Who do you think they were?

Brooke's men at work
Brooke's men at work
Share this article

‘Who do you think you are’ is the family history TV programme that traces each week aspects from the family tree of a television personality. It is interesting that quite often some aspects of the research will involve going overseas in an effort to trace long lost family members.

I am sure many readers who have an avid interest in their own family history research will also have found some of their family have come to Brighouse from foreign parts.

Looking through the census returns one of the columns indicates where the person was born. An interesting fact is that many of Brighouse’s residents particularly in the early part of the 19th century came from other parts of the UK generally to find work on farms or young girls who would look for work in domestic service.

As the decades went by from the 1840s onwards many of the workers that had been employed in the fields as agricultural labourers were now seeking work in the mills that had been built alongside both the river and the canal. With the canal being opened in 1760 coupled with the industrial revolution Brighouse had a lot to offer in terms of work opportunities.

During the 1880s both Solomon Marshall at Southowram and Joseph Brooke at Lightcliffe and Hipperholme were commercial stone quarrying. It is now that many of the men and boys who worked in the fields found jobs working both in and on the top side of their quarries as stone chippers, flag facers, quarrymen and many other jobs that all related to the stone industry.

It was during the 1880s that many Irish men had come to Brighouse seeking work in the quarries and in later years these were followed by workers from the Eastern European countries.

In 1882 the so-called Brighouse Iris Riots were triggered by the assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish in Phoenix Park Dublin on May 6 that year. As well being the newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, he was also the MP for the area of the West Riding which included Brighouse.

Many of the Irishmen who worked in the quarries were being beaten-up and decided to leave Brighouse and in some cases never to return. Although over a period of time when they heard it was safe some of the Irishmen did come back and continued to work in the quarries of Southowram and Lightcliffe.

Many years ago I asked the late Mr William Brooke, the grandson of Joseph Brooke the founder of the company: ‘Is there much of Hipperholme, Lightcliffe and Hove Edge that your family has not quarried’, the answer was ‘No’.

If it was possible to turn the clock back for just five seconds it would be very interesting to see just where has been quarried but perhaps based on Mr Brooke’s answer to see just what little there is that has not been quarried might be more interesting.

With quarries dug to depths of between 80ft and 120ft and working with such antiquated machinery even for the time serious accidents and deaths in the industry was a common feature. But with so many vacancies in such a growing industry the places of the injured and those killed could always be replaced which was the harsh reality of the time.

In this week’s featured photograph taken at the turn of the 20th century shows the men working at the top of one of the many quarries that Joseph Brooke and Sons had alongside Halifax Road in Hove Edge.