Celebrating the wonderful history behind Brooks Dye Works, Bristol

May 7, 2021

In the vibrant Bristol neighbourhood of St Werburghs, a historic dye works and laundry is being transformed into contemporary new homes by developers Galliard Homes and Acorn Property Group. This month, the developers have revealed a plaque on the original Victorian chimney paying tribute to the site’s rich history, unveiled by Mr Simon Brooks, the great-great-grandson of the founder Alfred Brooks.

Brooks Dye Works is delivering contemporary family homes centred around the factory’s iconic nineteenth-century chimney in the newly named ‘Alfred Brooks Square’. The £40 million (GDV) redevelopment is breathing new life into the industrial site, which ran for over 145 years until 2007. The new plaque explains the site’s history for future generations and the red brick chimney’s ingenious use of white bricks for the ‘Brooks Dye Works’ lettering, meaning it never has to be repainted.

Originally founded in 1862 by Alfred Brooks with records of a dye works in Bristol as early as 1819, the ‘Brooks Dyers and Cleaners’ factory offered services including dyeing clothes for mourning, and recolouring faded items. Over the years the business expanded to offer all elements of textile care; by the late 20th century, the company had many dry cleaning branches in the Bristol region, catered for over 1,000 hotels nationally including Royal favourite The Goring in Belgravia, and employed up to 1,500 people across the England and Wales, with the major part of the business in linen and workwear services.

Mr Simon Brooks, who recently turned 90, first visited the factory as a child with his father in the 1930s; Simon became the fifth generation to run the family business. Simon worked at the company throughout his career and eventually led as Chairman of the company for over 28 years. In 2001, Simon Brooks retired, by which point the company was a sizable, well respected PLC operating across England and Wales. Mr Brooks worked closely with the developers to design the plaque and visited the site this month to see it fixed to the chimney.

“I think my family would be delighted with the plaque in memory of our business”, said Mr Simon Brooks. “I was the fifth generation to be involved with the business and we started small. By the time I retired we had many shops as well as working with over 1,000 hotels including The Goring and De Vere group. We survived a long time and had to change our products to do so, from traditional dyeing of clothes in the 1830s for mourning to colouring the ostrich feathers for ladies’ hats, we looked after all aspects of textile care.”

At the height of its operation, over 600 people worked on the St Werburghs site during World War 2, when the factory expanded its services to clean the linen for the military, serving the American soldiers at the nearby Frenchay hospital and hospital ships that docked in Avonmouth. Many of the workers lived in the surrounding neighbourhood for generations, and Mr Brooks is delighted to see a new community being created.

Mr Brooks continues, “The site is totally different now from its history as an industrial enterprise but the land has been well used. I am very glad the developers have put the plaque up on the chimney, people must wonder about the chimney and this really adds something. Historically, Brooks was a community with our workers living for two or three generations in the area. The new development offers a multiplicity of homes, in such a location, it is likely to create a new thriving community which is great news. It is wonderful to see the history preserved for the next generation.”

Launched last year, Brooks Dye Works offers 81 new homes, each with a private garden, and direct access to open green space in the adjacent Mina Road Park. There will be a mixture of 2-bedroom houses, 3-bedroom over garage duplexes, and 3- and 4-bedroom houses centred around the landmark 19th century chimney. There is a stylish Show Home on-site for prospective buyers to see the lifestyle on offer.

The Phase 2 of homes have now been released, a collection of 3- and 4-bedroom houses which will be ready to move into later this summer. The 3-bedroom homes offer a private terrace off the main bedroom suite, and both home types offer allocated parking and PV solar panels.

The homes will have open-plan living with a flexible design and a high-quality specification, and each home will have allocated parking or a private garage, with further visitor parking available. For buyers who reserve their property early, there is the opportunity to tailor aspects of their new home, including the kitchen units, choice of floor covering and tile colour. Designer built-in kitchens will be by Magnet and come with integrated appliances from leading luxury appliance manufacturer Smeg. The new homes use renewable timber frame construction, and sustainable features include smart meters, a sustainable drainage system, double-glazed argon gas filled windows to maximise each home’s insulation, secure cycle storage, and PV solar panels & electric charging points to some homes.

Robin Squire, Regional Managing Director of Acorn’s Bristol office says: “We are delighted to unveil the plaque which celebrates the site’s rich industrial history as a successful family-run business which thrived for over 100 years. It takes pride of place on the Victorian chimney, a local landmark, at the centre of our new community. It is wonderful to pay tribute to the site’s history for the new community that will live here as our reimagined Brooks Dye Works comes to life.”

CGI of Mina Park, Brooks Dye Works

George Baffoe-Djan, Head of Galliard’s Western Division says: “We were honoured to welcome Mr Simon Brooks to the site, the great-great-grandson of pioneering Alfred Brooks who founded the successful dye works. For over a century the dye works was a community with generations of employees living in the surrounding St Werburghs area; now, a new community is being created. We have received a fantastic response from buyers for the contemporary homes, with over 90% of Phase 1 now sold out, and our first families moved in.”

To find out more about the homes available at Brooks Dye Works, call the team today on 0117 405 4002.

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