History at Lane Head

Halifax Road with Lane Head Rec to its right - August 15, 1905
Halifax Road with Lane Head Rec to its right - August 15, 1905

If you take a walk up Halifax Road pass the open space of the Lane Head Recreation nearby you will see four small houses that I have always thought seemed a little out of place amongst the neat line of terraced and semi-detached properties.

Having spent quite some time researching their history I soon found a Brighouse Library connection.

Brook Almshouses2 - 2005

Brook Almshouses2 - 2005

It was over a century ago when these four houses were built and were a permanent memorial to the late John Brooke of ‘The Rydings’ (Brighouse Library building) and would be referred to as the Brooke’s Almshouses.

Although most people have forgotten the Brooke connection people refer to them simply as the Almshouses.

Other than those with a passing interest in local history the name of John Brooke senior will not be a familiar name.

He was a corn miller and one of Brighouse’s most influential businessmen of the nineteenth century.

He died in 1855 at the age of 71 and his wife Mary died in 1867 then aged 86.

Throughout their lives, the poorer families of Brighouse had benefited enormously from their generosity and they were one of a few noted families in and around the Brighouse area who helped the needy.

Their son John Brooke junior married the daughter of George Higham, a well known Brighouse solicitor and carried on the family business as a miller whilst still living at ‘The Rydings’.

In 1861 he was the township constable, a job that by tradition went to one of the most respected men of the town.

It was he who called a township meeting in 1862 in his capacity as the constable to discuss the American Civil War and the effects it was having on the cotton trade particularly in the depressed cotton communities of Lancashire.

He organised collections at local churches and chapels in Brighouse to raise much needed funds for the out of work starving families.

On a happy note he called another township meeting to discuss the celebrations that should take place in Brighouse for the marriage of the Prince of Wales in 1863.

He died in 1870 with the funding for the four Almshouses being left by his wife following her death.

Mr A. Ledgard of Thorner, Leeds and Mr E. B. Wilson of Mirfield built the houses and when the work was finished the properties were described as an ‘ornament to the district’.

The houses were placed in the hands of Trustees and remain in trust today.

Mrs Brooke left an endowment of £100 per year for the up keep of the houses and an allowance for the tenants.

Each house was designed to have a parlour, bedroom, kitchen, pantry and lobby on the single ground floor.

The frontage would have oak verandas and each house would have steps leading to a broad driveway edged by neatly laid out gardens.

The roof would be of green Westmoreland slate and the driveway would have one central wrought iron gate.

The first four Brighouse residents to inhabit the houses were Mrs Martha Dawson of Edward Street, Mr Joseph Rushworth, Garden Road, Mrs Ellen Scalbert, High Street and Mrs Jane Whitaker of Thornhills Road.

Our featured older photograph looks up Halifax Road with the houses in the distance overlooking the Lane Head Recreation ground in 1905.

The second photograph shows these delightful properties a few years ago.