The Mike Brooke Collection

1 June 2022

MICHAEL F. BROOKE

Introduction

Most British collectors will know Mike Brooke. For over 30 years Mike attended all the major British mineral shows under the banner Broadstone Minerals, the company he founded in the late 1980s. Many of you will have bought specimens from Mike, I certainly have, in my case numerous great pieces from the British Isles and Tsumeb. His display at any show was always superb and I can clearly picture his usual spot at Bakewell with Broadstone Minerals’ wonderfully lit and highly colourful stand. Having now retired from the minerals business, Crystal Classics are delighted to be marketing Mike's collection in its entirety for the first time at our forthcoming Open Day. This will soon be redistributed amongst collections throughout the UK and no doubt the world, and so this brief biography has been complied. A specimen’s history is highly important within any collection, so this background information will add provenance to all of Mike’s carefully acquired specimens, once they have found their new homes.


Fluorite and Chalcopyrite, South Caradon Mine, Cornwall

Early Years

Mike was born in February 1947 in Retford, North Nottinghamshire, where he grew up and went to school until aged 18. His interest in geology developed from around the age of 10, soon after which he found a few local gypsum beds in the Keuper marls. His talents lay not only in geology as he once played cricket for Notts schoolboys against a Canadian touring side at Trent Bridge! Sport continued to be a passion while reading for his Geography degree at the University of Cambridge. There he played football for the College 1st XI and occasionally for the University’s 2nd XI. No mean feat.

Having graduated from Cambridge, Mike moved to Aylesbury in 1969 to take up a teaching post at the boys grammar school. Having taught himself A Level (Advanced Level) geology while at school, he was able to set up a geology teaching lab which ran along-side his geography work. Mike organised numerous field trips to Cornwall and North Wales where he was able to do some collecting with his students. It was on one such visit he first met Sam Weller through his field trip holidays at Yonder Towan Guest House in Newquay; names which will resonate with many a reader and conjure fond, happy memories.

In 1975 Mike moved to Dorset as Head of Humanities at Queen Elizabeth’s School, Wimborne Minster and stayed until early retirement in 1997. Throughout this period, Mike was able to teach geology to A Level and extended the school’s field trips to South Wales and Lake District, as well as Devon and Cornwall.


Bournonite with Quartz, Herodsfoot mine, Cornwall

Broadstone Minerals

It was in 1987 that Broadstone Minerals came into being. A friend, having set up a craft centre in a local village, asked Mike if he would make a display of a few ‘rocks’ for the opening. As Mike was still teaching and so could not attend on a regular basis, he set up a small table in the corner of an old bull pen with an honesty box in the café. This proved surprisingly successful and so he invested £80 in some brass wire and polished gemstones to make and add Gem Trees to his stock, these being highly popular at the time.

In 1991 Mike opened his mineral-based Gemini Rock Shop on the High Street in Poole, a coastal town in Dorset, southern England. To add to the business he attended all the main mineral shows including Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. At one time Mike was doing 28 shows a year and by 1997 was also running a successful website with customers from around the globe.


Calcite, Geevor Mine, Cornwall

Mineral Collecting and Society Activities

Mike started the Southern Branch of the Russell Society with a base in Queen Elizabeth’s School. Field trips were arranged throughout the Mendips, especially to Torr Works (Merehead) quarry and Whatley quarry as well as Welsh localities such as Taff’s Well, Blaengwynlais and the South Wales Coalfield. There were also many visits to various localities in the Midlands. These field trips lead to several articles in Gems magazine, later becoming Gems and Mineral Realm. It was Mike who discovered Fluorite in Hampstead Farm Quarry and worked with Dr Bob King on the origin of some of its Calcite crystals and reasons for their distortion. During this research they discovered two different colours of Calcite; the greyish crystals containing minutely disseminated silver and the cream crystals, free of metal inclusions. The grey crystals also tended to be more irregular in habit (unpublished data).

As a member of the Sussex Mineral and Lapidary Society (SMLS) Mike took part in four trips overseas: one to India, two to Namibia and one to Bulgaria. He has also given illustrated talks to local groups including the Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS) and the Southampton Mineral & Fossil Society (SMFS).


In the late 1990’s, while visiting the Tucson Show, Mike spent a day collecting Japan law twinned quartz crystals at Washington Camp, Arizona, with some American friends. There were lots of scorpions and plenty of good food, but not much in the way of good crystals. Photo courtesy and © Michael F. Brooke

Retirement and Disposal of the Collection

Mike closed the shop in 2011 and finally closed the business in 2022, so as to spend more time with his family and develop other interests during retirement. Before handing over his collection to Crystal Classics, he photographed all the major specimens and has produced a five volume set of photobooks illustrating and describing the collection; a wonderful keepsake. I have seen the first in this series and it’s magnificent.


Fluorite, Greenlaws Mine, County Durham

The Michael F. Brooke Collection of British Isles Minerals

Although Mike’s mineral collection originally had a worldwide base, it was in more recent times he focused on British specimens and in particular, minerals of South West England. However, the collection did extend to the rest of the British Isles through the acquisition of representative specimens.

It is a mature collection of around 1,500 specimens, built-up over many decades, being a fine mixture of well-chosen, principally English classics. It contains important specimens from Cornwall, Devon and Weardale. As already described, Mike was an active field collector and so the collection is abundant in good, self-collected specimens, many from locations either long since disappeared, no longer accessible or now Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where collecting is strictly banned. The Cornish suite is rich in good Geevor and Wheal Jane specimens as Mike built good working relations with many miners while these mines were active. The counties of Somerset and especially Dorset are usually way-off radar in the mineral collecting world (save for Torr Works quarry) and tend to feature very little in private collections. Mike’s collection redresses the balance and carries a good spread of specimens representing a plethora of little known localities throughout the south western counties of England.

There are far-too many fine specimens to mention individually, but with a broad-stroke (not Broadstone!) of the brush, the collection reflects well the most important English mining districts including Cornwall and Devon; Weardale; West Cumbria, the Caldbeck Fells and Derbyshire. And as already mentioned, the less well-known minerals of southern counties such as Dorset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Somerset are well represented.

Author: PGT.

  • The Mike Brooke Collection will be marketed at the Crystal Classics Summer Open Day in our East Coker showroom on Saturday, June 11, 2022. To book your place at our Summer Open Day please email Debbie at debbie@crystalclassics.co.uk or by phone 01935 862 673 to register your interest.

 


Bornite, Carn Brea Mine, Cornwall

Author: JH, PT
Categories: Collection Acquisitions , News & Information

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