BROOKE, Charles (1760-1833), of 1 Sambrook Court, Basinghall Street, London.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Jan. 1760, 1st s. of Henry Francis Brooke, merchant, of Bristol and Henbury Hill House, Glos. by Elizabeth, da. of Charles Robertson, merchant, of London. m. 27 Dec. 1790, Elizabeth, da. of Bonnick Lipyeatt of Ospringe Mount, Faversham, Kent, s.p. suc. fa. 1800.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1794-1801.
Brooke came of a cadet branch of the family of Brooke of Horton Court, Sodbury, which migrated from Warwickshire to Gloucestershire in the late 17th century; his immediate background was the Bristol mercantile world. He went into business in London as a wool broker in 1782, was of Basinghall Street in 1790 and appeared at 35 Throgmorton Street in 1791 in partnership with one Marsh; by 1794 he had moved to Sambrook Court. The basis of Brooke’s business was imported Spanish wool which he bought for clothiers on commission from Manuel de Tore, Spanish agent in London. It would seem, however, that—not alone in this—he also engaged in mercantile business on his own account under cover of partnership. His father’s firm H. F. Brooke & Company of St. John’s Bridge, Bristol, certainly shipped Spanish wool and Brooke did business with west of England clothiers, which connected him with Chippenham.1
In 1801 he canvassed the borough with corporation support on the ‘independent’ interest, which brought him into collision with the established clothiers’ interest of the Fludyer family: by combining with the other leading interest in the borough, that of the Dawkins family, Brooke drove George Fludyer out of the field, but was opposed by the latter’s business associate John Maitland. In October 1801 Brooke quarrelled with Maitland’s leading supporter in the borough Henry Guy, who on 12 Dec. 1801 circularized charges against Brooke of fraudulent dealings in Spanish wool and of conspiring to raise the price, the gist of his arguments being that Brooke had violated his broker’s oath by transacting business on his own account. Brooke disparaged this as an election manoeuvre, but lost an action for libel against Guy, 28 Apr. 1802, in which he was defended by Thomas Erskine: while he was able to refute some of the allegations of fraud, the charge of professional malpractice stuck. In consequence Brooke, who was fined £500 by the City, gave up his brokerage, though in pamphlet warfare with Guy up to the eve of the election he argued, with legal advice from William Adam and William Draper Best, that even if fraud were proved, it did not constitute a perjury of his broker’s oath, but merely forfeited his broker’s bond.2
The affair did Brooke no great harm: it enabled him to engage in business on his own account and to expand prodigiously. His first cousin Henry James Brooke3 took up brokerage at Sambrook Court, while Brooke entered into business there as a serge factor with Farrar and Rose, and later with Cole and Webb, the latter also a family connexion, and was associated with his brother Henry in H. F. Brooke & Company, Spanish merchants and Brooke, Struth & Company, West India merchants. He was also returned for Chippenham in 1802, but unseated by his rival Maitland on petition; a week later through the agency of his brother Henry, he was returned for Ilchester, after an opportune intervention in a by-election for that venal borough, in which he was joined by James Ramsay Cuthbert*, with whom he may also have been associated in business at 52 Mark Lane (Cuthbert, Brooke & Company).
While still Member for Chippenham, he gave evidence as a merchant in Spanish wool and superfine cloth to the select committee on the wool trade in the west country, March 1803, opposing the repeal of statutes that tended to protect the labourers in manufacture and complaining that there was a danger that these men, many of whom had been driven into soldiering by the scarcity of Spanish wool, 1797-9, and found themselves replaced by machines now that they were seeking re-employment in the trade, would be lured to Spain, where conditions were better. In June 1803 he opposed the woollen clothing bill and presented a west country weavers’ petition against it.4 He sent Addington a report on French preparations for invasion in October 1803.5 He voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804 and was listed by the Pittites in September ‘Fox and Grenville’, after they had struck him off their own list. On 7 June he spoke in favour of the slave trade abolition bill, opposing any further importation of negroes to the West Indies, but he was not a total abolitionist, thinking that other powers would exploit the situation if Britain acted unilaterally, 13 June: he repeated this view on 28 Feb. 1805. He supported the slave importation bill, 18 Apr. 1806, but was listed ‘adverse’ to abolition later that year. He voted with opposition on the war with Spain, 12 Feb. 1805, and moved a week later for information on Spanish prisoners of war; against the Irish habeas corpus suspension, 15 Feb.; for the continuation of the commission of naval inquiry, 1 Mar.; for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar., and for Whitbread’s censure of Melville, 8 Apr. In July he was listed ‘Opposition’.
On 24 May 1805 Brooke was given leave to bring in a bill to ‘explain and amend’ the statutes on woollen manufacture, in place of the expiring suspension bill, which exonerated manufacturers from the penalties imposed by existing statutes. He gave it up for the session on 19 June, but on 4 Mar. 1806 he further supported the revision of these statutes and on 12 Mar. protested against any further delay in the passing of the makeshift suspension bill. He opposed the sugar duties on behalf of the West India planters, 29, 31 Mar., and on the latter day sought protection for colonial rum against foreign brandies. He supported the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr.
He was returned for Chippenham again after a contest in 1806, but unseated on petition. He remained out of the House until 1812, when his return for the same seat was unopposed. The Treasury did not count on his support. On 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813 he voted in favour of Catholic claims and on 1 July against Christian missions to India. He supported an amendment to the corn bill, 6 Mar. 1815. He opposed the re-imposition of the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816. He had voted with ministers on the civil list, 13 Apr. 1815, and in debate he urged an adequate establishment for Princess Charlotte, 9 Apr. 1816, so as to prevent future encumbrances. On 29 Apr. he saw no need to alter the laws on woollen manufacture. He saw no need, either, to repeal the leather tax, 9 May, or to provide relief for wool growers, 24 May. On 9 May 1817 he again voted for Catholic relief, and on 15 Apr. 1818 voted in favour of the additional grant to the Duke of Clarence.
Brooke did not seek re-election in 1818, or subsequently. He died 22 May 1833.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne
- 1. G. E. Brook, Brooke of Horton; Procs. of the Ct. of KB, Brooke v. Guy, 28 Apr. 1802; The Trade of Bristol in the 18th Cent. (Bristol Rec. Soc. xx), 61, 63, 67; Recs. of Bristol Ships (Bristol Rec. Soc. xv), 37, 243.
- 2. Procs. ; C. Brooke, An address to the electors of the borough of Chippenham, 4 June 1802; Henry Guy, To the freemen of the borough of Chippenham, Aug. 1802 (all in BL).
- 3. DNB.
CJ, lviii. 351, 511, 888; J. de L. Mann, Cloth Industry in the West of England, 267-8; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 86; CJ, lviii. 351, 511.
- 4. CJ, lviii. 351, 511, 888; J. de L. Mann, Cloth Industry in the West of England, 267-8; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 86; CJ, lviii. 351, 511.
- 5. Hope of Luffness mss TD73/25, Brooke to Addington, 8 Oct. 1803.