Brooke's Village Store, Scholes

Brooke's Village Store, Scholes

from The Barwicker No. 48
Dec.1997


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Brooke's shop, a mini-village emporium of the time, had its origins in a wood hut in the corner of a rhubarb field at the junction of Station Road and Common Lane (now Rakehill Road), Scholes. Mr Ernest Kilburn Brooke (born October 1883 at the Star and Garter Inn, Kirkby Overblow) and his wife Sarah Ethel founded the business in 1922, whilst living at Whinmoor.

They provisionally adapted the hut as a temporary lock-up shop for two years whilst the new four-bedroomed house and shop was being built at Scholes. The building plot was acquired for 100 from J T (Tommy) Horner of Scholes, an uncle of Edward Horner of Potterton Hall. The plans were prepared by Henry M Chippindale. In 1930 an extension was built to provide a bakehouse and later more land was acquired fronting Common Lane, for a garage and enlarged garden.

There were few properties at the northern end of the village in the 1920s but the proximity of the railway station ensured passing 'commuter trade'. Not only from Scholes but from Barwick, with many of its residents, including schoolchildren, making the twice daily trek along Common Lane, to travel to and from Leeds. The late Fred Thorp of Barwick was oft to remark on the tedium of the journey to school but Geoff Hartley looks back on those times with great affection (see 'The Barwicker' No.25). Later a bus stop outside the shop on Rakehill Road conveniently served as a stop-over point where Scholes service buses waited before making the return journey to the then Vicar Lane bus station in Leeds.

In the early days sales at the shop consisted primarily of grocery items. Kelly's Directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire for 1936 includes, in the entry for Scholes, - Ernest Brooke, Grocer' - giving a Crossgates telephone number. The family comprised daughters Edna, Kathleen and Betty.

Mr Brooke continued his work as a tailor's cutter at John Peacock and Co., High Grade Clothiers, of Park Lane, Leeds. He dealt with the shop's accounts and, by contrast, mastered the technique of producing a desirable blend of home-made ice cream. He took an interest in local affairs including sports activities, being one of the trustees when the land was acquired for the Village Hall in 1930 and was a vice president of the Arthursdale Cricket Club in 1939.

Mrs Brooke dealt with the sales, becoming a familiar figure attending at the counter, and generally 'ran the front' of the shop, aided by Arthur Hardisty of Rakehill Road, and who acted for a time as manager. Eldest daughter Edna also helped in serving customers and making up delivery orders, as did Mrs Florence (Flo) Baker.

Kathleen attended the village school (of corrugated iron fame) and then went on to take a course at the bakery School in Gower Street, Leeds This was, however, of short duration as it became apparent that there was little to learn that couldn't be gleaned whilst giving a helping hand in the home bakery. Thereafter Kathleen devoted her time to the family business, which was to benefit from her dedicated efforts and growing expertise in the bakery.

Shopkeeping hours were: Monday to Saturday - 8.00am to 6.00pm, with half day closing on Thursday, although longer hours were often worked in the bakery The price of a large loaf of bread was 4d (old money) and a small loaf 3d. A Christmas fund was organised throughout the year with customers contributing weekly amounts towards their festive shopping.

Supplies of coal for the fires and coke for the bakery were obtained from the nearby railway station and, in turn, a succession of railway station masters regularly presented their list of provisions to be delivered by the shop. Customers could also leave their battery/accumulators to be recharged in the hut at the rear of the shop.

A succession of assistants was engaged to help with deliveries, undertaken by bicycle until an Austin van was acquired in 1935. Jack Tillett of Barwick remembered starting at Brooke's shop on his 14th. birthday in August 1934.

His day began by cycling from home at Stanks to meet the 06.50am train from Leeds to collect the morning newspapers and sorting them into 'delivery order' under the watchful eye of Mr Brooke before the latter left for work on the 08.00 train. Evening papers were collected from the 4.50pm train although these were fewer in number as Ernest Freeman and Sidney Kirk (father of Tommy Kirk, the builder) provided competition by delivering evening papers in Scholes by pony and covered trap.

Jack recalls that deliveries to Mrs Richardson (mother of the village character 'Chart') who lived in the 'olde world earthen floor abode' on Main Street, were invariably met with the query, "Are these loaves fresh?".

After 6.00pm closing time, there were usually several cans of paraffin to deliver, a commodity in demand as lighting fuel before the general provision of mains electricity. Fridays and Saturdays were especially busy, when two 3-wheeled 'box-type' bicycles were used to cope with large delivery orders. They carried four trays in the box with full basket of goods on top, a heavy load for a young lad.

Repairs to the shop bicycles were undertaken by Mr George Henry Sirrell, who had his own cycle shop at Seacroft before moving to Scholes. Employed by the GPO based at the postal collection depot on Church Lane, Crossgates, Mr Sirrell also acted as agent for Raleigh Cycle Co. of Vicar Lane, Leeds. He sold the firms bicycles, priced at 4.19s.6d. new, but also produced his own model, selling more of these, and at a lower price than the Raleigh cycles.

In 1938 he built a racing model valued at 10.0s.0d, for his eldest son Reg, who usually collected customers bicycles and helped in the repair of same. Reg recalls that one of the heaviest bicycles he had to collect for repair was a 3-wheeler owned by Fred Lumb, Grocer of The Boyle, Barwick.

In 1935 William (Bill) Ball started work at the shop, remaining there and, within a few years, becoming one of the family. Bill, who hails form Northallerton, worked at his brother-in-law's shop - J P Burcham's Butchers - on York Road, Seacroft, and his delivery round took him in to the Scholes district. In the early 1930s he met Kathleen Brooke at weekly dancing classes, held by a Miss Robinson, in the Scholes Village Hall. These meetings had a happy outcome when Bill and Kathleen were married (in non-shopping hours), on Christmas Day, 1940.

Catering was undertaken for a wide variety of village organisations and social events including Scholes Cricket Club matches (refreshments often delivered to the ground), Scholes Tennis Club, the Conservative Club, Village Players, annual fancy dress parties, Village Hall dances and others. For a time some functions were held in the Council Office rooms, but later the Village Hall became the main venue for most of these events.

Kathleen recalls one occasion when her father was returning from the Council Offices one dark night, with the 'left-overs' from a social event, walking with his laden bicycle which had no lights, when he encountered the village constable in the person of Mr Hill.

The latter queried the reason for pushing the bicycle when it would be obviously more convenient to ride, which Mr Brooke promptly did. A few days later, he duly received a summons for riding a bicycle without lights. So much for bringing back the village constable.

War-time brought changes to the shop. Mr Brooke's place of work was temporarily re-located to Nottingham and Bill Ball enlisted in the army, joining the Coldstream Guards and being wounded whilst on active service in 1944. Mrs Brooke, Kathleen and Flo, with part-time help, continued to manage the shop, having to cope with the extra burden of war-time regulations, including ration cards. A points rationing scheme came into force in Britain in December 1941 and ended some 8 years later in May 1950.

Kathleen also undertook additional duties of a war-time nature when, in 1943, she was appointed an official Civil Defence Service Messenger, under the authority of the West Riding County Council. She was allowed 5s.0d a week expenses for the upkeep of her transport - a bicycle.

At the end of 1945, Bill Ball returned home from the army, to rejoin the family business. Thereafter, a seemingly ageless Mrs Brooke, ever present at the counter, continued cheerfully to serve a succession of customers, totting up shopping lists with a pencil stub, to the accompaniment of the large jingling door bell.

Mr E K Brooke died in 1963 aged 80 and Mrs Brooke passed away 4 years later in 1967. The family connection with the shop ended in 1975 when Mr and Mrs Ball retired from the business. E K Brooke's shop, with its corner location and prominent 'Hovis Bread' sign, was a well known village landmark for some 50 years. It will still be remembered by many ex-customers with mixed feelings of regard and nostalgia.

This article is based on details and the photograph generously supplid by Kathleen and Bill Ball, with added contributions from Jack Tillett and Reg Sirrell.

TONY COX

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