Echoes of the past: Focus on ex-Brooke family home with interesting connections...

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It was interesting to read in last week’s Echo that, if the plans are passed, another large house is going to be demolished for a new housing development scheme.

The Manor House Residential Home has submitted plans to build 14 houses on the site of the home.

The property whilst having been a residential home for about 25 years was the home of the Brooke family from about the turn of the 20th century. It was this family that started and built up the Brooke’s stone company from the mid 19th century when Joseph Brooke started his commercial stone quarrying business.

I first met the family in the early 1960s when as a young cornet player with the Clifton and Lightcliffe Band. It was a tradition that was started in the early 1930s that every Christmas morning the band would turn out and play Christmas carols on the streets of Bailiff Bridge and Lightcliffe. A tradition that continues to this day.

The journey would take them to the houses of the band’s vice president and president. One of the main supporters of the band during the 1930s was the Brooke family. In fact it is down to them that the band changed its name to include the word Lightcliffe. The band had fallen on hard times having been based in Clifton since 1838 was given some financial assistance by the Brooke family on the condition the band was renamed.

The first time I played Christmas carols at The Grange the Brooke’s family home in Wakefield Road was the first time I saw people stepping out of the front room windows to greet us. I was soon informed that these kinds of very large windows were called sash windows but in later years the modern equivalent is the patio window . Not something we had on Stoney Lane estate where I lived back in those days.

The band was asked to play particular carols and then whilst taking a break the collecting tin was taken into the house and a very generous donation was made.

Someone then brought out a box of chocolates and all the younger members of the band were invited to take one. There was always a senior member of the band standing by to ensure that no one tried to take a handful.

The older men in the band were offered a cigarette - and these were in a cigarette box which contained - tipped cigarettes, untipped and even some in coloured papers.

Drinks soon followed lemonade for the younger members and a glass of whiskey for the old ones.

In later years I got to know Mr William Brooke who lived in half of The Grange whilst his brother Edward and wife Margaret lived in the other half. After meeting the family in the early 60s I then got to know Mr William whilst working during my school holidays at the Brooke’s Nonslip works. I am sure there will be many lads who worked at Brooke’s during their school holidays as well. Following my appointment as the community constable for Lightcliffe I got to know Mr William better than many other local people, judging from the comments made to me about being lucky to get invited inside his house . Whilst he was a very private man I was often asked into his office and we would talk about the company and the old days in the community. He would always refer to me as PC Helme and I would always call him Mr Brooke.

Mr Brooke was a cricket fanatic and would often go to Headingley to watch Yorkshire - he proudly told me on one of my visits that he could tell me from the records he kept where and when Geoffrey Boycott scored every run.

If and I suppose when the Manor House is demolished another piece of local history will disappear. Quite often it is the stories that will live on long after the house has been redeveloped. For example in 1926 when a family wedding took place at St Matthew’s Church across the road, Wakefield Road was closed by the village policeman who was supervised by the village sergeant such was the importance of the family between the two wars. The police had to ensure the bride could walk across the road un-hindered by passing traffic. Then for the return journey with her new husband and all the family motor vehicles just had to wait.

Another story involved the Lightcliffe cricket club committee who were keen to have a telephone installed at its pavilion but Mr Newton Brooke (William’s father) objected as the telephone cable would be an obtrusive view every time he looked from his side window.

The stories go on and on - I would like to hear from anyone who either worked at the company or had family work there or has any photographs. I am now beginning to carry out some extensive research into both the family and company which hopefully will make a very interesting book when completed.

The two featured photographs show an aerial view of the house and surroundings which in the near future could be demolished and fade into the annals of Lightcliffe history.

The second is an early photograph of the Brooke family. I can be contacted via email