Our recent look at the start of a project to restore the abandoned Farnley Mill inspired Mark Brooke from the Yorkshire Technology Park in Armitage Bridge to reveal a startling exhibition at his own mill.
IT MAY not be possible to encapsulate the entire history of woollen textiles in one exhibition.
But perhaps the best shot yet can be found at Brooke’s Mill in Armitage Bridge, known to some as the Yorkshire Technology Park.
The permanent show, which started at the end of last year, tells in detail the story of the Brooke family’s business, perhaps the oldest continuous one in Britain.
In so doing it traces not only the history of the mill and the Brooke family back to the 1540s, but the woollen industry in general and the Huddersfield textiles story in particular, the lives of its workers, their institutions, education and pastimes.
The texture of life through 17 generations and nearly 460 years is literally interwoven.
A team of young historians at the Huddersfield University has played a key role in producing the exhibition.
Nowadays the mill complex is a thriving business park – including film and TV studios – with a large gallery space.
But for generations it was a textile factory called John Brooke and Sons. The enterprise originated in the reign of Henry VIII, reached its peak in the Victorian age and continued to produce high-quality woollens well into the 1980s.
The show was the brainchild of current owner Mark Brooke. He asked the History Department at Huddersfield University for help.
Supervised by lecturer Dr Rob Ellis, a team of five final-year history and heritage students – Kimberley Jackson, Ashleigh Peacock, Teagan Smith, Paul Thornton and Simona Tiskute – probed the mill’s past, the Brooke family and the evolution of the wool cloth industry that became central to Huddersfield’s economy.
There was an appropriate continuity in the collaboration. During the 19th century the Brookes were major backers of the Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution, an important educational initiative which would evolve into the present-day university.
Exhibition organiser Christine Johnstone and designer Adam Simmonite worked with the five students as they researched and collated material for the exhibition which also contains many fascinating pictures and artefacts that illustrate the lengthy Brooke’s Mill saga.
Mark Brooke said he feels his own mill represents all the mills of Huddersfield and is proud that the phrase ‘woven in Huddersfield’ was the hallmark of the highest quality cloth.
Prof Paul Ward, acting head of the university’s Department of History, English, Languages and Media, said that collaboration with Brooke’s Mill symbolised the historical links between industry and education in Huddersfield.
“It has been wonderful to have five students developing their skills by working on this project and enriching the historical culture of the area where their studies were undertaken,” he said.
The Brooke’s Mill exhibition is open on Fridays and Saturdays (10am-4pm).