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BROOKS, Obadiah (1828-1898) – Village thatcher

Obadiah Brook, referred to as “Obadiah B”, features in Chapter XII, Farm Specialists, of A H Savory’s Grain and Chaff from an English Manor:

The village thatcher, Obadiah B, was an ancient, but efficient workman when engaged upon cottages or farm buildings, for ricks require only a comparatively temporary treatment.  He was paid by the “square” of 100 feet, and, although he was “no scholard”, and never used a tape, he was quite capable of checking by some method I could never fathom my own measurements with it.  The finishing touches to his work were adjusted with the skill of an artist and the accuracy of a mathematician; and a beautiful bordering of “buckles” in an elaborate pattern of angles and crosses – “Fanktykes” (Van Dycks), his hard-working daughter Sally [Sarah Anne Brooks, 1853-1925] called them – completed the job.  He “reckoned” that each thatching would last at least twenty years, and being well stricken in years, he would add gloomily, “I shall never do it no more”.  He was a true prophet, for on every building he thatched for me the work outlived him, and even after the lapse of thirty years is not completely worn out.

Passing him and his son [Henry Thomas Brooks, 1855-?] in the village street, outside his house, when he was packing fruit for market, I heard him, his voice raised for my benefit, thus admonishing his son who was causally using some of the newer hampers.  “Allus wear out the old, fust.”  

Obadiah Brooks was born at Offenham in 1828, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Brooks.

In 1847, at Offenham, Obadiah married Mary Ledbetter.  Shortly after marriage, Obadiah and Mary moved to Aldington, and all their children (with the exception of Charles, who was born in Bengeworth) were baptised at St James’ Church, Badsey, between the years 1849-1868:  Elizabeth (1849-1850), Sarah Anne (1853-1925), Emma (1853-1920), Henry Thomas (1855-?), Hannah Molina (1857-1941), Charles (1860), Maria (1862-1890), Esther (1864-1943), Agnes (1866-1869) and Mary (1868-1942).

Mary Brooks was living alone in Aldington in 1851, employed as a Gloveress, having lost her first-born child the year before; where Obadiah was is not known.  At the time of the 1861 census, they were living in Bengeworth, in the mid-1860s they were in Badsey, but by 1869 when Agnes died, they were back in Aldington.  At the time of the 1871 census, all eight surviving children were at home with Obadiah and Mary, plus their four-month-old grandson, Obadiah.  In 1881, Obadiah and Mary were still living at Aldington, with three of their children and their grandson, Obadiah.  Mary and her eldest daughter worked as Agricultural labourers, whilst Obadiah and his son worked as thatchers.

The daughter referred to by Savory was Sarah Anne Brooks (1852-1925), known as Sally, the eldest surviving of his children.  Sally never married.  She died at Evesham in May 1925 and was buried at Badsey.  The son referred to was Henry Thomas Brooks (1855-?), the eldest son.  His whereabouts after 1881 are unknown.  

By 1891, Obadiah and Mary had moved to live at Silk Mill Cottages, Badsey.  Obadiah was now described as a Market gardener.  Obadiah died at Badsey in 1898 and Mary died in 1912.