John Boultbee Brooks (1846-1921)

John Boultbee Brooks founder of J.B. Brooks and Co in 1866 making bicycle saddles, born and raised in Hinckley.

John Boultbee Brooks founder of JB Brooks saddles
John Boultbee Brooks

22nd April 1846 John Boultbee Brooks was born in Hinckley. He was the son of Boultbee Brooks (aged 29) and his wife Ann Smith (aged 27), both born and raised in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Boultbee Brooks was a Master Framesmith by trade, but he also had a saddlery business along Stockwell Head in Hinckley, a property that he had purchased in 1804.

1851 Boultbee and Ann Brooks are shown in the 1851 Census as living at Stockwell Head, Hinckley. John now aged 5 had a couple of siblings: Frederick Brooks aged 10, and Walker Brooks aged 2, both born in Hinckley.

1861 John now aged 14 is shown in the 1861 Census as living in the house of Joseph and Mary Clarke at 102 Grant Street in Birmingham. John is shown as being a Manufacturers Clerk.

1866 With £20 that John had saved, he founded J.B. Brooks & Co. along Charles Street for the manufacture of leather harness and tackle for horses.

1871 John now aged 24 is shown in the 1871 Census as being a lodger in the house of Helena Evans and her family at 16 Yew Tree Lane, Edgbaston in Birmingham. He is listed as being a Manufacturer of General Stock. In the Birmingham Daily Post dated Thursday 2nd November 1871, an article mentioned John Boultbee Brooks of Great Charles Street, as a supporter of the Blue Coat School that was founded by the Church of England in 1722 for the children of poor families from the City.

1873 The London Gazette dated 9th May 1873 shows that Patent No.1501 is issued to John Boultbee Brooks of Birmingham in the county of Warwick, Manufacturer, and Peter Bull of Walsall in the county of Stafford, Manufacturer, for the invention of "improvements in rings or suspenders for suspending keys, watches, and articles of jewellery, and for other like purposes."

1874 The London Gazette dated 7th August 1874 shows that Patent No.2443 is issued to John Boultbee Brooks of Birmingham in the county of Warwick, Manufacturer, for the invention of "improvements in sleeve links and solitaires, and other fastenings for jewellery and dress."

1878 John had been a keen horse rider up until his horse died. Instead of purchasing another horse, he tried a bicycle which were still in their infancy of development. John found riding the bike so uncomfortable he ended up in excruciating pain after sitting on the wooden seat. It was at this point he vowed to make something much more comfortable: it would not be long until a prototype was created.

1882 After John had developed a saddle from his prototype, he filed for his first saddle Patent No.5135, under the name of J.B. Brooks & Co.

jb brooks and co advert from november 1903.
J.B. Brooks and Co advert from November 1903.

1888 The first versions of the Brooks B17 saddle were available to buy, they were advertised in J.B. Brooks' first catalogue. The saddles consisted of a 'long distance saddle', 'stuffed or padded suspension saddle' made with hide or hog-skin, and a 'real crocodile saddle' that was priced at just over half the cost of a cowhide. Later in the year, a 'climax saddle' that was a preventative to all perineal pressure was introduced.

1890 A new type of bicycle was developed called the 'Safety Bicycle', which is more recognisable with bicycles of today. The new design was much easier to ride than the penny-farthing, making it much more popular.

1891 John now aged 44 is shown in the 1891 Census as living at 143 Pershore Road, Edgbaston with his wife Alice J. Brooks (aged 36, born at Aston), and their five children, Alice A. Brooks (aged 16, born at Small Heath), John B. Brooks (aged 14, born at Harborne), Marie B. Brooks (aged 13, born at Harborne), May E. Brooks (aged 10, born at Birmingham), Kate E. Brooks (aged 8, born at Birmingham) and Wilfred M. Brooks (aged 6, born at Birmingham), also his nephew Harry B. Brooks (aged 13, born at Birmingham). The Census also shows that John is a manufacturer of leather goods and an employer.

15th September 1905 The Coventry Herald shows Improvements in cycle saddles by John Boultbee Brooks and John Holt.

1896 J.B Brooks & Co. becomes a Public Limited Company and the saddles are now marked with the Brooks trademark. Six cycling events were included in the Olympics that were held in Athens, Greece for the first time. Cycling events have been included in the Olympics ever since.

6th May 1899 The Worcestershire Chronicle reported that John had moved to Finstall Park (Finstall House), a mansion built in 1770 at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. John used the many stables on the estate to breed shire horses.

6th October 1900 The Worcestershire Chronicle reported the marriage of Johns eldest daughter Alice Annie to Frank Bertram Yates.

1903 A bicycle race by the French sports paper L'Auto is organised, the race became the first 'Tour de France'. Brooks saddle were popular on the competitors bicycles.

antler advert from 1922.
Antler Advert from 1922

1910 Brooks expanded into the motorcycling industry, by creating a suitable saddle and side bags.

1914 John's son expands the Brooks company further with the manufacturing of leather luggage and wardrobe trunks that were designed for traveling by motorcar and ocean liners. John's son had a keen interest in wildlife which is why this new division of the company would be established under the name of 'Antler', and the use of a Stag's head as the logo.

2nd October 1915 The Birmingham Daily Post reported that John's youngest son, Leslie Brooks aged 23, was killed in action in France during the First World War.

27th March 1921 John Brooks died aged 77, leaving his eldest son Boultbee Brooks as the chairman of the company which would continue to prosper.

12th July 1921 The Gloucester Citizen reported on the Probate: '...claims or demands against the estate of John Boultbee Brooks, late of Finstall Park, in the county of Worcester, and Great Charles-street, Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, deceased (who died on the 27th day of March, 1921, and whose will was proved in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of His Majesty's High Court of Justice, on the 7th day of July, 1921, by Boultbee Brooks, Arthur Caleb Johnson and Thomas Flavell, the executors therein named), are hereby required to send the particulars, in writing, of their claims or demands to us...' Left £330,614 and is of Finstall Park, Worcester and chairman of J. B. Brooks and Co.

19th August 1921 The London Gazette published: Re John Boultbee Brooks, Deceased. Pursuant to the Law of Property Amendment Act, 1859. Notice is hereby given, that all creditors and other persons having any claims or demands against the estate of John Boultbee Brooks, late of Finstall Park, in the county of Worcester, and Great Charles-street, Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, deceased (who died on the 27th day of March, 1921, and whose will was proved in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of His Majesty's High Court of Justice, on the 7th day of July, 1921, by Boulthee Brooks, Arthur Caleb Johnson and Thomas Flavell, the executors therein named), are hereby required to send the particulars, in writing, of their claims or demands to us, the undersigned, the Solicitors for the said executors, on or before the 1st day of November, 1921, after which date the said executors will proceed to distribute the assets of the said deceased amongst the persons entitled thereto, having regard only to the claims and demands of which they shall then have notice; and they will not be liable for the assets of the said deceased, or any part thereof, so distributed, to any person or persons of whose claims and demands they shall not then have had notice. Dated this 17th day of August 1921.

Today, both Brooks and Antler are well known British businesses, and their products can be found on the High Street.


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