Castle Hill near Huddersfield. Picture credit: Damon Stead (IFY Community)
“Idleness is, at all events, an Anti-English vice- not tolerated at Huddersfield.”
Huddersfield is a town in West Yorkshire, situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Holme and Colne, halfway between Leeds and Manchester. It has a population of 146,000 people and is currently the 11th largest town in the UK.
It is known for its textile industry, which still exists in some form today, its architecture and being the birthplace of Rugby League.
Huddersfield has the third highest number of listed buildings in the country and forms the backbone of its most famous landmarks. Victoria Tower, which sits on Castle hill, just outside the town was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden jubilee in 1899. It stands 106ft high and is situated nearly 1,000m above sea level. The tower is open to tourists every weekend afternoon and bank holidays from Easter until September with a small admission fee.
The town hall is another fine architectural achievement. Built in two stages between 1878 and 1881, it includes not only the council chamber and courtroom, as you would expect, but also a 1,200 seat Concert Hall, which holds a variety of musical and community events.
The Tolson museum, set in a Victorian mansion charts the history of Huddersfield and its people from pre-history to the present day. The property was given to the town in memory of two brothers, named Tolson who died in World War I. Originally it was a natural history museum, but was changed into its current form during the 1980s. One of its best exhibits is one of the world’s rarest cars, the LSD, which was manufactured in Huddersfield from 1919-24.
Huddersfield has major two green spaces including Beaumont Park, which is located two mile south of the town centre. It was bequeathed to the people of the town in 1879 and officially opened by Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s fourth son four years later. It is a typical park of its day with water cascades, bandstand and woodland.
Greenhead Park is nearer the town centre and opened in 1884. There are many facilities here, including tennis courts, skate park, café’s, boating lake, play area, paddling pool and a miniature railway, to name but a few. Further re-development in the past few years has made it become a real attraction in the town. It also holds major events, such as festivals and pop concerts. The Lawrence Batley theatre was opened in the mid-1990s and hosts a range of plays, dance shows, comedy and music.
To go with its attractive architecture Huddersfield has a range of cultural events. Every July there is a Caribbean Festival with the procession through the town starting at the Hudawi Cultural Centre and finishing in Greenhead Park, where the troupes show off their costumes. There are also West Indian themed stalls food and DJs playing music on the Young Blud stage. The Huddersfield Festival of Light takes place mid-December, featuring a live performance from a theatre company and a fireworks display. Huddersfield literature festival is also a popular event with readings and music at venues across the town.
Huddersfield is well linked to other Yorkshire cities, such as Leeds and Bradford by the M62 motorway, which was built during the 1970s. Moreover South Yorkshire and the M1 south is easily accessible via the A629 towards Barnsley. Westwards along the motorway are places such as Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham.
The train station fits in well with the other features of the town and has won many accolades for its architectural design. It was originally designed by James Pigott Pritchett and built by Joseph Kaye from 1846-50 in a neo-classical style. Uniquely the station is situated on the pedestrianised George’s Square with parking on nearby Brook Street. Moreover it is not near the bus station, although a special coach service links the two. Over the past five years the station has been upgraded with ticket barriers installed in 2013 and further work as part of the Governemnt’s Northern hub project will see the Huddersfield line electrified by 2018. The bus station opened in 1974 and provides services to major towns and cities in both West Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is one of West Yorkshire’s busiest bus stations, with a daily footfall of 35,000 people. In 2006 a free city bus service was introduced, which means that there are no bus fares, but the money is re-couped through general taxation.
The Huddersfield Broad canal, is a navigable by narrowboat and connected to the Calder and Hebble network. Originally it was used to transport goods from the town, particularly coal for power stations, until 1953, but nowadays is mainly used for leisure purposes.
Unlike many of its surrounding towns Huddersfield has kept some of its manufacturing industry alive, with some of its mills still in operation today. For example wool manufacturers Taylor and Lodge, are still operating at Rashcliffe Mills and have been since its founding in 1883.
Huddersfield has a very proud sporting tradition and is most famous for being the birthplace of rugby league. On 29th August 1895 representatives from 22 northern rugby clubs met at The George Hotel in Huddersfield and formed The Northern Rugby Football Union, a breakaway group from the southern-based game, following a dispute over compensating players for missing work to play the sport. Huddersfield Giants, as they are known today are still one of the forces in Super League and in 2013 won the league leader’s shield, the first time they had reached the summit of domestic rugby league in 81 years, although they did not eventually win the entire competition.
Huddersfield Town FC, known as The Terriers are also a well- known traditional club in the football league. Founded in 1908, they became the first team to win the 1st Division title three times in a row from 1923-26. At the time of writing they play in the Championship at the John Smith’s stadium, shared with the rugby team. The team moved here from its original Leeds Road ground to this purpose built stadium, formerly known as The McAlpine Stadium in 1994.
The University of Huddersfield is a well-established institution and currently one of the town’s largest employers. The past ten years has seen major investment in the university with a new student union, creative arts building, and business school being constructed, as well as expansion to other campuses in Barnsley and Oldham. The university’s chancellor is locally born actor, Patrick Stewart, who is a film and stage actor, known especially for his roles in Star Trek and Shakespearean plays. He is often to be seen at the institution presenting degrees at graduation ceremonies and giving acting master classes to drama students. Another notable person from Huddersfield is former Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who was born here in 1916. There is also a statue of him near the town’s train station.
There are four shopping areas in Huddersfield, namely the Kingsgate shopping centre, the Piazza and The Packhorse precinct and the Byram arcade, which hosts smaller independent retailers.
Huddersfield is a traditional Yorkshire town, full of charm and character with its beautiful architecture blending elegantly into its surrounding hills.
Huddersfield was first occupied by the Brigantes tribe, before the Romans invaded and established their own settlement. A Roman altar was discovered in 1735 at nearby Slack and other discoveries suggest that the Huddersfield area was also a Roman garrison. After 418AD the area eventually turned Saxon, with many of the nearby villages ending in “ley”, and “ton” (e.g Honley and Dalton) being established.
The Norman invasion of 1066 led the town of Ordersfelt” to be recorded in the Doomesday Book and local baron, Ilbert De-lacey being granted the land in and around the town and based at Huddersfield Manor. Around the same time the first woollen products were made, due to the hilly land around Huddersfield being ideally suited to sheep farming, coupled with a ready supply of water from the two rivers, Holme and Colne to drive the machinery used to manufacture the wool.
It took the invention of the steam engine in the 18th Century for Huddersfield to be able to truly create its wealth from the woollen industry. By this time the land around Huddersfield had changed hands in 1599 to the Ramsden family, which would pass from generation to generation until 1920. Over this time they oversaw and supported many changes to the town, including the development of The Ramsden Canal in 1780 (now the Huddersfield Broad canal), the coming of the railways in 1840s and the building of its handsome railway station. The Industrial Revolution saw, like everywhere else, an influx of workers come to the town from the surrounding countryside to work in its mills.
There was “trouble at t’mill” in the early 19th Century when Huddersfield was at the centre of Luddite attacks on its factories. The Luddites were a group of skilled textile artisans who rioted in protest at the growing amount of machinery and unskilled workers used in the town’s mills. They smashed machines and attacked mill owners. The attacks spread throughout the north and were only quashed when the army were sent in by the government, including Huddersfield , where at its height 1,000 troops were sent to the town. This incident is also where the aforementioned saying, “trouble at t’mill” derived from.
Huddersfield today is a vibrant student town, which has also kept in touch with its past, including its existing woollen industry and many listed buildings.
There is a monument on Cooper bridge in the town, which commemorates the Luddite riots, a protest against the rise of unskilled labour working in its mills from 1811-13.
The Northern Rugby football Union was formed at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895. This was a breakaway group from Rugby Union over a dispute about being compensated for missing work to play the sport. This is now known as Rugby League.
In 1912 a tram in Huddersfield became the first completely enclosed vehicle in the world. Before this all vehicles were open-topped in some way.
A Yorkshire terrier bred in the town, known as “Huddersfield Ben,” is the ancestor of all dogs of this breed born ever since.
Anita Londsbrough became Huddersfield’s first and only Olympic gold medal winner when she won the 200m breast stroke at the 1960 Rome Games.
The last ever Sex Pistols gig in the UK took place at Huddersfield’s Ivanhoe Club in 1977. The concert was apparently for the children of striking firemen in the afternoon, followed by a set for adults in the evening.
Huddersfield Tourist Information
Princess Alexandra Walk
tel: 01484 223200