquarium 1884’, ‘rarities from Yorkshire coast’  was published.)
45 The name Fernbrook first occurs in 1877 in an account by the co-operator G J Holyoake. While visiting Huddersfield to open Marsh Coop he stayed at Thornton’s Temperance Hotel and was invited to dinner at Fernbrook, where he enjoyed ‘good salmon and good trout’. HC 2 Jun 1877, thanks to David Griffiths for this reference) ). Fernside appears to be an alternative and perhaps earlier name for the house (later aka 4, Murray Road).
46 The biography of Frank Buckland a pioneering expert on commercial fisheries who was directed to inquire into the origins of   ‘the formidable disease’ of 1877-1878 and the fact that ‘it was shown to be a fungoid growth attacking the fish while in fresh water’, but George (nor anyone else) is credited with the discovery. ‘The Life of Frank Buckland – by his Brother –in-Law, George c. Bompas’  1885. p.376.
47  Details of GB IIIs children are from Ben Blackden’s research.
48  Unitarianism has been referred to as ‘a feather bed to catch a falling Christian’.  It could equally be a feather bed to catch a falling secularist.   The Unitarians didn’t believe in the Trinity or the divinity of Christ and saw social reform as a moral duty.
49 YFT 19 Jul:  HEW 15 Jun 1889.
50 YFT 16 Jan; YFT 23 Jan;  HEW  9 May1891; The manager  Mr Cairns spoke at a presentation ceremony in August that year when Samuel Jaggar, a traveller for the firm (and husband of Honley historian, Mary Jaggar)  was awarded a marble and bronze clock when he left to take a job in Stroud. An Albert Beaumont, F W Dearden, D France and D Quarmby are also mentioned, either management or other travellers for the firm. HC 1 Sep 1891. Thanks to Peter Marshall of Honley for this reference.
51 HC 29 Jul 1893.
52 HEW 16 Feb 1901..
53 HEW 18 Aug 1906
54 HED 16 Jan 1908
55 Nicola Crichton-Brown Deltroit and the Valley of Hillas Creek: A social and environmental history. (Melbourne 2012). Pp.183-195. According to this, John was joint beneficiary of a trust fund under his father’s will amounting to £118,000, making him the equivalent today of a multi-millionaire.
56 Mr Ben Blackden’s research;   HEW 23 Sep1911: Was this in fact George jun’s collection or the remainder of his son’s.
57  Probate.



West Yorkshire Archaeology Service Sites and Monuments Record
Full Report
Primary Record Number 3597
Common name Larchfield Mill
Group PRN
Cross References
UDP class 1
Sched. Mon. No.
Date scheduled
Listed Bldg ref. 423836
Listed Bldg grade(s) II
EH Lithic Record No. EH Stray Lithic Record No.
Group record No. No
O.S. 1:10000 SE11NW
Number Street Settlement
Civil Parish Huddersfield
Part of Group record No
Conservation Area No
Site condition as last known Height OD
Drift Geology
Area (ha.)
A steam-powered woollen mill constructed in 1865-6 as part of the industrial expansion in land south of the town, north of the River Colne and beside the Huddersfield Canal (RCHME, 1987, p.1). George Brook Jnr. took the lease of the land on which Larchfield Mill was to be built in c.1865 and by 1867 was recorded as woollen manufacturer of Larch Mill (the first and only reference to it as such) in 1867 (RCHME, 1987, p.1). The mill was a steam powered multi-storey structure set at the rear of the site, immediately adjacent to the canal, in 1889 storeyed sheds were added to the north east of the mill. Whether the premises were initially used for weaving remains unknown. By 1886 Brook was selling looms although it is not clear whether there were use on this site or not (RCHME, 1987, p.1). George Brook continued to appear in directories, where he was listed as a manufacturer of either fancy woollens or woollens and worsted from 1870 until the early 20th century (RCHME, 1987, p.2). There was certainly weaving on the site by 1891 when a dispute with weavers is recorded (RCHME, 1987, p.1). A valuation of 1896 recorded a ‘mill, engine, warehouse, shed, tentering engine, burling rooms, and a grease works’ (RCHME, 1987, p.1).
100km square/Easting/Northing SE 14826 16170
Compiler Date
RS 05 Jul 1991
JD 10 Jul 2006
JD 17 Jul 2006
NM 31 Mar 2009
Township District County
Huddersfield Kirklees W.Yorks.
Site Type (general) Period (general) Site Type (specific) Period (specific)
COMMERCIAL Industrial WAREHOUSE 1865 to c.1896
UNASSIGNED Industrial SHED 1889
UNASSIGNED Industrial SHED 1889
Evidence Main building mat. Secondary building mat. Find material
Printed on 31 March 2009 02:25 PM Page 1 of 2
West Yorkshire Archaeology Service Sites and Monuments Record
Full Report
The mill is five storeys high and 16 bays in length by four wide, with a double span roof. The mill was not initially powered by an engine house; instead there was a corner engine house, which rose through storeys in the northern corner of the mill. Its size, shape, and position being appropriate to a steam engine of the 1860s. A boiler house (demolished) was located between the mill and Firth Street (RCHME, 1987, p.2). The storeyed sheds located at the north east end of the site are of two storeys over a basement and were built in three stages successively of sixteen, eight and twelve bays under a pitched gable roof (RCHME, 1987, p.2). Briden (Woodhall Planning) undertook an assessment of the architectural and historic interest of one of the weaving shed on Behalf of the University of Huddersfield in 1996. George Brook Left the mill in the first decade of the 20th century and was succeeded by the Huddersfield Corporation and became occupied by a number of companies, the main one being Shaw Bros. Ltd. (there by 1908 (RCHME, 1987, p.2).
ASWYAS undertook photographic survey and building recording of Larchfield Mill in 1997 and a photographic record was also made for the weaving sheds in 2000.
AP file storage location
Site management (comments)
On record map? Yes Record to be completed? No
End of PRN 3597
Event Organisation Date (of event)
Survey, full (intensive) RCHME 1987
Survey, partial C Briden, Woodhall Planning & Conservation 1996
Survey, full (intensive) ASWYAS 1997
Photographic record (partial) ASWYAS 2000
Archive/Source type Reference
Desc.text RCHME Mills Survey 1987, Larchfield Mills, Archive, ref. no. J155
Photograph RCHME, 1986, Larchfield Mills, Survey photographs
Survey, archival Briden, C., (Woodhall Planning & Conservation) 1996, Larchfield Mills, Firth Street,
Huddersfield: Weaving Shed: Asessment of Architectural and Historic Interest
Survey ASWYAS, 1997, Larchfield Mill, Firth Street, Huddersfield: Photographic Survey and
Building Recording
Survey, photogr. ASWYAS, 2000, Weaving Sheds, Larchfield Mills, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire:
Photographic Recording
Doc.ref. Various notes from trade directories
Desc.text English Heritage. ‘Larchfield Mills’. Listed Buildings Online (date listed: 22/11/1991).
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