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A sweet story

PUBLISHED: 11:00 12 January 2016

Brooke House resident Wendene Fluellen with Kelly Barker, centre, and Laura Crowley

Brooke House resident Wendene Fluellen with Kelly Barker, centre, and Laura Crowley

Archant Norfolk 2015

The chocolate heritage of the village of Brooke is being celebrated this month, writes Stephen Pullinger

It’s a home that exudes the style of comfortable country living from days gone by. However, it is only recently that the staff and residents of what is now Brooke House care home learned about the dark (chocolate) secrets of the property. For it was while manager Laura Crowley was researching the history of the village of Brooke, on the internet she discovered that Brooke House had been built in 1935 as the stately family home of Eric Mackintosh, son of the founder of the famous Mackintosh’s chocolate empire. Eight decades on, Brooke House retains many of the features planned by its architect, including granite and wooden fire places, multi-paned windows and oak panelling.

Laura, an unashamed (Mackintosh’s) Rolo fan, resolved to celebrate her sweet discovery by unwrapping Brooke House’s rich history at a community event. She found even more reason for celebrations (or Celebrations!) when her further research into the village between Norwich and Bungay unearthed the fact that Brooke’s connections to chocolate making continue today.

Laura says: “Brooke today is home to two thriving chocolate makers, Booja-Booja and Norfolk Truffle Company, while a third business, Gnaw, started in the village before moving to Norwich.”

She decided there was only one way to celebrate Brooke’s sweet heritage – a pre-Valentine’s Day chocolate and craft fair. The Kingsley Healthcare-run home will be hosting the event on Saturday, January 30, from 9am to noon.

The three chocolate makers will be present to provide gift inspiration for Valentine’s Day, and further ideas for presents will be provided by leading craftsmen and women who will be coming from all over East Anglia. A range of local food and drink firms, including businesses from the village, will also man stalls at the event which will be held in marquees in the four acres of gardens.

Brooke House, in Brooke Gardens - a home for up to 35 people, many with dementia - hosts community events on a regular basis.

“It’s important for our residents to retain contact with their local community, so we love the opportunity to invite people in,” says Laura.

Crafts people attending Brooke House’s pre-Valentine’s Day fair will include former boatbuilder Paul Williams, of Neatishead, whose wooden pens, paperweights, bowls, chopping boards and other products can be found in exclusive London stores as easily as at Norfolk craft events. He will be joined by fellow woodworker Tom Jones, from Kessingland, who makes a range of products, from furniture to carved sculptures at his studio on the Sotterley Estate, near Beccles.

Norfolk-based artist Peter Young will be demonstrating his oil painting skills inside the house. Ann Nickerson, who has been breeding alpacas for 14 years, will be selling products made from the fleeces. Fiona Johnson will be selling her hand-crafted jewellery and Andrea Young will be displaying pottery produced from the tiny studio at her home in Wattlefield. Artisan food producers will include Claxton-based charcuterie Marsh Pig, Frettenham cheese producer Nortons Dairy, Candi’s Chutney of Foulsham and Panther Brewery from Reepham.

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