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A Voyage from the Past
and One for the Future

Brooke Marine

Brooke Marine yardBrooke Marine was a major employer in Lowestoft and many local people will remember Ocean Pirate.

In the period 1956-1987 over three hundred vessels were produced, a few wooden craft such as Pilot Cutters, but mainly steel vessels in the 20 to 93 metre range:- Trawlers, Ferries, Survey Ships, Cargo Vessels, Salvage Ships, Landing Craft and Ro-Ro’s, plus many High Speed Patrol Craft in the 30m to 42m range. One of the last craft built was ‘Virgin Atlantic Challenger II’ for Richard Branson's successfull attempt at the fastest Atlantic crossing in 1986.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Peter Hansford, the Brooke Marine archivist, for all his help in the preparation of this material.   We plan to add more details about the history of Brooke's involvement in the early years of powerboat racing over the coming months.

Outline History of J.W. Brooke & Co. Ltd. and Brooke Marine Ltd.


John Walter Brooke, a Yorkshire man aged 25 and a master founder, purchased a small iron and brass foundry in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
Business prospered with move into engineering; factory expanded and moved onto adjoining land, establishing the Adrian Works in Alexandra Road, Lowestoft.  This was to be the company’s Head Office until 1938.


Started producing motor cars and engines, everything being manufactured on site.


Started marketing boats, also taking part in national and international speedboat racing; boats built under contract to Brookes by Henry Reynolds and F Miller of Oulton Broad.


Brookes building boats at the newly opened yard at Harbour Road, Oulton Broad on the north shore of Lake Lothing.  All boats offered with Brooke engines.


Car production terminated, engine production continued.

1914 - 18

All boat production for the war effort.
Munitions at Adrian Works.
Post war saw the continued expansion of the yard, craft being produced in both sail and power, ranging from 8ft to 52ft in length.


Adrian Works closed and sold.  Total engine production 1902 – 1938 estimated at 7000 units, these being of single, twin, three, four and six cylinder, the most well known being the four cylinder Brooke ‘Empire’.


Harry L Dowsett acquired the company and changed the name to Brooke Marine Ltd.

1939 - 45

War production; Launches for the Royal Navy; Fuel and Servicing Launches for Costal Command.  Type ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘D’ MGB’s/MTB’s and Landing Craft under contract to the Fairmile Marine Co.
Airborne Lifeboats.


Large new yard opened on south side of Lake Lothing for producing steel vessels up to 400ft.
Last vessel completed on the old north yard was a 100ft wooden inshore Minesweeper (1955) for the Royal Navy.
Some of north yard buildings sold.  Site bulldozed and put up for sale 1975.


All work being carried out at the new south yard.
One of the first ships to be launched was the first of twenty modern trawlers for Russsia.   This contract - worth over £6million - was won after three months of negotiations in Russia and was a massive boast for the yard and a credit to the tenacity shown by Harry Dowsett. 


Brooke Marine Ltd. Ceased trading and the business put up for sale.
The brigatine "Young Endeavour" was a gift from the UK to Australia to celebrate the bi-centenary and was commenced by Brooke Marine but was completed by Brooke Yachts in July 1997 and is still in use today.

1987 (May)

Brooke Yachts (International) Ltd. Purchased the yard.

1992 (Sept)

Brooke Yachts ceased trading, all boat and ship building equipment sold at auction by the receivers (1993).


The site is now being considered for re-development as high quality waterfront accommodation and details can be found on http://www.1steast.co.uk/development/brooke-peninsula.php