Goldsmiths - The Brooks Family - Chapter 1

0n 11th September 1936 Alderman Alfred Brooks and his wife celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary at ‘Goldsmiths’.  Amongst the distinguished guests was Col.  F Whitmore of Orsett Hall, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex.

There were about two hundred guests who marvelled at the beautiful gardens and the wonderful views looking South West to the Thames and London. The Union Jack was flying from the mast head and there was plenty of bunting.

On one of the lawns adjacent to a marquee where tea was taken, the band of the Training Ship Exmouth, from Grays, played a selection during the afternoon.

Alderman A Mathews gave a speech thanking Alfred for his full innings of Public Life and Mrs Brooks for supporting him but expected more from him as he was aware that many of his family lived well into their 90s. Ald. Mathews then presented Alfred with a gold fruit bowl, saying, “The fruits of your labour,” and to Mrs Brooks a gold flower bowl, “For flowers with which your way has been adorned for many years.”

In response Alfred said he could not find words adequate to express the appreciation his wife and he felt at the many kind gifts and kind words of congratulation they had received. He said that he had received so many messages of congratulations that he had told the Post-Master to send them up in batches. He also went on to thank those for attending. He told the audience that a few years ago the County Council had purchased Hall Wood (Hall Wood is the area behind the new St Mary’s Church), but all there was separating his land (Gravel Hill Wood) from Hall Wood was an old ditch and a fence so he had decided to give his piece of land to the County Council (five acres). He also gave them the option of purchasing his estate on the death of Mrs Brooks and himself.

Ald. Alfred Brooks, J.P. was born at Guildford in 1861, the second son of Edmund Brooks, J.P. of Duvals, Grays. He was educated privately at AckworthSchool, Yorkshire.

He married Alexandra Florence Smith, daughter of Major John Smith on 8th September 1886 at Mostyn Road Wesleyan Chapel, Brixton. They were to have three sons, Norman, Basil and Douglas and one daughter. Basil also became a J.P. for Essex and Norman who settled down in Poligny (Jura) France. His third son we believe was in the RAF during the 1st World War.

Alfred was to follow his father and elder brother into public life. In business he was Managing Director of the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers at Gravesend, taking over the company from his father sometime around 1900. The company also had a site at Purfleet and much of his Public work was carried out while he occupied this position. It was obviously a very successful business as his father in 1881 employed 300 men; when the population of Langdon Hills at the time was only 286.

The Who’s Who in Essex lists his Public positions as:  Member of Grays Burial Board, 1880-84; Parish Assessor, 1887-88; Chairman District Education Committee, 1902-31; Essex County Council. 1926-31; Alderman, 1931; J.P., Essex 1907; Guardians and Orsett R.D.C., 1893-1933; Chairman, Orsett R.D.C. 1900-02; Assessment Committee. 1903-30; Chairman, Orsett Bench, 1928; Deputy Chairman, Essex Quarter Sessions, 1928; Standing Joint Committee, 1928; Chairman of Governors, Palmer’s Endowed Schools, 1931; County Licensing Committee, 1928; Income Tax Commissioner; etc: The list is endless.

They resided for many years at Hillside, London Road, Grays then in 1913 he purchase Goldsmiths. Alfred and Alexandra were soon involved in the local scene with Alfred becoming head of governors of Langdon Hills School and Alexandra became heavily involved Langdon Hills Women’s Institute following its formation in 1924. One of the Institutes’ pageants ‘The Gipsy Countess’ was held in the grounds of Goldsmiths.   The WI hall that is in Samuel Road was purchased by Alfred from Isaac Levy and he installed a billiard table which was sold in 2003 for £30 to help pay towards urgent refurbishment funds. Alfred had initially purchased the hall for a meeting place for WW1 service men. Because of this it was to become known as the ‘Hut Club’.

On 3rd April 1926 Alfred performed the opening ceremony of the newly built Manor Mission Hall in Laindon. Three years previously he had purchased a piece of land of 80ft frontage to Dry Street and 376 ft. in depth known as Coombe Wood.

He kept up the tradition of a country squire and the old house going right up to his death sometime in the early 1950s. At this date he still required a gamekeeper, Mr Lynn who doubled up as his Chauffeur and lived in the Coach House.

The first few paragraphs of Wally Gilbey’s book ‘A Journey from Langdon Hills to Corringham and back’ published in 2011 gives us an idea of what the household was like in the 1920/30s.

“I was six months old when we came to Langdon Hills in 1927. We moved into Goldsmiths Cottage (semi detached) in Old Church Hill (1st on the left), now renovated to a bigger house called Goldfinches. The removal van had to reverse up the hill to the Crown Hotel as it couldn’t make it in forward gear.

Dad was to work at the big house as a gardener – this was Goldsmiths on South Hill. Mr and Mrs Brooks were in residence, he was a Justice of the Peace as I remember. Alderman Alfred Brooks. There was a Basil Brooks, I think he was a brother, sadly missing circa 1937 in an air crash.

House staff! Our collective family memories are of Mr and Mrs White and daughter Kathleen. They lived in a house within the grounds. He was the head gardener. Mr and Mrs Lynne and two sons lived in a flat above the garage. He was the car driver (chauffeur) and attended to the machine that generated electricity. A third gardener was employed, Ernie Garrod. He lived in the Chase, a road off Dry Street. Within the house was cook Maud Puddy?. Maud Wellington was housekeeper, two maids, Elsie and Flo and young housemaids in residence who came from Doctor Barnado’s in Barkingside, all answered to the housekeeper”

Although Alexandra supported her husband in his public life, she was herself also very active. She was a member of Orsett Rural Council, representing West Thurrock and Corringham for 41 years. On the formation of the Thurrock Urban District she continued her work for the new council until 1946. She also shared her husband’s interest in work of the Orsett Board of Guardians and for many was Vice-Chairman. Like her husband, she allowed her appetite for public work to take her into many other fields, for example Palmers School, the National Temperance Hospital and the Essex Insurance Committee.

Alfred Brooks is one of Langdon Hills Prominent Persons or should I say his family were.

Alfred Brooks 90th Birthday

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  • I remember going with my mother to the sale of the contents of Goldsmiths. My recollection was that the owner’s entire family had been lost in the Comet flight disaster – hence the house sale. We didn’t buy anything. I think lots went just to nose round the grand house.
    A very nice man called Doctor Ruby, who occasionally turned out for Langdon Hills Cricket team in the 1950s later lived with his family in one of the apartments in Goldsmiths

    By Chris Ryan (23/11/2021)
  • My Grandmother was a young ‘maid of all works’ for the Brooks family in Langdon, sometime in the mid to late 1930’s.

    She would have loved to have seen this, but sadly she died five years ago, aged 95.

    By S Waters (24/10/2021)
  • Alfred’s older brother was Herbert Brooks. There is more information about him on the Thurrock Local History Society blog –

    By John Matthews (20/12/2019)
  • Hi Nigel
    Thank you for the corrections, and yes I know it was Maud Wellington, surprised I did not spot it. If there is any more of the story, please add. There is no doubt he was a prominent person in the area.

    By Ken Porter (22/06/2019)
  • Alfred Brooks was my great grandfather. I think there are one or two corrections that need to be made to Wally Gilbey’s account. Basil Brooks was a son of Alfred’s not a brother and he died in one of the Comet disasters caused by metal fatigue in 1954: the Comet disintegrated in mi-air on the way to Cairo from Rome. The housekeeper I believe was Maud Wellington and not Maud Monk. We kept in touch with her after her retirement.

    By Nigel Brooks (18/06/2019)

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