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The history of the UK’s most famous estate agent, Roy Brooks

The history of the UK’s most famous estate agent, Roy Brooks

Published: 15/08/2018 By Jane Robathan

Who was Roy Brooks?

Roy Brooks wrote such wildly amusing property descriptions, he fast became famous. In every way, he was Britain’s first celebrity estate agent, rising to popularity during the fifties and sixties. He hung out with TV celebrities and was the go-to agent for London’s elite and even royal clients.

He died in 1971 but we happen to know quite a lot about him. He was a witty man with a sharp tongue and likeable demeanour. One of his original colleagues, Colin Lowman, is a friend of ours and can spin many a story about Roy. Like the time two different buyers wanted to buy the same house. They both put in equally high bids. Roy tied up the deal on the toss of a coin, with both parties in agreement.

He was a man of his word, who would discourage foul play. If a buyer insisted on making an offer on something already agreed to be sold, Roy insisted the gazumper sign a piece of paper which read, “I’m about to be a *%&!. This is not the agent’s fault.” It proved effective—Colin can’t remember one single gazump while Roy held the reins.

His property descriptions really were so funny, we’ve published a collection of the best. Its title honours one of Roy’s most famous ads, Brothel in Pimlico.

Roy’s friend, the famed TV documentary maker Desmond Wilcox, wrote this in the original book’s forward:

“Roy Brooks was an eminent estate agent who became a national figure, mostly for one enduring reason: because of the puckish delight he took in telling the truth, the whole truth—and even the unwholesome truth. In a trade well known for its euphemisms, optimistic clichés and skilful literary camouflage, he won the delighted applause of the property-buying and advertisement-reading public.

He died in 1971 leaving behind him an extraordinary collection of advertisements. His honesty and impudent originality were, surprisingly perhaps, rarely offensive. He walked the editorial tightrope with a natural flare and disarming humour. He espoused causes, advocated charities and benefitted both. He bought a nationwide following to The Sunday Times and the Observer readers who seemed no less attracted to his political and social homilies than to his scathing and acid descriptions of property.”

In fact, Roy’s ads in the broadsheets were so popular, the papers printed them for free. He was routinely invited onto television chat shows and partied with the ‘it’ crowd. His circle included Desmond Wilcox, Alan Whicker and George Melly 

Were the adverts that funny?

 We think so. You might. Here’s one with an almost telepathic vision of Peckham:

£3,995 FREEHOLD. ANTIQUARIAN PROUDLY OFFERS his ghastly Peckham house. Almost innocent of plumbing, no bathrm. – bodily ablutions confined to a couple of sinks & the canal at the bottom of the garden. 8 fair sized rooms. As the artists have already moved into Peckham it is only a matter of time before they are followed by the fringe professions, Stage, Tely and Advertising – with the Chelsea type of monied intellectual snob breathing on their necks – then a dump like this will be worth well over £10,000/ MOVE QUICKLY. 

Here's another typical advert:

FILTHY OLD HOUSE – FASHIONABLE CHELSEA – Preserved as od Architectural Interest – God Know’s Why. Providing you have enough patience and cash wld make: 3 bedrms. 27ft L-drawing rm. A dining room, 1 or 2 bathrms., kit. The horrible patch of weed, refuse infected earth behine wld make a lovely – Gdn – maybe. Lease, 51 years. G.R. ONLY £80. A gift at £8,550.

Roy Brooks was also a socialist

 An adorable bon vivant, Roy was also left-wing. His repeatedly advertised for good causes and would personally drive to Russia to deliver hundreds or pairs of shoes to Russians living in austerity. Here’s one of his socially conscious ads:

SOCIAL OUTCASTS REQUIRE ACCOMODATION. A modest proposal. Christian Action asks us to find cheap, scruffy houses for homeless, hopeless derelict women near Railway Termini where, constantly moved on, they desperately try to sleep. No hymns or attempts to convert them to merits of Christian Capitalism, just temporary shelter, tea & bread. No “administration expenses” the pleasant young women run it for love. Please help: I’m less afraid of do-gooders than those who do damn all. ROY BROOKS.

Can I buy the Roy Brooks book?

 
Yes. We can send you a copy of the most recent collection, Brothel in Pimlico. It costs £6.99 and £3.22 postage. Order a copy online or over the phone, 020 8299 3021.

So, who are you lot?

 James Edmonds bought Roy Brooks Estate Agency in 1997, over 25-years after Roy died. Sadly it was on the brink of financial ruin. His partner, Felicity Blair, stepped in to shake up business. With her City background and personable character, within a couple of (hard) years, the business turned around.

Today, Felicity heads up the Sales side of things alongside Stacy Kaur and Elaine Edwards. Apart from overseeing the business, James handles all sales progression. Having a Masters in Structures, a back-career as an engineer and first-hand experience as a landlord, he can dole out sound advice. Meet the rest of the team here.