A mayor, MP and freeman!

Baker Fold, Halifax

The last day of January 2011 was the 40th anniversary of the death of Sir Dryden Brook, Alderman and Mayor of Halifax, and one-time Labour MP for the borough. In 1964 he was invested as a Freeman of Halifax. Imminently, we have ten candidates being invested with the Freedom of Calderdale.

Dryden Brook was born on 25th August 1884, at Lindley Moor, son of James, a farmer and stone merchant; his grandfather originated from Stainland. Dryden began work in the office of Clement Young Howarth, wool merchant, of 3 Deal Street, Halifax. When his employer died in 1927, he took over the business, in which he continued to take an active part until the late 1960s, although by then it had merged with a Bradford firm.

In 1911 he married Emma Louisa Smith, of New Hey Road, Lindley.

Having only received a basic education, as a young man, Brook joined the Workers’ Educational Association. He was most successful in his studies, later becoming a lecturer in the WEA, and serving for 16 years as the secretary of the Halifax branch.

In 1910, Brook joined Halifax branch of the Independent Labour Party, and was its president for some years; later, he joined the Halifax Labour Party, and at one time held office as its president. It was not until 1940 that he became a member of Halifax Town Council; and he continued in membership until he resigned early in 1968.

At the General Election of 1945, Brook stood as Labour candidate for Halifax,, and he was elected with a majority of nearly 11,000. He retained his seat in 1950 and 1951, but lost it by 1,500 in 1955 to Conservative, Maurice Macmillan. During ten years in Parliament, Brook held office as chairman of Labour’s education group in the House, and also as chairman of the Yorkshire group of Labour MPs. He also served on three Parliamentary advisory committees.

Back in Halifax thereafter, Brook became one of the most active members of the local authority. He was elected an alderman in 1954, and was Mayor of Halifax in 1958-59. He promoted his great interest in education, and was for some years chairman of the governors of Percival Whitley College (now Calderdale College). He served as chairman of the Yorkshire Council of Further Education, and of Halifax Youth Executive Committee. Alderman Brook also took much interest in the cultural organisations in the town. In 1964 he was one of three former mayors to be given the Freeman of the Borough. In the New Year’s Honours List for the following year, he was knighted for political and public services in Halifax. He and his wife lived latterly in a flat at 15 Old Well Head.

In February 1968 Sir Dryden resigned from the Council, his decision prompted by his own declining health, and by the serious illness of his wife. Warm tributes were paid to him from all sides of the Council Chamber. Lady Brook died later the same month. His own death took place at the home of his niece at Elland, on 21st January 1971, aged 86.

Sir Dryden and Lady Brook had no family; though they adopted a son, Harold Eyre, who was killed while serving with the RAF during World War II.

David C Glover