John Brooker & Son


Corner of Church Street, looking north up the High Street, Uckfield (Caxton Series)

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Printers, bookbinders, stationers and fancy goods dealers, 140 High Street, Uckfield. John Brooker was born in Maresfield in 1847, the second of four children of Susannah and Henry Brooker, a wheelwright. By the time he was in his early twenties he found employment as a printer in Eastbourne. On April 18, 1870, he married Luna Lucy Mary Anna Dumsday at Newick Parish Church. She had been born in about 1849 and was the daughter of Anna and Abraham Dumsday, a Newick tailor. Luna joined John in Eastbourne and early in 1871 their only child, Henry John Brooker, was born. In 1881 the Brookers were living at 65 Tideswell Road in Eastbourne, but by 1891 they moved to Framfield Road in Uckfield, next door to John's parents, Henry and Susannah Brooker. Later in 1891, Henry Brooker died. Some time after this, John's brother, James Saxby Brooker, who had been working in London as a carpenter and joiner, returned to Uckfield and took over his father's old workshops in Uckfield High Street (Kelly's 1895 Sussex Directory describes him as a wheelwright, but he soon seems to have resumed his old trade as a carpenter). John Brooker operated his printing business from the premises next door, which he called Caxton House. By 1899 John's son had joined the business, which was renamed John Brooker & Son. After the First World War John and Luna continued to live at Caxton House, although their son by this stage had left home. Kelly's 1924 Sussex Directory lists him at 11 Mill Drove in Uckfield.

John Brooker died in February 1938, aged 90. The firm he had founded was still trading (as John Brooker & Son) when he died, but presumably he had long handed over the day-to-day running to his son.

In the early 1900s John Brooker & Son issued some rather muddily coloured collotype cards of Uckfield and district (Nutley, Piltdown Pond, Buxted Park, etc.). Printed in Treves, these were labelled on the back "Brooker's Copyright, Uckfield". Rather later in date, but on sale by 1909, are a series of halftones labelled "Brooker & Son's Caxton Series" that may have been printed in Uckfield by Brooker & Son. They show Uckfield and neighbouring places such as Maresfield, Buxted (Hogge House), Little Horsted and Waldron. Some of the cards have small pictures with wide white margins and captions printed in the lower margin. Others with handwritten captions have pictures that take up most of the front of the cards.

By September 1902 an anonymous publisher began selling halftone cards of Uckfield with undivided backs and, on the front, printed captions and wide, white margins. The cards could well be precursors of the Caxton Series although direct proof is lacking.

In addition to the many printed cards, Brooker & Son issued a limited number of real photographics, for example views of Buxted Church and Budlett's Rocks at Uckfield. These were on sale by 1906.

In the 1920s Brooker & Son marketed some delicately coloured collotype cards that were manufactured for them by the R. A. Publishing Co. of east London.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Roy Boydell, a descendant of Henry and Susannah Brooker, for correcting errors in an earlier version of this webpage and for supplying additional biographical information.

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