Monday 17 July 2023

James Brooker (1816 - 60) Ships Carver.


James Brooker (1816 - 60), Ships Carver.

and the carved wooden busts of the Wood family.

(Post in preparation).

I couldn't have put this piece together without the invaluable assistance of Ian Smith.

Dr John Crerar, (d.1954) the Maryport historian had suggested that the bust of Kelsick Wood, a missing bust of his son Wilton Wood and the bust of John Wood were carved by ships carver James Brooker. We now know this to be incorrect.

A Mary Williamson had provided him with photographs of the three busts in 1938/39. We know that a photograph of the bust of John Wood, erroneously captioned William Wood was provided to the United States Navel Archive in 1939.

see -

Dr Crerar's files are now lodged with the Carlisle Archives.  CRO D/Cr/251717-1789

It seemed possible that James Brooker, who was employed on an ad hoc basis by Kelsick Wood (1771 - 1840) at Maryport and other local shipbuilders from about 1838  (see clipping below)

The bust on the right is of John Wood not Adam Wood as suggested in the heading.
For an excellent piece of research into the life history of Captain Kelsick Wood see 
Captain Kelsick Wood (1771 - 1840) ..... by John and Ann Ferguson. pub. Coldharbour 2012.

An examination of the photographs of the busts in the Crerar files at Carlisle Archives shows that the photograph of the Kelsick Wood bust has written on the back - K Wood 1824. The photograph also has written on the back snap by Mary Williamson.

1824 would have made Brooker eight years old 

We now know that Crerar was incorrect with the recent discovery by Ian Smith (see below) of the bust of Kelsick Wood in store at the Winterthur Museum Collection in Wilmington Delaware. 

This bust is inscribed K Wood 1824. Jas Fell.

The bust of the younger man is of Wilton Wood who died in a coaching accident in 1832.


I am very grateful to John Ferguson for corresponding with me.

Since receiving his correspondence I have visited Carlisle Archives in order to verify the information and photograph the relevant files.


 For an excellent biography of James Brooker by Ian Smith see -


James Brooker - A brief Biography.

James Brooker was born in Liverpool in 1816. On 21 December 1828 he was apprenticed by his father William Brooker to Archibald Robertson, ship carver and block maker of Liverpool.

William Brooker was also a shipwright or carver of Liverpool. James arrived in Cumberland in the late 1830's and in the Jul-Aug quarter of 1839 he married his wife Jane Hudson (b. 1819, nr. Whitehaven) at St Bees. The wedding was registered at Whitehaven. 

James took a grant of land from Humphrey Senhouse and opened his workshop at 32 Eaglesfield Road, Maryport, at its corner with Church Street. He provided carvings for ships which being built at Maryport, Harrington, Workington and Whitehaven . 

The Front Doorcase at 32 Eaglesfield Road with the carving of the Lion of Lucerne by James Brooker

Photographs by the author.

A letter headed "Maryport - July 21st 1846" from K. Wood and Sons, shipbuilders, recommended him with the words: "We have much pleasure in certifying that we have for many years employed Mr. James Brooker in carving Figure Heads and Sterns and all other carved work belonging to vessels, and that we consider him inferior to none - but superior to most - in that art. We feel confident that he will give satisfaction to those who may employ him". (Source of some of the above: Maritime Maryport by Annie Robinson). 

He was awarded a medal from the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition of 1851. In the 1851 census James and Jane Brooker are living at no. 27 Church Street with their six children Martha (10), William (8), Thomas (7), Lettitia (5), James (2) and George (8 months). At that date James was stated to be a ship carver employing 1 person. 

In 1841 James and Jane Brooker had living with them in Maryport, George Brooker, b. 1826. George was an apprentice carver and is likely to have been the brother or nephew of James. 

In 1851 George was an unmarried 27 year old ship carver (journeyman) born in Liverpool and staying as a visitor at no. 6 Church Street, Maryport. 

By 1861 George had married Ann Smith, from Carlisle, had a son and was living in Nelson Street, Workington. 

In the Maryport Advertiser of 4 Dec. 1853 it is stated that James Brooker's house, workshop, furniture and fittings were being sold as he was leaving Maryport. 

He moved initially to Glasgow but within a year had again moved to no. 39 Crowtree Road, Sunderland and in Kelly's Post Office Directory of 1858 he is described as a "Ship and Ornamental Carver and Sculpter in General." James died on 13 March 1860 in an asylum having first been in a workhouse. 

In 1861 his wife, a widow, was still living at no. 39 Crowtree Road, The Temperance Hotel, Sunderland  with her children (minus Martha and William). At the hotel were a family of three boarders and a housemaid. Her son William married a Cumberland lass and eventually moved to Chelsea where in 1871 he was an art student.  In 1871 and 1881 Jane Brooker was still in Sunderland, living with her son George at 9 Gibson Terrace. At the end of 1883 George, a master in the merchant service, moved to Cockermouth and married Frances Annie Dixon. In 1891 he, his wife Frances, two young children and his mother Jane Brooker are living in Victoria Terrace, Cockermouth. Jane died in 1901, aged 81.  


Brooker Figure head - possibly from the Black Prince.

Gothenberg Museum.

Photograph from unknown Source, Maryport Maritime Museum.


The Mary Ann Johnston - this ship was built by the Ritsons of Maryport for the Johnston family. It was wrecked in the Barbados, and the figurehead was erected in the property of Captain Fawcett Johnston (born Maryport1820 - 1890).

1881 Census living at Solway Villa, Cross Canonby with Maryport, later the address of Henry Williamson.

Later owned by Miss M E Williamson?

Is this the Mary Williamson who provided the photographs of the busts on the tea trolley now in the Crerar files at Carlisle Archives

Mary Ann Johnston was built Ritsons of Maryport in 1848

Painting attrib. Joseph Heard (1799 - 1859).




Illustration from The Great Exhibition Catalogue of 1851.


James Brooker receipt to Messrs L. Kennedy and Co of Whitehaven, dated 27th February 1851
For carving the figurehead etc. of the ship Braganza.

At this time he was still living at Eaglesfield Street, Maryport.

For Lumley Kennedy see -

Lumley Kennedy and Co Whitehaven.

See -

Lumley Kennedy was a shipwright who had been a manager, for nearly twenty years, at the Brocklebank shipyard in Whitehaven. In 1835 he left Brocklebanks to join a new shipbuilding venture, as managing partner.

His partners in Lumley Kennedy & Co. were R & H Jefferson, Dr.Robinson, Capt.Pew, R.N., Capt.I.Mounsey, Thomas Beck and John Peile. The new yard at Whitehaven launched its first vessel in 1835, and in total 65 vessels were built there in the years up to 1865.

The venture was closed at about the same time as the Brocklebank shipyard ceased operations, the demise of both being due to difficulties obtaining satisfactory leases from the Earl of Lonsdale. The Lumley Kennedy yard was operated by Joseph Shepherd.

The Whitehaven shipyard of Lumley Kennedy & Co. was closed down in 1864, and was then taken over by Joseph Shepherd, a former foreman at the Kennedy yard. The yard was operated under the name of Shepherd & Leech, and 17 vessels were built there between 1865 and 1879.


James Brooker. 
Date unknown, mid 19th century.

In 1839 James Brooker married, at St Bees, Jane Hudson of Whitehaven,' and in the

census of 1841 they were living in King Street, Maryport, near the harbour, but in 1842 the

family moved uptown to a new house at 32 Eaglesfield Street.' 


Fellow researcher Ian Smith has written at some length on the subject of James Brooker

see -


A few newspaper snippets with reference to James Brooker from the Cumberland Pacquet.

First mention of Brooker at Maryport even if it does record the name of Brookman,
Launch of the Earl of Lonsdale built by Lumley Kennedy, Whitehaven.
Cumberland Paquet 22 January 1839.


Cumberland Pacquet 14 Sept 1839.

Press cutting of the marriage of James Brooker and Jane Hudson.


Cumberland Pacquet 21 January 1840.

Figurehead and stern carving for the Warlock for Lumley Kennedy, Whitehaven.


Unrelated the Death of Liverpool Carver Henry Hammond ,Cumberland Pacquet, 14 March 1846.


Launch of the 581 ton Robert Barbour built by John Wood of K Wood & Son.
Cumberland Pacquet, 1851.


Launch by Mrs Williamson Peile of the Clipper built Barque John Peile with figurehead of John Peile JP by James Brooker built by Lumley, Kennedy & Co of Whitehaven.

Cumberland Pacquet, 10 February 1852.


Launch of the Barque Ann Lawson built by Peile, Scott and Co of Workington
24 August 1852, Cumberland Pacquet.


Launch of the clipper Pizarro from the yard of Lumley, Kennedy & Co of Whitehaven
24 May 1853

Interesting reference to fellow Maryport carver Askew.


Launch of Red Guantlet from Messrs Ritson & Co's yard, Maryport
With the Figurehead of Mrs Ritson carved by Brooker

26 April 1853. Cumberland Paquet


A list of ships known to have carving by James Brooker - list from above website.

Not Exhaustive - I have not yet checked each ship on this list.

1838 - Briton John Peat & Co, Maryport  Cumberland Pacquet 25 Sept 1838

           Blair Huddleston Ritson, Maryport, CP. 6 Nov. 1838

1839 - Earl of Lonsdale, L Kennedy & Co. Whitehaven C.P. 22 Jan 1839.

1840 -Warlock, Kennedy Whitehaven,  CP.21 Jan 1840.

          Chebar, Peile Scott & Co

          Syren, Kennedy

1841- Enchantress Kennedy

1842 - George Buckham R Ritson, Maryport Locomotive

1844 - Sancta Bega Kennedy

           Isabella Harnett Ritson

           Recorder - built by Kelsick Wood, Maryport  - see Cumberland Pacquet 12 March 1844.

1846 - Lord Hardinge. Kennedy.

1847 - Mary Spencer. Kennedy.

           Magician. Kennedy

1848 - John Wood - Wood Yard, Maryport.

1851 - Braganza - for Messrs Kennedy of Maryport (invoice depicted above). 

            Robert Barbour, Wood

            Dinapore. C Lamport. Workington

            Robert Ritson, Ritson

1852 - John Peile Kennedy.

           Charles Jackson Ritson

           Racer R Williamson Harrington

           Ann Lawson Peile Scott

           Martaban T & J Brocklebank Whitehaven.

           Coringa, Kennedy.

1853 - Red Gauntlet. Ritson.

           Pizarro Kennedy

           Star of History Williamson, Harrington.


Dr John Crerar and James Brooker.

Undated cutting from the files at Maryport Maritime Museum.

With a mention of the enigmatic Miss ME Williamson who helped prepare the article.


Myrtlehome? and Chieftain.

Another couple of cuttings from the same file at the Maryport Maritime Museum.



166 cms

Photograph Courtesy of the Website Altonaer Museum.

Inv. No. 1964-399.

 "According to our yearbook and the inventory lists FLORENCE HOLM was a Barque built by Barclay, Curle & Co. in Glasgow. Owners were Hine Bros. from Maryport. She shipwrecked near Falmouth. This information came to us via the Danish auctioneer from whom the Altonaer Museum purchased the item in 1964".

Information kindly supplied by Burkhard Jodat of 

 Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg

 Altonaer Museum

Museumsstraße 23

22765 Hamburg.


Figurehead  from the Whitehaven Lass in a garden in the Whitehaven area c.1930.
from a negative at the Beacon Museum Whitehaven.

Whitehaven Lass was wrecked at Parton in 1883.

The Brooker signature.

Photographs not taken by a professional.

Whitehaven Lass.

Private Collection.

Bought in 1998 from an Hamburg dealer.

see -


Unknown source. - Maryport Maritime Museum?

Info and snaps from Richard Hunter (d. 2022) files.

Many thanks to David Malcolm.

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