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A biography of Victorian Manchester artist Warwick Brookes, part of a Manchester family, who all became famous in their own fields of interest, from art and photography to politics, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, with a link to Eugen Sandow, a world famous showman, and advocate of physical culture.


Brookes of ManchesterPeter Berry



Warwick Brookes, born in Salford in 1808, and died in Stretford, Manchester, in 1882, was part of a well known Manchester family during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. He was one of several Warwick Brookes who all became well known nationally in their own fields of interest, from art and photography to politics. This Warwick Brookes became well known amongst the aristocracy and politicians of Victorian Britain for his remarkable pencil drawings, which also earned him the recognition of now more famous artists of that time such as Frederic J. Shields and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.[2]

Brookes of ManchesterIntroduction

Warwick Brookes was, by trade, a block designer in the Manchester calico printing industry. His mother, Ellen Sagar, was from Askrigg, North Yorkshire, but on the death of her mother, she joined the Greengate, Salford, household of one Mrs. Frances Goadsby, where her sister Elizabeth was already established. This Mrs Goadsby was the mother of Thomas Goadsby, who was present at Warwicks christening, and later became Mayor of Manchester in 1861-2. The facts that have been passed through time suggest that in 1807 Ralph Brookes


married Ellen and in 1808 Warwick was born. However, present day research into church baptism registers suggest that they in fact married on 3rd January 1809, after banns were read on the 11th, 18th and 25th December 1808. I have found many contradictions such as this during my research, particularly relating to the achievements of the various Brookes with the name Warwick. For the purposes of this book I will leave dates the same as the subject himself believed them to be. The name Warwick is used throughout the family due to a tradition that came down the Sagar family line. Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, during the wars of York and Lancaster, became the residence of Richard Neville, the King maker, Earl of Warwick; and the tradition


in the Sagar Brookes family is that a daughter of the great house eloped with a Dales lad, a Sagar, and when a son was subsequently born they named him Warwick. The name has regularly been given to the first born son of the family since then. Whether there is any truth in this legend hasnt yet been proved, but the continuous use of the name makes it difficult to establish which one was responsible for the part of Manchesters history that many of them played a part, as nearly all of them became famous in one way or another during the 19th and early 20th century. This Warwick Brookes had a skill which was to benefit both him and his family in the future. That skill was the ability to draw detailed pencil sketches of life


objects, in the beginning without any formal training, of such high quality, that he later won the respect of not only accomplished artists, but also that of the English aristocracy, the Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone and Queen Victoria. He married late in life, due to his commitment to look after his mother when his father Ralph died. When he did marry, he and his wife Eliza went on to produce seven children. This would have an impact on his development as a full time artist, as he couldnt afford to give up the regular work that provided him with the income required to support his young family. Warwick Brookes died at his home on Egerton Grove, off Stretford Road, Manchester, on 11th August 1882. During


his life he won the friendship and respect of now famous artists such as Frederick Shields and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and an account of his life was later published by his life-long friend, Thomas Letherbrow. The facts for this book have been researched in detail using that account as a source of information that came straight from his time. As he became highly respected as an artist in his own lifetime he became known as Brookes of Manchester. He is my great, great grandfather.


Chapter 1Early Days. In 1807 Ralph Brookes married the future artists mother, and having no savings of their own, so early in their lives, took her to live with his father in Birtles Square, Greengate, Salford. On the 5th May 1808 Brookes was born, around the time when the artist Benjamin Haydon was in London at the start of his life-long fascination with the Elgin Marbles during his preparation for an early commission The Assassination of Dentatus, which contains figures derived from the Parthenon freeze. After a few months the newly married couple moved to their own house in Smiths Buildings nearby. Times were hard, trade was bad, and poverty was widespread. Also at this time, another king maker was at work in Europe, in what we now know as The[8]

Peninsular War. By 1808 France had achieved domination over most of mainland Europe, but the tide started to turn when Napoleon created a new enemy by displacing the Spanish throne in favour of his brother Joseph. The Spanish uprising that followed encouraged Britain to send an expeditionary force to the Iberian Peninsula. The ensuing war was to play a large part in the downfall of Napoleon. Brookes relatives were plain Lancashire folk living in the neighbourhoods of Street Gate and Halshaw Moor, which are both in the modern day districts of Little Hulton and Farnworth respectively. His great uncle had been the gardener at Peel Hall, Salford, which is close to the present day location of Salford University and Peel Park. At six years of age young Warwick was sent to the National School, which was close to the New Jerusalem Temple on Bolton Street, Salford, where the[9]

children were taught to write with their fingers on narrow tables covered with sand and fitted with a smoothing board. Here he first became acquainted with that basic tool which he was to employ with such effect in the future, namely, the black lead pencil, which he occasionally carried to the teacher in order that the attendance book might be marked, an operation which he watched with intent interest. Subsequently, an ingenious youth named George Walker, whose sister married Dr. Scholefield of Every Street Chapel, taught him to draw and carve all manner of things, giving him the first inclination to his artistic talents. Every Street Chapel, Ancoats, called The Roundhouse, was built around 1823, in the round, and on the site of an earlier building. It would, much later, become the subject of a Lowry drawing in the 1900s. Rev. James Schofield, a minister there, became a popular quack doctor[10]

and was a notorious Chartist, and friend of Henry Hunt, also an influential member of the working class Chartist movement who advocated political reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Both were involved in the infamous Battle of Peterloo at St. Peters field, Manchester on 16th August 1819. At school, Brookes companions regarded him with admiration, acknowledging that he was the first in everything; all the paraphernalia of play was made by him to the highest quality. It is certain that, in his mind, the constructive faculty was already developed, and would become useful to him in his future business, whilst everything connected with the mechanism of art was also already present. In the meantime the affairs of the country showed no improvement, and became even gloomier. Food prices and taxes were high, and the heads of families[11]

spent too much time and money at the public-house discussing the war with America, the doings of Napoleon and Wellington, and the National Debt, which was at that time around 860,000,000. As time went on Brookes love of drawing increased; he was more than willing to learn, but there was no school of art available in Manchester at that time. So he would look at objects to draw and learn his technique from around his own home. He drew objects from his mothers delft display case and worked at that. Another object which excited his enthusiasm was a sign called the Running Horses which was hung opposite Blackfriars Street. The animals were Magistrate and Fitz Orval running for the cup; one of them belonged to Thomas Houldsworth whose colours were green and gold. Houldsworth was an entrepreneur who owned a Manchester cotton mill, and had[12]

a passion for owning racehorses. The painting had an indescribable charm to Brookes. Determined to copy it, he made repeated visits, and the drawing that resulted hung for several years on the wall of his fathers workshop. Moving on to around 1817, though times were still very bad, and the harvest was a failure, although the cotton industries were growing, Brookes father Ralph had passed away, and he was taken by his uncle Thomas, a block printer at John Barge and Company of Broughton Bridge, to be employed as a tear boy. A tear boy was a job in the calico printing industry, usually given to a child. He was responsible for spreading the die ink across a flat table which was covered in animal skin. The printer would then transfer ink supplied from this table, in an even layer to his block, before each impression on the fabric. At this early time in Manchesters industrial past, the[13]

factory was located in what were then meadows by the side of the clear river Irwell. In the design room, often known locally as the conjuring shop, John Preston, the foreman, would sometimes invite Brookes into his office, give him a pencil and paper and a chintz pattern to copy. The copies, which were always of high quality, were shown to Mr. Barge, a partner of the company, who, it was said, exclaimed, Have I a tear boy who can do this? The result was that he was promoted to the drawing room at five shillings a week. Brookes father may now have been dead, but his talents were starting to enable him to provide a good family income. The young Brookes had a keen interest in nature, and began to draw objects from the world that surrounded him. He would draw his own hands and feet, over a