BACK in the 1960s Brookes’ stone company at Hipperholme was the place that many lads found a job in the school holidays.
Most found themselves working in the brick yards, lifting wet newly pressed bricks onto wheelbarrows which when full were taken to the brick kilns. Back breaking stuff but it paid well.
My own memories of working at Brookes’ date back to the early 1960s when I was employed in what I would describe as a far easier job because my then late grandfather had worked at the company’s mechanics shop and to use a well known expression ‘I was looked after’.
Working at the company throughout the school holidays I met and worked alongside many different people. The manager was Joe Haley, during the summer I didn’t see much of him because he and Mr William Brooke would usually be at Headingley watching that summer’s cricket test match.
Over the years I got to know ‘Mr William’, as we always respectfully called him, little did I know that a little over 20 years later I would be called on as the local policeman to deal with his sudden and natural death at his home in Lightcliffe. Working at Brookes’ was not the first time I had come into contact with the family. In 1960 as a junior member at Clifton and Lightcliffe Band the band always played Christmas carols in the Bailiff Bridge and Lightcliffe areas, a practice that was started back in the 1930s, a tradition that will see them playing this Christmas Day as always.
The band would always visit the homes of the band officials which included the Brookes’ house because the family had been closely associated with the band from 1932, as either the band President and its Vice President.
Some of the other employees in the mechanics shop back in those days included Frank Stringer, who was the foreman and whose family lived in Hove Edge for many years. Then there was Bert and Stanley the plumbers, it was Bert who got me an audition at Brighouse Rastrick Band, sadly an audition I was not to pass. Then there was Joe Vickers the Blacksmith, who in his younger days had been a trombone player in Brighouse and Rastrick and Clifton band’s so we had a kindred spirit with brass bands. Along with mechanics Alan Taylforth, George Beaumont and John Cuncliffe the welder, I learnt a lot from these lads about working life.
My days at Brookes’ came to an end when I left school and started working full time in Halifax.
In 1969 Brookes’ closed down, with everything being sold off at auction in the July, with particular interest being shown for the remaining locomotives the company had still got. Bids came in from Mr William and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in an effort to save some of them for preservation. This was not to be, the two locomotives they bid for were both sold, dismantled and resold as scrap.
After the auction the almost derelict site had to be cleared and in this photograph we see the day the crowds came from miles around to watch the demolition of all the chimney stacks on 17th October 1969.
Hundreds turned out to watch this once in a lifetime spectacle, the newspapers reporters were there along with both radio commentators and the TV cameras.
Brookes’ stone company was a company that was started in 1840 and at its peak employed thousands of people not just in the Hipperholme and Lightcliffe areas but stretching from as far away as Norway and the Channel Islands.