Justin Brooke …
Justin Brooke had quite a significant impact on Wickhambrook. Back in the 1920’s the village suffered from low employment, however Devonian Justin Brooke was the man who reversed the villagers’ economic misfortunes following his arrival in Wickhambrook with his wife Edith.
The acquisition of Clopton Hall and several hundred acres of farmland opened up many opportunities for locals to become involved in fruit farming and his acres soon became west Suffolk’s leading producers of soft fruit and apples. The dairy herd, dairy and milk delivery service, travelling as far as Cambridge, provided even more jobs for which local families were grateful in the recession-hit thirties.
Justin Brooke started farming here in May 1928. His intention was to grow fruit, planting on north-facing slopes in a cold district in order to avoid the damaging effects of late frost.
To Clopton Hall’s 150 acres he soon added Clopton Green and Wickham House; saddened by local unemployment and by the uneconomic marketing of the milk produced in the neighbourhood, he expanded rapidly into quicker-maturing soft fruit and started a very successful milk retailing business.
A fire at Wickhambrook House, together with full employment following the declaration of war in 1939, led him to abandon this once it was no longer of such necessity and in 1945 he was again able to develop his original ambition of fruit growing.
Home Farm, Hill Farm and Rolfe’s had become part of the enterprise before the war and Appleacre and Seabrooke soon afterwards.
Orchards had been planted and were further extended, the pig herd (originally planned to complement the milk business) was enlarged and arable crops were grown on all the land unsuited to fruit.
After Mr Brooke’s death in 1963 Mrs Brooke continued the expansion, adding Hundon Great Lodge, Hammonds, Hundon Hall, Dodds and Hole Farms.
The purchase of Hinton Hall and lease of the adjoining Grunty Fen Farm in Cambridgeshire brought the acreage to 3792.
Horticulture was intensified, growing more fruit on less land and the pig herd was concentrated at Appleacre and further enlarged there.
Mrs Brooke, retired in 1977 and Elizabeth Hollingsworth Justin’s daughter took over the running of the business.
The company is now called Clopton Hall Farms Ltd and is run by Elizabeth’s son Chris Hollingsworth.