John Brookes (principal)
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John Henry Brookes (1891-1975)
John Brookes was born in 1891 in Northampton. His father was Head of the Boot and Shoe Department of Leicester College of Technology. He trained in Silversmithing at the Chipping Campden Guild of Handicrafts. He was an accomplished artist but became both an inspirational teacher and accomplished administrator.
In 1922 he was appointed as a part time teacher of sculpture in the Oxford City School of Arts and Craft.
In 1934 the technical and art schools were merged as the Schools of Technology Art and Commerce. John Brookes was the first Principal. There were 10 full time staff and 1284 students. By 1946 the Schools were in 19 sites around the city and John Brookes had of necessity become an accomplished cyclist. He was a modest and unassuming man. One story tells of after the War when many men were still in uniform he was spotted by a major who had come for interview and summoned to carry the Major’s bags. Imagine the Major’s surprise to find the man he had summoned to carry his bags conducting his interview.
With the spread of the Schools around the town there was a great desire to move them all onto one site. The Morrells brewing family offered 33 acres at the top of Headington Hill and plans were drawn up. Unfortunately the City Council turned them down. There was a great public protest and a citizens meeting was held in a packed Town Hall. Eventually the plans were approved. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Nuffield.
John Brookes encouraged printing as a discipline in the college and also had many of his own drawings published. For many years his pen and ink drawings were a regular feature of the Oxford Times.
He was very much involved in the Oxford Community and was on many committees especially those concerned with young people. He served as a magistrate for many years and when he retired from the College he became one of the directors of the Oxford Playhouse. Built on John Brookes’s solid foundations the Schools of Technology art and Commerce became first Oxford College of Technology then Oxford Polytechnic.
John Henry Brookes: Craftsman, Educator, Administrator Edited by A.Stuart Addison. Oxford Polytechnic Press (Nov 1979)