JOHN CHARLES BROOKE
John Charles Brooke is one of the most illustrious persons to have lived in Silkstone Parish.
Born at Field Head on 27 Aug 1748, He was the son of Dr. William Brooke. Upon the death of his father, he moved to Wakefield with his mother, and was educated at Wakefield Grammar School. In 1768 he moved to London, to study as a chemist and gained the freedom of The Ironmongers’ Company, but his love of history, archaeology and genealogy led him to join the Heralds’ College to pursue a very successful career as an antiquary and genealogist. He was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant in 1773, and promoted to Somerset Herald in 1777.
He was an important figure in late 18th Century London society. At a time when fortunes were being made from rapidly growing overseas trade, men from quite ordinary families became rich very quickly. In order to gain acceptance amongst the smart set, it was fashionable for the nouveau riche to demonstrate descent from the old-established gentry. Nowadays this is quite hard to understand, but John Charles Brooke made a very successful business out of charting the pedigrees of the rich and famous, for which he charged considerable sums of money. He had inherited a serious interest in genealogy from his great uncle, the Rev. John Brooke, whose collection of Yorkshire manuscripts (including the Domesday Book for Yorkshire) had come into his hands. He made a lifetime study of church inscriptions and parish records, and wrote extensively on the subject. His work on Saxon inscriptions is still in print today.
At his own expense, he saved the Silkstone parish records which had been badly damaged by damp, and had them rebound.
John Charles Brooke’s patron was Charles Howard, 10th Duke of Norfolk. The seat of the Dukes of Norfolk is at Arundel Castle. Quite early in his career, Brooke produced a large and impressive pedigree chart of the Howard family, which included Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. This chart is still on display today at Arundel. Such was the esteem in which he was held that, upon Brooke’s death in 1794, the 11th Duke of Norfolk commissioned a stained glass window in his memory. This window was decorated with the Yorkshire rose and the arms of the Somerset Herald. This window remained at Arundel until about 1900 when it was donated to the College of Arms in London, where it is now displayed.